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I'm annoyed by down voters that don't explain why they down voted a question or an answer. Although, at the same time, I understand that they want to remain anonymous. I think there is a middle ground, though, where the voter can remain anonymous, while the poster can get aggregated feedback on ways to improve the post.

Rather than having to imagine what it might be like, the current stackoverflow engine can emulate this rather effectively with the use of comments and the up-voting of those comments (essentially saying "I agree"). So I thought I would give it a try. The only difference is that in this testing post, you will always see the list of "canned responses" where as in the complete version, it will most likely be hidden in a popup (e.g. when you hover over the score of an answer/question). To try it out, simply up or down vote this question (or one of its answers), and press the up arrow next to the comment which best describes why are voting that way. For example, if you hate this idea, give this a down vote, and then press the up arrow near -1: I don't like this idea.

In addition to retaining anonymity, this will also save time for the voter so that they don't need to write out the comment. This wouldn't be required, obviously, and there could be a default option selected don't leave a reason. In addition, there could be a custom option which allows you type exactly why you are down-voting this way. Depending on the final implementation, this could either simply be converted to a comment automatically prefixed with -1: or +1:; or, to retain anonymity, it would be added to this same list that shows the canned responses and how many users have voted that way.

Here are some ideas for the canned responses:

Question:

  • +1: Well formatted and thought out question.
  • -1: It doesn't seem like enough time was spent trying to solve this issue on your own.
  • -1: I don't like this idea. (Could be especially useful on meta.stackoverflow.com feature-request.)
  • -1: No prior research/work. (Idea from here.)
  • -1: Poor question. Please see How to ask questions the smart way.
  • -1: Doesn't contain code. (This would be useful on stackoverflow.com. Idea from this post)

Answer:

  • +1: Concise.
  • +1: Insightful.
  • +1: Worked for me.
  • -1: It's wrong.
  • -1: Confusing.
  • -1: Encouraging bad behavior (e.g. answering a question that shouldn't have been asked; see this post for more information).

I made this a community-wiki since there will probably be testing of up/down votes. Several of these canned responses have been taken from this answer. This same idea was also suggested here.

  • 15
    +1: Well formatted and thought out feature. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:11
  • 10
    +1: I'd like to see some variation of this feature. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:12
  • 17
    -1: I don't like this idea. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:12
  • -1: No prior research/work was done. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:12
  • -1: Poor question. Please see: catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:13
  • ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:13
  • 3
    I actually like this idea, at least in principal it's sound. – Josh K May 16 '10 at 1:35
  • 2
    So far, I'm loving it! Even though I'm getting a lot of down votes, they are all explained, so I don't have to wonder why I'm getting the down votes. Even just as an experiment it's interesting. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 3:00
  • 1
    I think there is some merit in this idea. Possibly even a viable solution. – IAbstract May 16 '10 at 19:03
  • @dbo: I don't see the problem being solved. – perbert May 17 '10 at 22:53
  • 1
    I wouldn't be naive enough to think it is a total solution, but has merit nonetheless. I think it is the best solution I have seen so far. It provides a canned comment while retaining 100% anonymity. If you still choose No Reason or just close the prompt, you will successfully cheat the system. What would be the point in that? Now, it would be really nice if such a feature included canned response merges - so that multiple instances of a canned response simply up-voted the single instance of said canned response. Whew...what a mouthful... – IAbstract May 17 '10 at 23:16
  • Good idea, but please, please don't include a link to Eric Raymond's long-winded anti-social tirade as one of the canned responses. There are better treatises on the subject, if you honestly need one at all. – Aarobot May 17 '10 at 23:30
  • @Aarobot: yeah, that was just provided as an example, I'm sure the community can decide on a better URL to link to. – Senseful May 17 '10 at 23:56
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    I cannot really see the advantage in retaining annoymity, though. If you downvoted something for a (in your opinion) proper reason, why would you want to hide your name when stating this reason. If you deem your downvote valid, then stand in for it! – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jul 22 '14 at 12:28
  • - 1 this never happened for a reason, it has been made really clear that canned responses do not help and in many cases do more harm than nothing. My experience with the auto-comment plugin on SO proved that the only action they every incited were the ire and attacks from the recipient of the comment, so Auto Comments Considered Harmful is a thing. – user148287 Oct 10 '19 at 19:38
11

I like the idea, personally, although the "test version" is way too awkward to really be useful. Let's just propose the feature, and have these reasons replace the current "please leave a reason" popup for low-to-moderate rep users issuing downvotes, along with a "decline" option (they don't have to leave a comment). I'm not sure how it would work for upvotes though, we definitely don't want to annoy upvoters with popup dialogs.

What would be really great is if these reasons could be displayed to the poster, but optionally remain anonymous in terms of the voter. Sort of like how when I click the close link, I can see why other people have voted to close, this would allow the OP to see why people upvoted/downvoted.

I'd also prefer reasons that are a little more informative than the ones in the OP. I can't speak to SF or SU, but on SO and Meta I can think of some very common reasons for upvotes/downvotes (many of these probably apply to SO/SU as well):

Stack Overflow:

Questions:

  • +1: Addresses an interesting or common problem.
  • +1: Explains the problem or requirement clearly.
  • +1: Well-written and engaging.
  • -1: Sloppy writing, difficult to read (consider editing to improve).
  • -1: Rude/abrasive language.
  • -1: Leaves out critical details (consider commenting first).
  • -1: Scope is unreasonably large.

Answers:

  • +1: Provides correct information / working code.
  • +1: I learned something new from this.
  • +1: Objective, unbiased, and/or well-researched.
  • +1: Offers potentially helpful advice or background.
  • -1: Does not compile.
  • -1: Will not produce the expected result.
  • -1: Likely to fail or cause negative side-effects.
  • -1: Irrelevant or off-topic.
  • -1: Not specific enough to be useful.
  • -1: Makes unfounded subjective claims.
  • -1: Sloppy writing, difficult to read.

Meta:

Questions:

  • +1: I can reproduce this (bugs).
  • +1: This feature would be useful.
  • +1: This is an interesting topic.
  • -1: Not reproducible / not enough information.
  • -1: No freehand circles.
  • -1: This feature would be actively harmful.
  • -1: Purpose of discussion is unclear / not focused.

Answers:

  • +1: Answers the question with an existing link/feature.
  • +1: Proposes a good solution/workaround.
  • +1: Persuasive / makes valid points.
  • -1: Unclear or unhelpful.
  • -1: Overuses tired memes.
  • -1: Body Odor is also status-bydesign but we still wear deodorant.
  • -1: For being/agreeing with Evan Carroll.
  • -1: Because I can.

Some people will probably point out that some of these overlap with close reasons. Yes, they do, but close votes are irrevocable and not everybody has sufficient rep. I also think there's sufficient gray area between, for example, rude vs. offensive, to make it a valid downvote reason. "Scope is unreasonably large" may be similar to "not a real question" but it's not quite the same. The question may be very specific in terms of the author's requirements but simply be asking for an absurd amount of work (for example somebody posting their full homework assignment).

Anyway, that's was just a quick brainstorm. Feel free to use or ignore the reasons. Personally, I think these account for 95% of my votes, and if I could click one or two buttons to add them then I would probably end up leaving more comments (especially if they were anonymous, but that's not a requirement).

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6

I currently rarely participate in the down vote process. For me, the reason is simply the golden rule: I don't like receiving down votes, so I won't dish them out. I will, however, leave comments as to how a post could be improved when I think it is warranted.

I like the proposed approach to down voting, but I am not sure it would be enough to get me to participate in using it. There are at least a couple of suggestions I would offer that would probably convert me into a down voter:

  • Down votes should primarily be a reflection of the quality of the question or the answer, and not a reflection of the quality of the person asking or answering.
    This means that the down votes should mostly be about whether or not the question or answer itself is good or bad. It should effect reputation, but not on a purely linear scale (I have ideas on how to apply the reputation hit, but it would take too long to explain here). The sum total of down votes are still weighed against the score of the question or answer.

  • Down votes should be aged out if the specific issues being down voted on were addressed.
    There is currently no process to compel down voters to revisit questions and answers to re-evaluate their down votes. As such, leaving the down votes on the question or answer may not truly reflect the quality the post, which is a form of misinformation. It is difficult to say when to judge that an issue has been addressed, but perhaps some kind of review task could be created when the number of up votes exceeds the down votes on a particular reason. If enough reviewers deem the down vote reason is addressed, the down votes are aged out. (Along with my first point, aging out down votes would not cause a spike in reputation.)

  • 8
    "Down votes should primarily be a reflection of the quality of the question or the answer, and not a reflection of the quality of the person asking or answering." This is already true, and an accurate description of how the system works. – Cody Gray Jul 18 '13 at 7:10
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    @CodyGray: I describe what I meant by that statement in the full bullet. Allowing every down vote to negatively affect reputation linearly makes it about both, not primarily about the question in my sense of the statement. – jxh Jul 18 '13 at 7:22
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    Reputation still isn't a measure of the person, it's a subjective measurement of their overall contributions to the site. – Cody Gray Jul 18 '13 at 7:23
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    @CodyGray: Reputation is the most visible presence the person has on the site. So as far as other users of the site are concerned, reputation is a measure of the person. – jxh Jul 18 '13 at 7:24
  • 1
    Down votes should be aged out if the specific issues being down voted on were addressed. -- absolutely! ...but hared to achieve – Wolf Apr 29 '19 at 9:08
4

This is a sample answer.

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  • 6
    +1: Worked for me. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:16
  • -1: It's wrong. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:16
  • -1: It's confusing. – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:17
  • 5
    ------------------------ – Senseful May 16 '10 at 0:17
2

A couple problems here:

  1. Violation of "don't make me think". Now instead of clicking a single button to express any of the myriad reasons I might want to downvote something, I have to parse more UI and think about which reason maps most closely.

  2. If people want to leave a reason, they will. That's what comments are for. If they don't, they won't.

  3. You're putting the burden on the reader when the burden should be on the writer. If people are downvoting your stuff, MAKE IT BETTER. It's your responsibility to figure out why those downvotes exist. In other words, the needs of the many (readers) outweigh the needs of the few (writer). Pushing this responsibility on ALL your readers/voters is just plain lazy.

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  • 2
    What if it were optional? As it is, there's already a popup for downvotes when users have low rep; that could be changed to a short list of reasons with a "go away" panic button. I agree that this shouldn't be forced on all users, but most of the comments I leave are quite similar, and I think I would get good mileage out of an opt-in feature. Maybe have a small link or button appear in the comment area after voting, that allows the voter to call up the list on demand. – Aarobot May 18 '10 at 0:55
  • 1
    In regard to #1: let's say you start reading a post, then you see something that merits a down vote (e.g. "it's confusing"), now you down vote it and are done. Unfortunately you just lost valuable information. You are compressing "down vote because it's confusing" into a single down vote. – Senseful May 18 '10 at 3:41
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    In regard to #2: My guess is that 90% of users that would use a canned responses system wouldn't bother typing a reason in the comments if there was no canned responses system. Due mainly to laziness and anonymity reasons. – Senseful May 18 '10 at 3:42
  • 12
    #3 is absurd. How can you "make it better" when all the information you have available to you is "it's not good enough"? Should history teachers return research papers with merely a "D" and not explain why? Should GUIs simply respond to user input with "Nope. Try again" without explaining why? Should building inspectors deny a permit without mentioning the violations that caused the denial? Should a letter to the editor (or a reply to a blog post) simply say "Your article could be better" and nothing else? Should movie critics just rate a film as "2 stars" with no supporting details? – JPLemme Jun 28 '10 at 16:58
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    Should people use too much metaphors ? We'll never know (just kidding @JPLemme, I in fact globally agree with what you say) – Valentin Rocher Jan 4 '11 at 14:29
  • 2
    @Valentin. I might have gone over the top. But I did get a paper back in college once that contained nothing but a "B" in red ink. That was almost 20 years ago and it burns me up to this day. To steal from Monty Python, "Constructive criticism is an intellectual process. Silent downvoting is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes." And intellectual processes require work. From the reader. Because he's the one making the constructive criticism. – JPLemme Jan 6 '11 at 4:48
  • @jplemme welcome to the world. this is how it works. The burden is on YOU to figure out why. Those who want to give feedback, will. Those who don't, cannot be forced to. – Jeff Atwood Jan 6 '11 at 4:56
  • 3
    @Jeff. I disagree with what you say. I would explain why, but I think you'll understand my point better if you try to figure it out yourself. The burden should be on the writer, after all... – JPLemme Jan 8 '11 at 6:59
  • @Jeff You need to consider what kind of community you want to foster here. As with #1, do you want to encourage serial downvoters who don't have to think about why they are downvoting? NO! We don't want that, give them that feedback and enforce them to reflect on the question and act more intelligently. – dbjohn Nov 21 '11 at 8:18
  • @JPLemme: I agree with your sentiments. If one doesn't have a good reason for the down vote, then they shouldn't down vote. If they feel the question is a lost cause, they should vote to close. – jxh Jul 18 '13 at 8:50
0

The thing I like most about the canned reason is these reasons encourage improving the post instead of engaging in chat about the reason for the vote that happens when comments are left. Comments seem to be often taken as a personal attack instead of as constructive criticism. I would add a prefer not to say option.

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  • Those canned reasons would just make people say, "I disgree that X. Explain why you think X!" – Andrew Barber Dec 15 '11 at 14:35
-1

I am opposed, since someone's bumped this.

I have a semi-serious counter-suggestion.

The first time someone gets a downvote, show them some version of the following:

Congratulations! You just got your first downvote. We know, you feel like someone kicked a puppy, and the puppy was you. However, you'll get over it very soon. This downvote only cost you two units of reputation. Now, maybe you think that you didn't deserve it. If so, chances are that someone is about to wander along and give you an upvote, and you'll be ahead. If your post did deserve it, all you have to do is try a bit harder the next time to give a meaningful question or a useful answer, and the upvotes will roll in and soothe the sting.

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-2

EDIT

From the comments provided by @fbueckert, a more recent post that does a good job of addressing this issue and explaining the reasoning behind the existing implementation: "Why isn't providing feedback mandatory on downvotes, and why are ideas suggesting such shot down?"

I still may not completely agree with the conclusions and explanations given, but it's extremely useful in providing some much-needed clarity on the topic.


Bring out your dead and call in the Necromancer

Yes, I know this request is more than 9 years old. I realize that, at this time, it's in a status. I understand that the number of upvotes would seem to indicate that it's not a very popular suggestion. I seriously debated whether to post the following tirade as an answer here or as a new question entirely. In the end, I decided a new question would probably be considered a duplicate, so here we go...

TL;DR - Personally, I like the idea tremendously, but with some (albeit, significant to the OP's suggestion) alteration:

I don't think this should be a part of the up-vote process. Up-voting should be a completely painless process. Firstly, the up-vote is usually enough for most users as an indication that they've posted something worthwhile. Additionally, there's rarely a reason to explain someone's reasoning behind up-voting. They think the question or answer is well thought out, well constructed, etc. and, unless the up-voter feels the need to provide some additional encouragement, adding complexity to up-voting just means that fewer people will do it. Explaining your up-vote doesn't actually provide the poster with anything truly "helpful" because they don't need to do anything to improve what they posted. They got the "warm-fuzzy" feeling, and they're going to move on.

Down-votes, on the other hand, should implement this feature as something which is absolutely mandatory. Down-voting shouldn't be as easy and painless as up-voting. It should require some additional thought and effort. If you're going to criticize someone's question/answer - more importantly, if you want someone to improve the way they ask or answer questions on Stack Exchange - it's important to offer some form of explanation or reasoning why you believe the post doesn't meet the standards.

One of my biggest frustrations - my "Stack Peeves", if you will - with regards to the voting process on Stack Exchange is down-voting. I rarely avail myself of my down-vote privilege unless the question or answer is exceedingly bad - uncited/unfounded opinion/speculation (except in those rare cases where it's somehow appropriate), zero research/effort, etc. I agree that down-voting is a very useful mechanic and helps others to gauge the quality of any given question/answer, but it's current implementation really only serves as a discouragement - especially to new users - unless the individual down-voter is kind enough to take the time to leave a comment.


Arguments Against

Unfortunately, most of the time down-votes are cast in a "drive-by" fashion and leave the poster wondering, "what did I do wrong?". Let me see if I can answer some of the more common (that I've seen) arguments against this feature:

"If it's a bad post, the poster should go look at the multitude of resources that are already available to figure out how to write a better question/answer"

I'm certainly not saying that's wrong but, as I'm sure many here know, it's often difficult to see the errors/problems in your own writing (or programming code) until someone else (a person, or a debugger) shows them to you. Once it's been pointed out, it's usually glaringly obvious and you frequently know exactly how to correct the issue. But, until then, you're just left frustrated as to why it's "broken".

"But, the onus should be on the poster to figure out why it's a bad post"
(Jeff Atwood's point #3)

I don't know about you, but that rarely works for me IRL. If I come home and see my wife is visibly upset, I begin going through a litany of reasons why in my head: maybe it has something to do with the kids, maybe it's money, maybe - and probably more likely - I did something stupid. I ask her what's wrong, and she says, "nothing". Now, in this situation, I have access to some additional cues based on her body language and tone: If she says it in a "frosty" tone, I can assume that it's most likely because of something I did. If she seems exasperated, it very well could be that the kids are working her last nerve.

We don't have any such cues here in this text-based communication medium. They don't see the burning glare in your eye as you click that down-vote button. They don't hear the frustration in your voice as you grumble something like, "another stupid noob that just wants us to hand them the answer without doing any research themselves".

Your down-vote could have been cast for any of a multitude of reasons, but without some sort of context, the poster can't automatically make any assumptions and doesn't have any good point of reference for starting their own investigation into what it is that they need to fix.

"But, I shouldn't have to waste my time with extra clicks"

Well, my only response to that is that you "wasted your time" reading the post, you considered it worth "wasting your time" to down-vote so, really, what's one or two extra clicks? If you really feel passionate about it, there can be an "Other" option for you to provide a specific and detailed explanation of your issues with the post. Otherwise, you can simply choose one of the canned options and move on with your day.

"But, I don't necessarily want my username shown as a down-voter"

Well, while I personally feel it would be best to have the down-vote explicitly and expressly associated with the user that cast it, this implementation can certainly accommodate anonymity. There isn't necessarily anything that inherently "ties" a user to their down-vote in this proposal, although it would be possible to either include or exclude that information based on the desired implementation.


Examples & Mock-Ups of Implementation

I've come up with a few very rough mock-ups of UI/UX changes that could be used to incorporate and facilitate such a feature's additional information.

In the end, I envision a user might see something like this when mousing over the down-vote button: Mock-up of tool-tip text for down-voting

If they actually click the down-vote button, they'll be prompted to choose a reason. These reasons will most likely need to be customized on a per-site basis, but Aarobot's response above gives some good examples/guidelines. In this mock-up, the Submit button could be disabled unless the user selects "Other", then it enables once a certain number of characters is entered (like with comments). If the down-voter chooses one of the other options, there's an "automatic" submit once the radio button is clicked.

Mock-up of dialog for down-vote reason

There could also be a checkbox option to "Include my username" for those who want the down-vote openly attributed to them.

All of this would pretty much necessitate a slight update to the current reputation interface as well to display this new data point, but it could be a very minor change (note the reason at the far right of the down-vote line-item):

Mock-up of Reputation with added info for down-votes

Additionally, one could possibly expect an additional link at the bottom of each post to show any existing down-vote reasons:

Mock-up of answer with down-vote link


CONCLUSION

Okay, I've wasted way too much time on a long-defunct and obviously unpopular suggestion, but I wanted to really give this some "meat". As I said, it's extremely frustrating for me, personally, to get a down-vote with no additional feedback. The best I can do in those cases is ask for an explanation in the comments and hope that the person who cast the down-vote comes back and complies with my request. Very few people - again, especially new users - are going to go through the additional effort to research "what makes a good question/answer", then go through a critical analysis of their own post to see where it doesn't match those guidelines, and then figure out how to adjust the content of the posts so that it does meet the criteria for "good" (or, at least, "acceptable"). And, that's if they can figure out the "why" in the first place without having it shown to them. Whether out of pride, ignorance, or any of the many other reason for someone to have trouble seeing their own faults, that is often the biggest challenge.

Requiring some sort of reason - whether a canned response or a more detailed explanation - would help tremendously in alleviating that initial hurdle and help to more quickly improve the quality of questions and answers with a minimum of effort on the voter's part. It just doesn't make sense to me not to include this as a part of the down-voting process. This suggestion may never see the light of day, but I will still say it's definitely one of the more needed features for Stack Exchange overall.

  • You've missed a core reason why this will never be implemented: it will inevitably skew votes. The more barriers you put in front of an action, the less that action will be performed. Hard to maintain quality when lacking posts require users to jump through extra hoops to denote that lack. If downvotes have to be justified, I want to see upvotes need it, too; there's often real junk out there that doesn't deserve it, so those people should be as exposed as those who are trying to maintain a high level of quality. – fbueckert Oct 10 '19 at 19:26
  • @fbueckert - Firstly, THANK YOU for leaving a helpful and insightful comment! Secondly, I feel that your concern is addressed in my "Arguments Against" section under the "I shouldn't have to waste my time" argument. Thirdly, I feel that you've somewhat helped me make my point: You chose to leave a comment in support of your vote, which could have been facilitated through my proposed pop-up instead of making it a completely separate action. I feel that, if we expect users to provide valuable feedback, we need to provide them with tools to make that as painless as possible. – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 10 '19 at 19:41
  • We don't expect users to provide feedback to the poster. That's never been part of the deal. That's the thing; votes are not for the poster, but for those that come after them, the future readers, so they know the value of the post. Which is why I'm so strongly against having to justify downvotes; it just adds one more hoop that curators have to jump through to maintain quality, while upvotes get a clear ride and no hoops. I'm engaging in a likely futile hope to convince you that your premise is flawed, and help you understand why it works the way it does. – fbueckert Oct 10 '19 at 19:42
  • @fbueckert - Thanks for pointing that out. That seems counter-intuitive and counter-productive to me, but that's just my opinion. I don't think any effort here is futile, but my premise is based on the idea that we want quality questions and answers and trying to facilitate a means for improving that quality for everyone. I agree that this makes the casting of down-votes minimally more troublesome, but I feel that the increased difficulty is well within an acceptable amount if the result is higher quality posts across the board. – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 10 '19 at 19:52
  • 1
    Of course, it's only a, "minimal" increase in difficulty, which discounts the fact that people just won't downvote as much. Think: if upvoters had to justify their votes, what would happen? Apply that same logic to downvotes, and then tell me if it's reasonable, when applied to upvotes. – fbueckert Oct 10 '19 at 19:54
  • 1
    I think a good start towards understanding is reading this M.SO post. – fbueckert Oct 10 '19 at 19:57
  • @fbueckert - Thank you for the link! I don't think it has completely changed my opinion, but it has given me a couple of additional things to consider in my view of this topic. The point about the aggregate score being of more value than any individual vote is an important thing to keep in mind, and I completely understand that voting is the way it is by design. Honestly, I wouldn't be opposed to something for up-voting as well - especially from your point about "junk" with high scores. But, then, it becomes a matter of "why change it if it ain't broke...", which I also get. – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 10 '19 at 20:17
  • I guess my "issue" is that, just because a question/answer has a preponderance of down-votes - especially a new question - doesn't really tell me anything other than the community thinks it's "bad". But it does nothing to tell me why it's bad. That, to me, is the core of the "problem". Of course, on the flip side, as you intimated, just because a post is heavily voted up doesn't always mean that it's actually the "best" answer, or even necessarily that good. – G_Hosa_Phat Oct 10 '19 at 20:40

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