I recently asked a question, Looking for travel quotes, that I thought was a possible candidate for closing, but I thought, let's ask the question anyway, and see if something positive comes out.

The question was closed as off-topic as by the FAQ, which is fair enough. However, in addition to the closing, it also received downvotes that do not seem to meet the guidelines, and yet none of the downvoters feels the etiquette apply to them.

So, the question is off-topic as by the FAQ, the downvotes are not in accordance to the guidelines and the etiquette do not apply to the ones doing the voting, ironically complementary huh?

So what's the rules on downvotes on questions?


2 Answers 2


You might be interested in How is voting down a post validated? on the overall meta. Disclaimer: I have the accepted answer on that question. I also elaborate on my position in Lose reputation when downvoting without a comment also on the main meta.

Bottom line: downvotes happen. They sting a bit, but that's that. The only rule the system as a whole enforces is that you can't click a poster's profile link and head off on a downvoting spree targeting that user. (Your votes will be automatically reversed.) There are no rules about whether your vote is justified or accurate, or demanding you leave a comment, and it is my guess that there never will be. And remember, when you hold back on a downvote to be nice to the person who wrote the question or answer, you are missing an opportunity to tell thousands of readers "don't read this! it's wrong!" which is the real purpose of downvotes. Think about them, not just the person who wrote it.

  • The "don't read this! it's wrong!" would be a good case for a downvote. In both instances that that prompted this question, this is not the case however.
    – Jacco
    Jan 27, 2013 at 15:23
  • Thinking about it, some might argue that the 'no effort expended' attribute is accurate, given the question doesn't meet the site's faq (ie implying that you hadn't read the faq or tried hard enough to make it meet the faq). Just a thought. But really, we've spent enough time debating this - I've hardly ever had downvotes explained, and as Kate pointed out, the guidelines you link to really don't cover every case. And as she wrote in her meta post - "While it might seem that this is crazy and leads to terrible voting, by and large it doesn't.".
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 27, 2013 at 21:13

Guidelines? You've linked to privileges. Assumed you mean "What is voting down?" which states:

Voting down, also known as "casting downvotes", is how the community indicates which questions and answers are least useful. When should I vote down?

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

You have a limited number of votes per day, and answer down-votes cost you a tiny bit of reputation on top of that; use them wisely.

Now I've personally tried to encourage leaving comments when you downvote - we have a featured meta post on this very topic. Anyone reading this answer - PLEASE go read that post.

What you may find is that since the guidelines state that it is "how the community indicates it's a least useful question, sloppy, not useful, or incorrect" - that they feel it's enough to vote as it indicates that.

However, as you've shown, it's not enough. How does a new person know what they're doing is wrong? How do they learn? How do you get to find out if your constructed answer is incorrect or just considered sloppy? This is where leaving comments comes in, despite the guidelines saying it's an option you could do instead of downvoting, I feel it's almost more important than downvoting.

The rules as you've asked for them, are simply those in the guidelines really. And there are a few other meta posts about people revenge downvoting and all that immature stuff - if it gets picked up by the automated systems, the mods can take action. But really if we want to be a productive and positive community, comments are the way to go.

So, long story short, I feel for you - everyone gets downvotes eventually without reason. It sucks, but you learn to live with it.

Now why did you get some? I can only suspect that it's because your question was really open ended. This is a Q/A site where you're asking for specific answers, not a discussion forum soliciting discussion. There's no way to definitively answer your question.

As one of the comments pointed out (yay a comment!) it'd have been better to reword it as "Is there a wiki or similar for finding quotes on travel". That can be definitively answered by someone providing Wikiquote.org, for example.

However, my view is I'd still prefer to close-vote on a question like that, rather than downvote. Save downvotes for the really bad questions, the offensive questions and the like, and still leave comments. But that's my view :/

  • 4
    What if there's already a comment and I feel exactly the same as a previous down-voter? I may downvote the question and upvote the comment; leaving an identical comment is pointless. Or I may refrain from voting at all.
    – gerrit
    Jan 26, 2013 at 22:37
  • @gerrit - indeed, upvoting their comment would probably be what I'd do in that case. Then the poster who got the downvote can see that multiple people agree with that sentiment.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 26, 2013 at 22:42
  • 1
    I think Jacco's problem with it was that he had 3 downvotes and no explanation. The only constructive comment was from someone who (from the sounds of it) didn't downvote him.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 26, 2013 at 22:44
  • 1
    right now, I'm collecting even more downvotes, other question, equally not in line with the guidelines. If this community is going down the non-constructive road, I might as well leave it be.
    – Jacco
    Jan 26, 2013 at 23:46
  • 2
    @Jacco Don't worry about downvotes on meta — they don't mean that a post is bad, just disagreement, and they have no influence whatsoever on your reputation.
    – gerrit
    Jan 26, 2013 at 23:47
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    @Jacco - if you're talking about your answer on Nonresident Travel Money (Card or Bank Account) Solution with Emergency Cash Feature in Euros? - the downvoter DID leave a comment that time.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 26, 2013 at 23:59
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    Also, this is not a new problem. And everyone has a different view. Heck, look at this post on encouraging people to comment across the network - the most voted comment is for someone who says they want the right to be able to downvote WITHOUT explanation. On Travel, however, we're trying to promote helpfulness, rather than just downvotes.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 27, 2013 at 0:01
  • Guys! While on the subject or etiquette, please do not put "asked a question" or "this answer" as link texts! This forces people to click them and open a new tab or get taken away from their place in the thread just to find out what you're talking about before they can come back and contribute in the discussion. This is particularly frustrating for people with bad internet connections or slow devices, or both. Try "ask a question about ABC" or "this question about XYZ" as a minimum.</rant> Thanks for your time (-: Jan 27, 2013 at 6:02
  • As by the guidelines, downvotes are for: egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect. So offering an alternative to the direction of thought presented in the question is not on this list.
    – Jacco
    Jan 27, 2013 at 10:56
  • 1
    Yeah, I know what the guidelines say. Like I said, look at the posts on meta.stackoverflow. Google for "why was my post downvoted" - there are tons of these across the network. You and I can't change the program, we can't change voter's decisions, and ultimately, it's their choice in the environment we're in. On the upside, our great answers will get more upvotes than any downvotes we get, so we can relish that, and it's just virtual points after all. Like your answer on haggling - quality answer, and that's why we come back here each day :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 27, 2013 at 11:33
  • 1
    @MarkMayo - You said: "However, my view is I'd still prefer to close-vote on a question like that, rather than downvote." I have done this in the past. However, I have been withdrawn the privilege for close votes. As a result, the only tool that remains available to me is a downvote. And I guess I am not the only one in this situation.
    – user3470
    Jan 27, 2013 at 13:56
  • @MarcelC. - good point. I just said I'd prefer it - I didn't rule them out. In case you're wondering, privileges changed when we graduated, so once your score goes up, you'll get them back :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 27, 2013 at 21:02
  • Thanks for the information! This allows me to reject my conspiracy theory on that topic.
    – user3470
    Jan 27, 2013 at 21:20
  • No worries. You can go to the privileges page to see what you need to reach certain levels.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 27, 2013 at 21:24

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