It occurs to me that often questions of new users are downvoted for no other reason than to "let OP know he did a bad thing". Many times the question is not bad at all, but simply does not fit in the concept of AU. For the record, I am not talking about bad questions, just questions because users aren't well aware of the exact rules of the site.

A single line to explain, and a close vote, will do the job. Nevertheless these questions not rarely end up, decorated with one or more downvotes.

For new users, a first question, welcomed by downvotes isn't exactly the most inviting welcoming message, so:

Please don't downvote new user's questions if it serves no other goal than to express to OP did a "bad thing".

  • 5
    I downvote when the question lacks minimum research effort.
    – Anwar
    Aug 4, 2016 at 14:07
  • @AnwarShah, sure, but that's not what the question is about.
    – anon
    Aug 4, 2016 at 14:10
  • 3
    I would rather say "try avoiding downvotes without comments". Aug 4, 2016 at 14:40
  • @AndreaLazzarotto Why downvote in such cases anyway then? It serves no goal but to satisfy the need to disapprove. I am surprised by the downvotes on this question on a site that obviously considers itself substantially more friendly than SO.
    – anon
    Aug 4, 2016 at 14:43
  • @JacobVlijm I usually do not downvote, nevertheless I am not in principle against downvotes if they are accompanied by a motivation that helps the user understand. Regarding your question, downvotes on meta have a different purpose than on other sites. They mean "I disagree with your idea". Currently two users disagree with your proposal. Since I partially agree, I will neither upvote nor downvote it. :) Aug 4, 2016 at 14:52
  • Are you just talking about off-topic questions? Aug 4, 2016 at 14:59
  • @AndreaLazzarotto I understand. I am surprised by the fact that people disagree on this. I assumed it was the commonly accepted sense.
    – anon
    Aug 4, 2016 at 14:59
  • @AndreaLazzarotto mostly yes.
    – anon
    Aug 4, 2016 at 15:00
  • Wrong tag on the second comment. :) Aug 4, 2016 at 15:22
  • 1
    Examples? Your question isn't really making sense. What trivially wrong questions do you see "loaded with downvotes"?
    – Seth
    Aug 4, 2016 at 15:37
  • @Seth I am kind of astonished. If after one day the voting on this is this negative, even on only the principle of my question, there seems no point in providing examples. Live s full of surprises.
    – anon
    Aug 5, 2016 at 19:29
  • 2
    Well you have my downvote because without specific examples this is just another post about how "downvotes are bad" and people shouldn't use them. We can't read your mind. If you want to talk about only a specific portion of questions that "do not fit the concept of AU" that you feel are overly downvoted, you are going to have to provide some kind of example, an actual question or at least an example scenario. Otherwise your post just comes down to another generic rant about downvotes, which I'm sure is not what you intended.
    – Seth
    Aug 5, 2016 at 19:36
  • @Seth votes need to serve a goal. My post is saying so much as that if it serves no other goal than to satisfy the voter's need to express disapproval, I consider it abuse. I remember a mac user, accidentally posting here. I pointed out he "might have posted on the wrong site". "Oooops", he said, "thanks and sorry". He ended up with 4 downvotes after he said "sorry". I find that a disgrace to the site. Would be happy to look up a few of these examples, but quite frankly, put effort in a discussion where the outcome is determined, looking at the happy voting on this, that seems pointless to me.
    – anon
    Aug 5, 2016 at 22:23
  • @JacobVlijm Downvotes are for questions that lack research effort and are not useful to this site. To me, a question that clearly doesn't belong to AU but instead belongs to Ask Different lacks research effort (if OP did research, he/she would have noticed AU isn't the correct site) and is not useful to AU. Therefore, it deserves to be downvoted. Downvotes are not personal; OP saying sorry doesn't help nor harm things. Downvoters can be nice and explain to OP that his/her question doesn't belong here, but that is strictly optional (a few of us still comment anyway to help OPs out a bit).
    – edwinksl
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:01
  • @edwinksl So tell me, what did we actually win by downvoting him? He already new he made a mistake, has no way to correct it but saying "sorry", which he already did. No goal to be achieved. I am having quite some difficulties with the downvotes this question got. Not for personal reasons, but for the blind spot people seem to have for how silly and unwelcoming things look, when looking from an objective perspective of the outside world. What kind of idiots are we?
    – anon
    Aug 6, 2016 at 5:34

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: I agree with Jacob. Yes, downvotes are there, they're totally can be used - it's your privilege if you have it, but lets be a bit more gentle towards the n00bs.

For new users, a first question, welcomed by downvotes isn't exactly the most inviting welcoming message

I agree. As someone who deals with the idea of customer service a lot , I know that it is important to remain calm and respectful. The best analogy for this I can think of is when people come to me and ask "Why does my password doesn't work ?". Good customer service is to explain to the user what they did wrong, and help them fix the issue. This is commenting and voting to close in AskUbuntu world.

You don't just go over to their table and hit that "Caps Lock" key and return to your table. User won't learn and won't remember not to do that again. That's downvote, without comment.

And yes, downvotes are not supposed to be taken be taken personally. But people take everything personally when they're not familiar with the way things work. Consider anybody's first day on a job. Managers and bosses being mad at one for not knowing anything is common. And naturally people will take it as "Wow, this place is horrible and everybody is so mean". Yes, downvotes have their place, and yes - they shouldn't be taken personally. But I see where Jacob's position.

It takes time for new users to get used to properly ask questions. Despite all those fancy welcome tours and all the posts on meta , the truth is that nobody reads meta posts except users who have been on the site for some time. Seriously , how many new users think this : "Well, I have this issue with my desktop right now, everything is broken and I have bills to pay . . . so let's go read some discussions on meta about internal policies and politics of this site. " I'm sorry, but that's just the truth - no new user reads meta or pays attention to the intro stuff. Period. That's why guidance is important, and that guidance should come from us - the other users who have been around for some time.

And I know , things won't change much - there's people on this site who are "just following the rules" , and will carry out the robo-mechanic procedure to the T. . . . except they forget how they used to be n00bs themselves, who got guidance from higher-rep users. . . and probably would be long gone from the site if it was anything as harsh as stackoverflow. So let's be a bit more respectful and follow good customer-service.

To repeat Jacob:

Please don't downvote new user's questions if it serves no other goal than to express to OP did a "bad thing".

  • Thanks Serg, this really does me good to hear (if that is even English). This is exactly what I mean. Aug 6, 2016 at 7:56

To quote the help centre:

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

You have a limited number of votes per day, and answer down-votes cost you a tiny bit of reputation on top of that; use them wisely.

Downvoting off-topic questions generally serves to inform the user that they've done something wrong (as you say). What happens next depends on the question:

  1. The user edits the question, it's reopened, and it gets a few upvotes (good!)
  2. The question can't be salvaged and it remains on hold.

The downvotes could potentially turn away a few users, but I'd like to remind us all:

  • Users get a lot of guidance both for asking questions and when they gain the downvote privilege. They likely know what they did wrong and they don't take the downvotes personally.

I generally trust the community to be nice to new users. And the community seldom disappoints. So while I think you're right in principle, I don't think we really have a problem here.

PS: And to echo Andrea's comment: downvotes on meta shouldn't be interpreted too harshly. Some users downvote stuff on Meta that is opinion-based and with which they just disagree. This is no reflection on the quality of the question.

PPS: Does this actually happen?

  • Thank you Stefano. I totally agree of course, except for the fact that almost dayly, I run into downvoted questions, as described in the question. I'd love to give exsmples, but on mobile not very easy to accomplish. Will do that after my holiday if it matters. Aug 4, 2016 at 16:35
  • 2
    Users get a lot of guidance both for asking questions and when they gain the downvote privilege. I think many people not familiar with the way SE network and its principles only realize proper way of asking questions over time. Just a few text lines on tutorial help , but very little. It takes time to learn how to properly ask questions. That's why I think the guidance you mention should come from users commenting on questions. And yes, that happens. There are plenty of hot-headed users on this site, who despite they contribution, run head first into downvoting and voting to close Aug 6, 2016 at 6:52

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