First, valid points are made in both Down-voting questions: Please state your rationale and Snobs and down-voters. That is, we need down votes because they discourage poor posts. And it is helpful to have a good attitude and thick skin when you get a down vote.
That said, we need to not overdo it. Down votes hurt feelings and drive new users from the site. We do more of this than we should.
In particular, we might be careful with these.
- A new user asks a homework question with little or no effort
- A new user asks a really confused question that shows they are missing some basic concepts.
It is important to realize that there is nothing wrong with going on the internet and asking for help with homework. Even if they don't describe any effort, people should not be chewed out for it. Some have worked on it and not said so. People should be pointed in the right direction with no hard feelings.
At the same time, we don't want no-effort homework questions on our site.
We often handle homework like questions well. A common response is something like "Welcome to physics.stackexchange. Please see our policy on homework questions." This is great. Not answering the question helps prevent repeat offenders. Closing the question prevents the site from being cluttered with them. Closing should not be done right away because it is a barrier to adding a description of a specific concept that stopped them from getting their own answer.
Down votes do not fix this problem. If this is the first time someone has asked a question on our site, they do not know our policy. They will not be discouraged from asking a first question by down votes given to other people.
Confused questions are a judgement call.
- Some people are not native English speakers.
- Some are children.
- Some are physics newbies who would understand a basic lay explanation
- Some have so little understanding that they cannot frame a question well, or make mistakes. Some of these would be helped by a description of what they are trying to ask about.
On the other hand
- Some people have so little understanding of cause and effect that an answer will not help them.
- Some are so convinced of their own answer that they will not listen.
In some cases, questions deserve down votes, but down votes would not be helpful.
- People expressing political or religious opinions.
These are seeking attention and disruption. It is best to just quietly delete them.