I am a wee bit concerned that -- and I may simply be imagining this -- the amount of downvoting of questions seems to have increased recently. Whenever I look in the list of Questions, it seems like the number of questions with a negative number of votes is larger than it was in years past (maybe it's a pandemic effect 🙂). Right now for example, 5 out of the 10 most recent questions have gone sub-zero.
Also, while it's even harder to be sure about this, it does seem like there are more new contributors than there used to be among those getting downvoted.
And perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that those voting questions down usually aren't explaining why, which can make it difficult for the OP to correct things, or at very least to learn something helpful for next time. (If, that is, there even is a next time. I imagine many first time users could be put off the whole thing if their first attempt gets slapped down without any kind of explanation.)
I am not saying that none of the downvoted questions don't warrant it. Nor am I saying that newbies should be completely immune to downvoting -- after all, a primary raison d'être for SE is to act as an archive of "good" questions, and part of that is pruning and culling. And I am also not saying that providing an explanatory comment should be required for downvotes.
All I am suggesting is the following. Three things, really:
- Recalibrate your own personal downvoting criteria; especially where the potential target is a newbie. Maybe we all have them set at a perfectly reasonable level, but just check.
- When downvoting, be more inclined to consider giving an explanatory comment. (Even better, consider only giving a comment, without the downvote, especially for newbies. See #1)
- When encountering someone else's unexplained downvote, don't be afraid to use a comment to (gently) prod for an explanation. This is especially important if the OP is a newbie, since they are less likely to have the confidence to ask for an explanation themselves, and are more likely to be put off ELL as a whole. In general -- i.e. even if the OP is not a newbie -- I reckon that the acceptability of asking for an explanation increases to the extent that: a) you, yourself can't see a reason for a downvote; and b) you are proficient in English (because if a native speaker, say, can't see a reason for the downvote, then the chances are high that no one can and so an explanation really is warranted).
Here is a recent example: What is the difference between present perfect and present perfect continuous in this example It's from a New contributor. It looks like it got downvoted pretty fast -- so from the newbie's point of view it could have felt like a very quick sequence of: ASK -> SLAP! -> SLINK-AWAY-NEVER-TO-DARKEN-OUR-DOOR-AGAIN. There is no explanatory comment. And I, as a native English speaker, can't see what the problem is. If pressed, I'd guess that perhaps the downvoter (or downvoters) feels that anyone able to ask that particular question -- especially since it suggests they already know that the two tenses mentioned exist and are not identical -- should be able to figure out the answer from a quick Google. But as I say, I am reduced to simply guessing that's the problem. And, also as I say, I'm a native speaker. If someone like me can't figure it out, what hope would a less fluent OP have in understanding what they need to fix?
OK, rant over.
And I'm now giving 2:1 odds that a bunch of you are about to downvote -- without explanation, and me being a fragile, defenceless New contributor (to ell.meta, not to ell itself of course) -- this question! 🤪