In the August 2019 photo competition: 'Seen through a train window.', there is the following text in the rules:

All votes count as upvotes, (to decide the winner.)

I asked Willeke, the moderator responsible for writing the photo contest post, for clarification, and she stated that she meant it literally: that a downvote against a particular photo submission would be treated as if it were an upvote.

To be clear, I do agree with her position that downvotes on photo contest submissions spread unnecessary negativity and shouldn't count against the submission. But when a user downvotes such a submission, it's likely that they don't agree that the photo should win the contest (and also likely that they haven't read the contest rules). Personally, I think that this is overstepping the line a bit and trying to rewrite how the Stack Exchange system works. I prefer a more conservative approach of only considering upvotes while ignoring downvotes.

I understand that there may be opposing viewpoints on this issue, so I'm opening the topic up for discussion: Should downvotes on photo contest submissions be treated as if they were upvotes, or should they just be ignored?

  • Thanks for this! The most important part is not to change the SE rules. One of your links is another mod specifically saying we can't do that. Would you please clarify what a conservative approach of "ignoring downvotes" means? If my picture gets 12 upvotes and 12 downvotes, it should be zero, which follows the rules, and is what the public will see. Does ignoring downvotes mean my picture is counted as 12, especially if it might win? If so, that also breaks the rules, but I don't want to assume wrongdoing if I don't even understand the terminology!! Thanks! Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 0:08
  • @Sue Yes, a submission with 12 upvotes will be counted as a score of 12 whether it has one, five, or ten downvotes.
    – gparyani
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 0:19
  • That was fast! Thanks for your help! Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 0:37
  • To be fair, it may be contentious but this month - no downvotes thus far!
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 0:45
  • @MarkMayo This made it to Hot Meta Posts...it could be an effect of that.
    – gparyani
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 0:50

3 Answers 3


NO! Downvotes should not count as upvotes. It's confusing and not logical. The rule from the July photo competition was good - just ignore them.


Agree. Ignore downvotes. A downvote could be a dishonest attempt to put one’s own entry ahead. Reversing it would make that attempt backfire. But it could represent a genuine dislike of the photo, in which case reversing it would be counter to the contest goal.

As a former technical writer, I realize “people don’t read” but what if the text of the “question” introducing the contest started out “No downvotes allowed. Violators will be ignored.” That would make it difficult for someone to not read it and still know what the contest is about.

Either ignoring downvotes or reversing them requires looking at the history, no? More difficult than just viewing the displayed score.

Since voting seems to be light (first place a dozen votes?), what if voting had to be done in comments? Problem there is it’s not a secret ballot. But maybe it isn’t anyway.

  • 6
    Counting downvotes is easy: any user with 1,000+ reputation can click the score to see the breakdown of upvotes vs. downvotes.
    – gparyani
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 18:16
  • Two clicks and counting; still more work than just looking at the score. But voting in comments also requires counting.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 20:05

After a few months asking for explanations on the down votes, and not getting many, (I remember one which was explained and retracted,) and a month where the rules did include the request not to down vote, where there were still down votes, I decided it was time for stronger measures.
People who do not read the rules should not vote on the photos, certainly not downvote as they have not read the rules.

So the argument that people do not read rules will not convince me that I should allow them to change those rules as published for this month.

After this question (and discussion) has ran its run, I might be moved to change my mind on this, but not for the reason that people do not read the rules before they vote.

Counting the votes, (checking for downvotes and adjusting the overall amounts for those) is not that much work. I have been checking for downvotes every few days last month and it is only for the top few where the number of downvotes can make a difference.

I think that voting in comments will come with its own problems. Still not the counting, (I can count to 1000 and over and so far the votes did not much outreach the number of entries, in the 10's, 20's or 30's at most) but because long lists of comments make the already big lists of 'answers' much longer again. Certainly when they come on top of the normal comments.

One option I see is one community wiki answer to the question in which people can register their vote but that comes with a risk of people voting twice (honest mistake or dishonest try to win.)

I am open for other options to do the voting but I would prefer some solution that does not allow people to downvote photo entries.

  • 10
    True, but this answer doesn't really specifically address why it's necessary to consider downvotes as upvotes, or in other words, why simply ignoring downvotes isn't enough. Ignoring downvotes would also solve the issues you mentioned here; it would be nice to know why specifically it's necessary to consider downvotes as upvotes.
    – gparyani
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 22:08
  • 12
    -1: The Stack Exchange voting system is an integral part of this site functioning. It is a result of trial-and-error during literally decades. Arbitrarily "adjusting" the rules, especially if done by a diamond Moderator, can lead to complains against the policy of the entire site, not only the Mod herself. […] Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 22:10
  • 11
    […] Yes, in an informal contest you are free to calculate the votes however you want, but the problem is that there are hundreds of "custom" ways to calculate, and only a single "proper" one. So, any step off the formal SE voting rules will make someone unhappy/disagree with this particular informal method of calculation, advocating for another informal method, with no end. The only fair way is to comply with the SE voting system. Or to hold the contest elsewhere. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 22:10
  • 15
    Reversing polarity of a downvote that should not have happened does not punish the offender, who doesn't even know because he/she didn't read. Instead it gives a photo extra points that no one intended to give it.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 23:45
  • To be fair, it may be contentious but this month - no downvotes thus far!
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 0:44

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