I have been an on-and-off user of AskUbuntu for 10 years. Coming back this year I notice that the majority of questions on the front page have a -1, often already within the hour after they are asked.

In my recollection this wasn't the case before. Downvoting wasn't something to do lightly, and when you did there would occasionaly be a (moderator) comment "if you downvote, please explain why you did so".

This seems to be different now. I just counted, and of the top 20 questions 4 have a 0 score. 16 have -1 or less.

I can't disagree with the -1s. Questions are worse than they were 10 years ago, when measured against AU policy and the "how to ask a good question" guidelines. Many are little more than "X doesn't work, please help" and deserve a downvote.

I suppose this is the "eternal September" of Ubuntu (yes, I'm old enough to have lived through Usenet's eternal September) and I can only be happy for the many people discovering it. But it's been a bit of a bummer for AU.

Anyway, my question is: has policy on downvoting changed and/or is it OK to downvote a bad question without leaving a comment?

  • To add: I found a very helpful answer here on the question whether it is OK to downvote without comment. But this leaves my question on whether policy on this has changed.
    – zwets
    Jan 21 at 20:30
  • 1
    There was never a policy per se except against serial downvoting, which is usually not the case. The only 'recommendation' is that those who downvote leave a comment as to why, but it's not enforced in any way.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jan 21 at 22:58
  • Sadly, like on StackOverflow, I have suffered the misfortune of encountering people who just downvote everything on the front page. This phenomenon seems to be more consistent on AskUbuntu. Based on the fact you can see that users lose reputation when they downvote, you can see that it's mostly 1 user doing this. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad—it appears that most questions might not have long-term relevance, and everything is being downvoted perhaps in order to balance out the upvotes or enable automatic deletion.
    – Daniel T
    Jan 22 at 2:52
  • 1.) I remember to have seen a large thread on meta.SE, where iirc Jeff Atwood (a co-founder of SO) defends the policy of not demanding that a downvote is accompanied by an explanatory comment. 2.) regarding specific user(s) engaging in downvote-sprees: this behaviour had been called out here on meta.AU before, and I seem to remember that around the same time a new feature had shown up in user profiles (on the Activity tab) which reveals the vote counts of users, exposing anomalies in voting habits.
    – Levente
    Jan 23 at 11:13
  • I really doubt it was mods who left such comments. There has never been a rule (or even a suggestion) that downvoting should be avoided. If anything, we don't vote (in either direction) enough, but I've never seen moderators asking people to explain downvotes. Not on AU, nor on any other site.
    – terdon
    Jan 23 at 18:32
  • @terdon you can well be right that it wasn't mods. This is from my recollection of apparent long-timers saying this, and me (not knowing there even was a difference between high-rep users and mods) taking this seriously. I mostly refrained from downvoting from then on, also because once I can justify the downvote it's usually pathological enough for a close vote.
    – zwets
    Jan 23 at 19:38
  • Yeah, that's exactly why such comments aren't very useful :) Downvoting is essential, without it, if we only upvote or don't even vote, the whole site mechanics breaks down and we're back to Yahoo Answers. So please do downvote whenever you feel a question "does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful" (quoted from the mouse-over when you hover on the downvote).
    – terdon
    Jan 23 at 19:41
  • I was about to ask the same question. I have been editing the first questions for two months and am seeing many questions especially the first question getting a -1 vote. I check for any comment for the reason of downvote but there seems to be nothing. Questions like this seem good to me so if a comment was written about why it got a downvoted, it would be helpful.
    – Ajay
    Feb 5 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


It's OK to downvote a bad question, but it would also be a nice and recommended gesture to leave a comment explaining what could be improved.

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