I posted a StackOverflow question earlier today and I received several answers which I personally regarded to be truly, ahem, uninformed. Up until now I was under the impression that answers which I find not useful should be downvoted. In fact, that is exactly what the tooltip says that appears when you hover on the down-arrow element.

However, I got some pretty harsh responses in the comments there; apparently downvoting several answers (three out of the four answers posted at that time) evoked some very hard feelings, even among people who haven’t posted an answer. They then proceeded to highlight my ratio of upvotes to downvotes, and furthermore, suggested that it should be displayed alongside the accept rate (presumably implying that they would then refrain from answering questions from people who have a tendency to downvote).

Up until now I never considered that ratio to even be a factor, much less to be problematic. Mine is approximately 1:1 at the moment. It used to be even lower (i.e. I used to cast more downvotes proportionally) and I didn’t really think that would be problem. But now that it was mentioned explicitly, I looked at some other people’s ratios and I was surprised that almost all of them have cast significantly more upvotes than downvotes, usually at a ratio of 5:1 or even 10:1. I honestly didn’t know that was the norm.

My questions therefore:

  • Should I be casting fewer downvotes? If so, why?

  • What would be considered to be an “acceptable” ratio, and why?

  • In an extreme case where most of the answers I get are seriously lacking, what should I do and why?

  • No, the ratio doesn't have to be displayed. It is pretty much automatic, you just won't get good answers anymore. Sep 8, 2010 at 3:03
  • I believe you are referring to this question: stackoverflow.com/questions/3663613/…. Having the context here in addition to the general discussion would be useful I think
    – Yi Jiang
    Sep 8, 2010 at 3:12
  • 1
    @Hans: Are you sure? Maybe it’s the opposite and I won’t get crap answers anymore. ☺
    – Timwi
    Sep 8, 2010 at 14:58
  • @Yi Jiang: No, I think it distracts from the discussion because the discussion is explicitly not about the specific case.
    – Timwi
    Sep 8, 2010 at 14:59
  • I've found 10:1 to be pretty normal, at least in the past. That may be changing with the changing dynamics of SO. May 15, 2014 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


People quite simply do not down vote enough.

Not down voting unhelpful answers creates huge headaches for people who find the answers through search and it robs the answerer of the chance to learn and improve. If my answer is not down voted, I assume it is not incorrect.

If I'm looking for an answer to a question I am unfamiliar with, I most definitely do not want to spend a long time researching / figuring out whether to implement a bad answer that hasn't been down voted.

Correct answers can be slightly more intricate and involved than bad over simplified incorrect answers, so if the accepted answer or the answer with the most votes seems too complicated to implement, one is tempted to look at the next answer with a positive score, and if that is simpler, research that one instead.

So remember, down voting allows the answerer to actually learn, as opposed to believing their unhelpful notions are helpful, and it greatly helps searchers who find the answer in the future.

Down vote away and as long as you have a higher ratio than Eric Lippert, don't even give it a second thought:

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If down voting makes you feel bad, then first leave a comment as to why you didn't find the answer helpful, and then down vote if the answer is not changed / delted to remove the unhelpful material.... this is what I try to do.


About 17% of my votes are downvotes, which I believe is already below average (eg: most people have more upvotes). And it used to be a lot worse actually.

I find however that downvoting creates a bad environment, one filled with resentment and revenge. This is especially true for me considering that I try to comment on why I left a downvote, which usually gets me a few random downvotes right after.

So now I only downvote when I find there's something blatantly wrong with an answer, or for questions that show the OP just doesn't care. I still leave comments though.

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