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I recently posted a question that received excessive down votes in addition to being closed.

Are practices of such kind discouraged? Is it necessary that so many different users should express the same reaction, despite the question also being closed anyway?

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  • I think there are many existing meta threads explaining downvotes, but I can't seem to find them right now .. 😬 Nov 9 at 19:35
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    In your particular case, I don't think the downvotes were necessary, but you can't really control how other people feel and think. I believe it was downvotes because you had misunderstood the scope of this site. Nov 9 at 19:41
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    @ThomasWard, It's a different issue than the general subject of down votes. We have a particular case of sheer excess. Obviously, I get the point, and I wasn't trying to do any great harm. I am hoping to suggest that once action is taken makes the point clear, nothing is gained by more users doing the same.
    – user199972
    Nov 9 at 20:09
  • See also meta.askubuntu.com/questions/15858/…
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 9:40
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    I have edited the question to make it not opinion-based. Please have a look and feel free to change anything you think I misinterpreted. Nov 10 at 19:25
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    @BeastOfCaerbannog, If there is a path for reopening the question with your modifications, then I have no objection. It remains quite opaque to me why changes that appear so subtle to me would make such an important difference to anyone else, but I accept your help satisfying the objections.
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 20:12
  • @epl I have already voted to reopen it, so it's in the Reopen votes queue and will be handled by the community. Let's see what it decides. Nov 10 at 20:19
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    @epl The way a question is stated can very easily make it unclear, opinion-based, or perfectly on-topic. The wording plays a big part in it. From my experience, questions that don't have a final, clearly-stated, main question can be wrongly received as unclear or opinion-based. In your original post there was your own opinion after your main question, which could be perceived as the answer by some and make the question more like a statement to criticize and not like a post looking for answers. Nov 10 at 20:31
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    There have been 3 reopen votes, including my own, so the challenge is there now to produce a definitive answer for a question that has certainly landed in a grey zone of applicability for AU.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Nov 10 at 20:55
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    Thank you @BeastOfCaerbannog for your subtle editing knife. This community is very lucky to have you.
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 11 at 1:19
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    Thank you epl for your impressive patience and persistence
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 11 at 1:27
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    Thank you @andrew.46 for your careful work
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 11 at 1:56
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    Thank you to all who have helped. My experiences, as summated by BeastOfCaerbannog and others, will give me cause to consider, for future needs, alternatives over SE/Ubuntu. The SE network unites an immensity of knowledge and enthusiasm, but its design also encourages groupthink, and at times generates factions with tendencies that are almost Orwellian. The current discussion elucidates an impulse that not simply emphasizes high standards, but also sanctifies specific nuances of preference and perspective, to a point of utter intolerance, that in turn makes participation intolerable.
    – user199972
    Nov 11 at 9:40
  • Thank you again to those who helped. I am not exactly sure what will happen now, whether this comment will even be preserved, because I intend to delete my account on AU. After the ordeal for preserving the question, it only returned a net count of zero votes. Meanwhile it received one answer, which gained up votes despite containing crucial errors. Two attempts of mine to post comments indicating the problems were met by distinct waves of deletion, with reactions dismissing the comments as "debate" rather than "trying to add value".
    – user199972
    Nov 16 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

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Many people, including myself, try to encourage others to vote up or down according to particular criteria for various reasons. Ultimately though, the culture on Stack Exchange tends to leave the matter to the voter's discretion, unless votes are targeted at a particular user, which is considered abuse.

One reason for downvoting that newcomers are unlikely to be aware of is to encourage deletion of the post. Closed questions are deleted automatically after a certain period, if their score is zero or less. Users with more than 10k reputation may vote to delete any closed question after 3 days since the closure, and users with more than 20k may vote to delete a question with a score of -3 or less immediately. Even open questions are automatically deleted after a while if they are unanswered and have a negative score (or eventually if they have a zero score if they have low views and less than 2 comments). These features help clear away content that is not useful.

On this basis, I encourage people to downvote even questions that are already closed or already have a negative score, if downvoting is warranted.

But I do observe that voting tends to pile on... we see both downvotes and upvotes accummulating. I wonder at times if we feel so much pressure to cast votes, because voting is encouraged, that we vote in agreement rather than on making an independent judgement, because the latter is harder work...

By the way, I am not sure your particular question warrants downvoting. I am not sure what you are really seeking. I think voters perceived your question as a kind of feature request to Canonical, or alternatively as a prompt for a discussion. Neither belong on this site - feature requests should be made on Launchpad, and discussion is ill suited to our format or scope - our goal is to produce a high quality reference library. However, taking your question at face value, it does not seem to me a bad question, nor does it seem opinion based, because experts on Ubuntu will be able to answer it on the basis of fact. Perhaps there is some edit you can make to your question to make it clearer that you are requesting expert explanation, if that is indeed what you hope to receive.

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  • What edit do you propose? It eludes me why the question is controversial or confusing. Every product and project carries numerous trade offs in policy and design, some accidental and some intentional. Every Linux-based OS represents some combination of an enormous number of subtle trade offs in history and decisions. Obviously, Canonical is aware of the the major differences between its products and competitors. I have understood that even Canonical has expressed some dismay regarding the current usage of PPAs, against a lack of alternative. To me the question is completely sound.
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 11:57
  • A few excellent observations & reasoning in your answer. Especially the piling on of votes, first votes often decide the direction. Voting in general is useful and a good indication, individual cases make no sense sometimes however, and like in real life, people find it difficult to have an opinion against what seems mainstream. Nov 10 at 12:05
  • @epl I don't know what would be best - if I did, I would try to edit the post myself. The question indeed seems fine to me. Perhaps you could simply write a concluding sentence/paragraph directing attention to the kind of answer you hope to receive - an explanation of the benefits of the system chosen by Canonical, or its history and the difficulty of restructuring? Sorry not to be more helpful in this. After rereading your question again I have edited my post above.
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 13:15
  • @JacobVlijm thank you! :) I don't know what arrangement of forces would encourage greater thoughtfulness of voting. I myself am basically a slapdash person, alas.
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 13:17
  • I have opened a question on Meta (the real Meta).
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 16:06
  • by the way @epl your question was unilaterally closed by a moderator, there were no other close votes.
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 16:08
  • Are you able to identify which one (or should I make a guess from context)?
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 16:11
  • @epl see the initial comment stating that the question is off-topic - sorry I forgot that close voters are no longer shown to everyone :(
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 16:16
  • So can the question be opened in principle, and if so, what is required? I am asking from a standpoint of the automatic system, not from changing minds. I fear the latter would remain elusive anyway.
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 16:17
  • Yes, it can be reopened by reopen votes. Any edit to the body of the question would trigger a reopen review. But reopen votes can be cast outside of the review. @epl
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 16:36
  • Thankfully the text has already attracted the attention of a typographer.
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 16:40
  • @epl Well -- Not "any edit". While I did edit based on the bold/italic, I did not mark the "This edit resolves the original issue" checkbox, since it doesn't change the meaning of the post. I just made that edit to hopefully discourage other downvotes (see my answer). Nov 10 at 17:01
  • Darn, I forgot about that new feature as well
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 17:04
  • @epl And while Zanna has expressed her opinion that she wouldn't have closed the question, she can't (AFAIK) "vote to reopen", as a Mod's vote is unilateral and would absolutely reopen your question. It's rare for one Mod to directly override the decision of another Mod, but I'd guess they'll probably discuss it in their Mod-channel. Unfortunately, there are no other "Reopen" votes at the moment. Nov 10 at 17:04
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    @NotTheDr01ds:) I am more unwilling to override what seems to be a rather general consensus that the question can't be answered within our scope, alas. I appreciate your answer, thanks for writing it.
    – Zanna Mod
    Nov 10 at 17:10
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Are practices of such kind discouraged?

That's a tough one. As @Zanna said your question wasn't bad. It's just possible that some users saw it as not being a great fit for this site. As @Zanna mentioned, downvotes on questions are important to "help along the Roomba."

But for reasonable questions like yours, that are closed as off-topic, I personally would never downvote if the score was already -2 or lower. I do see this as "piling on", and discouraging to the OP (you, in this case, of course).

That said, sometimes when there's a -2 score, one or two more users will come along and do a (presumably) "sympathy upvote" that can return the score to Roomba-ineligible status.

However, it seems to me that the "Stack Exchange" auto-ban algorithms also likely take into account the number of downvotes on questions. You certainly won't be temp-banned for a single "bad question", but having other downvoted questions combined with this "highly downvoted" question could trigger a ban faster than having just several "slightly downvoted" questions. This is all complete theory on my part, as we don't know how the actual algorithms are implemented (intentionally so).

For this reason, I would only "pile-on" on a really bad question where corrective behavior for the user may be warranted if they repeat the behavior consistently.


In addition to the reasons that @Zanna mentions about people seeing your question as a "feature request" to Canonical, there's also the possibility that some users saw a lot of bold text in your question and voted because they perceive that as shouting, similar to ALL CAPS.

I personally do not like a lot of bold text in a post. It seems unnecessary to me, and jarring, and it does look a lot like Internet shouting, even though I know you didn't mean it that way. I didn't see or vote on your question prior to seeing this Meta question, but if I saw a question that I felt was off-topic, and it had excessive bold, that would usually garner a downvote from me.

I would propose a light emphasis is typically more appropriate for posts, and I've made that edit your post.


As for whether it is "Opinion-based", I respect @Zanna's views a lot, but I would still consider this one as being (just slightly) "too subjective" to fit here at first glance. I don't arrive at this view on the basis that "Only Canonical can answer it." However, it seems to me that answers to it must inherently discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods, and it feels like answers would far too easily devolve into the type of "Discussion Answers" that we try to avoid here.

But while I wouldn't personally vote-to-reopen, I definitely wouldn't "pile on" downvotes here either ;-).

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  • You're implying here that a user should be "considerate" when downvoting, and take into account if there are existing downvotes. I'm not sure I agree with that. If I downvote a question, it's because I find it not fitting for the site in its current form, and that's the signal I want to send. In that case, I wouldn't like to restrain myself, just because a number of other users share the same opinion. Then if the OP reacts to the feedback, I'll also quickly remove my downvote if the question is fixed. Nov 15 at 11:05
  • However, I rarely think this will be a real issue, but just for principles sake, I'd like to voice my opinion with up- or downvotes, no matter how many else shares it. If this ever turns out to be a problem, then probably the auto-ban threshold should be adjusted instead. Ohh, and good post BTW! 👍😎 Nov 15 at 11:06
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    @ArturMeinild Just to be clear, I'm not directing users to vote any particular way in this post. As I said, just my personal viewpoint on how I vote. I personally do consider existing downvotes on a question/answer before I vote -- { 1 downvote: who knows? } { 2-4: probably something "wrong" with the question } { 5-6: a bad question } Nov 15 at 20:30
  • Yes, I know! I guess I was just trying to say that noone should feel bad about downvoting, even if a question already has downvotes, just as a poster shouldn't feel bad about getting 5+ downvotes - maybe the wolves were just out - but instead should think about how the question could be improved (since hopefully a downvote is accompanied by constructive feedback). Nov 15 at 21:08
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Voting is important. It is an essential element of how our site is moderated. Useful questions get voted up. Questions that are not useful get voted down.

Those with the vote down privilege are supposed to vote down when a question is not useful or appropriate for our site. Questions that are off-topic like the one you asked are considered not useful and therefore it is a responsibility of community moderators to vote it down.

Users are not able to vote multiple times. You received multiple down votes because multiple users determined that your question was off-topic or otherwise not useful.

In addition to all of this, your question was likely perceived by most downvoters as a complaint or a "rant in disguise". In my experience, users are much less forgiving of someone who makes a post just to rant.

If you find yourself in a situation where you've realized that you've made post to a SE site where the community is clearly not in agreement that your post is appropriate, then you have the ability to "stop the bleeding" by self deleting your own post. This action will prevent any new votes from being cast. Calling more attention to it may just subject you to even more down votes.

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    If users continue to vote down simply because I drew attention to the question, then it would seem that the community is afflicted by a bad attitude. Each successive down vote incurs a harsher penalty for the user who wrote a post, so other users ought to consider whether their vote actually carries any incremental value, or not. It is further puzzling why a question as mine would be considered a rant, as I had taken care to ensure it accurate and balanced. If a user posts a question about sound not working on a laptop, is it just a rant about being unable to watch a movie?
    – user199972
    Nov 9 at 21:30
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    The reputation penalty for downvotes is also part of how the site is designed. There should be some penalty for posting bad answers or posting questions that are not useful. Because Ask Ubuntu is community moderated, a non trivial amount of moderation time is spent in dealing with bad questions and answers. It usually takes at least five users to review and close a bad question. It's easy to fix: a single upvote will erase the reputation loss from five downvotes. If you can contribute in a meaningful useful way and avoid posting bad content, then you don't have anything to worry about.
    – Nmath
    Nov 9 at 21:39
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    As I say, the point of concern for me is whether the user is considering whether casting yet another vote in the same direction, exarcerbating an existing penalty, is truly helpful. When voters compete, the total count of votes is meaningful as a measure. When all responses are negative, nothing is being measured except the number of users who wish to cause the penalty to become yet more severe.
    – user199972
    Nov 9 at 21:52
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    The documentation you referenced, I am afraid, does not support your case. It explains that down voting is appropriate if a question shows minimal effort or comprehension, but suggests closing a question as an alternative to down voting, appropriate for off-topic questions. While the system does not prevent down voting a closed question, or ones being targeting for closing, the guidelines cast doubt on the wisdom of doing so.
    – user199972
    Nov 10 at 10:01

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