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My title says it all. Yes, I know this has been asked before. Allow me to break it down to the basic Ask Ubuntu core values. According to the Tour page, one should:

Improve posts by editing or commenting

and:

Our goal is to have the best answers to every question, so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them.

So how can a downvote escape these principles without any edit or comment?

Example case in point is my answer in PowerShell-like history auto suggestion for Bash, which is downvoted without explanation. My comment in my answer:

Down-votes don't bother me much. I am here to help people to the best of my ability. What bothers me is when I take the time to make a honest effort to answer the OP question and it gets met with a down-vote without explanation. I can assure you, I am not discouraged from your lack of feedback. – stumblebee

To be clear:

This isn't just about my answer. I see alot of answers and questions that get downvoted for no good apparent reason and without explanation. I can't help thinking this is done maliciously. When I see this, I upvote.

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    Interestingly enough this is not addressed here: askubuntu.com/help/privileges/vote-down And unfortunately this page cannot be edited by elected Mods...
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:42
  • With all due respect, The web page you referenced states: Downvoting is not meant as a substitute for communication and editing. It is a part of Ask Ubuntu core values, which is untouchable even by elected Moderators.
    – stumblebee
    Nov 26, 2023 at 7:29
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    I didn't vote on that answer, but it's kinda obvious why someone might though. It doesn't show how to get the feature that OP is looking for, but some other related feature. Now you might want to argue about how related it is and how sincere your effort is and all, but none of that changes that it isn't what's asked. (Of course OP might still upvote and even accept your answer.) And whoever downvoted it probably doesn't want to get into that argument.
    – muru
    Nov 26, 2023 at 10:06
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    (To be clear, I am not interested in getting into such arguments either, which is why I downvoted this post.)
    – muru
    Nov 26, 2023 at 10:10
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    @stumblebee Andrew said that this is not addressed in the link he gave, so he wasn't contradicting you.
    – terdon
    Nov 26, 2023 at 11:37
  • @terdon and andrew I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound that way.
    – stumblebee
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:18
  • @muru I apppreciate your thoughts and honesty.
    – stumblebee
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:52
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    @stumblebee No problem! What I meant to say is that I would dearly like to alter that page to strongly suggest that a downvote should have a suitable comment attached to the relevant answer or question but elected Mods cannot actually edit that page.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Nov 27, 2023 at 0:59
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    @andrew.46 Thumbs up! I knew what you meant but I failed to communicate it properly. At the end of the day, We are both on the same page!
    – stumblebee
    Nov 27, 2023 at 2:03

2 Answers 2

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I agree with @muru that the reason for the downvotes is most likely that your answer doesn't exactly address the OP's question, rather offers an alternative. And this seems quite clear. One would expect that being this clear should have made it very easy for the people who downvoted your answer to provide a comment with their reasoning, and your frustration is understandable.

So if your question here is intended as a means to express your frustration about the unexplained downvotes, then I totally can understand that. And it's okay for you to feel like that. If on the other hand your question is meant as a statement against downvoting in general, then I cannot agree with it. Downvoting is essential for the site to work properly (see @terdon's answer), even if sometimes it's not used as well as it should.

You (all of us) just have to accept that sometimes you'll get downvotes without an explanation and move on to your next great answer!

PS: Your answer has also received some upvotes, which means that some users actually find it useful! So don't fixate on the unexplained downvotes only, but also on the useful side of the post you've provided!


Edit:

This isn't just about my answer. I see alot of answers and questions that get downvoted for no good apparent reason and without explanation. I can't help thinking this is done maliciously. When I see this, I upvote.

I understand that, but I'm not sure if most downvotes without explanation have malicious intent or if they are a result of poor understanding of the post (I mostly believe that the latter is the most frequent case). Most of the time this poor understanding can be attributed either to the lack of clarity of the post, so the OP is to be "blamed", or to the lack of willingness of a reader/downvoter of the post to try to understand what the OP (who very often is not a native speaker or a Linux guru) might wanted to say, so the reader/downvoter is to be "blamed".

In any case, what we can do is:

  • Lead by example and try to justify our downvotes as often as we can.

  • Try to see what a downvoter could have seen as wrong with a post and let the OP know, so they can fix it, or maybe we try to fix that ourselves by editing.

  • Upvote the post if we find it useful, but of course not upvote it just because it got a downvote without explanation.

  • Visit the Raiders of the Lost Downboat chatroom, our special room dedicated to moderation (see The 'Raiders of the Lost Downboat' chat room), and let the people there know about a post that was wrongly downvoted, so they may try and fix the votes of the post by upvoting or editing it.

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This is a subject that has been raised dozens of times both here and on the main meta, and it is indeed a reasonable suggestion if you don't have much experience with Stack Exchange. However, it is a fundamentally bad suggestion as I hope you will understand if you read some of the links or just the FAQ answer to the main meta post, whose bullet points I reproduce below:

  • Voting is, first and foremost, a content rating system. Rather than being a way of communicating with the author, downvotes are a way of communicating to future readers that a post is not useful, doesn't show much research effort, or is not a good fit for the site. If someone wants to leave a comment to communicate with the author, they can always do so, independent of the voting system.

  • In the vast majority of cases, nothing needs to be clarified. The tooltip on the downvote arrow already explains what a downvote means, and it is specific for questions and answers. In most cases, the "comment" in the tooltip already adequately explains the logic behind the downvote, so an additional comment would just be wasted effort and noise.

  • Any requirement could be trivially circumvented by entering gibberish or something unconstructive like "this is bad". Detecting and stopping those who enter such stuff through moderation/administrative action is simply not feasible on a network with millions of users.

  • It may not feel that way to you at the moment, but downvoters are doing the site a service, and making voting more difficult would impede the site's most important quality-control tool. Voting is ad-hoc and frictionless by design! Voting separates good content from bad, and makes the good content more visible. This is essential for the platform to work, even if it sometimes feels mean. If a vote is in error—which can always happen—the expectation is that the "swarm intelligence" of future viewers will eventually correct the problem. A single vote is nothing, really. What matters is the sum of all votes, which is why we only display the aggregate score.

  • Scale. Stack Exchange sites get thousands of questions every day overall. Many of them are of poor quality, or just not a good fit for the site they are asked on. It is beyond human capability to respond to each one of those bad or misplaced questions with custom-tailored advice. It would drain too much time and energy from the unpaid volunteers who answer questions and help users.

  • If downvoting is made more difficult, then upvoting would need to be made correspondingly more difficult. The system uses downvotes and upvotes to filter out the "good" content from the "bad." If consequence-free downvoting is a problem, then, logically, consequence-free upvoting is, too, because it potentially marks low-quality content as "good".

  • Documentation on how to ask a good question is made easily available for those willing to read it. Stack Exchange's rules are special and arcane, but it's not like there hasn't been a lot written on the topic; in addition to the help pages, there are also comprehensive FAQ questions written by Meta community members, with the tag. Similarly, we provide extensive guidance on how to answer questions.

  • Leaving a comment accompanying a downvote can lead to negative consequences, like revenge downvoting and even off-site harassment. Many experienced users will tell you that they used to leave helpful comments along with their downvotes, but have stopped doing so because of the unpleasant blowback they received from some unreasonable users. Even for those users who remain rational, commenting about votes almost inevitably leads to extended, off-topic discussions, which we strive to avoid.

  • Stack Exchange, Inc. is actually doing a hell of a lot to make the place feel more friendly. The past few years have seen tons of discussions, initiatives, UI changes, help center updates and renovations, experiments like mentoring, and more—all aimed at making starting out on Stack Exchange a more pleasant experience without compromising on quality. (Actually, a lot of veteran users feel that site's owners are putting too much emphasis on making the site feel nice, for the sake of traffic—which translates into money—over quality; regardless of whether they're right or not, it is not accurate to say nothing is being done. It's just a really tough problem.)

  • We can't accommodate everyone. There will always be more question-askers out there than there are competent answerers. You can't overburden the latter by allowing a huge quantity of bad or badly-fitting questions into the system—you'd destroy the entire system, and hence prevent any questions from getting answered. Not getting to ask your question on Stack Exchange isn't a death sentence; many veterans have questions every day that they don't ask on Stack Exchange because they know they wouldn't be a good fit under the current model. The resources those veterans turn to to solve their problems are usually open to everyone on the Internet—they just take time, effort, and sometimes periods of frustration to understand. There are also other, more mentoring-oriented resources to turn to.

* On meta sites, downvoting is used to indicate disagreement with feature requests. But it's the same thing: the votes are a way of communicating to future readers (including the Stack Exchange team) that a certain feature request is overall disagreed.

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