Is there any recourse to being down-voted when your answer is valid, correct, previously voted-up but just now becomes out of date because, for example, some ruby gem has been updated and completely changed?

Seems immoral to start voting down because of changes made over time. How can every answer be expected to be managed - a comment is surely suffice?

I almost feel that when downvoting, a small message/warning about it's general extremity should be noted in that orange box.

Here's my now 0 scoring answer, which was perfectly valid and I even had tried to keep this one up to date on one occasion, up to a few months ago - CoffeeScript on Windows?

  • 5
    Welcome to the problems with building a community of anonymous users on the internet. Some people are bound to look at an answer and say "this absolutely didn't help me, what kind of arse accepted this" without seeing the datetimestamp on the post, and they're going to therefore ignore that it's no longer useful (time contextual). Kudos to you on trying to keep it up to date, but as with all things, eventually you can't anymore. C'est la vie I suppose.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 20:42
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    Edit it to point out that the situation has changed since you wrote the answer.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 20:42
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    "Here's my now 0 scoring answer," and now it's 2 scoring, which means people who feel sorry here are voting on it regardless of its actual merit (BAD META-ERS, no cookie!)... also ignoring that you have two answers to the same question, and the other answer is likely better. Not only that, but you last edited that answer less than a month ago and the gem was then in sync; why didn't you update it then?
    – Powerlord
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:38
  • Thanks @RBemrose, I just didn't know about the changes to the latest gem version (which is 2.1.1) when I updated the answer for other reasons. In any case, the gem version I referred to still works (0.3.2) on Windows, in the way I specified. So the answer probably doesn't even need updating. I stated that the ruby gem v0.3.2 works on Windows, but that it's old. Which is all still correct.
    – PandaWood
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 7:16

3 Answers 3


Is there any recourse to being down-voted when your answer ... becomes out of date?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Update it if no one has posted the correct/latest answer
  • Modify it to point out that this is a method for those running older software/tools
  • Delete it if it's truly no longer relevant to anyone, and a good answer already exists

Seems immoral to start voting down because of changes made over time.

It's not any more immoral than it would be for the Ruby project to turn off the link to the old repository and turn on the link to the new repository. Old information is not sacred.

If you are truly worried about getting downvotes due to out-of-date information, you have two choices - review your answers on a regular basis, or avoid answering questions where the technology changes over time.

How can every answer be expected to be managed

Once you submit your answer, the community manages it for you by supplying new answers, and upvoting and downvoting on a continuous basis due to each answer's validity and usefulness at any given moment.

In other words, once you contribute an answer to the community, you are no longer expected to maintain it - you can if you want, but the community is there to do it for you.

If you pro-actively maintain your questions, you will be rewarded by the community. If you let the community do all the work, then chances are good you may be penalized.

Keep in mind that the reward (10 rep) is 500% greater than the penalty (2 rep) so the penalty is insignificant compared to the reward you originally got when you answered the question.

a comment is surely suffice?

Honestly, I go in and edit the top answer if it goes out of date due to a change in technology, and let that person reap the benefits of my maintenance on their answer. It helps future users the most if the top answer is actually correct, so I go straight to editing rather than voting.

If the answer seems comprehensive, and I don't want to touch the masterpiece, or another user posted the latest and greatest info as an answer, I may leave a comment. The primary purpose of the comment is so that future readers will not be mislead - it's not to penalize the answerer, or to get them to change their answer.

I'm here to help those people who are looking for answers - they are the primary audience for the site.

I'm a special case, though, as I never downvote (I'm subverting the system! Wooo!) - More often than note I'll simply upvote everything good in an answer, and that will tend to push things up above the bad stuff.

But the voting is there for the users to use, and while we give them general guidelines, we do not tell them how to vote. The users get to guide the site, and if they determine that out of date information should be pushed down the stack, then that is their right.

Don't feel bad. I get a lot of downvotes on my old answers. I don't recall ever getting so many downvotes on any one question that the total reputation gain was negative, given the upvotes it originally received.

Further, the downvote shows up in your inbox, so you have a chance to address it. Once fixed, you may more than make up for it if someone else comes along and upvotes it.


Downvoting posts is helpful as the post with the most votes will float to the top of the page. Correct, up-to-date information should float to the top, so it is an ok thing to downvote an answer that is not current.

Edit your post to reflect the new information. This could encourage a downvoter to reverse his/her vote.

Consider it motivation?

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    Exactly - this behavior is good for the question, the readers, and the site.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 20:52
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    @shog, @rebecca - I think the person answering the question should be given the opportunity to update the answer before being penalised. A brief comment would have been better and if the answer isn't amended to reflect the latest info within two or three days then yeah go ahead and downvote. If you've posted more than a few tens of answers you can't be expected to keep on top of every one of them as time, technology and releases roll on.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:15
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    @Kev: it's not about penalizing the author, it's about ranking answers according to their usefulness. Adding a three-day waiting period turns a quick vote or vote+comment into a lengthy process (which is to say, a process that won't be followed). Better by far to down-vote, leave a comment, and then (if the author updates the answer and responds) return to revert the vote. That's the primary reason why votes can be changed following an edit...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:17
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    Just not for the contributors. This was a lazy downvote, he could just as well have posted an up-to-date answer that did a proper job of documenting what was new. Which should float to the top. Good for the question, the readers, the site, and the people that keep the readers coming back and Rebecca in her new job. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:20
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    @shog - no as Hans pointed out that's just plain lazy. A downvote is a penalty, it's there to penalise "bad" questions and answers. Pandawood took some effort to provide information that was correct at the time and from the history has been tweaking the answer. He could have been given a grace period to bring the answer up to date.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:35
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    And there's a comment feature to nudge folks into action. Why rub people the wrong way.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:41
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    @Kev: if you think down-voting equates to "not being nice" (or that up-voting does equate to niceness), then you clearly misunderstand the entire purpose of voting.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:48
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    @Kev: An out of date answer is a bad answer. You vote the answer, not the person, nor his/her effort. There should be NOTHING personal in a vote, so you should not feel offended if someone downvoted your answer. I think we're all here to build a collection of good Q&A not to increase our score. I don't want to come back 3 days later before downvoting. When I downvote an answer I always comment on why I did it, so the person can answer me, I'll be notified and I can remove the downvote if the explanation is satisfactory. The fault here is not the downvote, but the lack of explanation.
    – nico
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:49
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    @Kev, I've been a mod since August. Downvoting isn't being mean. It helps keep StackOverflow high quality. Don't take a downvote personally, improve your post. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 21:52
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    @Kev, Voting is as valid a way as a comment to indicate something is up with a post. It does give the user a chance to edit and improve his/her answer. Downvoting is not harmful communication, it is simply communication. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:07
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    @Kev, To be clear, I'm not speaking to the specific question here. The answer did receive a comment indicating it was out-of-date. Whether or not that user is the downvoter isn't the issue though. I'm referring to an overall how-to-use-SO sort of thing. People shouldn't see it as a negative. They shouldn't let it rub them the wrong way. If they care, work to improve. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:28
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    @Kev, I know some people do. I'm saying there's no need to. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:41
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    @rebecca - and I'm saying there are less friction generating approaches that have a better outcome, not everyone is as philosophical or is a Vulcan.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:49
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    @Kev, so your suggestion is for the person to comment? Look at the question. There is a comment. No guarantee it is from the downvoter, but there is a comment on the answer. Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:52
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    @rebecca - yes the comment was made 8hrs ago (15:00 GMT/UTC). i5 and panda are in completely opposite timezones (12hrs apart). panda would have still been tucked up in bed (it would have been around 03:00 local time for him.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:58

As Rebecca Chernoff said, updating your answers to reflect changes is a good thing. Having up-to-date and accurate information is a good thing. A downvote really isn't that big of a deal, and if you update your answer with new information someone will probably upvote your answer in the future.

Another thing you can do proactively is to try to write your questions in a way that they are less likely to be out of date. If you are talking about a program, mention a specific version number, or add a comment stating that the project seems to be under heavy development and that the things may be different in the future.

If you are replying to a question some editing of a question can be mitigated by a short quote from the question, or short restatement of what you think the Questioner asked, in your reply. If your answer is self-contained this way, then a person who finds your answer in the future might be more forgiving, and may check the last edit date of the question and your answer.

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    "mention a specific version number" - that's the thing, @panda did mention specific version numbers.
    – Kev
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:21
  • @Kev, Ah, I didn't read the question too closely. I still think that it will help in most cases.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 0:32

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