I've recently come across a few questions with downvotes that seemed a bit harsh; I accept everyone has a different view and it's fine to accommodate differences of opinion in a community.

I got the impression that one user in particular might be regularly downvoting because they put often derisory comments on a lot of those posts with a negative score. I checked their profile out of interest - here it is:

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I'd be interested in the community's view on that ... ignore it as it'll all balance out, all of those 2855 downvotes are only one down for each question / answer? It does seem a bit of an outlier compared with other users, and to me isn't really in the spirit of what I feel AU is about - certainly not very encouraging to other users!

I'm not sure there's much of a solution to this kind of behaviour even if it's felt to be something that isn't good for the site (and maybe others don't share my view and the variation in behaviour is a good thing). I guess the alternative of censoring people who downvote too often doesn't appeal to me either. Maybe an automated alert to a user if they are downvoting more than upvoting, or something like that to get them to think before continuing?

Thanks all!

  • 1
    Well, downvoting serves a very specific purpose: to indicate that a particular question or answer is not useful: askubuntu.com/help/privileges/vote-down However if downvoting is used inappropriately (targeted downvoting, spiteful downvoting, angry-person downvoting etc) there can be a need for Mod intervention. And the issue of ' derisory comments' should also be addressed: such comments have no place on AU. Btw your excellent post uses the term 'censor', I am wondering if you actually mean 'censure'?
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 23:53
  • 5
    I think that any kind of issues calling out a particular user should be addressed with elected moderators instead of publicly on meta. That being said, I share at least your curiosity with these stats as at face value as the up/down vote ratio paired with the frequency of voting raises an eyebrow. But it's hard to pass a judgement on just this data alone. Elected mods can look at the whole profile and see if there's anything that stands out as inappropriate. I expect many of these deserve a principled, polite and non-condescending comment explaining the vote w/ suggestions to improve.
    – Nmath
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 2:54
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    I think a lot of people downvote without ever reading the question or answer. Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 5:44
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    @Nmath Indeed, there is no place on Meta for naming particular users. For elected Mod attention there is a custom flag, as Muru has mentioned, or a private chat room; whichever is easiest...
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:06
  • @andrew.46 I thought all chats were public other than a special one that only mods have access to (which I've always assumed is not on the SE chat infrastructure)? Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 19:36
  • @NotTheDr01ds A private chat room is a Mod option and is used for moderation purposes. So either created as such by a Mod or converted to private if created by a user without that privilege.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 19:49
  • @andrew.46 Ahh, that makes sense. Good to know! I probably would have asked for one of those when we were dealing with that plagiarism issue a few weeks back. I kept trying to keep things"vague" in AUGR to protect the privacy of the user. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 21:45
  • @NotTheDr01ds It is an SE preference for public chat rooms in general...
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 22:35
  • @andrew.46 - thank you. I did in fact mean censor, ie the site suppress the votes. I'm not advocating that at all!
    – Will
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 20:56

6 Answers 6


You may very well be right about this specific user, but if I can just put in my two pennies worth, I think concluding only from the raw number(s) is a bit risky.

If you go and check my profile right now, you'll find out that I have cast 3,261 upvotes and 7,369 downvotes. What you can't see is out of those 7,369 downvotes only 523 post are still surviving, rest got deleted by now. That means almost 93% of the posts downvoted by me got deleted eventually. Downvoting is an important moderation task IMO.


We can't say for sure what this person is doing but that sort of ratio isn't unusual for somebody who spends a lot of their time reviewing. There are a few review queues that expose you to posts that have already been flagged in some way as being bad and they're likely to attract more votes down, for closure and for deletion than the main question queue might.

You might expect more balance but not downvoting doesn't automatically mean it deserves an upvote. Consider actions like:

  • Fix the post to make it acceptable. Doesn't mean it's good though.
  • Post feedback to help the OP make their own post better.
  • Just marking "Looks OK", because it might be just okay. Not every post is a star.

And some people save upvotes for genuinely interesting posts which are comparatively rare, especially in certain review queues.

Obviously people can take this too far too. If you think it goes outside the standard curve, said, flag the user and the mods can attempt to intervene if they think it's an actual problem.


I don't know about this specific user, but in general, yes:

We should be thankful for users who spend time downvoting.

If anything, we should have an alert for people who upvote far more often than they downvote. There is no shortage of well-meaning but confused folks who upvote objectively poor posts out of sympathy (Oooh, somebody downvoted this new user's post, how dare they be so heartless! Oh, this rant gave me a laugh, let's upvote it!). Something needs to be done about these users because they make it difficult to clean up the site. Thankfully we have users who also take the time to downvote regularly.

If you have an issue about one specific user's actions, raise a custom moderator flag on one of their posts describing the issue in as much detail as you can.

  • 3
    So you honestly don't believe a person with 25-30 times more downvotes than upvotes have a negatively skewed bias? I personally believe that, and I also know for certain that it can be (and has been) an issue for the site (that was handled accordingly). Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 20:24
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    (a) Whether I do or do not, that's not for us to handle - that's what we have moderators for (see last para), and (b) if we do go on witch hunts of users with extreme skews, I believe the upvote-happy ones are more damaging and should be handled with priority over downvote-happy ones.
    – muru
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 0:07
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    The number of my upvotes is a multiplication of my downvotes, but can't recognize myself in the generalization of your happy upvoters. I downvote if I see an answer that is utterly wrong or harmful, or answers that stay in a very poor state after comments to improve, or cannot be saved by an good edit anyway. Over time (really) often saw downvotes on posts that must have been for reasons of taste, or simply "I am having a bad day, feel like shooting at something". Then finally, there are indeed a few silly upvotes on bad posts. Pretty sure they are outnumbered by dubious downvotes though. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 6:41
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    @JacobVlijm well, for generalizations, note that downvoting is only allowed at > 125 rep, but upvoting is allowed at > 15 rep. According to the SEDE, there are ~50k of the former vs ~ 300k of the latter (6x). You'd have to have downvote-happy users doing 6x what upvote happy people do to even come close to matching the potential damage.
    – muru
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:30
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    And that's not even counting the regular influx of people from other SE sites every time a question hits the HNQ - these users often just have the association bonus and can upvote but not downvote, leading to the out-of-proportion numbers of upvotes on HNQ posts. I strongly doubt the number of people reaching 125 rep rises as fast.
    – muru
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:32
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    @JacobVlijm on average, 37.2 percent of all non-registered users votes are downvotes vs merely 10.8 percent of registered ones, despite having almost the same amount of votes. I would argue that we need more downvotes.
    – Braiam
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 13:25

Thank you to all the contributors - it's been a great education for me and good to see the indepth discussion. I absolutely love the variety of the answers all of which are intelligent and eloquent.

My view has changed significantly as a result of this - I genuinely asked the original question as I thought the voting pattern was rogue and not good for the site.

I've now got a lot more respect for the downvoters! I'm grateful for that perspective.

I think my final position is that I will continue to be more of an upvoter than a downvoter - I think as c.s.cameron says, upvotes probably carry enough information for the site. Posts that are just bad can be flagged (and I do that in preference to downvoting) but I do see the role for downvotes. I also think I am probably a bit of a trigger-happy upvoter and my position has moved significantly on that too.

The main issue for me about downvotes is that it is deeply discouraging to the recipient - it's in red (not green), it drops your reputation, everything about it is (literally) negative - and I'd hate to discourage people at the earliest stages of their journey in Linux or the site. Of course we shouldn't reward poor Qs or As on the site, so I will pause before upvoting mediocre posts - in all honesty I'm guilty of that previously (though I've never upvoted a poor post to counter what I think is an unfair downvote) - but I still think better to post a comment encouraging an edit rather than just downvoting. But I do accept muru's comment that my excessive upvoting is probably as bad as any excessive downvoting - so thank you again. I do like the idea of leaving a constructive comment and if the post is left as poor quality, or if the OP keeps doing things they're asked not to, then later downvoting.

In the interests of transparency, my upvotes (1059) are currently >100x my downvotes (9) ... but I've placed 330 helpful flags suggesting inappropriate posts. I'm sure that places me firmly in the outliers for upvotes to downvotes ratio and I'll be a bit more of a downvoter in future!

And as a special thank you to everyone who's answered, I've upvoted every answer here :)

  • The point about upvoting wasn't about you specifically - if you check the answer I linked to, it's the same point I was making 4 years ago.
    – muru
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 1:47
  • @muru - thank you - I honestly didn’t take it personally but really liked your perspective on it.
    – Will
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 5:06

I got the impression that one user in particular might be regularly downvoting

The system will nuke this user. Someday.

I think a lot of people downvote without ever reading the question or answer. – C.S.Cameron

The few I did are mostly more out of anger than anything else :-D Like a user constantly ignoring basic rules of AU. Excessive commenting when told not to. I often retract them too :D

  • Heh, you'll only be able to retract after an additional edit, or an immediate retract. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 13:04
  • There are ways around that :=)
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 13:04
  • @Rinzwind: Please explain the way around it. I have executed 560 upvotes and 44 downvotes. Sometimes I think I have been a little hasty with a downvote just because the OP is a rude idiot. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 15:01

Down votes are garbage. They are a favorite with online sadists and are not required on this site. Up votes carry enough information on their own. No site that abuses users will last long. The ability to down vote should be removed from this site. or prolific down voters should be banned.


I think my score on this answer is proof of what I say. Imagine so many downvotes for suggesting that people should be kinder.

  • 3
    I'm respectfully downvoting your answer, since I don't entirely agree with your sentiment. I still hope you have a fantastic day! 😎 Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:14
  • @Artur Meinild: Thanks for informing me, now I have a target for all my unused down votes. 😎 Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:19
  • 1
    Haha thanks - I guess! 😁😅 Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:23
  • He may not be kidding.!
    – David
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 14:49
  • 10
    These downvotes are not due to the suggestion that people should be kinder. The downvotes are probably (at least mine is) due to your approach in your message. Down votes are garbage I don't agree with that, I don't think you do either as you have your own downvotes. They're important when used properly as they can push bad posts down. The next part is basically calling downvoters "sadists". And finally, prolific downvoters (and upvoters!) do get banned if they go on a voting spree and the system detects that.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 15:12

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