Something has been bothering me for a long time.
Voting is a central concept of Stack Exchange, it is the mechanism through which the community maintains the sites. Voting affects the fate of individual questions/answers as well as the lives of their authors on the network. Therefore the consistent and responsible use of this right is critical for the network to function.
At the same time, I feel that its function is not communicated and its misuse is not prevented well enough.
The relevant help page says:
…voting down a post signals … that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.
The tooltip of the down button says:
This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful
Based on these, a downvote signals content that does not comply with the guidelines of the network for content, and is, therefore, detrimental, so may necessitate an action.
All too often, however, one sees questions that are clear, well-written and researched as far as it can be expected, downvoted, seemingly based on the voters unapproval of the subject matter.
I have two examples of my own questions:
I have yet to receive a justification for the downvotes pointing out how do these questions not live up to the expectations laid out above. The controversy around the subject matter, however, is clear from the discussion, which is telling.
I don’t think that Stack Exchange should penalize members of the community based on their opinions. I do think that – like any good democracy – it should be value-neutral, and only protect the system from misuse. Penalizing those whose opinion differ is the characteristic of dictatorships.
I have already decided never to contribute to Server Fault again, because of this intellectual nazism which seems to be especially prevalent there. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has already been driven away because of this.
So, I would like to know if my understanding of the concept of downvotes is correct, is the network, as I hope, respect their member’s experience and judgement, and I would like to see these ideas, i. e.:
- upvoting a question – this question brought up something that I was interested in, it is well-written, it is researched;
- upvoting an answer – this post answers the question or provides additional useful information, it is well-written and to the point;
- downvoting a question – this question is unclear, poorly written or does not provide sufficient context
- downvoting an answer – this post does not answer the question, it provides the wrong solution, it is unclear, poorly written, or does not provide sufficient context
better communicated to and acting in accordance with expected from individual community members.