Alright, so I know this is going to be controversial, but here goes:

I was perusing the home page and saw this question:

enter image description here

Now, obviously that is a bad question and certainly does deserve a negative score. I was about to downvote, but I'm torn. On one hand, I want to downvote because it's a terrible post with multiple questions and large rant all lumped into a giant wall of text.

On the other hand, the post already has -5. Now, I get that we're not supposed to cast "pity upvotes", but at the same time, I don't think it's proper to possibly get this user suspended for a day or whatever just because his/her first question was really bad. The SE format is different, and takes some getting used to. I've seen many posts where it was the OP's first time on SE, they got a really bad score, and decided to never come back. I don't think that's how we should treat first time visitors.

I know that's not how I would want to be treated....

So really I guess this all boils down to, if a post already has a really bad score (-5 in this case), is it really necessary/proper/expected that we should still downvote it, especially in the case that it's the user's first post?

  • 2
    The user isn't going to get suspended for making a single post of negative downvotes, with that really being their only question they've posted. Not unless they have many posts that get closed/deleted with bad scores.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 14:28
  • @ThomasWard Well maybe not suspended, but what about rate-limited? Where it won't let you ask another question till tomorrow or something like that? Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 14:34
  • 1
    that's called a "Question Asking Ban" that would be system triggered - again, they aren't going to get hit by that for a single bad post that gets a bunch of downvotes. It'd take a larger number of those types of posts to get hit with that, I believe.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 14:40
  • I should point out though that new users I believe are automatically rate-limited in asking questions until they get past the new user limit of rep. While I can't confirm that from here, I remember reading something about this. The downvotes don't affect that "rate limit" if I remember right though... I have to double check on this.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 0:10
  • @ByteCommander - Hahaha, though I completely understand their position. I'm sure we've all been there at one time or another. Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 18:39

4 Answers 4


The answer is: Use your own judgement - if you don't think it's right to downvote, then don't.

Downvotes can be cast for any number of reasons, all of them mostly personal-judgement based, including but not limited to "Bad question quality".

That said, if you feel it's just beating a dead horse or just too evil to downvote a question where they already have this many downvotes, you can just not downvote. We don't have any 'guidelines' for downvoting other than "Don't abuse it" really, outside of the normal voting regulations here on Stack Exchange.

You are right though - pity upvotes are discouraged. Upvotes for the sake of voting are also discouraged, as is targeted voting, up or down, to help or hurt a specific individual. So don't do that.


(This is just expanding on Thomas' answer)

I remember this being asked at meta.so (or meta.se maybe), and the consensus was that there was generally no point in "downvoting to oblivion".

Another thing to consider is that downvoters won't be directly notified when an edit is made to the post, so that they could retract their downvotes.


It's not a pity-upvote but...

If I see a question or answer has been down-voted and I don't see any egregious errors in it, I will up-vote to compensate for the unexplained down vote(s). I'll do this with posts I would not normally have up-voted but do so in compensation of unfair treatment. If there is a comment explaining the down-vote I won't up-vote but I may engage the comment author for clarification if it doesn't make sense.

"Upvotes for the sake of voting are also discouraged"

Thomas posted this in his answer and I beg to differ. From definition of badges we see:


  • gold; awarded once
  • Vote on 600 questions
  • Have at least 25% of your total number of votes cast (questions and answers) be on questions
  • Comment votes do not count

This seems to be an especially confusing badge, so here are some examples to address cases commonly complained about on MSO. Total is just the total number of votes cast (Questions + Answers) and Ratio is the total number of votes cast that are on questions.

│ Questions │ Answers │ Total │ Ratio │ Electorate awarded? │  
│       600 │    2400 │  3000 │   20% │   No; ratio too low │  
│       201 │     401 │   602 │  ~33% │ No; < 600 questions │  
│       599 │       0 │   599 │  100% │ No; < 600 questions │  
│       600 │       0 │   600 │  100% │                 Yes │  
│       500 │     500 │  1000 │   50% │ No; < 600 questions │  
│       650 │     650 │  1300 │   50% │                 Yes │  

I received this badge when my rep points were low. As there was a limit on the number of allowed votes per day I think it took about a month.

So you can see up-votes are encouraged.


I personally would not downvote anybody, in my opinion there is no such thing as a bad question just bad answers. Yes we can have a badly worded question or non SEO friendly, but many people with questions may not have english as their first language may not be as literate as others or use the wrong terminology. It is easy for some people to be aggrieved by this.

We can simply downvote or maybe explore the question, use comments to clarify and advise on re-wording. I also do not think you should be able to downvote without giving a reason. If you downvote a reason should be mandatory with an option for anonymity. Downvoting without a reason is simply not constructive and I think we need to remember that wording the perfect question is desirable but also it is a person at the other end that has a genuine and possibly distressing problem.

So my actual answer to this question is NO. Lets see if I get downvoted :-)

  • I down voted you because I disagreed with your reasoning here.
    – MathCubes
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 2:13

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