At the risk of being burned down, have to get this off my chest.

Be sure it is not meant as an average "ouch, they downvoted me" rant; it bothers me when it happens to others as much as it does when it happens to me.

An example

I came along this question. It was about (in short) changing wallpaper periodically.
Of course the first thing that pops into the mind is cron, and that was what the freshly written answer was based on. A well- written answer by the way, written by someone who knows what he is doing.

Vaguely remembering the hustle I had in the past, due to environment variables when using cron on editing gsettings, I was pretty sure that it wouldn't simply work like that however. Even commented on the answer, mentioning it. After OP had confirmed my assumption, I decided to cook him a meal that could be served in a minute; a startup command with a 5 minute loop.

I am not suggesting we should throw out conventions and principles, when manipulating functionality (in this case; using cron). At the same time: I am also not throwing the first idea that pops up, into an answer. I always test answers, see if they work, see what they "cost" the system. In this case: cpu 0.0%. That means that although theoretically cron is the cleaner option, the real effect is totally zero.

Nevertheless I decided to refresh my mind, trying to remember how I got it working in the past from cron, to offer OP the correct environment variable if he (or someone else) would prefer to run it from cron in the future. I even added the code to include in the script.

It was after this that the answer was downvoted several times, probably for even thinking of offering something else then cron (what was I thinking?)

If I would be the only one, I probably wouldn't post this. It is not the first time however that I see good, creative, working and safe answers downvoted for a misplaced dogma. So, my suggestion is: when downvoting, take the effort to read the answer or question and its argumentation. Leave your automatic vote switch, controlled by only dogmas, at home.


Apparantly, this question has been marked as a dupe.

Quite frankly, I don't understand how it even could occur that it would be a dupe of the linked question; while the link is a call for discussion on the downvotemechanism (how the site works), this question is a call to improve the awareness of the users of this site. A call to make sure you have good reasons on why and with what purpose a downvote is done.

No doubt the subject passed the view before. A look through the proposed list (in a comment) does not show me an exact dupe however, and definitely not the link in the dupe- mark.

The fact that it's obviously a frequently posted subject means we need to have the discussion on why and when to downvote, rather than an argument not to have this discussion.


4 Answers 4


Yeah, we do care about our posts. We do not take it lightly when we receive a downvote. We try to make the post better.

In the best case we have an explanation in a comment to help us what could be done. In the second best case we see for ourselves what we did wrong. In both cases we will not hesitate to improve our post with an edit, well knowing that ever so often a downvote will never be reverted. But still, we care for it, we do this for everybody else who may read this later.

But sometimes it just happens. A downvote comes in which was not explained, is inexplicable or even unjustified. Nothing we can do about this, really. The more we had contributed, the more we all will be faced with this unexplained downvote. Inevitably.

This of course means quite a burden to us all. Instead of reading questions and providing another good answer we unnecessarily spend time on figuring out what went wrong. It itches. It's a waste of resources.

To avoid this I made myself a little checkbox that considerably helps me to understand a weird vote, and it also helps me to stop thinking about it:

Unexplained downvote reason
Pick one to feel better

☐ did not know the difference between up and down
☐ wanted to accept but slipped
☐ so urgently needed to improve my personal downvote rate
☐ had no time to understand your answer
☐ answer too long
☐ answer too short
☐ expected an even better answer than that
☐ Meh, just 4 teh lulz

  • 6
    This is the best possible answer, great, really great. Thanks! everybody should read your list :) Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 12:14
  • 5
    -1, no "Meh, just 4 teh lulz"
    – muru
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 16:36
  • 2
    @muru: ^this is a real good replacement for the last reason :)
    – Takkat
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:00
  • 1
    Perhaps downvotes should require a reason. Maybe a meta request...
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:24
  • 6
    @Daniel It has been requested - many times. And rejected each time. There's at least one such thread on our meta here about its
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:35
  • 4
    In my opinion it is rude to downvote without stating a reason in a comment.
    – theodorn
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 20:39
  • 2
    @theodorn it may be rude, but it is not an obligation to provide a reason.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 14:32
  • 4
    It is a moral obligation, at least for those who care about the Ubuntu community. If new users get their answers voted down by someone in the dark - with no explanations - there is a risk they will stop contributing, and may even leave the forum for good. The community as a whole will lose. If answers get voted down with arguments why, then the one answering will know how he/she can improve the answer - or delete it if need be.
    – theodorn
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:11
  • 2
    I second @Theodorn's position on this (+1). Although not a formal obligation per AU's set of rules, one should strive to give a reason for a down-vote. It is a moral obligation that costs very little, if the downvoter's case against the answer of the OP has even a leg to stand on... Add the fact that a large proportion of AU users are eager to learn. Losing karma over something important and just learnt makes you feel GOOD ! It is worth it even though -1 jolts yr ego. That being said, Jacob Vlijm, a down-vote is just a frigging down-vote. Strive on, live long and prosper ;-)
    – Cbhihe
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 9:23
  • 2
    For every unexplained downvote I'm now going to leave a link to this answer!!! :-) (First and only bookmarked answer on meta!) I wish I could add a bounty to this answer! ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 20:15
  • Recently, I commented on a comment, which led to the first commentator removing his comment, so I removed mine. Didn't want to leave a comment answering arguments not there anymore. Made me think if I was inconsiderate. Guess I'm still learning the rules here, that answers and comments be precise and addressing the issue being discussed. Not like Facebook, long rants about everything and nothing - like this comment is becoming, so I'll stop right now, LOL.
    – theodorn
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:35
  • 3
    -1 You would have to put measures in place to prevent retaliatory down votes once someone has explained a down vote and prevent debate. In my experience explanations for down votes more often then not sparks debate and hard feelings. Down votes are part of how this site works, improve your answers and move on.
    – Panther
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:47
  • @bodhi.zazen I don't see why debate would be a bad thing by definition. It gives the answerer an opportunity to find the argumentation behind the downvote, and then either agree and edit, or disagree and explain why. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 17:06
  • Typically I just leave a suggestion without the down vote. IMHO this site is designed for Question / Answer and not debate. askubuntu.com/tour "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions" If you want to discuss / debate use the forums ;) Don't get me wrong, meta is for discussion, and IMO meta works well. No need to discuss / debate on the main site.
    – Panther
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 17:13
  • "Meh, just 4 teh lulz" LOL
    – Anwar
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 11:28

I love the list of "Unexplained downvote reasons" and agree that downvoting without constructive criticism isn't an effective method of training. Further downvoting just because you don't agree with the approach is rather childish. Testing solutions and upvoting those that work for you makes more sense to me.

My criteria:

I might downvote an answer if it wasn't clear enough to test or simply didn't work. I also would downvote if the answer didn't seem related to the question. I also might downvote a later answer that clearly was copied from a previous one. I try to leave comments that encourage improvement of answers.

I'm not a big fan of the stick approach and prefer the carrot for motivating improvement. That said, of the over 1000 votes I've cast here 1/2 of 1% have been downvotes.

  • 3
    Same here... I comment often but I only downvote if something was terribly misleading.
    – Takkat
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:27

I down-vote for various reasons. Sometimes I explain it, sometimes I do not. I have reasons for that too.

To down-vote is a fundamental right of any SE user with enough rep.


  • 8
    Sure, but with every fundamental right comes the fundamental obligation to be responsible in when and with what purpose you downvote. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 15:55
  • 1
    I agree with that too.
    – Pilot6
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 15:56
  • 1
    I believe the question was "What is your consideration when downvoting, what are your criteria?"
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 20:39
  • Why this answer(askubuntu.com/questions/739192/…) is down voted? I have no idea.
    – Ashu
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 2:31
  • @Ashu Why do you ask me? I did not down-vote that one.
    – Pilot6
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 8:12
  • Sorry I am not asking...i don't know who downvoted it...most importantly why it was downvoted.
    – Ashu
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 14:03
  • 2
    @Ashu I can only guess , but clearly someone didn't like it. (It wasn't me) If I was looking for justification of the downvote I might note that rather than explaining how to fix the problem you simply gave an example of your path which is great for your environment but likely to cause issues for anyone else. Or perhaps it was the unrelated curl part of the answer. It might even have been downvotes because someone thought that a related answer fit the bill and that you should have flagged it as a duplicate instead. those are the only justifications I can think of but pick 1 from Takkat list.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 16:54
  • 2
    The fact that ElderGeek has to be so defensive about the downvote tells you @Ashu that people don't even downvote enough, not because they are nice, but afraid of reprisals and senseless bickering.
    – Braiam
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 11:57

My biggest criteria for downvoting are as follows:

  1. Inaccuracy. On a question / answer based support website, providing accurate, applicable, reliable answers to questions is the number one priority.
  2. Complete Unintelligibility. This site is somewhat special, because we can edit others' posts. If it is unsalvageably unreadable, however, it doesn't belong here, and thus, I would downvote.
  3. Rudeness / Inconsideration. Disagreements sometimes happen, especially when discussing an OS as highly changeable and individually customizable as Ubuntu Linux. There are a million different ways to do everything, and at least half a million of them are 'the best way'. But if you can't at least be considerate and polite to those you disagree with, you will get a downvote (and possibly a flag) from me.
  4. Laziness. Example: Simply linking to a tech support website without even attempting to provide any explanation in the actual answer box. Providing a source is OK, and even encouraged - but most users didn't come here to find answers they can get with a simple Google search, and even if they did, it is our duty to provide the best possible unique explanation for each question.
  5. Inefficiency. If you can fix something in 3 steps, but an answer suggests that you take 10 steps (7 of which are unnecessary), I will probably downvote the overinflated answer and opt for the simpler, easier workaround.

I hope this provides some insight.

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