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If in fact Stackoverflow is/was designed to be supportive of the full gambit of programmers from starters to full time career programers, the relatively unhindered ability to downvote a post for "insert reason here" (Thats even if there is a reason) serves no purpose other than to have the intent of punishing an OP for some perceived inadequacy. This kind of action may have little to no impact for long standing members who can weather down votes without blinking at it, but for early members trying to get help and provide help it is pretty oppressive and just builds resentment toward SO and members who abuse the downvote system.

The system as is simply drives people (new users) away to other sources for help - If you think the persons question sucks, lacks effort, or whatever your hangup is with there question then simply leave its value at ZERO or ignore it and let it die. But the whole down vote system since it's generally unregulated by people or code seems to just lead to digital bullying and personal criticisms because it is expressed as a personal attack on the OP's.

It's difficult to understand why a site by it's very nature, designed to be a help resource would put a system that can be abused so easily and has zero helpful value. This issue is not new here, maybe its just me venting my own opinion, but i do feel what i said above is accurate.

closed as off-topic by Doorknob, Aaron Bertrand, Josh Caswell, user213963, Robert Harvey Feb 10 '14 at 1:50

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to seek input and discussion from the community. If you have encountered a problem on one of our sites, please describe it in detail. See also: What is "meta"? How does it work?" – Aaron Bertrand, Robert Harvey
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 21
    There is an element of self preservation here. If left unchecked we would drown under a sea of poorly written, unreseached questions. Everyone would leave and then there'd be no answers for anyone. Remember downvotes are for poorly written questions not for basic questions (or at least that's the theory) – Richard Tingle Feb 10 '14 at 0:31
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    Stack Overflow is doing just fine, and still is the #1 resource in programming Q&A. When you ask around on Meta, you will encounter the strong belief that this is because the current system, not despite it, and that if anything there aren't enough downvotes on low-quality content. With competition like Yahoo Answers and Askville, you'll have a hard time proving the opposite. I agree SO's rules have become very complex and arcane, and I'm often saddened to see good new users become frustrated. But overall, it's still the least worst Q&A site on the Internet. And that's a huge achievement. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 0:34
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    Here is an example of a basic, very well recieved question: stackoverflow.com/questions/16706716/…. Basic questions can be very well recieved, what matters is that they are well written – Richard Tingle Feb 10 '14 at 0:46
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    @Swodahs I generally agree with your basic sentiment, but do consider spending some time on the site, and be actively involved in answering, curating, flagging, janitorial work etc. Then make a judgement, and write a rant if you still feel like it. It's easy to hate on the status quo; it's much more difficult to find sane and workable improvements for it. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 0:46
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is a rant. – Doorknob Feb 10 '14 at 0:51
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    @Swodahs my point was that the merciless - and sometimes bureaucratic - quality control rules on Stack Overflow have led to a half-way decent question base, while the front pages of Yahoo Answers and Askville look like crap because they allow everything. Just look at askville.amazon.com/Index.do and shiver. I'm not saying the current state of affairs on SO is ideal, but just saying "Stack Overflow sucks because there are downvotes" is not a constructive suggestion. It's a hard problem. Stick around for a while and see why we have downvotes. Then make suggestions as to what to do. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 0:54
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    @Swodahs if you consider Yahoo Answers a "[fair] competition", go there. We don't want to be like them in any point. Ok... maybe they are a Q/A site. – John Dvorak Feb 10 '14 at 0:55
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    @Swodahs This post is a rant; you're just saying what you don't like. This question basically boils down to "I hate downvoting it is bad it should die." ...and? Do you have any specific evidence? Do you have any suggestions? Or are you just posting this because you're angry at the Internet? – Doorknob Feb 10 '14 at 0:58
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    @Swodahs there's a big difference between a rant and a discussion. – John Dvorak Feb 10 '14 at 0:58
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    @ChrisWalsh .... "Pointing it out"? Ummm...? What exactly did he "point out" in this question? All I see is rant rant rant. – Doorknob Feb 10 '14 at 1:01
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    @Swodahs fortunately SO lacks the ability to send private messages. Otherwise I would be getting a lot of rude PMs from people whom I have closed a question or who think (often rightfully so) I've downvoted their post. – John Dvorak Feb 10 '14 at 1:02
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    @ChrisWalsh Maybe ask him/her in return what they think may improve this flaw? that's kinda what is supposed to be in the question. If there's no evidence of a constructive suggestion an hour into the discussion, then usually there is none. Heck, if it's not there right from the start there usually is none. This rant doesn't add anything new to the gigantic amounts of discussion that already exist re rudeness/downvoting et cetera. Zero. I invite you to hang out on Meta for a while, be active, vote, follow the discussions, and then judge the place, instead of just armchair quarterbacking – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 1:08
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    @Swodahs Google+ uses the system, and, frankly, I don't think it works... – John Dvorak Feb 10 '14 at 1:15
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    What @Jan says... also check out Jon Skeet's answer to Josh's link above. Jon is one of the nicest guys here and also talent we wouldn't want to ever lose. Downvotes play a vital role in the system. There would be much more terrible questions if not for the downvoting system and the eventual ban the system imposes when you have received too many. I suggested something different to take out the "personal" in the equation: Introduce timed downvotes but it didn't go anywhere, and there were good arguments against it. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 1:17
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    I'm going to echo what Pekka said, the ugly side-effects of downvoting are an unintended consequence of trolls who post utter garbage. It's some balancing act, and there is collateral damage. My advice? Don't take downvoting personally, but learn the why of it. people don't downvote high-quality stuff – Adel Feb 10 '14 at 3:40
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The downvote system is not baseless. You may be interested in the developers' blog post about why it exists: The Value of Downvoting, or, How Hacker News Gets It Wrong.

Essentially, being able to have negative scores on a question is extremely important for gauging quality. The primary reason is that without the possibility of negative scores, one cannot tell the difference between a question which has simply not received much attention yet (0 votes) and one which is actually bad (also 0 votes, unless we have negatives).

As for being unsupportive of newcomers, though... this is definitely a chronic problem for SO, and it has not gone unnoticed:

Stack Overflow users - newcomers especially - can have a pretty hard time at the hands of the community, and the SO community suffers from a lot of problems that other SE sites don't. As you can see, though... we haven't solved that yet.

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    At least your response appears to be balanced and have the intent of being constructive to the issue. Thanks for that. – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 1:09
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    @Swodahs - There is something cold about computers, the internet. When you post a question, you are just another anonymous entity . wE won't give you the benefit of the doubt, it's a ruthless arena. So you learn to check & double-check, prettify & verify. First impressions !! But it's a useful site!! – Adel Feb 10 '14 at 3:15
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    I think it would be more accurate to say that we're unsupportive of people who can't be bothered to frame questions clearly, read the multiple pages available explaining how the site works and what questions are welcome, etc. Those users are typically new users because if they persist in poor behaviour they're prevented from asking any more questions - but it's their own behaviour that determines whether or not they have a hard time, not their newness. – Jon Skeet Feb 10 '14 at 10:17
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If in fact Stackoverflow is/was designed to be supportive of the full gambit [sic] of programmers from starters to full time career programers

Sure, as long as you can coherently explain (as an asker) what you've done, what you're trying to do, and what you don't understand.

the relatively unhindered ability to downvote a post for "insert reason here" (Thats [sic] even if there is a reason)

"This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful."

serves no purpose other than to have the intent of punishing an OP for some perceived inadequacy

It marks the post as a poor addition to our knowledge archive; it's a signal that it may not be as helpful as you would like when you're looking for an answer.

members who abuse the downvote system

the whole down vote system since it's generally unregulated by people or code seems to just lead to digital bullying and personal criticisms because it is expressed as a personal attack on the OP's

Hard data? Evidence of abuse? Or you're just blowing hot air?

If you take downvotes personally, that may or may not be a good thing. If you take it personally, and resolve to figure out what might have caused the downvote, and not do that next time, that's good. (On the other hand, I admit, sometimes you do get arbitrary downvotes for no apparent reason. Calling those "abuse" is a stretch, although it's frustrating.)

If you think the persons [sic] question sucks, lacks effort, or whatever your hangup is with there [sic] question then simply leave its value at ZERO or ignore it and let it die.

Downvoting moves a poor question slightly closer to dying, because there is an automated culler that removes old, low-score questions. Again, it's a mark for the system and for other readers more than for the poster.

a site by it's [sic] very nature, designed to be a help resource would put a system that can be abused so easily and has zero helpful value

The site is designed to be helpful in the long term, for future readers. The bargain that's made with askers is: "get your question answered really well and really quickly, as long as the question will be useful for other people". Askers have to hold up their end of the bargain, and again, the downvote signals those future readers.

  • Most of that i wont answer too as it just opens another door of "ranting" from all parties but -- "Downvoting moves a poor question slightly closer to dying, because there is an automated culler that removes old, low-score questions. Again, it's a mark for the system and for other readers more than for the poster." <-- If that is the case then down votes should not be visible, cast them if you must, but hide them - thus you eliminate the pack of wolves mentality. – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 1:54
  • "Hard data? Evidence of abuse? Or you're just blowing hot air?" Absolutely i could show "proof" of abuses - but i suspect that whatever i "showed" you or anybody else would never be "enough" to accept it as evidence justifying change - that part of your question is just smoke and mirrors because you already feel that there isn't evidence of such, thus your view is balanced toward your existing viewpoint, just as my view is slanted toward mine. moot point – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 1:56
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    @Swodahs but if downvotes aren't shown to me, how am I supposed to understand that things are going wrong? Is it fair to withhold feedback from a user - especially seeing as an automatic ban may lock them out of asking new questions if they receive too many downvotes? This stuff has been thought about many times before. The end result is - downvotes are not nice, but they are important. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 1:58
  • Swodah's not crazy here. Visible downvotes are important for answers, and they need to be visible to the OP always, as Pëkka notes, but otherwise, hmmm. They are a signal for me to steer away from answering them, but if that's all they're there for, is a question vote cap (at -1, or -2, or -5) unwarranted? – Michael Petrotta Feb 10 '14 at 2:02
  • @Pëkka The down-vote system lacks a "counter balance" against abuse, there is no policing of it therefore it is highly susceptible to being abused (and is... often), it's not the "idea" of down-votes thats wrong, it's how its been implement or unbalanced to prevent its abuse. -- if 5 people think a question is "bad" or worthy of down-vote-- but you come along and provide an answer that the OP accepts and helps with there question - then who was really wrong? the OP because the 5 pack said so, or the pack because someone else was able to answer what they couldn't/wouldn't ? – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 2:02
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    @Swodahs The fact that someone provided an answer doesn't change whether a question was on topic or off topic. (But closing is really a completely different issue altogether - not sure why you are bringing it up?) – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 2:04
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    Re abuse, I put it to you that there is vastly more upvote abuse than downvote abuse. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 10 '14 at 2:05
  • No argument there, @Pëkka. That said, pile-ons happen, and they happen somewhat arbitrarily. Which I don't mind, honestly, for things like homework dumps and send-me-pirate-site-links, but otherwise. – Michael Petrotta Feb 10 '14 at 2:06
  • @pekka don't take my word for it michael-petrotta added his comment and just read it, a "negative" signal leads him to steer clear of a question. Again, because the negative votes are visible it equivalents to "peer pressure" to conform to the group instead of evaluating the condition yourself - like i said before, don't like the question steer clear of it, let it die when "clean up" on SO occurs. but the down-vote visiblity is just public ridicule that doesn't have to be in place - or at least should be better policed when used by members. just an opinion – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 2:10
  • @Swodahs, you misunderstand me. I want to be steered away from poor questions. Question downvotes are a good thing, for that reason - why waste time trying to understand a poorly-put, unreal, or bad-faith question? I just think the difference between -5 and -15 is unnecessary. I kind of like HN's grey-out and eventual hellbanning, but that's been floated here before. – Michael Petrotta Feb 10 '14 at 2:13
  • @MichaelPetrotta ok.. maybe im offering the wrong approach here: a question can be voted CLOSED/ON HOLD for various reasons, so if a system already exists to vote a question closed/put on hold/doesn't fit SO idealogy.... or whatever, whats the point of the down-vote system? its redundant... i'd rather see my question closed with the generic messages SO applies to those votes, than the -1, -5, -18 - at least the messages provide a explicit reason for marking the question for closure/suspense or whatever. the -1's don't go away – Swodahs Feb 10 '14 at 2:19
  • @Swodahs, well, votes serve as a game mechanic, for one. Ask a good question? Get a few Fake Internet Points. Cool, I'll write something even better next time, collect more! Ask a bad question? Lose some. Grr, those dirty rotten bastards, but I'll do better next time. As silly as it seems, sometimes, we care about that number sitting up top, many of us. – Michael Petrotta Feb 10 '14 at 2:22
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    Accusing me of being so prejudiced that I won't look at your evidence fairly is itself a prejudice, @Swodahs. It's hard to see where you'd like to go if that's the spirit of your discussion. – Josh Caswell Feb 10 '14 at 3:34
  • @JoshCaswell Your proof: I returned back to SO in April of 2013, I have been awarded +reputation points on 30 occasions for a total of 96+, I have been given a down vote on 7 occasions for a total negative of (-26) - of which (14) of those negative points came from a single question (Which is what started this particular debate for me) now, the user that started the down votes, started to help with feedback and then decided to start being an @$$ even though I was answering his questions and providing what help I could, but when i pointed out to him HIS inappropriate comments, well there – Swodahs Feb 16 '14 at 18:02
  • starts his call to buddies for down votes and abuses of it - now, as a result of (14) downvotes on a SINGLE question, SO's perfect little system has banned my account from posting questions "Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account" - according to help center BECAUSE OF LOW QUALITY QUESTIONS (Down Votes) - amazing how i was productive and doing fine until 1 @$$ created a cascade effect of downvotes because his ego and bad attitude was called out. I stand corrected i part - i'm sure the unnecessary flood of (-19) votes on this META question assisted – Swodahs Feb 16 '14 at 18:05

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