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I am new here, but I’ve noticed that downvoting on this site tends to be quite virulent with respect to off-topic questions or questions which probably are poorly formulated.

Though I understand the therapeutic nature of up/downvoting in motivating users in doing better, I really wonder if an excessive use of this feature actually makes it less effective in the end.

A few examples in the last couple of days:

  1. On which site is it easier to earn reputation? -8

  2. Prompt when I accept my answer within 2 days seems miswritten? -10

  3. Is downvoting a well-written question by a beginner OK? -13

  4. Should (and could) we require the tour badge (and/or rep) to give answers? -10

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    What I don’t understand is the aggressive attitude of this site... – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:04
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    Meta doesn't necessarily have to grow ... – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 11:06
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    No, the older answer doesn’t solve my problem. You didn’t explain why everybody is so aggressive here. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:07
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    Why do you consider downvotes to be aggression anyway? We're not in a boxing ring; if I downvote a question it just means I disagree with the premise of the question most of the time. – M.A.R. Jan 13 at 11:12
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    @user070221 "You didn’t explain why everybody is so aggressive here." Downvoting isn't equivalent to agressivity. That's just a misconception of yours. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jan 13 at 11:12
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    @M.A.R.ಠ_ಠ - well, in no other SE site there are such virulent streams of downvoting like here...that must mean something. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:13
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    Sure - Meta StackOverflow. You won't see as many on the homepage since most of the heavily downvoted questions end up getting deleted, but they easily have as many downvoted question there as here. – n8te Jan 13 at 11:21
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    I have never connected my personal judgement that a post isn't useful ( == down vote) with an act of aggression, nor have I considered down votes on my own posts as an aggressive deed towards me. Can you elaborate where that misconception of the meaning of votes comes from? That insight might help in explaining for future visitors what to expect on the SE sites. – rene Jan 13 at 11:37
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    None of the examples are off topic, and the meaning of voting on meta question doesn't really answer this question. Reopening. – Catija Jan 13 at 13:43
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    I agree with @Catija, was about to reopen now. Also, I upvoted this very question since it's a valid discussion about voting culture here on MSE. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Jan 13 at 13:56
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    @user070221 why rude? Can you try to explain how you consider downvotes to be "rude"? (Maybe better in chat if you got the time, to not clutter comments here) – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Jan 13 at 14:26
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    @user070221 but it's not one person insisting 10 or 20 times, it's 10 or 20 different people. You're not suggesting they form a committee and agree which of them get to vote before actually voting are you? I think you misunderstand the purpose of voting, it's not there for the question asker or answerer it's main purpose is for everyone else who might read the question to tell them whether it is worth reading or not. – Robert Longson Jan 13 at 14:27
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    @ShadowWizard - there is nothing wrong with downvotes, but what’s the point of downvoting 10 or 20 times? I understand that they come from different users, but once a question has been downvoted a few times, why insist? That’s extremely rude and unwelcoming!!! Can’t Meta users resist downvoting? – user386558 Jan 13 at 14:39
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    I wrote my last comment in a bit more of a sarcastic manner than I had intended. My point is that everyone complains about downvotes, and compares them to negative aspects that they were never meant to portray. Doing so just highlights your misunderstanding of the purpose of voting, and makes it that much easier to dismiss your complaints regarding it. If you want to discuss them constructively, you should probably be open to perhaps seeing how you might have it wrong. – fbueckert Jan 13 at 15:24
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    @fbueckert: "compares them to negative aspects that they were never meant to portray" And yet they do portray them. Whether they were meant to do so is kind of irrelevant; what matters is whether they do so or not. Working against human nature is not an effective way to work with humans. – Nicol Bolas Jan 13 at 16:14
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I am new here, but I’ve noticed that downvoting on this site tends to be quite virulent with respect to off-topic questions or questions which probably are poorly formulated.

Off-topic questions are downvoted to a.) decrease their visibility on the front page (-8 is needed for that), and b.) allow regular users to start voting to delete them. (needs a score of -3 to avoid a 48 hour waiting period)

Questions tagged get downvotes/upvotes depending on whether people agree or disagree with the proposed change. Should (and could) we require the tour badge (and/or rep) to give answers?, for example, is such a feature-request.

This also happens sometimes on questions tagged . People that don't have the time to write an answer signal their agreement or disagreement with the premises in the question by using their up/downvotes.

There is something to say about not using your votes for (dis)agreement on questions tagged , but to judge them by their merit: Is this a useful discussion to have? Have we had this discussion many times before, did the person putting this up for discussion do their research effort? Is the discussion clearly written, is it clear what we should discuss?

Looking at your examples, On which site is it easier to earn reputation? and Is downvoting a well-written question by a beginner OK? might well have gotten downvotes for being not a very useful discussion (easiest to get rep) or something that has been discussed over, and over, and over (downvotes).

Then there are questions tagged , they usually get downvotes for 'lacking research effort'. In other words, the downvotes usually mean 'you could've known this if you spent a few minutes trying to understand how the site works'. I guess those are the ones that I'd like to see a bit less downvoted: If there's no duplicate, or the info is not easily found... Having those downvoted a lot seems/feels unfair.

What I don’t understand is the aggressive attitude of this site...

Downvotes aren't aggressive. They're meant to filter content, have good discussions rise to the top, and the questions that are unclear, lack research effort or are unuseful to the bottom/off the front page. Please don't ever take them personally.

  • I don’t understand if my question is still a duplicate. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:24
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    Well, my overall impression of this site is a very negative one. Definitely not the place for me. Goodbye. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:30
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    @user070221 at least part of your question seems born from not understanding the meaning of votes, so at least part of your question can be called a duplicate, I guess. I do think your question is asking for more than that though, that's why I chose to answer it instead of closing. I'm sorry you're getting such a negative impression you feel the need to go, but I can't keep you here against your will. Goodbye, and all the best! – Tinkeringbell Jan 13 at 11:44
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    @andmyself - thanks, very pertinent and interesting post. Maybe Meta users could take a minutes or two from their downvoting activity and read it. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:56
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    @Tinkeringbell -I do appreciate your effort to try to be polite with me, unluckily that’s not the culture of this site. Bye. – user386558 Jan 13 at 12:02
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I disagree with your assertion that downvoting is aggressive on this site.

I see people downvoting for reasons that I interpret are related to the suggestions for when to downvote on its tooltip.

Sometimes those downvotes on Meta sites merely indicate disagreement.

Of the four questions you linked to I agreed with one and upvoted it but the others I downvoted because I either disagreed with them, thought they lacked effort or were not useful for another reason.

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    I disagree with your view so I DV, hope you don’t mind. – user386558 Jan 13 at 11:16
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    Of course I don't mind, it's your vote. – PolyGeo Jan 13 at 11:19
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I think two key factors are at play here:

Downvotes may indicate disagreement rather than poor quality

The question linked by πάντα ῥεῖ, and the section "Voting is different on meta" in the Help Center article What is "meta"? How does it work? explain that there are more reasons to downvote questions than just quality/usefulness: downvotes may indicate disagreement with the proposed solution or the way the question is framed. The Help Center says this is reserved for s, but in practice it often carries over to s.

As a prime example, a discussion about the downvoting culture on this site might be very useful (even though similar discussion have happened in the past already). Yet, it's heavily downvoted. Let me explain why I think that happened (YMMV). Objectively speaking, this question is worded in a fairly neutral way (which is what we expect from all questions by all users on all sites in the network), except for the second word in the original title. The word "aggressive" can be used in a neutral way, but it needs non-verbal support for that; when written down this way it sets the tone "you're doing it wrong" to the entire Meta community (even though that might not have been your intention). It doesn't matter that the rest of this post is well-written; it's the first impression that matters. The old Be Nice policy stated: assume good intentions. This is a responsibility of both the OP and the community. However, a poor choice of words can make users (both new ones and veterans) easily forget this.

Downvoted questions are visible for a longer period

On main sites, questions disappear from the homepage once they have a score of -4 or lower. On Meta, this is -8. Therefore, downvoted questions stay visible for a longer period and tend to accumulate more downvotes than on other sites.

Does this help the site in any useful way?

Yes, it does. Suppose I have a or topic in mind, and I search on the site before asking it (or I examine the 'Questions that may already have your answer' on the Ask Question page). If I see a similar question with a very low score, I might think twice before posting my similar-but-not-exactly-the-same question. And that's a Good Thing™.

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    You're omitting a very important part of the help center that many people forget. Downvoting for disagreement is really only supposed to be on FRs, not on discussions. I'm kinda tired of seeing honest attempts to understand and discuss the policy of the network receive tons of downvotes. These discussions are really important and helpful to others who want to understand. – Catija Jan 13 at 13:20
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    The theory is indeed that it's supposed to be only on feature requests, but what I describe is the (hard to change) practice. Personally, I don't downvote questions like these, but I do understand why people do. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 13:25
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    The practice might be changed if it were pointed out more often. Most of the time I see people talking about how voting is different on meta, we simply say "downvotes mean disagreement", so many people aren't aware that that only applies to FRs. I've done it myself. We've been teaching people wrong for years and now this is where we are. It definitely makes meta seem unwelcoming if you come here to ask why things are the way they are and get met with many downvotes just for asking. – Catija Jan 13 at 13:31
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    The (only) problem I perceive with this post is already in the second word of the title. It can be used in a neutral way, but (for the lack of non-verbal communication) it sets the tone "you're doing it wrong" to the entire Meta community. It doesn't matter that the rest of this post is reasonably well-written; it's the first impresssion that matters. I bet that without that word it wouldn't be at -6 now. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 13:40
  • It's the responsibility of both the OP and the community to assume good intentions (as the old Be Nice policy stated). However, a poor choice of words can make users (both new ones and veterans) easily forget this. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 13:42
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    I think that's a fairer answer to this. It may be less rule-based but it's certainly more an honest representation of what happens here. – Catija Jan 13 at 13:49
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    I've rewritten the answer now to reflect this. Still, IMHO the subsequent comments by the OP don't reflect a constructive attitude (though here undoubtedly some kind of reinforcement psychology is at work), so in that sense the users who downvoted this question certainly have some grounds to do so. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 15:18
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    @Glorfindel: "If I see a similar question with a very low score, I might think twice before posting my similar-but-not-exactly-the-same question." Sure. But will that be any different if you see it with a -4 vs. a -8 vs. a -20? I think by the time it gets to -4, everyone has gotten the point that people don't like it. – Nicol Bolas Jan 13 at 18:21
  • -8 won't be twice as effective as -4, no. I do think -8 is more effective than -4, if only slightly. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 18:37
  • Do you realize that by linking to them, you're invoking the Meta effect, exposing them to more downvotes? – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 19:53
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    That would be a secondary effect, what impresses me is the DVs they have genuinely received so far. – user386558 Jan 13 at 19:57
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    There are also many, many duplicates which didn't receive downvotes even though they were poorly researched. – Glorfindel Jan 13 at 21:36

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