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I don't usually mind my answer being downvoted because I know the voting system here doesn't work. I saw two identical answers, one of which received 31 upvotes and the other received 9 upvotes. The funny thing was the other answer received 3 downvotes. I believe you would understand why the voting system here doesn't work and why I don't care about it.

I am not asking this question to protest any downvote.

But, do you think my answer deserves 5 downvotes while the answer posted by the OP himself receives 13 upvotes?

Let's have a discussion on this issue. Here is the link.

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    I believe the potential reason for the downvotes has been explained in the first comment. (Note that I haven't yet voted anything on that post) – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 20:41
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    @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. Yes, I understand your point. Did you read the first answer? What's the difference? – user24743 Nov 27 '15 at 20:54
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    The difference is that you imply that it's due to avoiding confusion that the plural of "belief" is "beliefs", while Sumelic's comment says this distinction is misleading and unnecessary. The other post didn't mention anything about the reason it must be "beliefs" rather than "believes", and hence the bikeshedding upvotes. – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 20:57
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    @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. You know what? That is the exact problem of this site. So any answer trying to show some patterns (with real examples) will be punished while any simple answer that can be posed by any primary school student get upvoted. Do you think it is fair? I don't. – user24743 Nov 27 '15 at 21:00
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    While I agree that voting on ELL is corrupt, insufficient and lagging, your premise is flawed. Your answer is misleading. It contains false info, hence the downvotes. I don't think there's more to this discussion. – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 21:02
  • @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. What is false? What is misleading? If you find my answer misleading, why don't you find the other answer misleading? Do you think English is so simple that the other answer can be accepted as a norm? – user24743 Nov 27 '15 at 21:04
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    Again, lemme repeat: You said we want to avoid confusion. Hence the plural of "belief" isn't "believes" but "beliefs". That's misleading, and irrelevant. The other answer didn't make any such assumptions. And no downvotes it got. The upvotes are a different matter. – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 21:06
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    @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. Why is it misleading? Why do you think the plural form of "belief" is "beliefs", then. That's the way it is? There is a clear pattern there. If the nouns and verbs look similar, we put "s" after the noun. Why is it misleading? You have 100% fixed rule in English? Why did you use "lemme"? Isn't it broken? – user24743 Nov 27 '15 at 21:10
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    OK, I see this is devolving into a useless argument. People thought your answer is wrong. They downvoted it. The end. I'm at a loss trying to figure out what you're trying to achieve here. I didn't vote on that post and I'm not obliged to respond to you. – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 21:23
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    It's really easy to sound the horn and say "Boo! You've got problems!". If you have a constructive suggestion on how to solve this, do your civic duty and enlighten us. This is a community driven by your and my contributions anyway. – M.A.R. Nov 27 '15 at 21:30
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    You've noticed something very peculiar. Two answers were similar; one was highly upvoted, and one was highly downvoted. There are two possible explanations: (1) Despite their similarities, there is something in the downvoted answer that is problematic, or (2) the voting system is arbitrary and unfair. Unfortunately, I think you've arrived at the wrong conclusion. Moreover, I think the question you've linked to illustrates that the Stack Exchange voting system does work. – J.R. Nov 28 '15 at 20:54
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    The answer presumes that the OP knows the equivalent verbs of the nouns proof and grief which are "to prove", and "to grieve". The answer is poorly presented, not wrong, just poorly presented. Be careful with the word staff too, which can mean the employees of a company or a type of walking stick. When it is the latter, it can be pluralized but when it means a workforce, it is an uncountable collective noun; therefore, no -s is needed. I think if the OP had provided links as support, the rationale would have been clearer to everyone. – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '15 at 20:38
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Here are some reasons why these aren't completely irrational down-votes:

  1. The answer asserts You have to use beliefs as a plural form of belief because believes is a third party singular form of the verb believe. The reason to use beliefs is to prevent any confusion." without any supporting references.

  2. It's difficult for fluent speakers to confuse a noun with a verb in context. For example, "She leaves the leaves on the lawn." is perfectly clear to a fluent speaker. Because a counter-example is so easy to imagine, it's hard to accept your reasoning about beliefs/believes.

  3. It's not a pattern that applies to everything a learner might encounter, as Jasper wrote in his comment "This is not a generalizable pattern. Consider "dwarf", "scarf", "sheaf", and "leaf"."

So yes, the answer did deserve to be down-voted because it is more likely to confuse a learner than enlighten them. The voting system isn't broken just because people disagree with you. If you're certain you're correct, but you're getting a bad reaction from the community, it's time to hit the edit link and try to clarify and support your answer.

As an Engineer, I fall into this trap all the time on ELL - there are certain things that seem like patterns and make logical sense that actually aren't real patterns. If I can't find any source that supports me when I think I see a pattern, I don't write an answer until I've done more research (or I go ask the folks on EL&U and find out I'm completely off track :) ) Sometimes the answer is simply "because that's the way it is for this word".

Some folks down-vote hastily, but if you're getting comments on your answer that point out some flaws, I've found it to be more rewarding to listen and try to improve my answer than argue with folks. I actually appreciate it when someone takes the time to comment, even if it's critical, because that means they've read and thought about what I've written. If they take issue with it, even if they're completely wrong, I generally see that as an opportunity to rework my answer so it communicates my meaning more clearly. If a fluent speaker gets the wrong idea, how likely is it that a learner is going to understand what you're saying ?

BTW - It's perfectly OK for folks to answer their own question.

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    +1 for pointing out the peril of false patterns, a problem I've fallen into myself from time to time. +1 also for supporting (good, non-trivial) self-answers! – Nathan Tuggy Nov 28 '15 at 1:33
  • Thank you for your time. I think you missed a critical point. If someone asks you why you cal someone's job engineer, not ""enginer" such as worker, the best answer would be "They are different". Engineer is a noun that means X, Worker means Y." What I am asking is it the standard that ELL is pursuing? – user24743 Nov 28 '15 at 5:27
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    @Rathony I don't understand what you're trying to say. I'm not debating your answer, I'm answering the question "Did it deserve to be DVed?" and explaining why I think it did. Well, and offering some unsolicited advice, but feel free to ignore that since you didn't ask for it ;) – ColleenV Nov 28 '15 at 5:51
  • @ColleenV I have seen some questions answered by the OP several times. That's not the news nor any problem. I am talking about the quality of the answer that looks like the reason is they mean different things. Engineer means engineer and worker means worker. Is that the standard answer our community is trying to pursue? That's my question. – user24743 Nov 28 '15 at 6:03
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    @Rathony If you think its a bad answer, you should down-vote it and preferably leave a comment for the author explaining why. I think it's a good answer. It's clear, it's well-formatted, it gives example usage to illustrate the differences, and it backs up its assertions with credible sources. So, yes, I think that is the standard our community should pursue. What I don't think we should start doing as a community is campaigning against answers we don't like on meta because the rest of the community doesn't agree. – ColleenV Nov 28 '15 at 13:11
  • @ColleenV I firmly believe I raised the right issue, maybe with the wrong example considering there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of lousy and even horrible answers saved in this community. Clearly you and I have a different view and way of thinking. I will leave it there. Thanks for your comment. – user24743 Nov 28 '15 at 13:18
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Part 1. On Stack Exchange voting

I've downvoted this primarily because of the assertion that "I know the voting system here doesn't work." I disagree.

The voting system isn't foolproof – what voting system is? However, in general, Stack Exchange voting seems to work fairly well. Most of the time, there is a pretty good correlation between the overall quality of an answer and the number of upvotes or downvotes it receives.

It's worth remembering: it's hard to judge the quality of an answer because there are so many factors at play. One answer may offer great insight, yet contain a minor inaccuracy somewhere; another answer might be completely correct, yet it doesn't provide much substantating evidence or explaination; still another answer might give good information, but be formatted sloppily with spelling and punctuation errors. Such partly-good/partly-bad answers are probably justifiably upvotable or downvotable, for the various reasons given.


Part 2. On the plural of belief

As for the answer that prompted this thread, I think you make one very problematic statement:

The reason to use beliefs is to prevent any confusion.

Hmm. I don't think any editorial boards or dictionary editors got in a room one day, and said, "Let's pluralize beliefs with an f and s to prevent any confusion." That's a very misleading and oversimplified statement. Worse still, it contradicts an example you give later in your answer: halves. If we pluralized beliefs to "prevent any confusion", then it would stand to reason that we would write halfs to prevent any confusion as well. I find that unexplained contradiction to be very sloppy work, and potentially confusing for the learner. I see no problem with these downvotes.

More telling still, when people tried to reason with you about this, you only became more stubborn:

I don't see any valid point in your comment.

That comment has double-digit upvotes, yet you still responded confrontationally. Your attitude reminds me of the joke where the young boy tells his parents, "The whole marching band was out of step except for me!"


Part 3. On the negative remarks found in this post

I believe you would understand why the voting system here doesn't work and why I don't care about it.

I doubt that's true. If you really "didn't care" about the voting system, you wouldn't raise a stink in such a negative way, and you wouldn't lodge so many petty disputes in the comments, like this one:

considering there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of lousy and even horrible answers saved in this community

That's a bit negative. If you think an answer is giving bad guidance, either downvote it, leave a comment, or do both. (Comments would be the more constructive option, because you could explain why you think the answer has problems.)

Overall, I think you'd be best off following Colleen's advice. When you get downvoted, keep an open mind rather than an argumentative spirit, and look for ways to improve your answers based on the feedback given.

So any answer trying to show some patterns (with real examples) will be punished while any simple answer that can be posed by any primary school student get upvoted. Do you think it is fair? I don't.

This is very telling. This isn't a matter of "punishment" or "fairness", this is a matter of you wording an answer in a very misleading way, and refusing to listen to anyone who is trying to point out legitimate problems with your original answer.

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    Thanks for taking the time to answer. Note that still IMO the voting system on ELL is not as good as it is in other SEs (perhaps due to the inherent nature of the participants—I imagine it's very hard for an [incompetent] ELL to discern the correct answer) but that's another discussion. – M.A.R. Nov 28 '15 at 22:26
  • @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. For what it's worth, SO has some remarkably pathological voting behaviors in certain tags. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 28 '15 at 23:21
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    @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. - I think "incompetent" may be too a strong word. An ELL answer might not be entirely correct, yet it still could be very helpful from a learner's perspective. (As an analogy, electrons don't follow neat little orbits around a nucleus. Such models may be technically inaccurate, yet they can still have some value when explaining chemistry fundamentals to a novice. So, a beginner might upvote such an answer because it was helpful, while the more advanced "chemist" might downvote it because it isn't technically accurate.) – J.R. Nov 29 '15 at 1:08
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    Some linguists use "competency" as a technical term to describe the mastery an idealized native speaker has of their own language. But I think we should avoid using "incompetent" to refer to a person who has yet to attain a native-speaker-like "competency" in that technical sense, because "incompetent" is viewed as a harsh, very negative word. – snailplane Nov 29 '15 at 2:15
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    I agree with @snailboat that incompetent is not a good word to describe a learner. Inexpert or novice might be better. – ColleenV Nov 29 '15 at 2:30
  • J.R. love that analogy. :) Sorry people, I was rash in my choice of words. @Nathan note that I was comparing ELL to SEs almost its size. It's not useful to compare between SO and ELL. – M.A.R. Nov 29 '15 at 11:49
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I upvoted your question. I agree that the voting system is a joke.

For instance, this answer, written by you currently has a positive upcount and is the selected answer despite the fact that it is wrong and contains misinformation.

But sometimes the voting system works. Here is an answer, written by you that "deserves" (your word) to be downvoted, because it is wrong.

I downvoted the answer you ask about in this meta question for many of the reasons that Colleen V mentions.

And I downvote a lot of your answers. Why? Because your grasp of English is not good enough to answer most questions here. Most (probably almost all) of your answers contain non-idiomatic English. I don't believe learners interested in learning idiomatic English are helped by reading what you write, or how you write.

The evidence for the above abounds in your answers and comments but your comment here about article usage, along with the two preceeding comments, is a good example.

A very great many of your answers are wrong because they contain misinformation or half truths. At other times you are just wrong.

You also often insist in correcting other people's answers in comments, but many times your "correction" is wrong or inaccurate. (Example: your insistence that someone use a colon after be.)

Frankly, your habits and reputation bring you downvotes.

There are other non-native speakers here who identify themselves as such when they answer a question. I think that is a good practice, especially for someone like you. You know only enough English to be dangerous. This means your knowledge of English is nothing near native competence and you therefore spread false, misleading and ultimately hurtful and wrong information at an alarming rate.

An excellent example of this is in one of your many comments to this post. The entire conversation about what all the time means demonstrates in no uncertain terms that you have no idea what you are taking about when it comes to idiomatic English. To make yourself look more uninformed, presumptuous and argumentative, you presume to argue with native speakers with well-established reputations (indeed they are moderators) over meanings of idiomatic English. All the time is not ambiguous as native speakers use it. It is ambiguous only to someone (you yourself) who insists that they know English better than native English speakers; the least incorrect statement you have uttered on this site is I am really at a loss.

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  • How about your own English? What did you download? How about this answer? Are you serious? – user24743 Nov 28 '15 at 16:19
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    The link in your first comment here proves my point. – user20792 Nov 28 '15 at 16:23
  • My point is simple. When you say you know English better than me because you are a native speaker, you should answer questions like one. Your answer in the link is absolutely wrong. When you want to emphasize, you do say, "It is blue" by putting emphasis on is when pronouncing. . – user24743 Nov 28 '15 at 16:34
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    @Rathony All the time means "very often". It doesn't literally mean "always". Native speakers use contracted forms all the time, but that doesn't mean they never use uncontracted forms. – snailplane Nov 28 '15 at 19:18
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    I agree that Rathony's answers and comments are not free from misinformation, but I really don't think it's accurate to say that their grasp of English is insufficient to answer most questions here. If anything, their only problem is not knowing their limits. I'm not entirely sure how appropriate it is to bring up the ELU kerfuffle, either. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 28 '15 at 23:19
  • @snailboat The definition of all the time: 2.Fig. at all times; continuously. Your blood keeps flowing all the time. That electric motor runs all the time. If you don't differentiate all the time and "very often", I am really at a loss. The phrase itself is misleading and I think he should have used "more often than not" which is more crystal-clear than "all the time" – user24743 Nov 29 '15 at 7:00
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    Rathony - Your stubborness is astounding. Read Definition 3, at the link you provide: 3.Fig. repeatedly; habitually. He whistles all the time. The answer is right under your nose. And I won't bother addressing your reply to my comment about contractions because there's more than enough quibbling going on already. All you're doing is providing more evidence of an unwillingness to listen and learn. – J.R. Nov 29 '15 at 9:18
  • @J.R. I don't think you understood my point. If a non-native speaker had answered that way, I would not have raised any issue. There are far clearer idioms such as "more frequently", "more often", "more often than not", "more usually", "more broadly". "more widely", etc. All the time could be misleading and confusing. "He whistles all the time" has a connotation of always as in "He whistles always regardless of whether there are fouls or not". You pick up the wrong example. Habitually and repeatedly don't convey the message, either. There is a clear distinction. – user24743 Nov 29 '15 at 10:32
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    Rathony, I don't think you understand my point. @snailboat wrote: All the time means "very often". It doesn't literally mean "always". You argued. In this instance and in this context, snailboat is right, you are wrong, and your dictionary link even supports snailboat's assertion. That's my point. Sure, you can argue that the phrase can be ambiguous, and has other meanings as well, but to call the phrase "misleading" is a bit much. If you don't understand what words and phrases mean, then perhaps it's time for you to do more learning and less arguing and complaining. – J.R. Nov 29 '15 at 10:38
  • @J.R. We are having a ridiculous argument. So you mean it is OK to be ambiguous when there are tens of expressions that can make your answer crystal-clear. OK. I would understand that way. – user24743 Nov 29 '15 at 10:53
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    Rathony - There is a big difference between being "crystal-clear", and being "totally wrong". Go back to your link which started this ridiculous argument. @NES wrote an answer: In normal, daily conversation native speakers use contractions all the time. You responded: That's totally wrong. Not all the native speakers use contractions all the time in normal, daily conversations. Really? Please. NES's answer doesn't mean "All the native speakers use contractions at all times," it means "Most native speakers use contractions frequently." Consequently, it's NOT "totally wrong," as you allege. – J.R. Nov 29 '15 at 11:02

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