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I have a few questions on various SE sites that have received a few downvotes quite quickly, but no upvotes. So I went back and corrected what I thought the problem was.

  • On some questions the downvotes stop but no upvotes come in
  • On some questions the downvotes keep coming in. It seems that once a post gets a critical mass of downvotes it will attract further downvotes no matter what

Obviously, I thought they were good questions, or I wouldn't have asked them in the first place. After a few downvotes (correct me if I'm wrong) other users see it as a bad question and won't even view it anymore, passing it over for "better" questions. The question ends up being like an egged house.

So, what can I do to improve a question that's stuck with a negative number of votes so that it will start getting answers? As I've already said, I can't see what other people think is wrong with it, I can only guess. Most of what I've said applies to answers too.

As an example, this very question has received 4 downvotes in just 20 minutes. I would also like to point out that it has received an unusually high number of comments in proportion to the number of votes cast.

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    Well, +1 for asking nicely instead of rage quitting like many others. :) – ShaWiz Jan 12 '16 at 8:48
  • You have 1k+ rep on Stack Overflow. What are you complaining about? – Deer Hunter Jan 12 '16 at 8:48
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    @Deer OP said "various SE sites", hence asking here and not any per site meta. And trying to improve is totally legit. – ShaWiz Jan 12 '16 at 8:50
  • I think you should ask about specific questions that concern you on the Metas of the specific sites you asked them on. – PolyGeo Jan 12 '16 at 8:50
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    @PolyGeo I have seen people do that and get accused of trolling for votes. Surely there is some general information that would be helpful for future visitors? – Cool Fool Jan 12 '16 at 8:52
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    We need examples. There may be a pattern that can be improved upon, but we cannot scour the dozen or so accounts for the examples instead of the OP. In fact, this question is an example of a bad question - ranty enough to be downvoted but not specific enough to elicit helpful answers. – Deer Hunter Jan 12 '16 at 8:53
  • @Deer we can give general advice, I have some ideas, but too tight on time ATM to post a decent answer – ShaWiz Jan 12 '16 at 9:05
  • For questions to get net upvotes I think they just need to be good/smart questions: meta.stackexchange.com/q/18584/215590 – PolyGeo Jan 12 '16 at 9:06
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    @PolyGeo Who gets to decide whether a question is good or smart? I already think mine are or, as I said I wouldn't have asked them in the first place. The questions are: How can I pre-empt how the community will react to my questions?, and How can I fix my question if the community doesn't like it? – Cool Fool Jan 12 '16 at 9:12
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    The community decides via their votes - if you are getting net upvotes you are meeting the community's net expectation, if not, you need to try and sense what that community's expectations and try to meet them. If you were asking on Geographic Information Systems I would suggest reviewing meta.gis.stackexchange.com/a/3353/115 – PolyGeo Jan 12 '16 at 9:15
  • Related discussion, with official response from Shog. /cc @Poly – ShaWiz Jan 12 '16 at 9:19
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    Examples of these questions you're getting downvoted on would be helpful in illustrating the problem, I think. – Semaphore Jan 12 '16 at 10:15
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    There are so many ways a question could go wrong, I don't see how we could offer general advice that would cover all situations. I agree that we'll only be able to offer concrete advice with some examples. Also, it'll probably be better to ask on the per-site metas where this is happening. Presumably the people trawling there will have better domain knowledge and can point out what deficiencies you might have. – ale Jan 12 '16 at 13:36
  • @AlE. I am happy if an answer can only go part of the way and ends by saying "if all else fails, ask on that site's Meta". – Cool Fool Jan 12 '16 at 14:01
  • I know what an "egged house" house is but I don't get how that works as an analogy in your question. If it is confusing an English speaker then I suspect it will be even more perplexing to someone for who English is a second language. – PolyGeo Jan 12 '16 at 22:23
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Without specific questions being linked to it is hard to provide generic advice much beyond suggesting that you should become familiar with the http://<site>.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic page for each site you need help with, which may include a link like Framing (asking) good Questions for GIS Stack Exchange? (example from GIS Stack Exchange), and if still confused about why your questions may not be well received, then ask on their per-site Meta about them specifically.

I hope you will appreciate that the reasons people downvote questions on sites like Software Recommendations (for example) are likely to be very different than on sites not specifically designed for recommendation questions.

For me the basics of good questions on most sites are:

  • write the body first and explain in clear English what you wish to do, what you have tried and where you are stuck. Within this there should be one clear question. This should be standalone i.e. there should be no need to re-read the title, try to interpret the tags, read any comments, follow any links, in order for a potential answerer to understand your question by reading its body alone.
  • write a title that is a concise summary of what is in your question body, preferably in the form of a question too
  • add some tags to help classify your question so that it will show up in filters that users likely to be able to help are likely to be following
  • avoid responding to comments with more comments whenever possible because those comments should have been made to help you improve your question, so it is your trigger to revise your question, and the act of editing may get it some more views by potential upvoters on the front page of that site.

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