I am curious as to the mentality behind upvoting/downvoting questions...

I can understand the logic behind upvoting/downvoting answers "ok if an answer is bad then downvote it" sure this kind of makes sense (though in my head is a bit silly. if it is a bad answer then let the person who answered it know and maybe they can revise it and then we all learn a little more...)

But the idea of saying "hey this is a good question" or "this is a bad question" doesn't necessarily make sense to me. And I am not saying that I don't know what a bad question is. I understand that a lot of the questions on AskUbuntu can be answered with a simple google search and maybe 10 minutes of homework.

So my question is what is the idea behind downvoting/upvoting questions?

Especially when you are able to downvote questions without saying why it is a bad question. And no I am no saying that to downvote you need to explain why you think it is a bad question. I am more saying, if you think it's a bad question or not worth your time then just leave it, rather than taking the time to downvote it?

3 Answers 3


Downvoting questions is an important moderation task which helps to filter out low quality posts from the site.

Case in point: A question which is closed (except when closed as a duplicate) and has no answers with positive score gets deleted automatically after a certain period of time (30 days?) if it has a negative score. This means moderators and users with delete vote privilege don't have to keep track of all the closed, low-quality questions with the intention to remove them later in order to keep the site "clean".

So I reckon the suggestion that "if you think it's a bad question or not worth your time then just leave it, rather than taking the time to downvote it" is not really a productive one.

  • Ok! This makes sense thanks for the answer! Does this not leave to much "power" in the hands of regular users though? I think to display a downvote you need like 175? but to me this seems achievable by the general public. And I guess we can politely agree to disagree about "it you think it is a bad question...." As to me downvoting (in my head at least) could easily divulge into something very petty as in "Oh this person gave me attitude I will downvote all their questions and answers"
    – j-money
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 18:34
  • @j-money It is very unfortunate if you had to be at the receiving end of such behaviour. The system is otherwise very good at detecting serial downvoting (and upvoting too) and reverting them overnight.
    – pomsky
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 18:57

if you think it's a bad question or not worth your time then just leave it, rather than taking the time to downvote it?


I'm not sorry. No.

I don't know how you use Stack Exchange sites or what you think their intended usage is, but I use it as a library*. When I browse this library, looking for something, I want good results. That means good answers. And that almost always means good questions. That means maintaining the sites: cleaning up useless crap, polishing the useful stuff, and ensuring that over time, there is more useful stuff than crap.

That means encouraging good questions ...


Discouraging bad questions.

If there were no disincentive to posting crap, we'd be drowning it. Check my vote count on Ask Ubuntu:

5,088 up
6,167 down

But! That's my total vote count, including deleted posts. My surviving downvotes, on posts that haven't been deleted, is:

2,033 votes cast

That means a good two-thirds of the posts I have downvoted end up deleted. (For comparison, my surviving upvote count is 4,968 - some 2% have been deleted.) Now, you could say that some of the deleted posts I have downvoted may not have deserved it, but I say that some of the surviving downvoted posts do deserve deletion**, and these two balance each other out.

How much useful would you think the site would be, if for every useful post you see here, there's two crap posts? The search is bad enough as it is, but it would be far worse if you couldn't even use question score as a way to filter out sand.

Downvoting is, as pomsky says, a quality-control mechanism. There's a reason why downvoting questions is free (downvoting answers costs 1 rep): stem the tide of bad questions, and the number of bad answers that you then have to clean up automatically go down.

Aside from the roomba mechanism, which came rather late in the game, voting is the core quality control mechanism of Stack Exchange. Other systems depend on it: rate limiting, warnings, question bans. There's a lot that works with a signal as simple as a downvote.

* There's a reason I have posted something like ten times the answers on this site alone than I have posted questions on all SE sites combined. Most questions I have usually have been answered, or I have found answers I can adapt.

** Sometimes the roomba doesn't clean up posts that I have downvoted because some well-meaning idiot gave a sympathy upvote.

  • OK thanks! And thank you for the library analogy this hepls tremendously! However I look at other forums such as UbuntuForums that do not use the downvote system yet still seem to maintain a library of good answers. Or my personal favorite the arch forums though I know those are very well maintained by great users. And I guess everyone implements some form of cleanup in there own right!
    – j-money
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 4:30
  • 3
    @j-money and that's why I dread the times when I have to go through Ubuntu or Arch or Steam forums. No telling if a post is good or bad, except by going through other replies. No telling if a better solution is available somewhere in page 12. No way to indicate on the post itself that it is dangerous or otherwise bad advice, except by making another post which or may not be seen.
    – muru
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 4:51
  • 2
    I've taken to sometimes favouriting questions that I want to downvote so I can downvote them later when sympathy upvotes are less likely. So annoying.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 15:32
  • Let me be clear. I'm not trying to start a flame war with this so please don't take this as disrespectful or as offense (and if you do, I am sorry for offending!) But your analogy of the forum as a library is great! I love it! But then you go on to say you dread forums where you have to actually read for an answer rather than scroll down and look for something like tl:dr. So would yo consider maybe UbuntuForms as a library? or something else?
    – j-money
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:56
  • @j-money I dread forums because I have to read through tons of non-answers to get the answer - to even identify what the answer is - not because I have to read. Here, I can directly read the answer, and then choose whether to read through the comments. I don't mind long answers without a tldr, I read pretty quickly.
    – muru
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 22:59
  • facepalm now that you've said this its actually quite clear from your first comment my mistake!
    – j-money
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 0:35
  • @muru Just out of curiosity, how did you find the number of your "surviving downvotes"? Can this be accessible from the user profile? Or is there something at data.stackexchange.com?
    – pomsky
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 13:25
  • 1
    @pomsky in the Activity tab of your profile, the votes section, check downvotes. You'll only see posts you have downvoted that haven't been deleted (unlike, say posts where you cast close-votes).
    – muru
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 14:12
  • @muru Ah, thanks! My surviving/total ratio seems to be 308/2166 :-)
    – pomsky
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 17:49

Quoting the mouseover help:

↑: This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.
↓: This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Quoting the help center on upvoting:

What is voting up?

Voting up is how the community indicates which questions and answers are most useful and appropriate.

When should I vote up?

Whenever you encounter a question, answer or comment that you feel is especially useful, vote it up!

What happens when I vote up?

When you vote up, you are moving that content "up" so it will be seen by more people.

Quoting the help center on downvoting:

What is voting down?

Voting down, also known as "casting downvotes", is how the community indicates which questions and answers are least useful.

When should I vote down?

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

What happens when I vote down?

When you vote down, you are nudging that content "down" the page, so it will be seen by fewer people. Voting down answers is not something we want you to take lightly, so it is not free.

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