I have a specific question in mind and will provide it if needed but I'm asking in general for now. In any case, a downvote should be accompanied by a suitable comment so should I just comment and not downvote? It does feel odd to downvote a "competing" answer.
11Would you downvote it if you hadn't answered?– nanofaradJul 12, 2012 at 19:09
I like this. Could you delete your comment and post it as an answer? I'll accept it.– user25656Jul 13, 2012 at 3:01
2The key to downvoting is to do so with commentary. It keeps the voting process constructive and lends to understanding for the person who was downvoted, the OP and passerby.– Brandon BertelsenJul 16, 2012 at 0:25
cf. tactical downvoting and this answer.– Maxime R.Jul 16, 2012 at 13:49
The main rule of thumb I would use is to ignore the fact that you answered it, and use regular downvoting rules depending on how you downvote. In one sentence:
If you hadn't answered it, would you downvote?
Especially, you shouldn't downvote early to get your answer up for the OP and others to vote on more, and you shouldn't do this just out of jealousy for another answer. In my opinion, these are strict no-no's.
This has been made community-wiki, so feel free to contribute with edits.
This is really personal preference, but if you did downvote something I would definitely leave a comment saying why you downvoted it.
As for downvoting a competing answer, don't look at it as a competing answer. Look at "Answers" as possible solutions to the problem. The "answer" is chosen by the person who asked the original question, and if they choose the other "answer" then it will display at the top regardless of your downvote.
4That's not always true, Answers are sorted by user preference (Active, Oldest, Votes) it is possible for an answer to show up higher than the "selected" answer, especially if it out weighs it in many votes. Jul 10, 2012 at 11:36
Thanks for the correction, I meant the default behaviour as far as I've seen. And if the other answer outweighs it by many votes then I'm sure it would contain vital information that would be helpful to others as well. Jul 10, 2012 at 13:37
You shouldn't downvote to be vindictive, but you can absolutely downvote answers that don't answer the question or are just bad answers. Downvotes cost you rep, which encourages judicious use of them, but if you think the downvote is warranted the fact that you have a better answer shouldn't stop you.
If you think, the proposed answer is not really an answer, i.e It doesn't do anything with the question asked (And you are sure about this), Then it is OK to downvote it. My personal opinion is, It is your duty to downvote a really bad answer. But... If you have hesitation about the answer's usefulness, Don't downvote that answer. It is good to see all answers in the same view, regardless of whether they are competing or not.
First point I'd like to make. This is not a competition. There is no competition here. We are all about helping each other.
As for down voting answers to the same question to which you have answered, for me is not a necessity. How would you feel if your answer will be down voted?
I would agree to down voting answers as well as questions if and only if the answer is NOT useful, and if it would also result to more harm than good to the asker. Other than that, you should just leave a comment.
+1 Good point for the no competition part. I also downvote less because of the second reason :D Jul 12, 2012 at 15:38
It is competing in the limited sense that only one answer is accepted. I disagree with "This is not a competition. There is no competition here." There is, or there should be, an incentive to provide a better answer.– user25656Jul 12, 2012 at 18:25
There is an incentive and that's all there is to it. We shouldn't be knocking each other around by down voting other answers or questions to get ahead on the rep points. I'm just saying. Peace.– PeachyJul 13, 2012 at 2:08
1I'm sorry I managed somehow to convey that impression. The fact that I asked this question in the first place should give people a clue about whether there's an intent to knock "each other around by down voting other answers or questions to get ahead on the rep points." or to be vindictive. I think this comment gives me the guidance I need rather succintly: Would you downvote it if you hadn't answered?– user25656Jul 13, 2012 at 2:57
No apologies needed. @ObsessiveFoss' comment makes sense though.– PeachyJul 13, 2012 at 8:41