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If a question is a simple question, then it can garner downvotes, close votes, and be deleted. Perhaps it enters the new triage queue. I think that is appropriate.

However, in one of the larger posts on this topic, Can we prevent some of the low-quality questions from entering our system?, what you will not find is punishing answerers mentioned at all.

Nor is mentioned in Why do you cast downvotes on answers?. Where you will find it is in Is the "down-voting most/all answers that aren't yours" pattern considered harmful? where it is advised against.

Correct answers to simple questions seem to be downvoted solely to discourage users from answering because of a belief that it will prevent low quality questions.

The premise for this action seems to be based in the belief that the downvote is to discourage the poster from answering similar questions.

At which point the vote is more about the poster than the post. I believe this behavior can potentially alienate answerers but it seems to be common place.

Is it appropriate to be voting on posts based on the poster?

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  • 3
    Reading between the lines, you're not voting based on the poster. You're voting on the fact/hypothesis that the answer is "not useful" because it encourages low quality content on the site.
    – Mysticial
    Feb 11, 2015 at 23:53
  • @Mysticial right - but doesn't it make sense to try and turn content that is not useful (bad questions) into good content (good answers) that may be useful to someone?
    – Codeman
    Feb 11, 2015 at 23:56
  • @Mysticial - "You're" as in a user? I personally am not doing that because there is no evidence that voting for punitive reasons is constructive.
    – Travis J
    Feb 11, 2015 at 23:59
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    @Pheonixblade9 I'm not advocating the practice of downvoting answers to bad questions. I'm just clarifying the reason that some people do it.
    – Mysticial
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:00
  • @Mysticial - When you say "the answer is not useful because it encourages low quality content on the site" do you mean that answering a bad question results in significantly more bad questions being asked? Is there data to support this claim? Feb 12, 2015 at 0:00
  • @SpencerRuport Read my previous comment. It's not my argument. (I don't even downvote...) It's an argument used by people who do this type of downvoting. Note that the answer is +68/-67 so it's very controversial.
    – Mysticial
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:03
  • @Mysticial - Understood. I'm just trying to understand how someone comes to this conclusion when there doesn't seem to be any data or research backing it up. Feb 12, 2015 at 0:05
  • @Mysticial - That does seem to be split, whereas it also seems the related post states very strongly not to vote in that nature with +145 meta.stackoverflow.com/a/255460/1026459 .
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:06
  • @TravisJ Yeah, it's definitely all over the place. Here's one also upvoted and going in the other direction: meta.stackexchange.com/a/194989/169611
    – Mysticial
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:17
  • Also related: Should we downvote answers to obvious duplicate questions?
    – jscs
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:43
  • @JoshCaswell re: "Is this answer 'useful' in the context of the entire site" It seems unlikely most users are able to keep track of the entire exchange, and that this outlook would lead to excessive downvoting in scenarios where it feels like the answer could be present somewhere even if it is not.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:10
  • I never said one should downvote a post because one suspects that the information is already on the site. And this still isn't voting on a person; it's voting on a post.
    – jscs
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:15
  • If you are specifically talking about exact duplicate content which is verbatim then it may at times make sense to downvote. However, downvoting an answer under the premise of discouraging behavior from that user makes the vote about the poster and not the post.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:48

2 Answers 2

5

Is it appropriate to be voting on posts based on the poster?

No, but I don't see evidence that the behavior you mention is an instance of "voting on posts based on the poster". There exist some people who hold that any answer to low quality questions is harmful to the site (i.e. "not useful") and vote accordingly. We know those people exist because they sometimes say that's how they vote. I agree with those other folks who commented on the question here or posted an answer that such voting is not against the user but against the post.

But there's more. Oftentimes people who witness downvotes on answers to low quality questions assume that the downvote is due to the question being low quality when it is in fact not the case at all. I submit that low quality questions invite low quality answers. An unclear question, for instance, will elicit guesses. Some guesses can be very informed but very often someone will shoot from the hip and post a guess that cannot possibly be the correct answer. It is worth a downvote, not because answers to low quality questions should be downvoted as a rule, but because the answer was terrible.

Unclear questions can also receive "correct" answers that are still low quality answers. Let's say someone posts a question that says "my car says the pressure is low in my tires, what should I do?". A question like this should really contain more diagnosis information to be a good question. Did you check the tire pressure with a gauge? Are your tires keeping their pressure? If you inflate them is the warning going away? Etc. But someone answers "buy new tires". It is quite likely that this will fix the issue, even if the tires are not the problem. For instance if a sensor is failing, the mechanic will probably detect the problem once the new tires are installed. So this answer is not "incorrect" in the sense that "change your wipers" would be. However, there's a lot that should be done before someone buys new tires. If the issue is just a sensor, then only the sensor should be replaced. It is quite possible for an answer to be "correct" and yet be worthy of a downvote. I used a non-SO-specific example here but I see many answers of this sort on low quality questions posted on SO.

Similarly case is when people post their opinions, no matter how half-baked, to opinion-based questions. Chances are that I'm not going to be convinced by the half-baked opinion. Downvote it is.

Sometimes I see in the comments: "Why the downvote?" Someone else answers: "Oh, people are downvoting your answer because the question has close votes / downvotes, etc." Well, no. That's not it at all. The answer is a poor one and merits downvoting.

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  • Nice. That's sort of what I was trying to say about the "Shot in the dark variety"
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:16
  • Yes, very low quality questions elicit answers which are often incorrect because they are guesses. But I am referring to answers which are factually accurate and entirely correct. These answers seem to elicit downvotes in order to send a message to the poster and to others who view the answer.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:19
  • @TravisJ A lot of people who consider that answering "What automated test runner should I use?" with "Use Jenkins. It is great." to be "correct", and yet... in my world it is worthy of a downvote. I did not cover this in my answer but also sometimes answers which are "correct" in the sense that they give the desired effect may still be problematic. I'll edit my answer.
    – Louis
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:29
  • @Louis - Yes, I agree that your example of "Use Jenkins" is a poor answer because it is probably a link only answer. But what if the question was instead "what does the -> mean when used in .collect with Jenkins"?
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:34
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    @apaul34208 I can give this as an example of a low-quality question I answered with a high-quality answer that was still downvoted: stackoverflow.com/questions/28464878/…
    – Codeman
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:49
  • @Pheonixblade9 Yes, that's probably the case there that someone was downvoting answers because on principle they find answers on low quality questions to be harmful. All answers on that question have two downvotes.
    – Louis
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:58
  • @Louis that question was what inspired this question :)
    – Codeman
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:02
  • @Louis - Your answer does not seem to address that issue.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:06
  • @TravisJ What issue?
    – Louis
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:07
  • @Louis - The issue where an answer is downvoted because a user believes answerers should not answer questions which are too basic.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:09
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    @TravisJ That's my first paragraph.
    – Louis
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:10
  • @Louis - So you would synonymize basic questions with low quality questions?
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:13
  • @TravisJ Some basic questions are indeed low quality, not all. But if some users have decided that all basic questions are low quality that's their choice. I don't agree with this but there no SE rule that prevents them from making this choice.
    – Louis
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:16
3

I wouldn't say that people are downvoting the poster and not the post...

People will very often downvote posts that they see as "Not Useful", and an answer to an off-topic question or clearly duplicate question isn't particularly useful.

Perhaps some users are trying to discourage others from answering questions that they see as poor quality, but to be honest most answers to poor quality questions are of the "Shot in the dark" variety. Sort of a "I have no idea what the question really is, but I'll answer anyway..."

It certainly isn't as though they're unfairly targeting the answerer and downvoting all of their posts, just the one under the poor question in front of them.

See: Should one downvote answers to off-topic questions?

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  • How is that not voting on the poster? It seems to me that a downvote on an answer because of question quality is to encourage that person from not posting an answer to the question, and also as a sign-post to other users not to do the same.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:03
  • Per the answer from the question you posted: "Yes. Answering obviously off-topic questions encourages people to ask them." I see a few people making this claim but I don't know where they're getting this idea from. Feb 12, 2015 at 0:03
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    @TravisJ I think it says "I think answers to these sorts of questions are not helpful, don't post them." Or "How do even know what the question is?" Or "This is 5th time I've seen this question this week! Do we really need the same answer posted again?"
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:10
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    @SpencerRuport People will ask wherever they think they will get an answer. How many times have you seen a closed post with several answers under it and then seen the same OP post another poor question?
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:13
  • @apaul34208 - There are already many metrics in place to deal with people who ask poor questions. Punishing people who answer questions which may have simple answers is taking action against that user, not their content posted.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:16
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    @TravisJ A downvote isn't a personal attack its a judgement on a post.
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:17
  • @apaul34208 - Normally it isn't, when the post itself is being judged. But when a downvote is intentionally used for punitive measures then that seems directed at the poster.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:20
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    @TravisJ Let's take another tact... If you know for a fact that a answerer knows that the question they're answering is off-topic, lets say they said so in their answer. Say the question is about gardening but is posted on Stack Overflow and the answer says "This is really off-topic, but..." Would you downvote the answer?
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:31
  • @apaul34208 - I would probably downvote the question, vtc, flag it as very low quality, and move on without looking at the answers. Getting into gardening on SO is a little too hypothetical, was it April Fools? That aside, if the question was a simple question about programming which was easy to find if you knew what to look for but hard if not, and the answer provided a simple solution, I wouldn't. It may not be the best answer on the exchange but I don't see how downvoting to punish the answerer for answering would be helping.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:39
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    @TravisJ I don't advocate downvoting answers to simple/easy questions, provided that they aren't obvious duplicates.
    – apaul
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:42
  • @apaul34208 - I definitely agree with you there.
    – Travis J
    Feb 12, 2015 at 0:43
  • @apaul34208 - I've seen that happen but the claim is that it wouldn't happen if people didn't provide answers. Why in these discussions is that simply assumed to be true? If that's the reasoning used to justify down voting an answer from another contributing user on SO I think it should require some kind of evaluation. Feb 12, 2015 at 2:34

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