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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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! 🤪

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  • 4
    To avoid you being a “fragile, defencelss New contributor”, I’ll explain to you why I downvote. Downvoting is a system to maintain the quality of this site. If a user constantly receive downvotes on his question/answer, he may be restricted to post, which is a huge benefit. But if you simply just leave a comment, he/she is still allowed to post, and may affect the quality of this site.
    – user150280
    Jun 6, 2022 at 14:24
  • 2
    It would probably have helped if the OP had explained why they had doubts so the answer could focus on their exact problem.
    – mdewey
    Jun 6, 2022 at 15:14
  • Related: Downvoting questions from new users
    – ColleenV
    Jun 6, 2022 at 19:00
  • 3
    +1 I don't know if anything has changed, but regardless, I support your three points. FWIW, when I compare recent questions with older ones, the older ones tend to be much lower quality on average. They wouldn't survive the close queue if posted today. That's a good thing. The flip side of that is it requires us being stricter. I think the pendulum has swung since then from the permissive side to being a touch more dismissive than ideal.
    – gotube Mod
    Jun 6, 2022 at 21:32
  • IMO, that particular question deserves to be closed for lack of research. There's probably a dozen questions on ELL alone that answer it. It also lacks specificity. What does the OP already understand about those two tenses? BUT, because it's a newbie, I agree that just a comment is warranted.
    – gotube Mod
    Jun 6, 2022 at 21:35
  • 1
    You've been using this site for almost 8 years, you should know the importance of downvoting.
    – user150280
    Jun 7, 2022 at 9:26
  • 2
    @Eden0516 While I approve of your thinking for the need of quality control, your 575 downvotes to 35 upvotes is not necessarily helping the community either. Any answer or question that deserves an upvote gets one, so I'm not sure why you downvote so much
    – DialFrost
    Jun 17, 2022 at 11:06
  • 3
    @DialFrost Your 618 upvotes to 5 downvotes is not necessarily helping the community either. Any answer or question that deserves an downvote gets one, so I'm not sure why you upvote so much.
    – user150280
    Jun 17, 2022 at 11:12
  • @DialFrost meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/398537/…
    – user150280
    Jun 17, 2022 at 11:12
  • @Dialfrost Let me explain. According to my experience in using this site, I found an interesting phenomenon: Good posts get upvotes fast, but bad posts get downvotes slow. Consequently, I changed my attitude into: downvote bad posts, and for good posts, if the poster is a new user, I'll leave a comment to encourage them. Normally, what we should do is to downvote bad posts and upvote good posts. But, thanks to the limited 40 votes per day, I chose to only vote on bad posts, since, as I mentioned earlier, good posts get their reward very fast.
    – user150280
    Jun 17, 2022 at 11:19
  • 1
    You on the other hand have a downote rate of over 90%, I kindly ask you to reconsider @Eden0516
    – DialFrost
    Jun 18, 2022 at 10:18
  • 2
    @Eden0516 - "User Michael Harvey has the downvote rate of 64.3%" Am I being named-and-shamed? Is that figure good or bad? Do we really want a Downvote Hall of Shame? Jun 18, 2022 at 11:21
  • 2
    @MichaelHarvey You are being named, but not being shamed. That figure is good in my opinion, as I think downvoting is more important than upvoting. So I'm not being impolite or saying something bad, however, if you don't want your name being mentioned, just tell me and I'll edit that comment immediately :) Feel free to tell me.
    – user150280
    Jun 18, 2022 at 12:36
  • 3
    I find a brisk bout of downvoting first thing in the morning sets me up for the day. Jun 18, 2022 at 12:36
  • 1
    @Eden0516 - I'm happy to see my name, and to be honest with you, I don't mind if the comments are good or bad. If they are positive, then the commenter is clearly very wise, and if negative, then they are obviously a fool and will soon go crashing to destruction. Jun 18, 2022 at 12:38

1 Answer 1

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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.

I can try to answer that with the help of the site analytics. It doesn't differentiate between question and answer votes, but here is a graph of the weekly votes since 2019:

enter image description here

The number of upvotes has decreased (but already before the pandemic) and the number of downvotes fluctuates, has increased a bit in the last few weeks (I'm not sure what your frame of reference is), but is otherwise normal for this site.

  1. When downvoting, be more inclined to consider giving an explanatory comment.

Yes, that would be helpful in a lot of cases.

(Even better, consider only giving a comment, without the downvote, especially for newbies. See #1)

I'm not sure I agree with this. We've had a couple of users in the past who flooded the site with low-effort and often similar questions; if they had been downvoted more often, the system would automatically block them, which is IMHO a good thing. A single downvoted question doesn't prevent you from posting another one; a couple of them will.

  1. When encountering someone else's unexplained downvote, don't be afraid to use a comment to (gently) prod for an explanation.

No. Those comments are not likely to help. Most of the times, veteran users like you and me can guess why a question has been downvoted and try to fix that. Maybe not in the example you provided, but IMHO that's an exception, not the rule.

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! 🤪

That's how Meta works; that article mentions "voting indicates agreement or disagreement" for s, but in practice, users do that for s too.

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  • My frame of reference is only the last 2-3 months. So it might have been that recent uptick in downvotes, which does look quite steep. That said, it's hard to be sure given your x-axis scale. However, among the comments to my original question there may be a clue. It looks like there is a small number (a.k.a. one) of new ELLers who are taking an unusually enthusiastic approach to downvoting. That alone may explain what I was seeing. Anyway, I'm going to accept your answer, the gist of which I'm taking as, "No. Over recent years, we've not been 'getting grumpier'". Fair enough.
    – tkp
    Jun 18, 2022 at 17:08

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