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I'm not a fan of the downvoting feature in general; frankly, I think it should be removed from all of the stackexchange sites.

Negative feedback leads to negative results. I recognize that the intent is not to provide a means of giving negative feedback, but that's what downvoting does. "The community's way of telling peers that their content can be improved" isn't an accurate description of downvoting: people who downvote other people with no explanation as to why (the usual practice) generally consider them not their peers, but their inferiors.

I fear that the downvoting feature panders to the worst aspects of human nature, to an extent that far outweighs any possible benefit that it can provide. I recognize that the intent of downvoting is to make a form of constructive criticism available, but that it fails to do. It simply says "this is bad" without any explanation. If someone really wants to offer constructive criticism, he can do so in the comments, or by closing questions with an explanation of how to bring them up to par. If he does that, it is that that has the value, not a downvote that might or might not go along with it.

I submit that the increasingly negative "elitist" reputation of many of the stackexchange sites (stackoverflow, the "bread and butter" site, in particular) is due more to unexplained downvotes than anything else: downvoting is (much) more often than not a way of telling new people that they aren't welcome in the club. This isn't conducive to growth.

It seems to me that the recently introduced admonishment to "be nice" to new members acknowledges the problem without really doing anything about it. It would be given more teeth if the downvoting feature were removed entirely — people have to give a lot more thought to a comment than a downvote decision. Furthermore, the (apparently many) "serial downvoters" who contribute little if anything else to the site would take themselves elsewhere.

Thoughts? What are the positive contributions (are there any?) that downvoting makes to the stackexchange sites?

marked as duplicate by Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog, Nathan Tuggy, Shadow The Dragon Wizard discussion Mar 29 at 6:33

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    The default reason is “This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful”, as you can read in the title text on the downvote button. Downvoting, as much as upvoting, serves the purpose of signaling the quality of a post to future readers. It is about post quality, not about the user. Related: Why do people take downvotes so personally?. – Sebastian Simon Mar 29 at 5:17
  • @Xufox With respect, "downvoting, as much as upvoting, serves the purpose of signaling the quality of a post to future readers" strikes me as naive. It presumes that the reason for either has equivalently helpful intent. – BobRodes Mar 29 at 5:22
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    "people who downvote other people with no explanation as to why (the usual practice) generally consider them not their peers, but their inferiors" Not true at all. See Why isn't providing feedback mandatory on downvotes, and why are ideas suggesting such shot down? – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 5:27
  • @ModusTollens Yeah, I read that, and my take appears different from yours. The answerer of the question doesn't seem to demonstrate his assertion that "downvotes are important to the health of the site"; any of the benefits that he mentions could be better served with votes to close IMO. – BobRodes Mar 29 at 5:38
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    @BobRodes You can’t vote to close a question because it doesn’t demonstrate research. You can’t vote to close feature requests on Meta because you disagree with them. You can’t vote to close answers. These are all cases that downvoting is used for that can’t be “better served with votes to close”. – Sebastian Simon Mar 29 at 5:45
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    @BobRodes So how would you indicate low quality on e.g. Stack Overflow? By voting to close? Do you do that often? I see that in 8 years on Stack Overflow, you have accumulated 4 helpful flags and 500 votes. I don't want to sound disrespectful, but to me that doesn't indicate a lot of experience in moderation. – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 5:50
  • Kind of fascinating to me that the eight-hour-old question has 15 downvotes, mine has three after a half hour or so, and the 10-year-old version has 36 upvotes. Sort of makes my point better than I can. – BobRodes Mar 29 at 5:50
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    @BobRodes I didn't get your point. You do know that downvotes on Meta discussions can mean disagreement? (Mine didn't, by the way. I downvoted because this has been discussed countless times and your question brings nothing new to the discussion.) – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 5:54
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    @BobRodes I'm reacting to the fact that most of requests or discussions like this one come from users who are unsatisfied with moderation, but have shown little interest in doing their share. – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 5:57
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    @BobRodes That's not what I am saying. I am saying that this post is bringing nothing new to the discussion. It shows little research because it doesn't mention how it is supposed to bring something new to it. This has been discussed to death. – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 5:59
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    @BobRodes I don't understand. What is elitist to you? Downvoting? What is the alternative, for posts like the ones Xufox mentioned? – Modus Tollens Mar 29 at 6:04
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    And thank you both for your input. I have a better picture now. – BobRodes Mar 29 at 6:09
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    Users who want to change the system have to come up with hard facts and stats that support their position. I never see that. Ever. It's just the same startled and alarmed story repeated time and time again. Understandably, people get fed up. So come up with something original, or do your research better next time. BTW I didn't downvote but if this post had had -3 I would have added the fourth. – Mari-Lou A Mar 29 at 8:43
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Chances are, you see this question and you're trying to "provide constructive criticism" without downvoting it:

i am neuu to progamming, hou can i ad a numbre to anoter numbre?

Half joke, half serious.

Downvoting, as said by Shog9, is a visual feedback to further readers about the quality and value of a question. Low quality questions deserve downvotes so as not to waste people's precious time in answering them. Downvoting is as well an important feedback to the question asker. If someone figures it out that "however bad my question is it won't ever get downvoted", there'd be no motivation for them to stop submitting posts that do not fit our sites' guidelines. Most people stop and review themselves after receiving the first few negative feedbacks, if not all, where the rest get an automatic question ban.

Downvoting on Meta sites is also an important way of expressing disagreement - you sure you want everyone who disagrees to leave a comment saying so, or reaching out to their close votes?

(Up and down) voting is Stack Exchange's primary way of quality control, and is never redundant or unnecessary, in any way.

  • Maybe. But "never redundant or unnecessary, in any way" is the sort of thing that dictators require all their subjects to say on command, upon pain of death. :) – BobRodes Mar 29 at 6:07
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    @BobRodes: "I love <name> so much!" is also the "sort of thing that dictators require all their subjects to say on command, upon pain of death". Guess it's time to ban telling people you love them. (Put another way, you're looking at the wrong end of things. The problem is not what's said, it's the bit about, oh I don't know, on pain of death.) – Nathan Tuggy Mar 29 at 7:58

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