I posted these question as an answer and probably is better to ask a new question: Could you explain what is the sense of giving a post (question/answer) more than a couple of negative votes, if the purpose is only to alert the reader that that post is not particularly useful, or is incorrect?

What is the sense of giving a question* 16 negative votes. This is in itself an exaggeration, but that becomes incomprehensible when the answer gets 27 positive votes and makes the answerer ( I think a mod) earn a precious badge?. So, the question was not so not-useful/stupid, after all? And if it was stupid, how stupid can a question get? A proverb tells: "the only stupid question is the one you never asked". Again, I think, and I may be wrong or you may disagree, But, isn't that a superfluous humiliation?

Note: I see that since last week after my post, the negative votes have increased to 17, what is the sense of this

I noticed, also, that a duplicate usually carries a negative vote: is it a shame in itself if one, without realizing, asks a question that has already asked? I have heard one should evaluate just the post, its content, is that right?

If it is, how can a post be worth -3 and its exact duplicate +8?

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the idea of the points system to gamify the Q&A format? So it's not just to politely inform someone that what they wrote isn't the best. $\endgroup$
    – user12029
    Mar 31 '15 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ @GreenRay Erm, you saw the word 'not', right? $\endgroup$
    – user12029
    Mar 31 '15 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ It is worth noting that there are net vote thresholds that affect the presentation of posts on the site. Below -3 (-8 on meta sites) question no longer appear on the front page and answers are given a muted, de-emphasized appearance. I think there is a strong effect still on the main sites where question below -8 don't appear in the questions tab either, but I can't find a post laying out either of these rules in detail. See meta.stackexchange.com/q/250852 meta.stackexchange.com/q/251759 meta.stackoverflow.com/q/288620 for incomplete info. $\endgroup$ Mar 31 '15 at 13:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's possible the people who read the question thought that it was so bad that the OP deserved to lose the extra bit of rep when they downvote it. Not having read the question myself, that's just a guess $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Mar 31 '15 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ There is a post on the mother meta, which I can't seem to find again, where everybody is reminded that voting to close a question is not an ultimate downvote and that if a question could be voted to close, it most likely should also be downvoted. Which, if we followed religiously, virtually every single closed question (regardless of reason) would be at -5 because all the close-voters also downvoted. My point is that closing and up/down voting are two different mechanisms to express two different things. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Mar 31 '15 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, the vote count is (currently) +10/-27. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Mar 31 '15 at 18:30

I think this post is just a pile of loaded questions meant to attempt to discredit our way of doing things here. Despite the glaring warning sign that I shouldn't, I'm going to attempt a response in case OP is actually genuine.

I have only three points:

  1. The alt-text of the up/down votes say something like, "This post is/isn't useful." So downvoting is a way to say the post is not useful. If 20+ people think that the post you mention is not useful or shows no research effort, who are we to complain about it? It is their vote (See #2).
    The appropriate action (when finding heavily downvoted posts) would be to try cleaning up the text to make it more useful (e.g., make it less of a troll post)--but you must respect the author and keep the content intact while changing the body.

  2. No matter how much you disagree with it, you cannot change our ways about how we will vote (there shouldn't be any reason for you to expect that we change to your whim anyways). We are free to vote entirely as we please, up or down and for whatever dumb reason we want (whether the post is obvious troll being obvious or because we simply don't like the person).

  3. (This one is a counter-point) There are many posts with greater than 100 votes. What is the point of that? Aren't the votes superfluous after only a few? What is the difference between +12 and +13 and +17? Why continue to upvote it up to >100 after that? Why also bother upvoting other answers that are posted alongside the over-voted one, it's already got a good answer?
    Seriously, why complain about downvotes when upvotes are equally as abused?

So, in short, the policy of downvoting is:

vote as you please and stop caring what other people think of it

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Your comments used to be more balanced and moderate last year. You are completely missing the point since there is a huge difference between a question and an answer. An answer must be correct: if it's wrong can misinform readers, a question must not and can't. A question can be badly formulated and you improve it, it can be too simple and you give a simple explanation, can be founded on misconceptions and you put the student on the right track. You misread the intentions of OP who has already shown in other posts to be serious, and if it were criticism .. have you become allergic to it? $\endgroup$
    – user59485
    Mar 31 '15 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @GreenRay: I do not differentiate between answers & questions in my response above because I am only pointing out the use of votes, which apply to both. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Mar 31 '15 at 13:47

A few specifics: I agree that more than three downvotes has no function. I also agree that downvoting a duplicate just because it's a duplicate is excessive (downvoting a lazy duplicate is fine IMHO). Finally I agree that downvoting should be a dispassionate activity based only on the contents of the question.

But ...

You should not underestimate how much work people have put in to making this site a success, and for no reward other than the approval of their peers. And you should appreciate just what an extraordinarily valuable resource this site is. As a teen physics nerd in the 70s it was inconceivable that I could have a question answered by a real life theoretical physicist.

But keeping a site like this relevant is a continual battle against the forces of entropy. In this case entropy consists of the fanatical, the opinionated, the lazy and the merely mischievous. At any one time there is only a small population of knowledgable answerers, and it would be easy to swamp the posts that make sense with posts that don't. This is not just my opinion or a merely theoretical statement. This has happened to every physics site I've been part of, starting at the very dawn of the Internet with the physics newsgroups. This site is so far unique in keeping a high quality of questions and answers.

But back to your question.

Yes, I disapprove of downvoting by more a than a few downvotes, and yes I disapprove of downvoting duplicates, and yes we shouldn't downvote just because we're annoyed by a post. But I am not going to criticise people for doing so when they put in so much work to keep this site successful, and I don't think you should do so either.


It is a bit like a consensus poll. Some questions are really off the present day physics consensus, like perpetual motion proposals. If there are positive and negative votes in large numbers, as in your example, (+10/-27 at the moment) this denotes either

a)that some wrong premises are used in the question , in this case ignoring the postulate of the lorenz transformation which in tandem with maxwell's equations have described all data up to now and hav great predictive power. The negatives are to emphasize this. The positives must be from students or people not very grounded in electrodynamics who have the same question as the questioner.

b)Or sometimes it is completely a cranky theory somebody is advocating and the negatives emphasize this.

The votes show a sample of how many people agree and how many disagree as a guide for the reader who found the question by googling, he/she will be aware of the agreement or not with current physics concepts.

In this sense the large number of down votes are useful, because this is also a site where research type questions may be asked. These may get a few negatives because the subject is still open . These should be contrasted to what most physicists believe is wrong.

Of course physics is not done by consensus, but this site is for questions on current physics , not for proposing new untested or controversial subjects. There are other fora for publishing own research, apart of course of the usual peer reviewed journals; for example vixra.org.


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