I don't have much experience with meta on this site, though I do remember this question. Per the accepted answer there, I agree that constantly coddling those who post new questions of poor quality, repeatedly, do not deserve ongoing attention and must have their questions closed.


First, I'd like to say a couple of things. I've gone through some life changes since I first got on this site 5 years ago. I've realised the real value of kindness, and I remember a certain senior player on the site who made life hell for me when I started out here (who is happily no longer around). I also remember a phase where I made life hell for some folks; I was dealing with my own issues then.

I appreciate that this is a gaming-related site and gaming has a whole set of stigmas around it: competitiveness, rampant bravado, intellectual duelling, etc. etc. I'm not boxing this site as being only those things, but they sometimes come through. Some apply to programming more broadly.

Do we have to criticise new users into hiding, and downvote their humble attempts at answers over the most trivial things, putting them on -1 before they can even think, or for things that are just unreasonable? We all know how the -1 dynamic works; once you hit -1, chances of getting any upvotes are pretty much annulled. That should be saved for worst cases.

I don't like this kind of thing when I see high-ranked members doing it, members with a vested interest in this site. I'm in my late thirties now, and I try to accept that I'm not one of the younger folk anymore, and I'm not new to my field, either. I have knowledge to impart, and with that seniority comes a duty to be kind to those less knowledgable and reputable... and often younger.

One must appreciate that tearing up and throwing out the window what people have put time and effort into crafting - their answers - is a slap in the face and gives you and the rest of us high-ranked users, a bad name... Why? Because that's the nature of privilege. I have had hateful comments directed at me before on this site due to my perceived privilege, undeserved. We are grouped that way in the newcomers mind... as top-rankers. In spite of the fact that the vast majority of the top members on this site are peaceful and at ease in their position - just as they should be.

Let's not be stackoverflow. We're a smaller community with far greater control over how we treat newcomers. We set the tone. It's one thing when we old hands duel amongst one another... quite another to pick on a greenhorn. Just please, think twice before dropping someone to -1.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What specifically is prompting you to make this post? \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Josh, use your imagination. If I'd wanted to say, I would have. I am instead making this into a general appeal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused though, when you say, "I don't like this kind of thing when I see high-ranked members doing it," what are you referring to? Downvotes? You can't know who is downvoting what, you're only surmising, so it would be nice to know what that is based on. When you say "We all know how the -1 dynamic works; once you hit -1..." what evidence do you have for that? When you said " I have had hateful comments directed at me before" you imply that this is related to hateful comments, so where are they? \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:53
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ What I'm trying get at is not that you're wrong or that you're making up a problem that doesn't exist, but that right now this reads a little bit like a rant without much in the way of concrete suggestions for action or improvement... or really identification of a problem other than accusation that people are being mean to new users without justification. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not at all, in some cases it is very clear who made the downvote. We can argue that, but it is pointless. You can say with an 80% certainty from time to time, and that also involves watching the habits of individual users who appear and make comments etc. at certain places. You and I know that when we see it... and I believe that even you as mod can't see the actual votes. As for the hateful comments, those were removed a long time ago. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Josh, yes, I can see that. I do feel slightly that way right now. But the truth is a little bit of kindness goes a long way and I think certain folks could use a reminder of that fact. I don't want to get into specifics further than that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it sounds like you're specifically talking about votes on answers by new users? So can you link the answers or the questions where you see those votes? You're not outing anybody by doing so, since whatever information you'd be revealing is already out there to anybody who wants to trawl the list of new users for all posted answers and examine the votes, which anybody can do (but is just really tedious). \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Mar 16, 2016 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fully wrong answers deserve a downvote outright as the downvote can be retracted when they edit their answer. I'll therefore assume you mean we should be nice about "slightly wrong" answers. Well, only skilled users are capable of discerning what is "slightly wrong" about it, a newbie looking to learn (aka every end-user of the information) will not be able to discern though and will instead become misinformed; propagating myths and ignorance. The same argument applies to "mostly wrong" answers, leaving only "correct" answers which clearly deserve an upvote. What class of answers did I miss? \$\endgroup\$
    – MickLH
    Mar 16, 2016 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MickLH. Really the question is, "In what circumstances is it necessary to make an answer sub-zero?" Very few, IMO... Many of the best Q&A sessions I've seen on SO/SE didn't focus on tearing down poor answers, but rather upvoting the good ones. We're getting into SE fundamentals here which is fundamentally(!) moot. But it is about how we choose to use the system, clearly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 16, 2016 at 22:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ArcaneEngineer `"In what circumstances is it necessary to make an answer sub-zero?" - Simple, when an answer is objectively incorrect, and just happens to have zero score. \$\endgroup\$
    – MickLH
    Mar 17, 2016 at 8:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MickLH Please explain to me how that is necessary. Here, I'll answer for you: It isn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 15:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ In what circumstances is it necessary to vote? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Mar 17, 2016 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt Now we're getting into the realms of the silly. Clearly, it isn't the same thing. As noted, we can see plenty of examples of good Q&A elsewhere on SE that didn't resort to downvoting 0-score answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 17:49

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking, if I find an answer that is of poor quality, I do check to see how new a person is. If they are low reputation, I typically give them a few pointers. If the answer is salvageable, then I'll see what I can do to fix it, or make suggestions on how to do so. If not, then I'll recommend it for deletion, after a comment.

If it is evident that the user is simply trolling, then I downvote/flag without hesitation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Reflects my views exactly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 17:50

I agree that being helpful and nurturing towards new or relatively inexperienced (in terms of activity on the site) users is important. Further, it's always important to be nice and civil to one's fellow users, regardless of their experience with the site. And certainly I think that there's always room to do this better, for all of us.

I don't completely agree with the idea that voting down a question is mean or otherwise inappropriate in and of itself. StackExchange tries to encourage or enforce the idea that you vote on the content not the person. True, that content is tied to a person and the effect of voting on that content is reflected in a number on that person's profile. Ultimately, however, I think the more important goal for the site is the curation of good content, and that that goal takes priority -- even if by just a hair -- over concerns about the psychological impact a negative score or minor dip in one's reputation will have on a user.

That is not to say, however, that entirely disregarding the person on the other end of the post is acceptable. Good content doesn't happen without good users, and I think it's true that we could all spend a little more time to take a look at the history of a user we're about to down vote, and if that user seems new or inexperienced, maybe think a little harder about leaving an explanatory comment as well to help the user learn. Or at least help them feel that there are people on the other end of that score widget and not droves of mindless internet hate machines.

There's nothing we can do to police voting, by design. Your votes are yours and barring flagrant violations like sock-puppet or serial voting (which we do have tools to police), you can do with them what you will. But please, do vote conscientiously. Remember that we are a community of people with a particular common interest, and while we want to build something that is itself greater than that community, we can't do that without welcoming new people. And showing them the ropes.


Unfortunately, I think this will fall on deaf ears.

Those who care don't hit new users head with a hammer, and those who should care, those your post targets, probably don't read meta, or don't think the message is for them.

Additionally, what does imply refraining from downvoting a question from 0 to -1?

  • From a poster point of view it is "My answer is neither useful, nor not useful.", i.e. "My answer is OK; I'm not too bad!" (while it's wrong).
  • From a voter point of view "Ok, well I'll wait for someone not smart, or someone cuddly, gives them an upvote (just to be kind?) so I can then downvote it to bring it back to zero." This strips the users from their own rights, i.e. using the site the way it was designed. Downvoting is not free, it has a cost, and in my humble opinion, never done lightly.

This would then raise the next question: "Could we not downvote new users from square one to square zero, in case someone upvoted the question?".

Why should there be a threshold where one would refrain from voting, and how is it based on 0?

I know how it could feel getting -1 (or below), but to be honest, stack exchange sites are based on content. If someone posts poor, bad or inaccurate content, a downvote should go to the post (not to the user). The user then has ways to fix it: he/she can delete the poor post and re-write one better, or try to improve it.

In conclusion: I take your post as "Let's be more kind and more friendly with the users." Yes, I agree. Not using the downvote button is not the solution. The downvote should be used, as well with comments. If one downvotes, it would be a good practice to 1) leave a comment and 2) come back later and remove the downvote (and maybe upvote) if the answer as been improved.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Mm. It really does depend on just how bad the answer is, in my opinion. I still say err on the side of avoiding that unless you're dead sure it's a horrible answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 17:14

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