-23

On Meta we often see off-topic questions that have no rhyme or reason: too many if truth be told. These questions are downvoted by the community, closed swiftly, removed from the main page and deleted in a matter of hours. Spam, similarly, is handled even more quickly and deleted within minutes of its appearance.

However, what about questions that are on-topic on Meta Stack Exchange (MSE) but are duplicates? These too are downvoted (in what often appears to be in a frenzy) and while it is argued that downvotes are not meant to be personal, they do reflect the community's mood and consensus. Subsequently, for a new user seeing their on-topic question being mass downvoted, it is hard not to view the immediate negative response as being scornful.

When I was ten years old and living in the UK, my parents sent me to Italian school to study Italian. I was the oldest child in a class of 7-year-olds because I was a beginner. The teacher used to correct my grammar mistakes in front of the class and it was a humiliating experience, so I soon learned not to participate. In fact, I refused to go back to Italian school after four or five months of attendance and my parents eventually agreed.

I believe that the community is mature enough to differentiate between an off-topic question–posted by someone question-banned on Stack Overflow–from a new contributor's Feature Request question, even if it has been asked several times before. Not only, but many duplicate FR posts get deleted, so it's not always easy for users to find them using the search box.

The downvotes tell the OP their request is not supported by the community, doesn't that message come across when the total score reaches -10?

Can (or) Should Stack Exchange put a cap on the number of downvotes a FR receives when it is a user's first-ever or second post on Meta? Besides what are the benefits to the newcomer in seeing a request being downvoted 20 or 30 times within hours of posting when the post is correctly closed as being a duplicate?

14
  • 10
    So the post reaches the cap then after 5 years when it can only collect upvotes it looks popular? Why would that be useful? We already have a safety net for new starters. Your rep starts at 1 and no matter how unpopular or poorly researched your first post is you can never go below that starting point. Also if the post is deleted then all those downvotes go away. Apr 24 at 11:40
  • 2
    It is about first impressions, it's about the reception, it's the friendliness of a community towards a new user and a question or FQ which is on-topic. This is what I am talking about @RobertLongson Apr 24 at 11:46
  • 15
    It just makes the second impression a huge pitfall. Hey how come my second question is so bad when my first was OK? Clearly I must create a new account for each question. Apr 24 at 11:47
  • 3
    Voting should always be on content, not on how many meta posts a user already has or what their feeling about voting might be. Apr 24 at 11:50
  • 1
    Not sure what you mean. Step 1 you reach the cap. Step 2 you eventually get a positive score because the number of downvotes is always at the cap. Or did you mean a cap on the score because that's not what you've said in the question? Also if only the first n questions are protected then someone is going to compare their n+1th question with someone else's very similar 1..n range question and complain that it's unfair that they score so differently. Apr 24 at 11:54
  • 1
    @RobertLongson Who says the 1st question has a positive score? I suggested putting a cap on the total score when it is significantly below the positive score. To be absolutely clear, I am not suggesting that downvotes should be avoided, I'm saying that it is in the community's interest to be more patient, otherwise new users who are burnt, won't come back again. Apr 24 at 11:58
  • 1
    Another alternative could be to still record downvotes after the cap has been reached, say -10, but not show it to the community. But I'm not sure how or if this would be implemented.
    – Justin
    Apr 24 at 12:44
  • 1
    Well, in theory SE can give default score of 20 to every new question. Would take a while for the users to get it to 0 and below, and OP would feel very welcome until then. And that would be a great way to put an end to Stack Exchange. :D Apr 24 at 14:56
  • 3
    'otherwise new users who are burnt, won't come back again' - that is not my problem, I don't care. I lost all patience with new users who, for whatever reasons, do not appear to make even minimal dupe-checks before posting. If you want to know, I lost that patience a decade ago:( Apr 24 at 16:59
  • 4
    ...and during that decade, I have received sufficient vitriol that I will never recover any special consideration for new use....accounts that seek to offload due diligence onto other contributors. I have been labeled as 'bigoted' by users and had to suffer the implication from SO that I an racist and/or misogynist. Guess how much I care how posters feel? I have no more PHP's to give. Apr 24 at 17:05
  • 2
    @MartinJames About 8 years ago, my first posts on EL&U were not exactly stellar, I simply didn't know where to look or how to do the research. I think I more than made up for those weak attempts but I remember one very nice user who was friendly and helpful. At the same time there was another who continually sneered at my efforts. They practically downvoted every single post of mine, they were staunch believers that answers had to be posted exclusively by native speakers. Imagine if there had been two users like that? I would have run for the hills and tarred everyone with the same brush. Apr 24 at 17:26
  • 2
    @MartinJames don't tar everyone with the same brush, and try to be more patient, what seems easy and basic to you and me may not be for a 17-year-old. Yes, there will be people who are lazy, yes they will be arrogant and rude too but give everyone a chance to learn and work themselves up. You might be pleasantly surprised. Apr 24 at 17:30
  • 4
    @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні... I tried that, (it's my default when meeting new people), years ago. I was unpleasantly disappointed:(( Apr 26 at 10:58
  • 7
    If users, new accounts or not, cannot be bothered to Google their title and/or check the FAQ before posting, I can't be bothered with searching and linking dupes. I'm gonna downvote/closevote/delete them and move on. Applying more effort to handle questions than the authors did in creating them is not rational or sustainable. Apr 26 at 11:03

5 Answers 5

16

Can (or) Should Stack Exchange put a cap on the number of downvotes a FR receives

No.


The most basic mistake people do with Stack Exchange sites is to confuse voting with social actions. This is done by new users and old time users alike.

People see upvote as being friendly and welcoming, and downvote as being unfriendly, hostile, toxic, and many many more terrible words.

THAT IS NOT THE CASE. Sadly, can't say it enough times.


As long as you see the sites through this tainted glass, you won't be able to see voting as what it really is: way to mark posts as good/bad for the site, regardless of who posted, and without any social meaning behind it. So, there is no logical reason to limit them in any way.

5
  • 1
    I am saying to be more patient to new users, to questions that are on-topic but duplicates. Someone posts spam, annihilate the post. Someone posts an off-topic question to circumvent a ban, downvote and delete the post. I'm asking a cap or users to back off once an on-topic question asked by a new contributor has reached a total score of e.g -5 or -10. Apr 24 at 12:36
  • 2
    @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні Why do you keep assuming the downvotes are because they are duplicates? There is no basis for this assumption. Apr 24 at 12:38
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou I don't downvote duplicates, except rare cases where they're posted on purpose just to draw attention. I'm also against downvoting duplicates. But your request is general, if you'll change it to limit downvotes only on questions closed as duplicates, I might support it. Apr 24 at 13:59
  • 1
    The term "duplicates" is peppered throughout the FR "I believe that the community is mature enough to differentiate between an off-topic question–posted by someone question-banned on Stack Overflow–from a new contributor's Feature Request question, even if it has been asked several times before. Not only, but many duplicate FR posts get deleted, so it's not always easy for users to find them using the search box." But no sweat, the question is off the main page, the discussion is closed. P.S I have emphasized the key points in bold. Apr 24 at 14:43
  • 8
    "I am saying to be more patient to new users, to questions that are on-topic but duplicates." - Makes it appear that the closure of a question of a duplicate, or the downvoting of a question, is against that new user themselves. That isn't the case.
    – Ramhound
    Apr 24 at 14:49
14

No, you would just mask a symptom, not the actual cause.

The basic problem is the misconception of users what voting is for: a content sorting mechanism to bring together problems with people who can answer them and help users find a solution to their problem. Sentences like

It is so depressing to see no one respects my question.

shows how users misunderstand the system. As do all the other "downvotes are mean"- or "I demand by ban to be removed"-posts which get posted on a daily basis.

SO must try to find a way to prevent such misconceptions before the users get upset and before they come to meta to post the same type of posts again and again. Messing with the post score on meta is not a solution to this problem.

2
  • 2
    Have you considered language barriers? It is not easy to ask a question in your second or third language. What is wrong with closing the question /FR as a duplicate and leaving at that? As for users not understanding how the system works, isn't that what comments are also there for, to help users by explaining or showing guidance. Apr 24 at 12:24
  • 3
    @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні I'm very aware of language barriers. English is not my mother tongue and I also participate on other Q&A sites in languages in which I'm even less fluent than English. I don't think questions/FR get downvotes because they are duplicates. The problem more often is the rant-like way they are presented. Apr 24 at 12:28
13

That is a lot of questions to answer in one go ...

Is downvoting en masse an on-topic question "friendly"?

Yes, but might depend on your point of view: If we still agree that each Stack Exchange site, including meta, is a body of knowledge represented by (high) quality questions and answers then voting is very friendly for visitors as they have it easy to dissect good posts from the less valuable ones. If you are the OP and are emotionally attached to your post then it is easy to pick the "unfriendly" route. A common factor in this modern time: In the need of endorphin our brains don't cope well when this happy feeling is denied by external factors.

[...] What about questions that are on-topic on Meta Stack Exchange (MSE) but are duplicates?

What about it? Nine out of ten duplicates are a simple repeat without any new insight, often on beaten to death topics. If an OP would have used the on-site search or, dare I say it, Google instead of the title search that pops-up while writing their question they would not have asked the question in the first place or they would given it few more brain cycles to come up with a new / alternative / unique view to an existing issue. Duplicates that are not helping in finding the canonical should be removed and we shouldn't get more of those either. If downvotes are interpreted by the OP that their post isn't welcome I would call that a win for the site overall.

The downvotes tell the OP their request is not supported by the community, doesn't that message come across when the total score reaches -10?

An OP that pays attention will freak out after one downvote, so -1 or -10 really doesn't matter, even if the difference is only 0. I personally believe everyone should be able to vote on content however they see fit. Votes are a limited resource so it is up to each voter to decide whether the current votes reflect their position on the topic. Depending on that judgement call they either add their vote or move on to the next post to use their vote there.

Can (or) Should Stack Exchange put a cap on the number of downvotes a FR receives when it is a user's first-ever or second post on Meta?

No, we're not going to allow one-shot, passer-by posters to enjoy a single, no-strings attached low quality post while the core community that deeply care about this site can only sit on their hands and watch the horror unfold.

The main problem remains: New users across the network do not receive the pre-emptive guidance BEFORE they ask their first or second question. Once they posted we pile-on with links to FAQs, Meta posts, Help articles and votes. That is unfortunate but not bad for the site or the OP, if they are open for critique. Maybe posting on Twitter or TikTok that posting here demands prior research will help.

6

Can (or) Should Stack Exchange put a cap on the number of downvotes a FR receives [...]

No. By doing so, you'd be restricting the ability of many users to justly [down]vote on feature requests. If people disagree with a feature request, then why shouldn't they be able to downvote it? Isn't that what downvotes on feature requests are for? Maybe users should be given a warning before posting a feature request that they should be prepared for [an onslaught of] downvotes if their feature request doesn't get well received by the community, followed by guidance links. Or an automatic message for [new] users after receiving a certain amount of downvotes. Note that some feature requests are also often downvoted because they show no research effort, are unclear or are not useful. New users should be aware of such reasons.

IMO, the links below should always be made to stand out to new users:

  1. https://meta.stackexchange.com/tags/feature-request/info

  2. How do I participate in Meta and not die trying? (Especially this one.)

  3. Can we re-request features that were declined a sufficient while ago?

0
5

To answer the question posed in the title: Votes - at least those cast by me - reflect how I feel about the content of the post at hand. If I agree with it, think it's a good/necessary question to be asked or to sum it up feel positive about it I will most likely upvote it. If I disagree with it, think it's a bad question (i.e. lacking appropriate research prior to posting it), think that it's not a question that needs to be asked or answered, I will most likely downvote it.

Nothing about my personal process of voting is based on the person asking the question. If someone perceives my downvote to be unfriendly, unwelcoming or whatever else, I do not really care. If it's a user new to meta I will leave a comment explaining why the question is not a good fit for this site, but if it's an experienced user I think I'm well within my rights to assume that they should understand that votes are not supposed to be used or taken as measurements of the person posting the question.

This topic has been going on and on and on for way too long, and I personally think that it's been blown way out of proportion. Trying to tell users, new or old, that votes are used for the content, nothing else, seems to bear little to no fruit.

Limiting the votes a question can receive in a period of time based on the user being new would skew the perception of said question by others, thus basically invalidating the very purpose for which votes exist.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .