I've noticed a couple of downvotes on otherwise decent posts, and I cannot figure out why. I looked to the rules for guidance, and they state:

When should I vote down?

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

You have a limited number of votes per day, and answer down-votes cost you a tiny bit of reputation on top of that; use them wisely.

From here.

Some of the posts that I've seen downvoted are on decent if maybe inaccurate or not fully sourced answers. Sometimes they're on established users (one I noticed on brianpck that definitely does not belong - though I do not know if I should link to it or not, please advise if so), and sometimes they're on new users who may not be providing a full answer but are not "egregiously sloppy" or "no-effort-expended" posts.

Similar to my plea here, should we encourage users not to downvote for the sake of it, but only when a post truly deserves it? I think there's something to be said for giving new users a chance, and for established users, upvotes will eventually decide which post is best. Downvotes should be reserved for those that are way off the mark, not where slight disagreements exist.

What does Meta think?

  • I have to repeat what I said in an earlier meta discussion: "If a new users posts something that needs improvement, I kindly ask the more experienced users to refrain from downvoting and to leave a comment that describes how the post could be improved to reach its full potential." It's much better to tell how to improve than to only point out that the post is bad.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 21:04
  • 1
    There are systematic downvotes on Greek questions. Those votes are fighting against the topic, not the quality of the individual posts.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 21:05
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I agree. Is there a way to make that guideline more visible? I don't think it's being followed much.
    – cmw Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 21:39
  • 1
    I can edit the help pages and the tour to reflect the new policy. Remind me if I seem to forget it again. // I think some people are well aware of the Greek meta discussion and disagree with the conclusion. They are entitled to show this through voting. Voting (closing, up and down) is the communal way of choosing what is acceptable, and I see no way or reason to change this mechanism. Some people might be unaware of the new Greek policy, and editing our help should help.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 21:50
  • 2
    Unfortunately, on many SE sites, upvotes and downvotes are used as like and dislike ("not interesting/useful to me"), respectively.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 12:54
  • @Tsundoku Are you still noticing that on the sites you moderate?
    – cmw Mod
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 18:16
  • @cmw Whether a good question or answer gets downvoted or not is still strongly influence by personal interests. For example, on Literature Stack Exchange, a question about Tolkien can still get more upvotes than many other questions just because it is about Tolkien.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 22:39
  • @Tsundoku I was thinking more about the downvotes as a dislike button, but yeah, I suppose it makes sense that people will upvote their interests. It's a problem with a single up v. down system, imo. There's no nuance.
    – cmw Mod
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


This answer is aimed at the case of new users. There will always be some random downvotes on different posts, no matter what, and some will dislike Greek or some other topic. Those are a different issue. (Although I mention that I did edit the help pages and the tour to make the current Greek policy more official.)

We have two goals:

  1. Be nice to people.
  2. Provide good quality Latin content.

I hope we agree on these goals. Goal 2 is our explicit goal anyway, and I think goal 1 is reasonable in any human behavior. And it does help reaching goal 1; see below.

When a new user posts and the quality is not up to our standards, we have two goals:

  1. Welcome the user warmly.
  2. Make sure site quality stays high.

If there is no conflict between goals 3 and 4, there is no reason whatsoever for unfriendly comments. If such comments appear, I am willing to instantly delete the bad comments and give a warmer welcome.

Problems arise when there is a conflict between goals 3 and 4: it is not a warm welcome to get negative comments and downvotes. When a new post is completely out of bounds (spam or something), then harsh responses are justified. Otherwise we need to be lenient.

Because goal 3 is important, we should start working towards goal 4 in ways that do not harm goal 3. The first thing is that bad quality content should be improved, not deleted. Some things are beyond salvation and some users will not react to comments, but we should give a chance. That is, ask the new user to improve their post and give the time to react. If they improve, thank them in a comment and vote up; that will teach in practice that improving posts is rewarding. Be supportive.

Try to focus on the improvement, not on the initial bad quality. Suppose a new user posts an answer which lacks credible sources. Do not write: "This answer is bad because there are no sources." Instead, write: "Where did you find this? Adding sources would improve the answer a lot. Welcome to the site!" It makes a difference.

Try asking a new user to give more information in a positive way. If you want someone to behave a certain way, it is not always optimal to give them blunt orders and feedback.

Please refrain from downvoting for some time. (See also my answer here.) If a user does not react and the post is bad, then go ahead. Try to give a positive first impression of our site. It is much more important than immediate quality control.

If you think a post needs improvement, leave a comment guiding to do so. If you are not in a mood to leave a constructive comment, skip the post and move on.

Sometimes commenting on new users' posts is a trade-off between goals 3 and 4. Balancing between the two is not easy. But sometimes leaving nice comments is not even a trade-off.

Goal 3 is really important. Our site needs to grow to become viable in the long term. Growing is only possible by getting new users. We need to welcome them warmly if we want them to stay. Many potential great users have no prior experience with the SE network, and they need their time to learn the ropes. Give them the time. I needed it and many others will, too.

If you find too negative comments at newcomers posts, flag them.

Concordia res parvae crescunt. And Latin Language Stack Exchange is a res parva.

When a new user posts something that needs improvement, downvoting should be a last resort. Even if a post deserves a downvote, it can be better not to give it right away. Veterans can take hits and still keep coming back, but not all newcomers can. If the post is good, upvoting should be the first resort.

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