I've noticed more than a few questionable answers lately, most have received the typical "welcome to the site, but..." sort of comments, but it doesn't look like these comments are accompanied by votes. Which is admittedly concerning.

Should we step up our downvote game?

Like comments are nice and welcoming, and all, but when we're really trying to get the message across that these answers don't fit here, we may be doing ourselves a disservice by holding back.

I fully understand the counter argument. We want to welcome new users. We've done that on other sites, but it seems to me that we should welcome people and still expect them to toe the line. Holding back isn't really doing them or us a favor.

  • 2
    I'm already doing it. Why isn't others? I mean, I've not noticed that many terrible posts yet.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 7:54
  • @NVZ can't help but but notice that you didn't bother to vote. ;)
    – apaul
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 8:00
  • You mean on this question? I've not made up my mind yet. I'm the top voter within the short time I've been here.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 8:01
  • Of course on this question. @NVZ
    – apaul
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 8:03
  • 2
    I've been one leaving the comments; I typically wait a bit to see if they edit their answers. There have been cases where I forget, but I've been downvoting a bit more lately. That said . . . yes, I agree that we should downvote more.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 12:34
  • @HDE226868 is there a list of canned responses you've prepared? Send it to me in chat.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 13:23
  • 5
    What are the most effective ways to guide new community members?
    – user288
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 16:12
  • 1
    Why doesn't this site have a back-it-up rule?
    – user288
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 16:30
  • 1
    @HDE226868 Personally, I use down votes as a way to pressure people to improve their answer. I've made probably at least 40 down votes on answers, sometimes with a comment. The nice thing about down voting is that since you do lose 1 rep for each vote, it gives you a little bit of an incentive to check back periodically, and you can find all of those posts in the votes tab in your profile.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 12:41
  • @Zizouz212 Yeah, vote tracking is very helpful. This is a case where it would be nice to know when a post you downvoted is edited, but I suppose that doesn't scale too well.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:29

4 Answers 4



Guilty as charged, for the record. I had started leaving comments, but I hadn't done as much downvoting. My strategy was

  1. Comment on the post, if it doesn't meet the standards I'm (we're?) looking for.
  2. Wait 12-24 hours to see if an edit is made.
  3. If no edit is made that makes the answer good enough, downvote.

The big problem, of course, is that posts that aren't downvoted are more likely to be upvoted[citation needed], from what I've observed. If the post score stays at 0 (or above!), then things can get really bad, because 12 hours is more than enough time for the question to hit the Hot Network Questions list. If that happens, the answer might get enough upvotes that any downvote I could give it later wouldn't stop the tide.

The above is something I hadn't quite gotten through my head, and I should have. By voting, we let not just the writer, but also those who read the post in the future understand what our quality standards are. If we don't vote, we implicitly say, "Yeah, this answer's not that bad", and so people who swoop in from the rest of the network say, "Hey, this sounds about right" and upvote. And that's a problem.

So, yes, I think I'm guilty of commenting but not immediately downvoting with my comment, and I think continuing that could lead to problems down the road. I'll be freer with my votes in the future.

  • The HNQ is one of the reasons why it's ridiculous that there's no close vote but for answers.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 16:41
  • 1
    "people who swoop in from the rest of the network" but the problem with this site isn't necessarily the HNQ. It's also the fact that this site hasn't established a voting culture in the first place. So when you don't vote, you also communicate to members of this site that you don't see any problems with the content.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:41
  • @Hamlet Your point is certainly right, and I should hope it convinces people. I'm also concerned with setting a precedent further down the line. The people from other sites are going to build the larger community, and they have to be reached sooner rather than later. I was trying to emphasize this as an additional argument, because it's a problem I've seen elsewhere on the network. I'm not keen at all to see it here.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:44
  • 1
    In terms of recruiting new community members, I do wish that there was less emphasis on recruiting people from Stack Exchange and more emphasis on attracting subject matter experts from outside the network (through Google searches, social networking, and other forums/online community). It's harder, but that kind of recruiting is much more valuable to a community. One expert is more valuable than a hundred people who have used Stack Exchange but only know the basics of the topic.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:47
  • @Hamlet (in response to your first comment) I have to disagree. HNQ is a big problem, because (at least relatively speaking), the community doesn't necessarily have the proper tools to deal with its detrimental effects to the site. Voting from HNQ is a massive issue - most people that come can up vote, but none of them can downvote unless they've participated on the site. We as a community aren't doing as well as we probably should be, but the HNQ just makes it far worse.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 22:33
  • @Zizouz212 the thing about the HNQ is that questions/answers don't enter the HNQ unless they're upvoted by the community. Of course, once that happens, the HNQ makes problems worse, and multiplies the amount of bad answers and the amount of votes said bad answers get. But it's not accurate to use the HNQ as a scapevote for a site's problems. It can feel good to blame people who "aren't part of the community" for upvoting bad content, but there are plenty of bad questions/answers that get upvoted without the help of the HNQ.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 23:04
  • @Hamlet That's not the only factor. It takes into account question score (which is almost always upvoted), question age, number of answers and the score of each of the answers. Since we have a younger community that's more active, the question will be upvoted and many answers will be received in a short period of time. Those three factors, even if there aren't many votes on the answers (max 1 or 2), will propel the question to the HNQ list. I'm not saying that it's all HNQ's fault, but it would be a disservice to ignore its harmful effects - it exponentiates whatever issues we already have.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 23:08
  • 1
    @Zizouz212 "it exponentiates whatever issues we already have" that's exactly what I'm saying. I'm also saying that blaming the HNQ instead of educating the members of this site, who are ultimately responsible for what gets upvoted, won't accomplish anything.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 23:11
  • 5
    Another reason to downvote instead of leaving a poor answer at 0: the community can vote to delete negatively-scored answers, but not ones scoring 0 or higher. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 2:14

I'd like to cite a Physics.SE answer on meta:

I think that we are too reluctant to downvote [...]

And here's why:

First and foremost, votes are quality indicators. When I pass through and see a highly upvoted question, I think "Oh, nice, this is what physics is about, what physicists find interesting and how questions here should be". When I see a highly upvoted answer (without fights in the comments), I think: "This is probably correct and/or a useful way to think about the question - why else would they all upvote it?" What votes are emphatically not are judgements of the users.

I understand it may be disheartening to get downvotes, but votes are, not counting revenge voters and other "illegal" schemes, really just relating to the post they are cast on. They are no judgement of the user as a whole, and not casting a downvote because you are afraid of the effect it might have on the user just defeats the whole purpose of downvoting in two ways:

  1. You let content you do not actually believe to be a good fit for the site slide by without an indicator (the -1) saying so. This, in turn, might invite more questions like it (since people can see similar questions have not been badly received). Additionally, it makes low positive vote counts essentially meaningless - if almost no downvotes are cast, votes in the 1-4 ranges are quite meaningless, because one or two upvotes are often quickly cast on almost all types of questions, even the blatantly off-topic and the really bad ones.
  2. By making downvotes rare, you intensify the psychological effect a downvote has when it is actually cast, leading to "Why -1, step forward, cowardly downvoter!"-type comments and accusations for merely casting a downvote. This, in turn, leads to people thinking it is actually a grave decision to cast a downvote (since other don't seem to cast them lightly), and they might grow to use them more sparingly themselves.

I would also reference the conversation starting here in Computer Science Educator's chatroom The Classroom. There you can see some arguments made on both sides of the issue.


As a very new member, I think I may have an unexpected perspective on this that you might really appreciate:

In short, we should absolutely step up our voting culture!

I may be new here, but personal investments sites like this (and Wikipedia) are nothing – quite literally – without each user recognizing their very critical role as a member of the quality control crew. So, for those who really get it, the duty will be threefold:

  1. improve the quality of the site (down-votes will inevitably lead to some deletions);

  2. define the culture of the site (down-votes will set the tone and, over time, discourage "questionable" answers); and,

  3. establish the practice of the quality control crew (consistent, fair use of down-votes, accompanied by positive, encouraging, informative comments, from all of us, will show everyone how it's to be done and our lead will, hopefully, be followed).

But I digress. Here is the unexpected perspective of which I spoke:

  1. Down-vote as deterrent works.

On my first day here, I made the perfectly reasonable, very newbie mistake of thinking, "Hey, this thread is hot! Let me throw out a quick answer and try to get some quick up-votes." It, deservedly, received a down-vote instead.

I am competition-oriented, love sites with scoreboard type features, etc. Since I was paying attention to my points, the down-vote really stung ... kinda like getting slapped (hard) by the love of my life. Lesson learned! (I learned my lesson about hunting Rep by editing the same way.)

I hope this will remind us that we should be kind to users when we go about our task – leave a reason for the down-vote in the comments, some encouragement, etc.

  1. Friendly comment alone as deterrent – much less likely to work.

In the above situation, if I'd gotten the friendly comment without a down-vote, it's possible I may have taken the advice to heart, maybe even tried to rewrite my answer, but I'm an editor and generally conscientious. I can't say for sure, but I think most people (especially if they posted their answer for no better reason than I did) would probably say to themselves, "well, that's one opinion; maybe someone else will up-vote it" and not change anything.

  1. Down-votes are not necessarily detrimental to one's Reputation (which is a good thing – for them and us).

It's good to consider the negative consequences, but if we handle it positively, there shouldn't be much to worry about. Getting a down-vote will never be taken as positive or particularly diplomatic, and it could discourage participation here and there, but (just as an example again) I took the rebuke well; I knew that my intentions in posting the answer were less than pure. More importantly, I knew that I had the choice to sidestep any lasting negative effects of the down-vote by simply deleting my answer, and that's what I did.

So, I suggest we pretend our down-votes are a semi-limited resource (so we don't pull the trigger every time someone answers a question differently than we would), and then just be supportive in the comments ("this is why, but it's great you're contributing!") when we do deliver a down-vote.

  • 1
    As a note, if a person has too many downvoted answers (deleted or otherwise), they may run into the automatic posting bans and lose the ability to post answers at all. I'm not saying that's bad for the site or a reason not to down vote. It is something that you may not be aware of, though. We want people to fix their bad posts, not delete them.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 15:49
  • +1 and neat answer. It's a rare sight to see new users like you learn the site's expectations very quickly. As an aside, I fear that there may be a cabal of sorts, hell-bent on downvoting too often than necessary. Ah, part of life.
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 17:45
  • Downvotes aren't as much about rep as they are about ranking the value of content. Lower voted or downvoted answers are listed below higher voted answers. Also votes are a limited resource: meta.stackexchange.com/a/164900/217863
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 18:18
  • In the interest of being honest and building bridges... I was the one that smacked your hand the first day. I saw the usual rep-hunt behavior and reacted. I'm glad you got the right message, a lot of people don't... I usually don't bother to comment when it looks like rep-hunting. When it's a new user who means well, but doesn't know better, I'm usually a little more patient and try to leave more feedback. I guess I tend to assume that rep-hunters know what they're doing.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 4:53
  • Anywho... Welcome to the site, sorry about the harsh introduction.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 4:54
  • @apaul34208, hey, thanks for that! i appreciate you "coming clean," so to speak. assuming i'm not all that out of the ordinary, if you can tell if the rep-hunter is a newbie, then i'd add a new category: "rep-hunter who doesn't know better," and craft some appropriate guidance for a comment to accompany/explain your down-vote. again, thank you. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 11:24

Well, I suppose it's time to step up and accept my downvotes. ;D

I think we downvote too much. I understand the idea that we are trying to build a community and establish standards for it, but ...

Who is the community for? The users? A coterie of high-rep "guardians"? Sometimes I feel that there is too much "Vanguard Party" atmosphere; too much attempt to control the community instead of letting it blossom. There was a note above from HDE 226868:

If the post score stays at 0 (or above!), then things can get really bad, because 12 hours is more than enough time for the question to hit the Hot Network Questions list. If that happens, the answer might get enough upvotes that any downvote I could give it later wouldn't stop the tide.

Honestly, I'm not trying to be snarky here, but does this ring a little odd only to me? The HNQ crowd may be accidentally enouraging herd voting, but -- but -- aren't we trying to manipulate the same phenomenon on purpose?

I'll be fair and admit that I may be completely missing some key facet of SE philosophy. I come here because people are asking questions asking for advice, and lean heavily toward having people say what they want to say, how they want to say it.

I'll be even more fair and admit that my perception may be biased because close moderation has already removed weird or completely tangential text.

Still. Being afraid that people will upvote an answer before we can properly suppress it? Really? Really?

What I am I missing here, folks?

Anyway. Just gimme my damn downvotes. And do it quick, to lessen the chance that someone might actually upvote.

  • You asked for it ;)
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 1:45
  • 2
    Voting is how we indicate quality on SE, if people are commenting to say that there's a problem with the quality of a post and not voting, well then we have two problems.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 1:47
  • To be fair I have seen times where people get a little over zealous and lean toward harshly moderating everything, but in those cases I'd much rather they downvote and walk away than argue with them.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 1:55
  • 1
    What you're missing is that users with 101 reputation (many, many of the users who come here from the HNQ) can not down vote. This means that, if an answer is bad (or recommends something that's not a great idea) but appeals to a certain group of people, a chunk of the users who would down vote, can't. But all of these users can up vote. This means that it's much easier for people to say that they like a post than that they dislike it.
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 2:26
  • @apaul34208 it was like a cheesy action movie. I strapped on all my weaponry, tied on a headband, and snarled "I'm goin' in." ;D
    – akaioi
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 2:29
  • @Catija that is a good point, that ups are possible before downs. Will have to factor that in to my thinking.
    – akaioi
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 2:30
  • There's the bandwagon effect. If something has downvotes, the chances that others upvote it are slim. We are not manipulating anything here. We're merely downvoting what deserves to be downvoted, but encouraging that it be done as early and as often as possible. The point is to prevent or discourage others from upvoting bad posts.
    – NVZ
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 5:07
  • We don't downvote too much: we cast more upvotes than downvotes here on IPS @akaioi, independent of the Hot Network Questions effect. However, that only means that unlike some other sites where a bad/ weak answer accumulates something like -3 or -4 score (on the main site not here on meta) we must learn to recognize a long-term score of 0, 1 or 2 as a weak answer. Because a good answer will score at least 8 upvotes here.As for "Vanguard Party" atmosphere: yes, but it's not all old users: new members who agree with the Party are welcomed by the policy-making group, anywhere on Stack Exchange. Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 14:58
  • (contd.) Please just understand that we actually don't downvote here on IPS as often as users do on so many other Stack Exchange sites, I think because we are basically a 'be nice' community and downvoting is currently perceived as 'not nice.' So I upvoted your this meta answer @akaioi, and I also appreciate your contribution here, which has received community approval in the form of 1300+ reputation score over just 13 days. And you have written more answers on the main site in this short period than I did in 2 and a half months: so you be sure to keep up your good work here on IPS.SE! Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 15:08

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