I'm referring to this question:

What was this optical apparatus called? (It was used for showing pictures.)

In short, it asks for the name of a certain device as shown in the attached pictures:

enter image description here

enter image description here

And my answerpeep show aka raree show—was clear and concise. It even explained where these images are from. But then I get downvotes.

Hours later comes another answer, which basically is just similar to mine, but has more weightage given to "raree show". It is highly upvoted.

I'm confused now. Is my way of answering the question terrible? Is my answer factually wrong? In short, what gives?

  • 1
    I edited the title of my question so that people know I'm looking for the original name of that apparatus.
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 5:42
  • Perfect title now :) As for downvotes on meta the mantra is that downvotes express disagreement, not that a question is wrong or bad. I wouldn't worry too much about users downvoting on meta, it's not a reflection on you.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 8:14
  • 2
    Don't worry too much about votes. You have enough reputation to weather downvotes. I don't think many users read the time on each answer and cares so much about who posted it first. Your post might have been downvoted because it is longer than the other one. Who knows? One thing I've noticed is the shorter your answer, the more upvotes you get. Isn't it irony considering what Stack Exchange tries to pursue?
    – user140086
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 8:47
  • 1
    @Rathony Thanks, you're right. I'm not worried about votes per se. But I'm here to better myself, better my knowledge, better my language, better my method of answering questions, better my confidence. These downvotes, I take them as feedback, I take them as a means to identify what, why, when, where, how I should improve. That's all. Reps? They come and go, My time and effort? They shouldn't go to waste, right? :)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 9:03
  • 1
    @Rathony Now when I checked, the votes on both our answers are weird.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 9:07
  • 4
    It looks to me as though some voters punished you initially for using the term peep-show, which they didn't realize was a correct answer to the question. But then, after this meta question appeared, other voters punished Hot Licks for providing an overlapping answer to yours after yours was posted. In my view, both answers were valid and useful, and neither should have received any downvotes.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 6:14
  • @SvenYargs Yes, my thoughts, exactly.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 6:17

3 Answers 3


The two downvotes (so far) on the OP's submitted answer were probably from users who had not read the post carefully, they probably thought the first suggestion, peep show, was "bad", or "incorrect", or "inappropriate", or simply "wrong".

The user's answer (now self-deleted) explains very clearly why the OP asking the question might prefer not to use this term today. But... he could have at least acknowledged the earlier post, because their answer does not add a new or alternative term, instead it shifted the focus of attention.

Summing up, the second user's answer is not copied because it adds a different slant, but I'd say it errs on the "unsporting" side.

  • Thank you. That's what I thought, too.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 7:43
  • I don't see anything unsporting about adding an answer that specifically doesn't include a suggestion that the answerer views as incorrect/problematic. I have no horse in this particular race, but not too long ago, on the "euphemism for diarrhea" question I felt compelled to post yet another answer because the only existing answers that mentioned the IMO best euphemism also suggested some highly unsuitable expressions.
    – Marthaª
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Marthaª well if the user (who has since deleted his post after receiving a couple of downvotes, which were unmerited) had only mentioned in passing that the answers peepshow and raree show supplied by NVZ earlier were both correct and then continued with the rest of his answer, I don't think the OP would have felt compelled to ask why his post was getting downvotes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:53
  • 2
    The diarrhoea -euphemism question had already received so many answers, it was soon clear that there wasn't a single unequivocal answer. Your answer failed to make any significant dent, but HotLick's post for the name of the apparatus, did make a dent, and the OP was confused by the downvotes. I can understand why he was.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 18:01

Nobody knows why driveby downvoters vote the way they do because they leave no indication of their thinking. These people are a curse and a plague on this site because they either leave the OP no chance to improve a weak answer or they leave the impression that a strong answer is somehow lacking. This is a stark problem for a site that prides itself on being some kind of repository of knowledge that delivers definitive answers, but as long as people feel that the anonymity of voters is so sacred that it must override concern for the quality of answers, then nothing will change.

The best of both worlds might be possible, but I suspect that it would be difficult to change the commenting mechanism to require an anonymous comment upon downvote, say a selection from a pop-up window.

  • 2
    Nobody knows why driveby upvoters vote the way they do because they leave no indication of their thinking. These people are a curse and a plague on this site because they either leave the OP no chance to understand what exactly they said was so good or they leave the impression that a bad answer is somehow pandering or approved for superficial reasons. In other words, anybody who votes, up or down, is an effing bastard and deserves the hell of empty thought that they live in.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 20:13
  • 2
    Voting on SE is circus slideshow.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:33
  • And of course, this answer has a driveby downvote on it. Commented May 7, 2016 at 10:32
  • @Mitch I seem not to have made my point clearly enough, so let me try again. I'll type slowly so you can follow. An upvote means one or more of Ah, that's clear to me now., Well stated!, How useful!, or That's right. Explanations of any of those are superfluous, and their absence misleads no one. I don't understand how a bad answer can pander. Perhaps you meant an upvote on a bad answer, but I con't see how that's pandering either. But neither "pandering" nor "superficial" upvotes mislead.
    – deadrat
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 16:51
  • @PeterShor Perhaps it was cast ironically. I'm not irritated by driveby downvotes on meta. For questions, they mean the voter is of the opinion that the question is not worthy of discussion; for answers, that the answerer has expressed an unsupported or unwarranted opinion. It would be nice to have reasons, but de gustibus and all that.
    – deadrat
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 16:56
  • @deadrat you were perfectly clear. I just believe that one is just as obligated to explain an upvote as much as a down-vote. Why are downvotes to be treated differently than upvotes? This not the Anna Katerina effect where for an upvotes absolutely everything has to be right, but for downvotes only one thing needs to be wrong (and explained). Instead for down, there are more unlikeable points, for up more likeable points.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 1:26
  • 1
    @Mitch It's the Anna Karenina effect, and I'm afraid I don't see the connection. A downvote implies a deficiency recognized; a driveby downvote implies a deficiency uncorrected and uncorrectable.This seems a problem that does not obtain with an unexplained upvote.
    – deadrat
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 2:50
  • Maybe the "default assumption" is that anyone who can type will probably be able to post something that is "useful", so if that fails to happen, it should be pointed out for correction? Upvotes simply agree with the default assumption and need no explanation, but downvotes disagree with something that was not obvious to the writer (else they would not have written it that way), so needs to be described? In relationships, people tend to criticize more than they praise, and this usually leads to resentment and disaffection. But we are not worried about such things here, are we?
    – user126158
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 21:58

Hotlicks' answer has been self-deleted. As of this moment, the two answers that are there have both received -4.

Assuming this isn't fraudulent sock-puppetry, nor simply a bandwagon effect, I believe these answers were caught in a vote-to-order war. I used to do that, before I took a nice hard look at how I vote.

With those protocols in mind, I've decided to upvote the praxinoscope answer and not upvote yours, even though it is useful. So I guess I still do vote to order, just not with arbitrary down votes.

My reasoning being that praxinoscopes provide peep-shows (but they indeed have become known as peep-shows, so +0).

Upvotes are not for "correcting" downvotes. It is not your job to take away somebody else's right to vote. Only upvote if you thought that it was a great question/answer, not because you disagreed with somebody else's downvote. –Lightness's profile

Downvotes aren't for "correcting" upvotes either.

Update: everyone's wrong.

Considering that there's three view ports, and the inner workings are a simple scroll, it's probably a Zograscope : "an optical device for enhancing the sense of depth perception from a flat picture."

  • Thank you for sharing. :)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 3:46
  • 1
    I must say that the "praxinoscope" answer is okay for the last two images, but there were only the first two images in the question when I answered it. Those two are linked to this meta post. I have written clearly where that photos are from, where the device is now, what's it called, what it does, and linked to its wiki. But if you think my direct answer deserves +0 and a roundabout answer posted after the two extra unrelated images deserve +1, IMO your voting pattern is not so nice.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 3:56
  • Also, when someone asks a question "what was this thing called?", shouldn't I just give a direct answer? And any mention of the device's precursors are just extra information, not the answer.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 4:00
  • @NVZ - Least I could do is explain my non-vote, from the perspective of reading both answers at once. But now they're both -4 so what's the beef? If it's been DV'd because of this meta, then that OP might very well be asking this same question (the answer being above). I also abstained because your score dwarfs that answer's. Truthfully, I only scanned them both but one of them caught my eye with a neat technical word (considering it asks for an "optical apparatus").
    – Mazura
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 9:36
  • I understand and appreciate your answer, there's no beef. If possible I would like to delete this meta question.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 12:16
  • What is a 'vote-to-order' war?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 20:10
  • 1
    @Mitch - Self-defined, voting to order is using DVs to rearrange the order of the results, regardless of if any answer is useful (which is nearly 75% of my up-vote criteria. The rest is formatting and trite other reasons) and a it becomes a war when users bandwagon over it. "Not that answer. THIS answer."
    – Mazura
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 20:32
  • @Mazura That sounds so conspiratorial and manipulative for its own sake. Do you have any evidence that people do it? How often do you think this occurs? On ELU? On other sites?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:01
  • @Mitch - Admittedly, I used to. I cannot speak for others. Suffice to say, there are those who (thankfully, needfully: for site health) use DVs with much less discretion then most people. Lightness' profile comes to mind.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:07
  • @NVZ - This should not be deleted. It's well received and well answered. Whatever damage it may have done, is done. Let it exist now for posterity.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:51
  • 1
    @Mazura This is ELU: the possessive form of Lightness normally has three syllables not two, and thus must be spelled Lightness’s under those circumstances.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:55
  • @tchrist - I'm old: english.stackexchange.com/questions/277104/…
    – Mazura
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:23
  • 1
    Knowing human nature, i am pretty sure that the inventor of this device invented a peep-show and called it a praxinoscope, there being only one feasible use for it in the penny arcades it landed up in, So if the question is what is this thing?, the answer is peep-show. If the question is what do you call this thing? the answer depends on who's being asked.
    – frank
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 11:47
  • "Hey man! This ain't no peep-show." –BttF. @frank, I beg to differ; what are these things: praxinoscopes. What do you call them: peep-shows (technical name vs. colloquial). Both words can be found in the answer I upvoted (and a wealth of others) Frankly, I didn't make it past ### PEEP SHOW (!!!) in the OP's (there's that other 25% coming back at ya). Notice also, at the end of 'mine' : "peep show boxes".
    – Mazura
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 19:33
  • 2
    "what is it?" versus "what is it called?" Wow. Humpty Dumpty is having a great spring (at least in the northern hemisphere. That is a distinction that can never be properly addressed. What is my name called? But what is my name, separate from how people say it?
    – user126158
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 21:52

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