The whole Stack Exchange concept is great. But there is one thing I do not understand.

A small logic chain would be:

  1. A new user creates a poorly written question. Very specific. About ~100 views. Let's face it: This happens all the time.

  2. I see the question and downvote it. That's part of the concept to use downvotes for bad questions. This should encourage users to improve their question.

  3. A new user comes back after some days. He wonders why he got -1 and edited the question. In fact, the question is now fine. The SU system has worked - wohoo

And here comes the system flaw in my opinion. I will never notice this edit and so I will never withdraw my downvote

  1. The user comes back after some month and notices that his question still is at -1. He's frustrated and decides that edits are worthless.

There is actually a five-years-old, similar question at meta.stackexchange which has the status-declined tag. It has no accepted answer and the most upvoted answer is a good idea too

Or you could have a passive listing in your recent history area where you can see a recent list of edited questions [and answers] of things you have "upvoted", "downvoted", "commented"

Passive means: No notification

My question is: If we should use downvotes to encourage users to improve their content, why do we not reward them if they do? It's rare enough. Explain this to me.

Edit: Wow. This is the second most wanted feature which got rejected (448 upvotes).
meta.stackexchange » tag:status-declined » sort by Votes. That's an interesting list

  • 1
    My sentiments, exactly. meta.superuser.com/questions/8623/…
    – fixer1234
    Nov 23, 2014 at 20:34
  • Still trying to figure out how 1&2 works? Person shows up at my BBQ , and doesnt bring a bottle of wine, dog jumps them at the door , and bites them. Next time they will bring the bottle of wine? And of course the invitation said nothing about the bottle of wine, it only said "anyone can come" :-) Is it possible that it would be just as effective to tell the person a bottle of wine was a requirement or the dog will bite you? Or to have on the invitation that you should be prepared to have a dog bite you, as soon as you show up?
    – Psycogeek
    Nov 23, 2014 at 20:40
  • 6
    To answer your question, downvotes are not for the purpose of encouraging modification. They are to show displeasure that someone thoughtlessly sullied the site with a bad question or answer and to brand the question/answer forever with a scarlet letter. There can be no redemption from such a transgression, and the continued existence of the question or answer is a constant reminder of its flawed history. Only retention of the downvotes can assuage the pain of having to look again upon its presence. Having experienced that wrath, the user may be more careful next time.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 24, 2014 at 1:00
  • @fixer1234 But having put a bad question is not something which cannot be "forgiven" if you edit it later. If I'd come across a question which has significantly improved after I downvoted it, I would revoke my -1 and maybe even give a +1. And I find thid perfectly ok. So if the reason for a -1 doesn't hold any longer, I wouldn't see why someone who -1ed shouldn't be told about that.
    – glglgl
    Nov 24, 2014 at 12:34
  • 4
    @glglgl - My bad. I should have put a smiley face at the end of my post. Figured nobody would miss the absurdity.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 24, 2014 at 15:08
  • Downvotes shouldn't appear until a minimal number of downvotes are recorded to prevent downvotes for unknown reasons by a single voter. This limit could be bypassed only if the person provides a reason for the downvote with its ID. In this case the poster could improve the question and let the voter know. That would allow to identify people who downvote wrongly, and THIS behavior would be subject to the comment of 'fixer1234'too: " There can be no redemption from such a transgression, and the continued existence of the question or answer is a constant reminder of its flawed history".
    – mins
    Nov 27, 2014 at 5:59

3 Answers 3


A new user creates a poorly written question. Very specific. ...snip... [You] see the question and downvote it. That's part of the concept to use downvotes for bad questions.

I've always been of the opinion that we shouldn't be downvoting for grammatical/wording issues. Instead, we should be editing the question to make it better. i.e. Bad Questions deserve downvotes yes, but not badly worded questions. If a question is within our scope but poorly written, improve it!

Indeed, our Be Nice! Policy would seem to agree:

Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions. Don't expect new users to know all the rules — they don't. And be patient while they learn. If you're here for help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you. Everyone here is volunteering, and no one responds well to demands for help.

This should encourage users to improve their question.

It should, but it doesn't. Downvoting makes users feel bad, but not for the right reasons. That's because there's no indication to the OP user that the downvote is because of their poor wording or grammar.

The user comes back after some month and notices that his question still is at -1. He's frustrated and decides that edits are worthless.

Again, this is because there's no indication of what a downvote means. If instead you edit the question, and then leave a comment, explaining why you had to edit, (and pointing them to the How To Ask page), they'll be more inclined to learn from the experience.

I still agree that there should be a notification for edited questions you've downvoted, but I wanted to clear up the point about downvotes, and it was too long for a comment.

  • You're correct. I didn't mean downvoting only because of the grammar. I blame my own language skills. I meant the question shows no own research
    – nixda
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:41
  • The general "Leave a comment" suggestion is a second flaw in my opinion. Downvotes should be anonymous. But leaving a comment every time you downvote is counterproductive to this
    – nixda
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:44
  • @nixda - I didn't say leave a comment every time you downvote, I said leave a comment if you make an edit, explaining why you edited their post, and pointing them to the help page for more info.
    – Robotnik
    Dec 2, 2014 at 9:24
  • "there's no indication to the user that the downvote" there is: This question does not show any research effort; is unclear or not useful.
    – Braiam
    Dec 6, 2014 at 13:34
  • @Braiam - is that information clearly presented to the user? A hover tooltip on the down vote button doesn't count...
    – Robotnik
    Dec 6, 2014 at 13:55
  • Then you want a popup each time someone downvotes a post? If they don't even read the help center that's the only alternative. And yes, the tooltip counts.
    – Braiam
    Dec 6, 2014 at 14:14
  • @Braiam - I'm advocating editing if the post is salvageable (and leaving a reason why you edited) instead of downvoting. And no, a tooltip on the downvote button does not make it immediately obvious to the OP why they are receiving downvotes.
    – Robotnik
    Dec 8, 2014 at 3:57
  • Did you read my post fully? I have to ask, because nowhere do I mention adding a popup. To summarise my post: If a question/answer is absolutely unsalvageable (i.e. blatantly off-topic), sure, go ahead and downvote. Otherwise if you're only downvoting for poor grammar, "you're doing it wrong". Edit it into shape instead, and tell the OP why you did so. That's all. No more or less. No popups, tooltips or otherwise.
    – Robotnik
    Dec 8, 2014 at 3:59
  • "If a question/answer is absolutely unsalvageable (i.e. blatantly off-topic)," no, you vote to close, if the question is also unclear, not useful or poorly researched you also downvote. The downvote is a signal to others to say "this is crap, don't waste your time here". That's how it is, always has been (except on meta, everything is different on meta) and yes, you mentioned the popup first, not me.
    – Braiam
    Dec 8, 2014 at 12:10
  • I mentioned the tooltip presented when hovering over the downvote button... so you automatically jump to "...a popup each time someone downvotes a post"? Whatever man. Oh, and you're absolutely right about voting to close, sorry, that was worded wrong.
    – Robotnik
    Dec 8, 2014 at 12:26

The idea of downvoting is a bit flawed in my opinion (not criticizing this website eh, many websites allows to downvote). There should be no downvotes; content that need removal already have the "flag" button. Downvotes usually resolves with small comment wars:

Typically someone ask in comments

"Why the downvotes?"

Mysteriously the downvote disappears and another comment suggest an edit (just because people most time downvote, but forget to tell the reason of the downvote, when downvotes easily come and goes away the reason is mostly because they are superficial).

This is the good case, where users have the patience/to wait and write some comment (sometimes you just get downvoted and after that you start receiving upvotes). In a bad case, users get frustrated/leave. There are a lot of users with just 1/2 asked questions and plenty of downvotes.

Users should be only able to

  • Immediately upvote
  • Follow the question
  • Make changes
  • Ask for changes (not via comments, maybe a special button "request changes").
  • Vote up changes (both to question and answers).
  • When a question reach a milestone (1000 visits?) users get rewarded in proportion to their contribute with questions and answers (immediate upvotes, follows and upvotes on changes)
  • Place multiple milestones to reward improvements.
  • Small changes and corrections give no share the first month (prevent farming by doing a change at a time)

It should be more clear that a question has multiple edit versions (for example show beside a list of users contributed something and moving mouse above them hilights part of the question/answers), sometimes I see bad answers being copied and automagically bad answers become the accepted version (usually this happens when another user point out a small correction in the good answer, in the meanwhile the bad answer already copied the content and is showed before the good answer), however the community seems to see that, in fact original answers usually get more upvotes even if are not the accepted answer.

This is also more in line with the philosophy of the webiste, questions that show changes/changes-request are likely to be more interesting for people (which is in fact paying attention and spending time in them).

Sorry, but that was too long for a comment.

  • 3
    Do note that 9/10 times, the downvotes don't disappear, usually someone else upvoted the question. (at 1000 rep you can click the vote count to get it broken down as up vs down, thus it's clearer to see).
    – Robotnik
    Dec 1, 2014 at 5:06

I think the issue is more about why we downvote, and I would put money on the reason one person does is different to another!

I think if it was about showing disapproval of poor questions (or vice versa), then after we downvoted, and an edit was made to the post (to improve it) I would expect to be notified, so I can then remove my downvote (or upvote) accordingly.

This doesn't happen (as you know which imply this isn't meant to happen. Therefore I don't think that is what downvotes are for (or if I'm wrong, then maybe the system could consider this).

Also, if we downvote because something isn't correct, then everything from 5 years ago would be downvoted since rules changes!

I think if the question is poor, we vote to close!

If the question is rude or lazy (such as do my work now, or no effort to format it or show examples) then that is worth a downvote. Of course, even rude questions are some times just due to the persons first language not being English....

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