Why do you cast downvotes on answers?
Is it now discouraged to ask for reasons for downvotes as a comment?

I am new here and trying not to get into trouble in my struggle to reach 15 rep and be able to cast votes. I have been hunting for unanswered questions which I can solve, and thought I had found one. However, the script I had provided contained a typo (I converted it from a script I used personally and had to change some variable names, but missed one). This morning I saw the asker had added a comment to my answer saying it wasn't working, and giving the error. I immediately realised what was wrong and edited my answer, but he had already downvoted it. Is the consensus that this is reasonable? It makes it hard to provide any answer unless it's bulletproof, for fear of losing what little rep I currently have. FWIW the question was so badly worded that I would have downvoted it myself if I could have!

I have already read through several questions like those linked at the top, but didn't find much of a consensus, save for cletus, who wrote I only downvote when the answer is seriously wrong. This does not include minor syntax issues, typos and the like.

I seek your opinions!

  • 2
    It seems a bit harsh if the only problem was a typo, but the reasons people vote (in either direction) are really only known to them.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 8:06
  • 3
    In this case it wasn't the original poster that cast the downvote (look at his profile he has 0 downvotes). Votes are anonymous, so you never knows who has cast them. But you are on 20 now so you can cast upvotes. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 8:19
  • @gamecat Insightful! I didn't know I could see someone's downvote count in their profile. So, basically a third party came along, saw his comment on my answer, and thought my answer was unhelpful because of this? Obviously, I had mistakenly assumed the person who commented was the same as the person who voted. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 8:36
  • I don't think its reasonable for that but you have to accept that people can downvote for pretty much any (non-abusive of other users) reason they like. That doesn't make their reason good or "reasonable" or "approved", but essentially its your vote to spend as you like.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 12:03
  • In addition to what Gamecat said, OP doesn't have enough rep to downvote! (you need 125 to downvote) Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 3:08
  • Some people seem to be jerkwads. Alas. Luckily, they also seem to find it difficult to make constructive contributions to the community at all, and so it appears rare that they pick up enough rep to do real damage. (An occasional downvote's really not a big deal; Jon Skeet's had hundreds!) Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


Indeed it's complicated in the first days because drop of reputation is costly since you do not have a reputation pool from previous days.

As far as if it is fair, I would say that downvotes are to the discretion of the downvoter. He found it uninteresting to him I supposed. Maybe he did not have the skill to see the typo, so dismiss the whole.

Normally this is countered by other user who will upvote your answer if it's valuable (and therefore now: corrected). Could be tricky if the question is very old, or in a non frequented subject. Maybe the OP will review his vote as well.

We can't help people downvoting for dark reasons, but fear not cause the community is here to balance this.

Don't be discouraged, try looking up new question and make quality answer. You'll even earn some rep if you do a better answer based on another answer (provided you don't just copy/paste it) with addition of helpful diagrams, or explanations. This will help you build a reputation reserve to support those little downvotes.


Downvoting an answer that doesn't work is perfectly reasonable. In fact, that's what downvoting is for!

Of course, there are caveats. You should only downvote an answer that doesn't work for you if you reasonably believe that it's the answer's fault and not yours. (E.g. the answer may work in a different version of the operating system/language/framework/…)

If the only reason that the answer doesn't work is a simple, easy to fix mistake, then the proper reaction is to edit the answer and fix the mistake, and then upvote it if so inclined. But that requires figuring out what the mistake is. If you can't spot the mistake, you can't know whether the answer is almost correct or completely wrong, and so downvoting is reasonable.

People who've downvoted an answer will sometimes come back to check if it's been improved. If the answer has been edited in the meantime, they can change their vote. And even if they don't come back, if people find a correct (or corrected) answer that's been downvoted, they might be more inclined to upvote it. One downvote plus one upvote make a score of zero, but +8 to your reputation.

  • "you can't know whether the answer is almost correct or completely wrong, and so downvoting is reasonable" -- if YOU don't know, then you should be downvoted, not the person who took the work to write what worked to him/her, in order to help others. What should be done in this case IN ORDER TO HELP EVERYBODY is to leave a comment, asking the person who answered to include its system details, if it's not there yet. But it seems not everybody thinks in the best for the community.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:31
  • @Rodrigo An answer that is almost correct, but still wrong, is by definition still a wrong answer, and downvoting a wrong answer is what downvoting is for. Votes are not there to reward effort, they aren't a way to say “thanks for participating”. Votes indicate how much confidence one should have in an answer. If it doesn't work for me, and it should have worked for me, then a vote of no confidence is warranted. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:35
  • Maybe you're using software X version 1.4.2 and the one who answered was using version 1.3.8. So no, it should not necessarily work for you. Even if the versions are the same, it still should not necessarily work for you, because of interference from other libraries/packages/kernel/etc. The answer may look "almost correct" to you, and still be "perfectly correct" to many other people. If you are sure that the answer is completely wrong, then you have a reason to downvote.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:43
  • @Rodrigo If you're running a different version, then it isn't the answer's fault. See my second paragraph. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:53

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