On a recent question, a user decided it was a bad question and downvoted all answers with the comment "-1 closevote, not answer!". I realize that the community doesn't want to reward help vampires, but is this the appropriate response?

  • 14
    It's their downvote to give as they please. If they are as frustrated as anybody else by people who answer regardless of if the question is on topic when they should just be closed, give it to them.
    – random
    Jul 11, 2011 at 21:47
  • Specifically, imho the question wasn't bad because from a help vampire, but because it wasn't very clear, and all answers were educated guesses. If you refer to this question, of course. Jul 11, 2011 at 21:51
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    @random That makes sense, but the end result in the particular question was a lot of comments about "why the downvote, this is an answer". If the question closes quickly, I suppose it doesn't make a difference. If it doesn't, it ends up as a noisy repository of confusion for future Googlers to find.
    – Farray
    Jul 11, 2011 at 21:53
  • @Damien Yeah, that was it.
    – Farray
    Jul 11, 2011 at 21:53
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    It's not good form, but I can see why the user did this.
    – Pekka
    Jul 11, 2011 at 22:43
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    @random While each user can, in the end, use their down-votes how they want, that doesn't make a discussion about the appropriateness invalid, nor efforts to guide users away from behavior that is deemed "bad form". In other words, we are talking about what should a user do, not what rights do they have.
    – Nicole
    Jul 12, 2011 at 4:03
  • 1
    great question. I'm happy that I found it
    – genesis
    Jul 12, 2011 at 16:05
  • downvoting answers to a close-worthy question is okay, after all they aren't useful and that's a reason to downvote. repeatedly commenting about it maybe less. it could be seen as spamming. Nov 22, 2020 at 14:34

4 Answers 4


Don't mass-downvote answers. It's just bad form.

If you hover over the downvote arrow for an answer, the tooltip says "This answer is not useful." That should be your guidance for downvoting answers.

We don't have a "policy" that users should vote to close instead of answering an off-topic question, though that is probably a good practice to follow. We certainly don't have a standing policy that users downvote all answers to off-topic questions; that is not the purpose of voting.

That said, it's perfectly within the right of a user to downvote any answer for any reason, just as it is perfectly within the right of a user to post an answer to an off-topic question, so long as that question is still open.

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    Hm, actually I'm now more confused. I was told by Lasse that mass downvoting is prohibited and may be punished. I am told by you that mass downvoting isn't good form, but it's still my right to do so if it pleases me. random says (though I'm not sure I understood that correctly) that it's actually good to downvote such answers. So, what is it now? Prohibited, good, bad?
    – NikiC
    Jul 11, 2011 at 22:52
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    @nikic: It's kinda like the difference between the Prima Facie speed limit and the safest allowable speed. Can you legally travel 55 miles per hour on a two-lane undivided highway in California? Sure. Should you do it at night while it is snowing and the road is icy? Probably not, and if a cop catches you doing it, he will cite you. Use your common sense; ask yourself "Is this community-friendly behavior I am engaging in?"
    – user102937
    Jul 11, 2011 at 22:58
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    @NikiC: Was Lasse talking about mass downvoting a bunch of questions and answers from the same person? Because I think this case is a little bit different. Jul 11, 2011 at 23:28
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    @NikiC: I suspect Bill's right - there's certainly nothing wrong with down-voting a bunch of wrong/unhelpful answers, and in fact this is sometimes necessary when a bunch of folks jump to post a quick answer before reading the question carefully... What we don't want to see is one user following another around, down-voting everything he writes for personal reasons.
    – Shog9
    Jul 11, 2011 at 23:53
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    @Shog9: Or voting down a bunch of answers on the same off-topic question because the question should have been voted to close instead? The answers were perfectly fine, they were just posted to an off-topic question, so I suppose if you want to interpret that as "unhelpful..."
    – user102937
    Jul 11, 2011 at 23:56
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    @Robert: I'm with random here - the votes are the user's to do with as he wishes. The comments are rude though - there are better ways to educate folks.
    – Shog9
    Jul 12, 2011 at 0:05
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    @nikC: The worst part is you downvoted people who haven't earned the rep to close/view close votes! How can you blame them? Jul 12, 2011 at 3:25
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    Answers to bad questions are not helpful to the site, as when we reward a bad question, we will tend to get more bad questions. But the answer may be helpful to the person that asked the question. So what does "This answer is not useful." mean? Jul 12, 2011 at 8:24
  • @Bill: Well, I don't think that he was talking about that. (At least that wasn't what I did. I just downvoted the answers on that one question.)
    – NikiC
    Jul 12, 2011 at 10:52
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    I'm still not sure what to do
    – user308037
    Dec 28, 2016 at 13:55

Downvoting most of (or all) the answers given for a question just on the basis somebody thinks the question should be closed doesn't seem fair, to me. Downvoting should be reserved for answers that are not useful.

Leaving out the specific case, what would happen when a user thinks a question should be closed, but other users think it should not be closed, and they don't vote to close the question, which doesn't reach the necessary number of closing votes? What happens if the question in the current form needs to closed, it gets closed, the OP edits it, and the question is reopened? In this case, the question still needs answers, and the existing ones could still suit the question, or need to be edited to suit the question as it has been edited.

In both these cases, who answered the question got a downvote that cannot be removed if they don't edit their own answer, and the question is still open. Do you think it is fair? I think it is not.

Looking at the specific case, the downvote also went to the answer given from a user with a reputation lower than 3000, who cannot vote to close questions and cannot see when a question has been voted to be closed.

  • On the other hand I have seen very simple questions, near 99.999% sure duplicates, being answered multiple times within minutes of existence and each answer and the question getting 1-2 upvotes in the process, while searching and finding one or more duplicate targets typically takes a few minutes more. These people get rep for answering questions that don't need to be answered, while the close voters get nothing. Also doesn't sound completely fair. It's tempting to balance the score a bit, especially if one is very experienced and quite sure the question will soon be closed. Nov 22, 2020 at 14:43
  • The question is if it's useful if questions get answered that will likely be closed instead of being closed more speedily or if answers to questions that will likely get closed are not useful even if they help the one asking the question. One could say that they do not harm anyone as long as the questions that should get closed get closed in the end. The fear would be that this is not the case, that people just answer everything and don't bother to close vote anymore. Nov 22, 2020 at 14:47
  • @Trilarion In that case, I would vote to delete the question, or ask for merging the question with the duplicate one. If the answer is duplicating the answer already given in the duplicate question, especially if using the exact same words, that is a reason for down-voting it, but if the user keeps doing that, it's probably a task for a moderator who could delete those duplicated answers.
    – apaderno
    Nov 22, 2020 at 14:56

If you look at the example you mentioned, it seems pretty counter-productive to mass-downvote answers: A question that would have been closed almost immediately without much ado now has a massive 10 downvotes (I feel sorry for the OP...), downvotes on the answers that lead to sympathy upvotes (I think...) that lead to more downvotes that lead to more upvotes.

Kind of the opposite effect of what you want for a question like that in my opinion.

  • 1
    It's the meta effect. Problem is that we still allow people to vote on closed content and that we do not scale the score (with the total number of votes or with the number of views or whatever). That way, if more eyeballs are looking at something, the absolute value of the score just gets larger and larger without the quality of the content really changing. That's just how it is here and is not really connected to downvoting answers. Nov 22, 2020 at 14:37

I don't know if this was the case back in 2011 when this question was first asked, but the help center has clear usage guidelines of when and how to downvote answers:

When should I vote down?

Downvotes should be used to indicate issues with quality, effort, or accuracy of a post:

  • Downvote answers that are incorrect or don't provide sufficient information to be useful in answering the question. Some answers may not attempt to answer the question at all, and should be flagged.

Assuming the answer is of sufficient quality to not fall into any of these categories (quality, effort, accuracy, correctness, sufficiency of information, attempt to answer the question) or is otherwise obviously flawed, it seems to me that downvoting good answers to bad questions goes against the intent and spirit of downvoting answers. This would be the case even when the question itself is flawed.


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