Disclaimer: Although I don't feel it has particular relevance, I am a new user here and haven't experienced the full scope of everything that's happened. These are just some of my own personal observations which may or may not be fallible.
Lately I've been noticing a trend of downvotes being issued on a few questions; a lot of which seem (to me, at least) to be thoughtful that fit well within the model of our site. This is not just a few random downvotes that appear on a question, but a massive ratio.
Here's a particular question that's relatively recent. It has an up to down vote ratio of 0.857 (6 to 7).
Why is this question highly divided? If it were poorly written and just not a fit for this stack, the votes should reflect a much higher amount of DVs compared to UVs. Such feedback gives just about no information to the OP... how are they to take that input and alter their question so they can improve when the feedback is on both sides?
Let's take a look at another example of this. This has an up to down vote ratio of 1.250 (15 to 12).
Again, this question is highly divided in its votes. The comments actually bring up the idea it might be too broad (feedback) which might better explain the reasoning for the downvotes. But then again, 15 people voted "Yes! This is a good question."
Here's a third example asked by a new user. Ratio up/down votes is 0.667 (2 to 3).
In this question there are no comments describing why the user's question wasn't deemed 'good'. This is especially noteworthy given that it was a new user asking. They also haven't asked a question since (which may or may not be important).
There are many more examples out there I haven't mentioned. The main takeaway I've gotten from this: it seems that voting has very loose definitions.
In several of these questions it seems that people have cast a downvote simply because they had personal misgivings for the OP and their situation.
Why do I say this? Because reading the comments and answers themselves seem to reflect this idea. There's conflict in these responses arguing over the OP and their goals. This is especially evident in questions which encourage frame-challenge answers (like the first and third example).
I've even personally received negative comments challenging my intentions simply because a user thought ABC thing I did or wanted was 'stupid'. Some contributions have little effort and thoughtfulness and aren't helpful at all. I think because many of these responses can't be given (they'll be removed) they default to using voting instead.
Voting should be indicative of how well the question was written, researched, and aligned to site goals. I feel there's too much of a personal involvement in how users vote and comment. The ratios in those examples greatly reflect this. Questions that encourage frame challenges especially; too many are downvoted or argued on because people think it might have an 'obvious' answer. I argue it doesn't matter, as long as it follows those three 'good' question guidelines.
For newer users this is especially concerning; we want to keep people around and involved in our community for time to come. Even more though, we want to be constructive, polite, and encouraging to all users asking questions.
Conclusion / Discussion
I personally feel we have (as a community) a few things to work on. I think that quite a bit of feedback has no substance to helping a user ask better questions. Frame challenges especially illicit more personally threatened and direct responses; which, I feel would discourage people from asking. They might think:
What if my question get's people riled up because I did something wrong in their eyes? Maybe I shouldn't ask (a potentially good question).
Here's some things to think about in essence:
- Is voting as loose as I've described? Do these severely symmetric voting ratios matter?
- Are users receiving 'good' feedback (especially for frame-challenges) they can use to improve their experience on the site? Are the comments for these types of questions often rude?
- How do you vote for a question?