The mouseover tooltip for Question downvotes says This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful (the one for Answers just says This answer is not useful). Browsing the FAQ, I can't find any additional guidance.

For reasons that continue to elude me, Downvoting questions because you don't want to answer it was closed as Not Constructive. I appreciate the question title was misleading (it misrepresented a stated position of mine), but personally I never understood whether the downvotes to that meta question represented people disagreeing with the OP for questioning my (actual or misrepresented) position, or people disagreeing with my (again, actual or misrepresented) position.

Obviously we don't all agree on the precise justification for Question downvotes (if we did, anything with more than a couple of downvotes would probably end up several hundred down!).

My proposition is that I think the FAQ should offer more guidance. I'd prefer this question be up/downvoted strictly on that proposition, not on my personal attitude to Question downvotes.

One specific position I do hold (but please don't up/downvote on this - just the proposition above) is that I think the FAQ should at the very least mention that ideally, we'd like downvoters to add a comment explaining their reason in more detail (obviously it's not a requirement, but for me at least, something like recommendation sounds plausible).

  • 1
    I won't add this to the question text itself, but as I write, this question has 5 upvotes and 4 downvotes. This may indicate that the issue is so polarised there's no point in trying to arrive at a consensus for whatever guidance we might add to the FAQ. Equally, it could be seen as evidence that we should have already been offering that guidance, to avoid getting into this kind of mess in the first place! Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 15:54
  • So, an upvote on Should ELU offer more guidance on Question Downvoting? indicates agreement with "the FAQ should offer more guidance" on "Question Downvoting", and a downvote on it indicates disagreement? Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 18:09
  • @jwpat7: Exactly. If you think the current status quo is okay, downvote this question. If you think the FAQ should be changed in any way to cover Qustion downvotes, please upvote it. Note that so far as I can see, the FAQ gives no indication whatsoever of why you might downvote, or whether there's any reason to think you might post an associated comment - the only "guidance" is that mouse tooltip. Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 18:21
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    As the original poster of the linked question, I have made a comment there about my thoughts on why my question got a polarized reaction. That said, I don't use ELU very frequently to voice my opinion about the FAQ here; but as a user of other SE sites I think that more detailed FAQs are better in general. Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 20:35
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    +1. I don't think there's any guidance in the FAQ about how to use votes on questions at all; and there isn't a great deal of guidance for answer voting either. Explicit guidance on both might actually produce better questions and answers. For example, "Vote up questions if... Downvote questions if... This means you can gain upvotes on your questions if you... and avoid downvotes by..."
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 10:37
  • @Andrew Leach: As I said, I don't know whether votes on the question I linked to indicate a tendency for others to agree or disagree with my position on "acceptable reasons for downvoting". I think people should feel comfortable downvoting any question they feel detracts from the "attraction" of the site from their point of view, but I understand lots of people think you should only downvote things that blatantly transgress FAQ recommendations. Will continue with related point addressed to fish (poster of the "polarising" question from my first comment link)... Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 13:03
  • @fish: Your question (now +10/-4) may constitute justification for saying that if people don't leave a comment (enabling OP or others to "mailbox" them if they disagree, or the question has been amended to address negative reaction), the FAQ should ask those "anonymous" downvoters to check back on their downvote a day or two later to see if they might maybe want to change their position. Arguably that's all just "basic etiquette", but it doesn't seem unreasonable that the FAQ should explicitly make that point. Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 13:08
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    I wholeheartedly agree with that. Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


The tooltip seems ok to me. I'm not opposed to adding more to the FAQ if someone wants to, but I'm not sure what you would say about it; there are no hard and fast rules to downvoting. I'm also not convinced that it'll do any good. Just look at how much impact the "basic questions" guidance has had. :/

Re: Encouraging comments -- There was a post on MSO saying that the system now automatically encourages you to add a comment when you downvote a question and have less than 2000 rep. Given that programmatic reminder, encouraging it via FAQ seems redundant to me.

  • I'd forgotten/not noticed that pop-up reminder. I really don't downvote Questions very often. I just checked, and I see I still get that popup, so the "less than 2000 rep" bit seems incorrect. Unless I'm exceptionally irritated by something, I'm quite happy to either leave it or vote to close if I see a clear-cut reason in the pre-programmed choices for that. So now that "please consider adding a comment" issue is resolved, I'm probably of like mind to you; neither opposed nor in favour of a change (but I'd still like to know what others think). Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 13:33

The privilege page already suggests when down-voting should be done:

When should I vote down?

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

Apart that, I don't think you could find a more precise suggestion, as voting is subjective. How much egregiously sloppy should a post be, to be down-voted? In which cases is a post dangerously incorrect?

The privilege page is generic, as it must be valid for every Stack Exchange site. I don't think, anyway, that should be possible to give a definition that better suits EL&U, apart defining to which type of danger is implied in dangerously incorrect. Maybe somebody could ask a question here to define the meaning of dangerously incorrect on EL&U.


I think voting is pretty clear:

this question shows research effort: it is useful or clear


this answer is useful

But practice may not be so clear. People will vote because they don't like the subject matter, or it is worded annoyingly, or etc, etc. Also, there is lots of guidance through the FAQs and user complaints about voting, both in comments on main and in meta, and that's not restricted to just ELU.

Also, there's a big difference between voting on main and meta. Here, a down vote is 'I disagree' (that's what mine is for (I think this is a good and useful question, just I disagree that there needs to be more guidance).

I don't see what kind of extra guidance you'd want. Extra FAQ text? Periodic notices to meta about what votes really should mean? I can't imagine more guidance than the already common 'Why did you down vote?' comments.

  • I disagree with this answer because, in my opinion, more guidances are absolutely needed. -1
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 17:36
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    Mitch, what does "Periodic notices to meat" mean? Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 18:01
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    Ermm... you don't see what kind of extra guidance I'd want? I explicitly said that I would like the FAQ to at least make the point that people should be encouraged to amplify on their precise reason for downvoting any specific question. And I hope I made it clear that I hope people don't downvote this question simply because they disagree with that specific point (they might still think there should be some other guidance in the FAQ). Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 18:05
  • @FumbleFingers: I voted on this question directly to the single topic you delineated, does the FAQ need more explanation. My answer was to explain why I don't think so. I think there's already enough in the cultural use of SO and ELU that it is not necessary. I also believe that you could add explicit instructions for every nuance of expected behavioral this site to the FAQ and it wouldn't change anybody's behavior.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 20:10
  • I disagree with this comment, too. I think there's no enough in the cultural use of SO and ELU that it is not necessary. @Mitch
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 20:11
  • @FumbleFingers I'm with you.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 20:12
  • I gotta be honest, Mitch. I don't see why you didn't just downvote the question and leave it at that. As you say yourself, downvotes on meta have a different meaning to on main. Also - fairly obviously - people will do what they want/think is best. That's what people are like. But what else have you added to the debate? Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 0:07
  • @FumbleFingers: You'd prefer not to know the reasons for a downvote? Or an explanation at all? You asked a question. I answered. That's not adding to the debate?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 1:11
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    @Mitch: I don't want to repeat myself, but I said all I had to say in my last comment. I simply don't see your "answer" actually adds anything. Well - you say there's lots of guidance through the FAQs (plural?), which seems incorrect - like I said in the question, there's nothing at all on the FAQ. Whatever - perhaps this answer will get upvotes from people who are satisfied with the status quo, but aren't satisfied with just downvoting the question. Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 1:44
  • @FumbleFingers - Yeah, I'm with you. You are great. In my language I would say "questo e' rispondere per le rime", which is an idiomatic expression (I do not know if in English exisists this idiom. Literally translate it would be "to ask with rymhe".)
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 9:58
  • Now that I've thought of it, maybe too much of what voting means is not spelled out in a single place like the FAQ. Why don't you draft a proposal for what you're thinking of, something that works for SO in general and then anything in particular for ELU. Then we can vote/edit that.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 12:59
  • @Carlo_R. That is retort.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 22:59
  • Thank you @kiamlaluno. Without your help I would not have ever found that word.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 23:15

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