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.
  • Trolls

These are seeking attention and disruption. It is best to just quietly delete them.


1 Answer 1


I think that you're making a big mistake in essentially assuming that ones own voting behavior should be based on that of others. To me, a person's vote is nothing more than that person's personal judgement of whether he/she/it likes the question or not. Consequently, the votes on a question say nothing more than "out of the people that viewed your question, the number of people that liked it minus the people that disliked it equals X". Hence, any kind of arguments about how "we as a site" should do this or that when it comes to voting seems misplaced to me.

As far as I'm concerned, the decision making progress for voting is super simple. When I see a post, I think to myself: "Do I think this is an example of the type of question I like to see on this site?" If the answer is a definite yes, I upvote. If the answer is a definite no, I downvote. If I don't feel strongly about it, I don't vote at all. The assumption/fact that typically something like a "reasonable judgement" of a post rolls out when you average over a lot of viewers is just some kind of law of large numbers, and should not lead you to believe that individual voters necessarily pursue this.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would not want to dictate. I expect that I have outlined some reasonable guidelines, but certainly use your own reasonable judgement. physics.stackexchange.com/q/333015/37364 prompted me to write this meta post. At the moment is it at -12 and +1. I feel that is more than enough to make a point, and enough to hurt. If I was a new user, that would not encourage me to come back with a better question. I would just not come back. So one point is everybody's reasonable judgement can add up to too much. Hence we "as a site" should be careful. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another point is that what you say isn't always what is heard. You know you meant nothing hurtful, but the poster doesn't. The way you say it matters. An explanatory comment (as was in the post above) can go a long way toward keeping the feeling neutral. So can skipping a down vote when enough are already present. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @mmesser314 You didn't understand my main message, which is exactly that downvoting is not something you do to make a point. It is simply an expression of dislike (and I, for one, strongly dislike that question). I don't feel the least bit responsible about how this may or may not make anyone feel, because I think nobody should take a downvote personally in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, poor grammar and confusion about basics are irritating. Irritation generates down votes. So a physics newbie who asks about something that has sparked his interest gets an unpleasant response. And our site gets an elitist reputation. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ I do understand your main message. It can be taken too far. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I also have no problem admitting that I feel it is the responsibility of someone who asks others to dedicate their time to solving his/her/its problem to accommodate them as much as possible. That includes taking the time and effort to write a post in clear, understandable English. An error here or there is no problem. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ ... and use MathJax. But watch for non native speakers. And if you down vote because of it, say why. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:43

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