-25

This question already has an answer here:

I have been active on different SO/SE forums for quite a while. I have rarely downvoted anyone. I usually try to

  1. let the person know what is wrong with their question/answer first and help them learn how they need to improve it
  2. edit the post myself if the person doesn't know how to do it.
  3. report/flag the post if the person doesn't consider the feedback
  4. downvote if the OP ignores all above issues

However, I have barely seen the same behavior from other SO users. Consider this post for example. There I have asked a question about compiling software on FreeDOS and I didn't ask it on SuperUser because I speculated (wrongly) it will include some programing. I immediately recived some downvotes and flags which led me to write a P.S. :

Unfortunately, the SO is becoming a very toxic environment again. I have spent quite some time doing a lot of research on this question and tried to format it as nicely as possible. But users come and downvote the post and flag it to be closed without even explaining why! This is not right. We are here to help each other not to silence one another. If this question has any issues and you think it deserves downvote, please give me a chance to understand what it is by leaving at least a comment!

As soon as I wrote this I experienced a tsunami of downvotes and flags on my posts and former posts! someone even took the liberty to edit my post and remove this criticize. So here are the points I want to discuss:

  • what exactly happens in the mind of a person causing him/her to downvote others without giving them the chance to learn why? and why when this behavior is criticized they tend to do it even worse? Has there ever been a psychological study on people's behavior on social media and how they try to punish/silence others?
  • Why SO/SE still has the feature of anonymous downvote without explanation. When there is a flag option what is the benefit of having downvote at all?
  • what is the benefit of having so many SE forums when SO has tags? How flagging a post as off-topic and closing/removing it helps SO community?
  • why there is no option to move questions across these SO/SE forums if being "on-topic" is so important?

In my humble opinion, these are really important issues we need to fix if we want to have a healthy community. Thanks for your support in advance.

marked as duplicate by fbueckert, πάντα ῥεῖ, Pierre.Vriens, hims056, Mureinik Jul 22 at 5:28

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 17
    You take downvotes and close votes as being "toxic" and that's totally wrong. That's the base mistake most people do, and I'm afraid there's no way to explain to you what is the real purpose of downvotes and close votes is. Sorry. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Jul 17 at 7:47
  • @gnat no, it's not a dupe of that, by far. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Jul 17 at 8:10
  • 9
    What happens in my mind is that I see content that I judge as either being unclear, not well researched or not useful for future visitors. Then I cast my down vote and I move on. Content doesn't get better when it is littered with meta noise critising those that curate the site so that explain the incoming down votes after you edited that in. – rene Jul 17 at 8:37
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    Every time you misuse the word toxic like that, it loses a little more of it's meaning. Calling everything toxic or problematic has led to a large part of people reacting negatively to even using the word and they'll stop reading and react negatively whenever you do, especially when you misuse it. – Magisch Jul 17 at 8:41
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    For feedback on this: I downvoted this post because I disagree with your analysis of the problems you think the platform faces, and I disagree with your perception that downvotes are toxic, and I find you jumping to such conclusions with little in the way of evidentiary backup to be rude and presumptuous. – Magisch Jul 17 at 8:50
  • 3
    related tale of a Faraway Site... at MSO – gnat Jul 17 at 9:47
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    The psychology is that, generally, when someone comments on a downvoted post (even if they didn't downvote), the OP takes their frustration out on the commenter. – TheWanderer Jul 17 at 11:43
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    If this turns out to get useful answers maybe we can fix the pity upvotes as well. I guess that needs lots of psychology as well. – rene Jul 17 at 12:36
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    Let's turn it around; clearly bad questions are getting upvotes. Is that toxic? Should we require upvoters to justify their votes as well? It's obviously not right that they think a bad question is any good. They should have to explain why, too! – fbueckert Jul 17 at 13:30
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    Sounds pretty unreasonable to apply the same arguments to upvotes, doesn't it? That's a pretty clear sign that the logic is biased. You may not like it, but at no point is voting, up or down, toxic. It's not something negative that needs to be, "fixed", to make the place nicer. What I would prefer is that new users learn more about the site and acclimate a bit before posting. That's just good manners, no matter where you go. – fbueckert Jul 17 at 13:32
  • 2
    This could have been discussed calmly and rationally without using trigger words such as "toxic" and the phrase *We are here to help each other not to silence one another.. I think the latter is the more serious accusation, accusing users who DV because (for example) a question is off-topic has nothing to do with free speech. – Mari-Lou A Jul 20 at 10:02
22

I have been active on different SO/SE forums for quite a while.

The sites here aren't forums, they're tightly curated Q/A resources, more akin to Wikipedia than a social network.

However, I have barely seen the same behavior from other SO users. Consider this post for example. There I have asked a question about compiling software on FreeDOS and I didn't ask it on SuperUser because I speculated (wrongly) it will include some programing.

The question was closed, and the close message gives a very useful pointer for you, namely:

"Questions about general computing hardware and software are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve tools used primarily for programming. You may be able to get help on Super User."

Which tells you quite a bit about what went wrong with your post. Downvotes don't come with explicit messages, and this has been brought up and declined more then a hundred times already (no, really), but they do have a description on the privilege page and the arrow:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

From which you can extrapolate quite a bit.

As soon as I wrote this I experienced a tsunami of downvotes and flags on my posts and former posts! someone even took the liberty to edit my post and remove this criticize. So here are the points I want to discuss:

That's regrettable but also understandable. In your message you basically accuse people who donate their free time and expertise to keep stack overflow clean of refuse and off topic questions of being toxic. Being that this is tagged with , one of the universals of human psychology is that people dislike being accused of things they find reprehensible but haven't done. It''s therefore unsurprising that editing such a paragraph into the question would draw negative attention.

what exactly happens in the mind of a person causing him/her to downvote others without giving them the chance to learn why? and why when this behavior is criticized they tend to do it even worse? Has there ever been a psychological study on people's behavior on social media and how they try to punish/silence others?

When you curate posts on Stack Overflow, you see a lot of bad posts. Like, 90% of what you see in the close votes or new posts queue is bad or off topic. The strain of explaining the same thing to 1.000 people making the same mistake day after day makes people curt in their responses. The SE system has mitigated this by reducing human interaction: close reasons are largely canned, and commenting about your downvotes is discouraged.

I disagree that this has anything to do with silencing or punishing others, that is your interpretation into it from not knowing exactly how it works. This here site is not a social media platform or forum, it is a (supposed to be) tightly curated Q/A resource. You wouldn't accuse people of silencing others on wikipedia because your contribution to an article got rejected, for instance. It's in the same vein here.

Regarding for why making wild accusations draws additional negative attention, see above.

Why SO/SE still has the feature of anonymous downvote without explanation. When there is a flag option what is the benefit of having downvote at all?

This topic has been discussed, the idea rejected, and the topic discussed hundreds of times on Stack Overflow and on here. So much so, there's a FAQ dedicated to listing the arguments. You'll note that FAQ has 60 undeleted linked questions alone.

why there is no option to move questions across these SO/SE forums if being "on-topic" is so important?

There is, in limited circumstances, it's called migration. It's not often used, because usually questions have to be reworded / reworked significantly anyways to fit on the scope of another SE site, and usually these questions are poor to start.

  • Upvoted, brilliantly argued but it is also true there is, understandably, a knee jerk response in many of the older, more experienced users, when the subject of downvotes rears its ugly head for the umpteenth time. Some veteran users make an awful lot of assumptions and have an unrealistic set of expectations. So that knee jerk reaction (downvoting within minutes of being posted) is totally uncalled for and/or very alienating for a new user who is unfamiliar with the system. – Mari-Lou A Jul 20 at 9:46
13

what exactly happens in the mind of a person causing him/her to downvote others without giving them the chance to learn why? and why when this behavior is criticized they tend to do it even worse? Has there ever been a psychological study on people's behavior on social media and how they try to punish/silence others?

We vote on posts to tell the world whether the post is useful or not. That it functions as a signal to the poster is merely a side effect. There are a limited number of people who are both willing and able to answer questions and if we direct them to questions that they can answer that's a far better use of their time than having them wade through piles of questions that they can't answer.

There's no punishment here. The poster can use that signal to improve their question. Perhaps they will now read the help centre or do more research on how to write a good question. These are all materials we provide here that many posters ignore in their headlong race to get their question, in whatever state it is in, in front of any audience they can.

Why SO/SE still has the feature of anonymous downvote without explanation. When there is a flag option what is the benefit of having downvote at all?

Since voting is for the many and not the one poster, the many don't need to know who voted, simply the aggregate. Flagging is for posts that we don't think are recoverable at all and need to be immediately deleted such as spam.

what is the benefit of having so many SE forums when SO has tags? How flagging a post as off-topic and closing/removing it helps SO community?

As regards to different sites, I can't see all of the people who are active on cooking or vegetarianism or diy or many of the couple of hundred sites we have now being interested in Stack Overflow. Nor should computer experts necessarily be given rights to close cooking etc posts.

Closing posts helps answerers to posts they can answer and gives the poster a signal that they need to do something about the post to get it shipshape. The former is the important signal here.

why there is no option to move questions across these SO/SE forums if being "on-topic" is so important?

If you want to move a post, delete it and re ask it. Many other sites don't want to be in the migration list because they believe they will get a flood of poor quality questions from Stack Overflow. The migration list has been generated over the years from migrations that end up being useful.

If you think of things from the point of view all the people who use this site to get answers rather than an individual question you'll see much more clearly why things are the way they are.

2
  • what exactly happens in the mind of a person causing him/her to downvote others without giving them the chance to learn why? and why when this behavior is criticized they tend to do it even worse? Has there ever been a psychological study on people's behavior on social media and how they try to punish/silence others?

Depends on the post. I personally tend to do the "no research effort" downvotes for questions, as well as the absolutely terrible ones. I downvote mostly for active harmfulness in answers.

That said, the tone, completeness and general interestingness of a question all play a part.

  • Why SO/SE still has the feature of anonymous downvote without explanation. When there is a flag option what is the benefit of having downvote at all?

A flag requires a mod to take a look. Votes are anonymous because people takes votes badly, but its a 'simple' organic way to handle what folks feel of a post's usefulness or otherwise. Its kinda how we've done things over the last decade, and is a fundamental part of the SE model.

Deletions are not anonymous, and I've occationally had folks wander over to my blog and demand answers. Some folks might do the same for close votes. There's a potential for some folks to rachet up the toxicity over it.

Personally where possible comments suggesting improvements are always useful but it requires someone to feel putting in the time and effort to do so has broader value.

  • what is the benefit of having so many SE forums when SO has tags? How flagging a post as off-topic and closing/removing it helps SO community?

Not all SE sites would fit into SO. I don't see gardening questions finding a home there. SO, SU and SF (the original trilogy in 4 parts along with the initial incarnation of MSO, now MSE) each had their own target audiences and very different cultures. More so now with the other SE sites - just cause there's scope overlap doesn't mean sites handle things differently

Why there is no option to move questions across these SO/SE forums if being "on-topic" is so important?

We have migrations, though folks often err on the site of caution. The advantage of re-asking is you can re-jig a question for the new site. In any case though, its useful to spend a little time getting to know the site, and figuring out what works.

0

Look at the screenshot taken from this five-year-old Stack Overflow post: Do users upvote out of sympathy, and how should that be addressed?

enter link description here

The OP writes, [emphasis in bold mine]

How can one hope to improve the quality of questions on Stack Overflow when people upvote crap like this?

Who in their right mind would upvote such a ridiculously awful question?

  • Does anyone disagree that the entire premise has a belligerent tone?

No doubt the OP was expressing their frustration and exasperation with the system. Not with users who upvote bad questions but with the system that ALLOWS users to express their judgement whether that be negative or positive. The OP was incredulous that someone would even dare upvote such an appalling question and asks how Stack Overflow can hope to improve quality while users are misusing the system.

“Except that's the problem. Someone will [write the code], and people will keep coming back asking terrible questions like this one.”*

I thought the OP made a few valid points until I looked at the screenshot more carefully; seven downvotes in less than 3 minutes. Three minutes. How many other downvotes did that question receive before it was eventually closed [if it was]? The overall message is startlingly clear, the community strongly disapproved of the question but one user didn't, they chose to upvote it. The OP saw fit to publicly condemn that action. Luckily for the upvoter, their identity was protected by the system, the OP couldn't name and shame the user but all the same, they wanted to know why a "crappy" question was upvoted.

Sometimes even the downvoters want to know why a post was upvoted!

Maybe the question wasn't so awful? It lacked effort and research but when someone is a beginner they look for help and they came to SO.

After spending six years on Stack Exchange, I have come to the conclusion, that the voting system is inherently flawed. Users may systematically downvote every off-topic, non-researched or disagreeable question that is posted but the flood of low-quality (i.e. crap) off-topic questions will continue to swamp Stack Overflow, Mathematics, Super User, EL&U etc.

Unexplained downvotes have done nothing to prevent bad questions from appearing in the first place. That responsibility lies with the developers, when they find a way to impede the continual flow of bad questions, veteran users will, finally, be more motivated, more helpful and friendlier to newcomers (aka new contributors) via votes and comments, and the volume of downvotes that we presently see on Meta and on SO should decrease dramatically. Until then...

The fault lies with the system not with the users.

-11

There can be many reasons to downvote without a comment.

The first and most important: sometimes you don't have the nerves to explain to the OP, without being considered an insult. For example, if it is clearly visible, that the OP could write correctly, but he intentionally doesn't even try to. Saying to him, where should he go with this attitude, would violate the Code of Conduct. But silently voting him down is okay. It might have a psychological effect, too: by allowing him to think about, why he could have got the down, could give him ultimately a much stronger motive to improve, as a flamewar.

However, not this is the typical problem.

The main problem is that many people, as I understood, have the habit of shoot his daily 40 "rockets" to questions. They are doing it every day.

It is very visible, because using the site as it is intended - searching for answers to our questions - simply doesn't lead us so many bad posts. The only way what I can imagine, to have many times more downs than ups, if one intentionally looks for downvotable posts.

I don't know, why are they doing it. Maybe a psychologist could decode them, or at least they could give some help to accelerate your own research.

My current best hyphothese is that they are executing some gamification algorithm, i.e. they are essentially playing a game, where their goals are very different from the goals of the voting system (what is to separate bad posts from the good ones, helping the search/indexing system to give good posts to the visitors). For example, they might want to decrease the count of happy programmers of the world. Or they might vote their friends up, everybody other down (sect mentality). Obviously no one explained it clearly, but searching for "rep farming" in newer, and for "rep whore" in older meta posts, could reveal at least their "explanations".

I checked your SO activity, and my opinion is that your posts are okay, and your skills make you a worthy contributor. You clearly don't deserve the downs. However, you don't get too much. Well, I would suggest to formulate your titles as round questions, instead of your current sentence fragments.

A possible symptomatic handling of the problem, if you try to compensate them: give ups easily, and give downs only to the real crap. It won't help you, but you can make the site a more friendly one.

Another possible workaround is using secondary account for your questions.

If you have a deeply and unfairly downvoted question, you can also ask the team to detach it from your account. I personally never did it, but all those who did, said that it happened seamlessly.


My answers to your other sub-questions:

Why SO/SE still has the feature of anonymous downvote without explanation. When there is a flag option what is the benefit of having downvote at all?

The SE f*ly needs your activities. They need you. They need your votes, they need your comments, and most heavily, they need your answers. They are using the votes to show their best face to the google, and to the visitors. If they would harden voting, they would have much lesser information to tune their indexing.

What is the benefit of having so many SE forums when SO has tags? How flagging a post as off-topic and closing/removing it helps SO community? Why there is no option to move questions across these SO/SE forums if being "on-topic" is so important?

All the SE sites should run from a common database, with loosely coupled tag system. As I've first found a different SE site after the SO, what was the ServerFault, I've thought that the questions are coming from the same database. Only they are somehow filtered for ServerFault topics and not for SO topics. It was simply so obvious, that so should the site network work. And my this opinion did not change since then.

However, the SE works on a much more... well, say, simpler way. The SE sites are entirely different databases, with zero connection to each other. Later some message passing system was invented, what was a imho a very bad idea. Instead, the databases should have been unified.

The SE probably has not the developer resource, and also not the intention, to re-develop their site interaction mechanism correctly (with unifying the databases). This is why the question migrations are so hard. They should be so easy than a re-tagging.

Currently, most of the off-topic closed questions are left to oblivion, despite that they could be used to improve their correct site (or to build them together to entirely new sites). I have simply no idea, why the SE gives up this huge power. I have simply no idea. In my opinion, the SE has simply shot himself on the foot with it. My best hyphothese is a big company syndrome, i.e. they might have some internal social inertia, maybe some boss once decided so, and since then no one has the courage to change this bad decision.

They have also a roughy public, although not very advertised explanation. And it is that they want to separate the communities as they can, to protect them from each other.

  • @peterh I took screenshots and also posted them in this gist for those who claim that it was off-topic, badly formatted, or not well researched. – Foad Jul 18 at 7:34
  • @Foad moving posts around is possible in the first 60 days after a question is posted. The problem is it needs a clear understanding of the scope of the target site, something both mods and the flagger often lack. The frustration of not being able to migrate a post becomes bigger if that migration is rejected. Therefor a safer bet is checking topicality of a site by the OP and then re-post, maybe first with an site-recommendation post on MSE if you have found multiple targets. – rene Jul 18 at 8:01
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    As much as SE keep saying this isn't a public forum it has members of the public on it that are pretty much allowed to do what they want when they have enough rep. You could argue a forum is more controlled. Q & A ? If you say so SE. – Dan K Jul 18 at 8:03
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    @DanK that needs examples where a high rep have done what they want, unless it was a diamond moderator. – rene Jul 18 at 8:07
  • @rene I see no option on the post to request a migration. SuperUser was my second option If I could go back in time to write that post. There are so many options to request delete or close on top of downvoting and none for a migration request. At least I don't know where it is! – Foad Jul 18 at 8:14
  • 1
    @Foad Flag -> Other: Make your case to the moderartor. Better option: Post on Meta as a site-recommendation request. Even more better: bring it up in the chatroom on the target site and have their opinion and/or have them at least chime in. Least resistance option: re-post your self. – rene Jul 18 at 8:52

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