There is a lot of downvoting on this site without any constructive feedback. Closings are also frequent. You can see this by just looking around. As I write this question, the three newest questions in meta are addressing (in a different way) all of the downvoting.
A popular justification for the large number of downvotes is that this site is meant for serious questions about English that are of interest to linguists and language experts, but the site receives a ton of basic questions, and it's these questions that are being correctly downvoted. I see several problems with this explanation.
- Downvoting without offering feedback is not a nice or effective solution to the stated problem.
- There are plenty of nonbasic questions that follow all of the guidelines and still receive downvotes, and there is also much downvoting of answers, so this doesn't account for all of the negative behavior.
- When someone does ask a question specifically about the English language and of interest to linguists or language experts, the question gets single-sentence answers from high-rep (5-50k) users, suggested as more appropriate for LinguisticsSE (and now apparently migrated there), or closed as off-topic (and now apparently migrated to LinguisticsSE) -- oh, and of course, it gets plenty of downvotes.
- There are tons and tons of open, answered questions on this site that are very basic, have the same exact general answer, and are currently being answered, e.g., "What's the difference between [foo] and [foo with a productive derivational suffix affixed]?", so the downvoting and closing seems arbitrary or worse.
Am I alone in finding this behavior and proposed justification to be inconsistent, not supported by the evidence, and a huge problem for the site? This behavior has at least made me--after only a few days of it--not want to stick around here, despite my love of English, language, linguistics, and sharing knowledge. This site should be perfect for me, but the rampant and inconsistent downvotings and closings are repulsive.
Edit to address some of the answers: I'll give my thoughts on this to see where our disagreement might be. If someone's reason for downvoting is:
- It's not clear what this question is asking due to insufficient explanation. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, post this comment: "It's not clear what you're asking. Please give more details." That takes less than 10 seconds and encourages improvement of the site's content.
- This question is poorly phrased/has lots of mistakes. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, edit the question and fix the mistakes. This could be quick if the mistakes are minor. If it's just a huge mess, I don't know what would be best. I think it would be nice to be able to flag such a question for other users to edit. In extreme cases, maybe closure or deletion is best.
- This question is asking about something that we don't handle here. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, migrate or close. And especially, stop people from answering it (!!), as this only encourages more of the same questions in the future, from this user or others who see it being answered.
- This question is asking something that I find stupid or think we shouldn't handle here. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, discuss changing the scope of the site in meta.
- This question has been asked and answered here already. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, (vote to) close as duplicate and leave this comment: "I think this question has already been answered [here]."
- This question is too basic. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, (vote to) close as general reference and possibly leave this comment: "We don't handle questions that can be answered by looking in [wherever they can find the answer]. If you don't understand the answers in [wherever], please explain your confusion." Especially, stop people from answering it (!!). I also think that the explanation given on the general reference closure notice should be expanded (with a sentence or few words) to be more informative and include a link to a few general references where the question can likely be answered.
- This question falls under one of the other reasons that we already have for closing questions. Not a reason to downvote. Instead, (vote to) close for that reason and possibly leave a comment sharing your objection in case it doesn't get closed or for the benefit of others before it gets closed.
- This answer is very inaccurate and misleading. Maybe a reason to downvote. I think it's best to voice your objection in a comment for the benefit of other readers. E.g., "That isn't true. A look in a dictionary or a google search will prove this," or "That isn't true. There is much debate about this topic. Google 'chomsky jackendoff'." Usually, I think you should give the poster a chance to fix their answer. In extreme cases or after no improvement has been made, then I think a downvote is a very good way to improve the site.
- This post already has comments asking for improvements that only the poster can make, and the poster has had time to make improvements but has not. A good reason to downvote or perhaps delete (I don't know much about how deletions work).
- I don't like the person who posted this. Not a good reason to downvote. Instead, discuss your problem in chat or meta if the person has been causing legitimate problems. Otherwise, get over it or take your enmity elsewhere.
- I don't like this question, but I can't give any rational reason why. Not a reason to downvote. Just walk away and leave it alone.
- I don't think this deserves an upvote. Not a reason to downvote. You don't have to upvote or downvote every single question or answer. Just leave it alone. You also shouldn't vote only to cancel someone else's vote. The net score doesn't have to represent your opinion.
The reason that I posted this question is because it doesn't look like people are following these practices regarding downvoting. Of course, it may be that ELU doesn't want to work the way that I have described, which is fine. But I probably don't want to be a part of the community in that case, so I want to know people's opinions.