I am still new here, and not sure if I will be staying. I do enjoy helping others and have been a frequent contributor to another similar forum. From what I have seen here so far, I fully expect this critical post to be severely down-voted. Whether I am right or wrong in my prediction it is that feeling and hesitance to contribute that bothers me. On the right side of the screen I see many similar questions where contributors are upset about down-voting.

One of my recent contributions here had an anecdotal story about falling cats. That comment was critiqued and fact checked doggedly. This discouraged me from wanting to continue contributing here. It is not that the anecdote or meaning I was trying to convey was wrong, it was that the linked articles I posted to support my comments were questioned. I dutifully followed up with further supporting links but never seemed to satisfy the fact-checker.

I realize that there is not much we can do to stop people who get satisfaction or pleasure out of this kind of negative behavior but what more positive contributors can do is be sure to encourage contributors and challenge the more negative contributors.

Drew K

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    $\begingroup$ There's nothing much wrong with using meta to vent a bit, but what exactly is the question / point / suggestion here? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ You have a grand total of three downvotes on your undeleted posts (not more than one on any single post), and a total of six if we include a deleted post. That's not all that many, and you simply shouldn't let a single downvote or a single user being (overly, in your view) critical of your post get to you like that. Ponder whether there is something wrong with your post, and if you honestly think there isn't, just move on. I'm not clear on what you expect other users to do here. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    May 5, 2017 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ I am expressing my experience here as a new contributor. This seems like the type of forum that I can enjoy; I like solving problems and helping others and I have a knack for thinking outside the box. The problem is in my own experience here and in other comments I have seen there are many discouraging behaviors. I feel hesitant to contribute on some questions because of comments there and on others. If I feel this way, I am certain I am not alone. New contributors and questioners should feel welcome not hesitant. There have been some who are helpful and have made me feel welcome. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ I checked now your last 4 answers and voted as I think they deserved. Getting 3 ups and 1 down is probably not an insulting proportion for this day. I've made also some non-relevant tuning in your posts. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    May 5, 2017 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Starting out a post by very visibly calling people snobs isn't going to win over anybody's opinion really. Especially considering the most likely downvotes come from the people who are active on meta. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    May 5, 2017 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ It wasn't my purpose to get votes on my posts, I wanted to start a discussion on how I experienced becoming a new contributor here. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, but the people who will join that discussion are called snobs before they even get into your question. You're not doing yourself any favors or making people receptive to your opinions/discussion. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    May 5, 2017 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ I am comfortable with the conflict of calling people out. I don't generally seek it out but when I see a problem I do try to address it. I know that my experience is not that different from what many other questioners and contributors have endured. If my inflammatory title attracts attention I hope my words will make them think. I have learned from the encounter and hope to be a better contributor in the future, I hope some of the readers will think about the perspective of new questioners and contributors. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


It's important to say up front that a downvote is not a judgement of you, it is a judgement of your question or answer. A downvote means the downvoter thinks it is not a suitable question/answer for this site, and that's all it means.

Well, in theory. In practice it is very hard not to take downvotes personally, and I hate being downvoted as much as you and everyone else does. But everyone who posts on this site attracts downvotes sooner or later and you just have to decide whether you can live with it or not.

(Incidentally I've had my share of rude comments too, which can be even more upsetting. If someone makes a rude comment to one of your posts that's not acceptable so flag it and a moderator will delete the comment.)

But to return to the point, if you've got a downvote on an answer you need to have a think about whether your answer does need some improvement. Most of the prolific answerers here regard the site as a sort of encyclopaedia of physics. That is, a physicist, physics student or anyone wanting to learn physics can look at a question here and be confident that the answers are clear, concise and above all unimpeachable. You should be able to treat anything written in an answer here as gospel truth.

That means answers need to conform to certain standards. We aren't keen on answers that just link to some page on the Internet because that link could break and anyway we have no control over what's at the other end of it. I would guess that's why this answer of yours got downvoted, because it's just a link and a few comments.

I'd guess the cat post got a downvote because it's anecdotal and the anecdote doesn't address the question - though note that that answer got two upvotes as well.

I can't see where the third downvote is but looking at the two example above I would say the downvotes are justified and you should consider the criticism they imply. It would be nice if downvoters always left a comment to say what aspects of the answer they don't think are good. But to be fair not all answerers respond positively to comments and it can get quite nasty - discretion is sometimes the better part of valour.

Finally, it can be hard for newcomers especially if they're at an early stage in learning physics, and many of us will bear this in mind when we vote on a question or comment on it. But we don't lower our standards, not even for newcomers. At the end of the day a newcomer's answer is judged by the same standards as answers from veteran site members. It's up to you to be sure before you post that your answer is clear, concise and above all correct. If you aren't sure about this then you should think carefully before you post.

A quick footnote:

A great many people have dedicated a great deal of time and effort (for free!) to writing some great answers on this site. Some of the explanations here are staggeringly good and far better than anything I encountered as an undergraduate or PhD student. By titling your post here Snobs and down-voters you are tarring us all with the same brush, and frankly that won't win you any friends.

Lastly note that here on the Meta site a downvote just signifies disagreement. So the two downvotes (at the time of writing) that your question has attracted just mean that two people disagree with the sentiments it expresses.

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    $\begingroup$ That's actually a good way to put things that I hadn't really considered before. If we think about questions and answers as being an online encyclopedia, instead of a Q&A/forum/the usual suspects of what people think we do here, it makes the quality standards much clearer. I can't remember finding too many anecdotes or jokes in reference manuals and encyclopedias. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    May 5, 2017 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time for a thorough and well thought out answer. I can understand what you mean by the content being more important the any supporting links because they can be lost. In the past I have used links to provide credibility to my comments. I generally try to explain solutions instead of doing the math to help the questioner understand the problem hence my anecdotal story. My reason for the meta-post is the express how I experience Stack Exchange as a new contributor. I apologize for any offense, but my purpose is to improve communication and understanding. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ It's important to keep in mind that this site does have a harsher atmosphere regarding downvotes than some neighbours - Mathematica and TeX - LaTeX come to mind as being much more upvote-friendly. However, those subjects are much less susceptible to answers that look and feel right, but which are ultimately wrong and misleading; the downvote culture here is generally an attempt to keep quality up (which is what makes the site valuable) and, as John mentions, it is (ideally, generally) only a judgement of the post and its content, not of the poster. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2017 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ It is not just the answers that are harshly criticized. I have seen many good questions get negative responses. Poor grammar seems unacceptable here, on the internet, where anyone from anywhere not a native English speaker can participate. As professionals we know we must work with other professionals who don't speak our language and don't judge them. This is intended to be a teaching tool, so why punish people asking questions? Even if all they want is to cheat on homework, we can take the opportunity to help them learn...even if they show no effort; it is hard to show your work here. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2017 at 13:32

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