1

Personally I think downvoting should only be done in very exceptional circumstances: I've been on this site for over 2 years and only picked up the critic badge about 1 month ago (meaning I never downvoted anyone for about 2 years).

I appreciate that not everyone has the same opinion as me, and that people can downvote when they like, as long as it doesn't violate the CoC.

However I believe there comes a point at which a post has been downvoted enough already, and further downvoting becomes more harmful than helpful. It happened to one of my answers recently, causing a chain reaction that lead eventually to at least 1 suspension, but I won't go into too much detail about my own situation since I'm biased there. Today I noticed another relatively high-rep user (who clearly knows what they're doing) became the "victim" of chain-reaction downvoting:

enter image description here

It seems here that when the number goes negative enough, everyone that passes by seemingly wants to add to the user's misery. I picture this like someone that's already been beaten by the police, but long after the police have gone away, people that walk by the body on the ground and see that the person has been reprimanded for something, throw a couple extra kicks in.

Apart from Meta Stack Exchange ("Meta is Murder"), I have never seen such badly downvoted posts on the Stack Exchange network over about a decade of being here. Why does this community do this, and why is it tolerated (if you are one of the people that do this, for example downvoting a post that already has a net score below -2, can you provide me with some insight as to why you do this)?

Similar problems have been recognized by others (e.g. Why my question gets so many downvotes? Is it off-topic?) and this site seems to have a downvoting problem in general (https://academia.meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=downvoting) which I have not seen on the other sites that I'm equally active in (I have 1000+ rep on 7 sites and 150+ rep on 26 sites).

The post shown above had a net score of -11 when someone decided to downvote it to -12, so I wonder: If you are one of the people that pushes such posts further into the ground, is it because you believe the question should be deleted (if so, why don't you vote to delete or if you don't have enough rep, just flag it or wait for it to be deleted by others, since if it's so bad clearly it shouldn't be on the site and it will quickly get deleted by others?)? Or do you usually do this because the post angers you so badly that you feel you need to stab it further? In the latter case, my personal opinion is that the behavior is starting to tread on the fence of violating the CoC and the policy of "Be nice, Be welcoming", but I don't expect everyone to share the same opinion as me.

If you contribute to negative-downvoting chains, I wonder what you think writing a stern comment can't do, that downvoting something which already has a very low negative score, can do successfully?

To conclude my (personal) opinion on this issue (which I don't expect you to share, but I'd like to voice it here):

enter image description here

Note: cag51♦ has observed this phenomenon for upvoting: Case Study: First Answer Bias. This question is also tangentially related: Are upvotes skewed towards the first answer to a question?.

My 4 sub-questions are in bold. Thank you for your considerations.

| |
  • Some might suggest that the StackExchange model is founded on having both up and down votes. Now, if you are going to limit down votes, are you also going to limit up votes? If not, why not? – Jon Custer Jul 8 at 20:45
  • If these questions are not rhetoric, I would prefer to answer them in chat, because, while I can try to give my answer succinctly, it would involve the entire chat box, and then you may have something to say in response, and then we will end up with a wall-of-text which is not really answering my question. That "SE is founded on having both upvotes and downvotes" doesn't answer my question about chain-downvoting where a user ends up with a net score well below 0. – user1271772 Jul 8 at 20:50
  • Questions about mechanics across all sites should be asked on Meta. – Jon Custer Jul 8 at 20:53
  • @JonCuster What do you mean? This is Meta. Are you saying that your comment should be discussed here rather than in Chat, or are you saying that I should ask this on MSE? I could ask it there, but this is a question about the culture on this site, which I have observed to be rather unique (apart from MSE which is known to be "murder"). – user1271772 Jul 8 at 20:56
  • 2
    @JonCuster we may agree that upvote and downvote are not symmetric about the 'neutral', in terms of psychological interpretation. Having no downvote button, let's say, would not affect the content which is not upvoted. Users may flag that content they find in appropriate or bad. However, having a downvote metric further degrades the user and the downvoted content making it more vulnerable into the ground. I would ask why to even retain the content which is victim of this and make people notice it? Had there been no downvote button the less upvoted content wont get the attention in first place. – Siddhant Singh Jul 8 at 21:13
  • @cag51 Very interesting. I'll try to mention your link somewhere in my question. While this might be a general SE phenomenon, I've noticed it far more here. The answer to your question was that "it can't be avoided on Academia.SE", but that was about chain-upvoting rather than chain-downvoting which is a much more serious issue. It's not true that nothing can be done about chain-downvoting (a confirmation message can be set to pop-up if the net score is -5, and people that frequently do it without even reading the question, can face consequences exactly like serial voters do). – user1271772 Jul 8 at 21:15
  • 1
    I agree with @SiddhantSingh in that my question even mentions that: If a post has a net score of -25, should it really be on the site? On Meta sites and on MSE, we tend to use answers sometimes as "poll options" and for community promotion ads we "vote" which ones we like and which ones we don't, so -25 would make sense. On Academia.SE does it make sense? If something with -25 on Academia.SE is so bad that it needs to be deleted, it ought to be deleted way before it gets to -5, if the community is doing it's job (in my opinion). – user1271772 Jul 8 at 21:18
  • 8
    Heavily downvoted answers are usually such because they give bad advice in the academic context, something that should really be avoided, but deletion is for low quality content not for bad advice. Don't conflate two completely different things. – Massimo Ortolano Jul 8 at 21:46
  • The example you gave is just a terrible answer. It's not only "not useful" (tooltip on downvote button), it's actually harmful and bordering on a personal attack. And that's why people downvote it. They don't "pile on", they just agree with another. – henning -- reinstate Monica Jul 13 at 19:00
  • @henning I've now read the answer and disagree with you that it's "not useful". This perspective is actually needed, in order to balance out all the people saying that ghosting a supervisor is perfectly fine. I've now upvoted it, along with three others that did. It is not "terrible answer" and to call it bordering a personal attack, is in my opinion quite a stretch. I don't see how it is harmful. But anyway, it's just an example. The point you're making is that you feel it's fine to "pile on" more downvotes when someone's already at -10. I think people should restrain themslelves a bit more – user1271772 Jul 13 at 19:43
  • In general, there are questions that deserve a very negative score. However, without linking the question (or knowing what the question is), it is hard to weigh in on whether this is "chain reaction" or truly bad – Azor Ahai -- he him Jul 24 at 14:50
  • @AzorAhai--hehim What makes you feel that when a question is at, for example: -9, it needs to be downvoted further to -10? – user1271772 Jul 24 at 15:38
  • @user1271772 If it's bad – Azor Ahai -- he him Jul 24 at 15:49
6

If you are one of the people that pushes such posts further into the ground, is it because you believe the question should be deleted

Honestly, I didn't realize I could vote to delete. But in any case, having a bad answer and a clear indication that it is flawed can sometimes be helpful. It certainly discourages reposting of the answer.

Or do you usually do this because the post angers you so badly that you feel you need to stab it further?

I do not think my vote should depend on the current score of the answer. In fact, I scrutinize my voting to avoid being biased by the current score.

If you contribute to negative-downvoting chains, I wonder what you think writing a stern comment can't do, that downvoting something which already has a very low negative score, can do successfully?

This is a false dichotomy.

Or do you usually do this because the post angers you so badly

I've never seen anything on this site worth getting angry about. That includes being downvoted.

| |
5

As a practical matter, people can vote using whatever criteria they see fit. We do have some guidelines for good voting practices, but votes are anonymous, and we don't usually know why people vote the way they do. The only exception that comes to mind is that we don't allow serial voting, as was discussed on Academia.SE here.

One of the results of this, which I have noted before, is a very pronounced "first answer bias." Further, I usually see a delay on my new answers; then after the overall score goes over 2 or 3, more votes pile on.

I suspect what you've observed is a corollary to this bias. I doubt that people are consciously choosing to pile on; rather, I suspect it is simply easier to see the hugely negative score, skim the post, and say "I agree" rather than having to make an independent judgment as they would on a post without a clear score.

Why does this community do this (if you are one of the people that do this, for example downvoting a post that already has a net score below -2, can you provide me with some insight as to why you do this)?

Personally, I try very hard to make upvote/downvote decisions without considering the question's current score. This does sometimes result in downvoting an already-downvoted question -- in fact, heavily-downvoted questions are normally downvoted for a reason, so this happens with some regularity. But I don't condone downvoting just because the question is already downvoted. In fact, I frequently ask myself, "would I have (down)voted if I hadn't seen the score, or would I have just kept scrolling?"

I do sometimes see answers that have "exaggerated" scores. For example, I think some of my best answers are buried and not all of my most-upvoted answers are my best work. I've also seen some heavily-downvoted answers that I didn't think deserved so many downvotes.

But, I do not agree that there are (many) answers with hugely negative scores that would have gotten positive scores had it not been for the first few votes. I've seen people argue this before, but I rarely agree with such claims (of course, there are exceptions, I'm not commenting on any specific case).

Is it because you believe the question should be deleted?

No. As Massimo says in the comments, "deletion is for low quality content not for bad advice." I would not (vote to) delete a good-faith answer that showed research effort, even if I disagreed with it. I've argued before that moderators do not delete wrong answers; I would similarly discourage the community from doing so. But, I would likely downvote and comment on a wrong answer to prevent the misinformation from spreading.

If you contribute to negative-downvoting chains, I wonder what you think writing a stern comment can't do, that downvoting something which already has a very low negative score, can do successfully?

It is a good practice to explain your downvote rather than just doing a drive-by. My experience, however, is that by the time someone gets a score of -10, there has already been significant discussion on the answer.

why is it tolerated?

You seem to be suggesting that we should crack down on those who vote on a heavily-downvoted answer without reading it. Diamond mods do not have the tools to do this. You could ask the community team to implement it, but you would have to create a post on MSE.

Another option would be to cap the displayed score -- for example, scores below -5 could just display -5 rather than displaying -100. Again, we as Academia.SE do not have the tools to do this.

A related issue I've observed (and, frankly, one that concerns me somewhat more) is that post scores tend to lag post edits. For example, a new user who is heavily downvoted might fix their answer after a day or two (which is exactly what we tell them to do), but they are unlikely to get the score they deserve (which affects new users far more than high-rep users).

| |
  • "It is a good practice to explain your downvote rather than just doing a drive-by. My experience, however, is that by the time someone gets a score of -10, there has already been significant discussion on the answer" -> My questions was, what will the 11th downvote do successfully that can't be accomplished in the comments and discussion? "You seem to be suggesting that we should crack down on those who vote on a heavily-downvoted answer without reading it. Diamond mods do not have the tools to do this" -> I think you also don't have the tools to crack down on serial voting that isn't [cot'd] – user1271772 Jul 9 at 2:18
  • picked up by the scripts (?) but this is besides the point. Before going to MSE to ask about adding this feature, I've asked here what people would think of such a feature. Furthermore, you have referred to network-wide voting guidelines, but there can be additional guidelines also local to Academia.SE, and the question's title seeks to get the community's opinion about what the guidelines should be when a post already has a low negative score. My opinion is that when we see that, we should resist the urge to kick someone that's already on the ground. I understand guidelines can't be enforced. – user1271772 Jul 9 at 2:21
  • Ah. If your goal is for Academia.SE to adopt a "guideline" that we shouldn't downvote after the score reaches -5, you may want to start a separate meta post that explicitly states the proposed guideline and let the community vote on it. Personally, I am ambivalent about such a proposal, would have to think about it -- but as you say, it would just (if approved) be a guideline, there is nothing we as Academia.SE could do to enforce it. An alternative would be to propose a technical fix that (given a consensus) we could request from the developers (e.g., thresholding the displayed score at -5). – cag51 Jul 9 at 3:41
  • Perhaps I could ask a new question, but for now the title says "How do people here feel about chain-reaction downvoting of posts?" and I'm gathering people's opinions about it. I'm also curious to understand why it happens that people pile-on downvotes when the net score already obviously sends the message to the user that their post was not liked, and in the case of an answer: already indicates that it might have been bad advice. It's something I never do, because my philosophy is always to be welcoming and not to give people a terrible experience just for one bad post, so I'm curious of it. – user1271772 Jul 9 at 3:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .