I think we down vote too often here. SE has some reasonable guidelines about when to down vote.

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

Our answers and questions often are a little on the subjective side, but nowhere in the guidelines does it suggest down voting just because you disagree (which I think is why many down votes get cast).

I would really like to see more explanations as to why things are getting down voted. This would allow people to fix the problems instead of just slapping them in the face. I understand this will make the down vote not anonymous, but I think it is a nicer way to go.

I see this as more of a problem when down voting answers. I can provide examples from my own answers which have received down votes. I am using my own answers since I can easily find ones with down votes and not because I need justification or want the down votes reversed.

Why should the scientific community avoid double submissions?

Is it ethical to use another university's journal subscription if yours doesn't have access?

What are the various designations/stages in the academic career of the person

I also have a question with what seems a spurious down vote:

Are abstracts confidential during the review process?

Again, I am not complaining about these down votes, it is the fact that it happens to new people also.

  • @F'x see my edit
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 11:05
  • Your downvoted question does have a comment by someone describing the question as "not useful".
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


Okay, I first thought you were thinking about “heavily downvoted newcomer questions”. I asked for specific examples because I think, overall, Academia is doing quite well in leaving nice and helpful comments below newcomers' posts to help them improve.

Regarding your examples, it does happen to all of us: while we can remind people to leave comments explaining downvotes, in the end it's up to them to use downvotes to mark questions they deem invalid, and more importantly answers they deem wrong. It's a subjective call, and that's part of what makes SE a democracy and not a technocracy; i.e. you're not guaranteed that upvoted answers are correct, but only that people think they are correct (and similarly for downvoted). Which means: there will always be some noise, and we shouldn't care too much (I'm sure that –1 vote on a +12 answer does not make you sad at night!).

And, coming to your point, I think new people will also see it as it is. If they have a good upvoted answer with an unexplained downvote, they won't care too much. If the answer was borderline between “meh” and “bad”, they will maybe get a –1. We should continue to ask people to comment when they downvote, but there's nothing more we can (or should) do.


Academia.SE has one of the most active voting userbase among all the SE sites, based on discussions with site-wide mods. Many questions which I find pretty trivial receive 5+ votes easily, sometimes many more. As far as I'm concerned, that's great.

One side effect of this may be a more active downvoting population as well, which I'm also not too concerned about. Without looking at specifics, the site generally manages its voting well. The only "bad form" downvoting I've seen is that some questions which have already been closed continue to garner downvotes, which I view as hitting someone once they're down; no need to downvote, the question is closed. However, the questions you point to all have one downvote, which you should safely ignore; many agree, one disagrees, consider it an overall win.

For what it's worth, I just checked the mod tools and it doesn't look like there's one person "out to get you". Just shrug it off.

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