Once upon a time, there was the ugly downvoter on StackExchange. Only the Germans where able, to defend against his cruel infection ...

Well - reality! I observed that there is nearly no downvotes, as if either the users of GL&U are posting so much better questions or answers than elsewhere, that there is no need for downvotes (I don't think so),

or: That the German users prevent downvotes. Maybe because of their self image, as nice and friendly person, maybe in fear of disturbing the type of the rarely seen new user, maybe in fear about the own reputation (I don't think so).

I wanted to verify that my observation is right, and not a prejudice of mine, so I visited some sites. I selected the userpage, sorted by reputation over all time, took the Top-10 users and visited each of them's page, and calculated the ratio between the downvotes they made, compared to the upvotes they made.

Here is the graph of my results: plot of down- vs. upvote of the top reputation users

The numbers show the quotient in 1 per 1000. So to not confuse you: The top 10 users by reputation where selected, but then ordered by the ratio.

And here are the numbers:

id  GL  FL  EL  Skeptics
1   0   0   75  5
2   1   2   75  10
3   2   20  100 50
4   5   25  120 50
5   5   25  120 80
6   10  30  150 80
7   10  30  250 100
8   30  30  250 150
9   50  50  330 250
10  50  90  450 330

A few examples in prose: The biggest number of downvotes, compared to upvotes, on the GL&U-site is 5%. This is lower than the minimum ratio on the EL&U site, where it is about 7,5%. The maximum there is 45% downvotes, compared to upvotes (not from total votes, that would be about 30%=45/(100+45)).

We see, that the French people use much more downvotes, but compared to the English users or Skeptics, it is not that impressive.

Of course, none of them are normative. We can do whatever we want. And we should do, what we think is right. But my impression is, that we don't do, what we think is right, but in an opportunistic way try to attract visitors with the technic of corruption. We Wulff them. Hey, come in, and get reputation for free!

You don't need to answer the question - just post something loosely related to the question, and you receive 3-5 upvotes. Ask a question, which would be instantly answered by dict.leo.org, and you earn 5 upvotes, no downvotes, no flag to close! More so, you will get 3 answers which just take their answer from a dictionary, and get some upvotes too.

Well - why should we do it? Because we are corrupted ourself, and only have the daily visits, questions and answered questions in mind. Quantity counts - not quality.

Imho, this is the wrong strategy. Downvotes don't hurt that much - neither the downvoted, nor the downvoter.

Take responsibility, and don't only honor, but punish too. Just a little bit of law and order - not too much. In many cases you may leave a comment, why you downvote, to animate the autor to improve his answer or question. After downvoting an text, you can revoke your downvote if the post was edited. You may even turn it into an upvote. Doing so is normal - look at the other sites, they do it, and it works.

And don't take it as an insult, if your post gets downvoted (most probably by me, because me alone, I made more downvotes here than the top 10 users here altogether). It's not you, who get's downvoted, but your text. ;)

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  • 4
    @Takkat: Hover over the down arrow to see, what the condensed advice how to use downvoting is. Mar 14 '12 at 22:13
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    So what you're saying is that most of the users here, including all of the Top10 users, are doing it wrong and you know the cure? To believe this, I need to see a problem with GL&U. Which I don't.
    – Jan
    Mar 15 '12 at 9:05
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    @jan: I don't say, something is wrong or right, but that downvoting isn't meant as insulting people, but to signalize to improve a post. And that there are a lot of questions and answers which deserve improvement. I can turn the table and ask you, whether you believe the French and English users are doing it wrong. Am dt. Wesen soll die Welt genesen? Mar 15 '12 at 19:26
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    @userunknown: 1) Concerning downvotes, I simply agree with Takkat's comment above. The condensed advice for downvoting you're referring to is very subjective. How can we objectively measure if a post is helpful or does not show any (any!) research effort? We can't, and so we're voting according to our own individual standards. The way I see it, your standards seem to be much higher than those of others. 2) In my eyes, it's a mistake to compare between sites, since every site has their own user base and thus develops their own culture. What works for...
    – Jan
    Mar 16 '12 at 9:30
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    ...the French and English sites (and they, between themselves, are quite different) doesn't necessarily work here. So I'm definitely not trying to transfer operation modes between sites. In fact, you are. And this leads me to 3) making false assumptions is one thing, but citing historic colonialism and war-mongering rhetoric to describe dissenting thoughts of your fellow discussion partners is another thing entirely, and I won't have it.
    – Jan
    Mar 16 '12 at 9:30
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    @Jan: If you think does not show any research effort is a bad description, you should, maybe, complain at general meta - it isn't my invention. :) But I think it can be understood: Didn't open a dictionary, didn't google, ... Mar 16 '12 at 16:07
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    Didn't do any of these? I agree. Didn't do all of these? I disagree. - The popup text on those arrows is necessarily shorter than the full description that Takkat has linked to, which, for me, is the main reference about downvoting. Its brevity leads to being more prone to misunderstandings. And yes, I think SE could have done more to make the intention clear enough there. But if you really want to delve into an exegesis of this little piece of text (and I don't), I'd recommend looking closely at the word "any".
    – Jan
    Mar 16 '12 at 16:55
  • @Jan: Why didn't you choose "effort"? :) Mar 17 '12 at 3:54
  • @Jan: Btw.: Emanuel Geibels Poem, where the "Deutsches Wesen - Welt genesen" origins, talks about making peace, not war. Mar 18 '12 at 6:40
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    I hope I'm not out of place if this is a private party, but even though I used to work as an interpreter/translator, I didn't even know of sites such as Leo or Canoo until somebody mentioned them here on GL&U after I happened to stumble onto GL&U. And with so many sites to choose from, just Googling for an answer is still tedious and unreliable. People are the best resource, and this is a people site.
    – Kevin
    Mar 18 '12 at 9:30
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    But what I've seen about downvoting here is it seems to be used more as a weapon than an educational tool. Somebody doesn't like your answer, not because it's a wrong answer, but they downvote it to express their disagreement. I even got a downvote the other day AFTER my answer was selected as the chosen answer, and no comment was left to explain why. I'm sure, however, that this is not the intent for downvoting.
    – Kevin
    Mar 18 '12 at 9:31
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    Most effective for me is just not to receive upvotes but with comments to help explain. And I really doubt anybody is going to take the time to go back and change a downvote if an answer is improved even though they should. Just some thoughts.
    – Kevin
    Mar 18 '12 at 9:32
  • @Kevin: ad 2) You have to distinguish between the main page and Meta. On Meta, a downvote means I disagree - something I had to learn too. ad 1) I tried to make a suggestion, to mention such central tools on our FAQ, but earned no feedback, if I remember correctly. ad 3) Yes, I think, if I downvote a question, to force the person to improve it, that I will upvote it, if done so. An edited question (answer) pops up at the newest questions page. Why should I downvote it to improve it, if I wouldn't upvote if done so? I don't understand that argument. Mar 18 '12 at 11:34
  • @userunknown You may be somebody who properly uses the downvote, and we can all appreciate that. I'm just saying that I haven't seen that from other people, who seem quick to downvote but not in a helpful way, and I don't have much confidence they would change their votes. Maybe if people understood better the downvote's use and purpose, then it would be a more effective tool. I've read the FAQ and didn't quite get from it that downvoting was intended to be a prominent tool. If it is supposed to be, then perhaps the FAQ should be modified to reflect that more.
    – Kevin
    Mar 18 '12 at 23:27

When should we downvote?

From the Stackoverflow guidelines for downvoting we read:

  • Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.
  • Voting down answers is not something we want you to take lightly.
  • Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

Why should we downvote?

Downvoting is the least measure we have to nudge an answer or a question down the page to make it less visible to people. We tell people that to our opinion this question or answer is extremely bad, or even wrong.

Why should we not downvote?

  • There is no point to discuss if this is correct or not but getting a downvote does makes people feel bad. Some may even take it as a personal insult, even more when they don't have an idea why a downvote happened, or when they got downvoted for a question, or an answer they put at least some effort in. We have already lost users that contributed a lot just because of that.
  • We are not here to "educate" or even "punish" people. This site was created as a platform to discuss German language. To be able to do so we need people to feel good on their visit, to frequently come back, and maybe want to contribute. Contribution is a free and voluntary thing. If people get "punished" or feel like being "educated" they just won't come back.
  • Downvotes are not meant to make the distance to somewhat better content clearer. That's what upvoting is for. By no means should we downvote to push our own answers further up.

What alternatives do we have?

  • Vote early, vote often.
  • Use comments or edit the post if you find an obvious error.
  • Communicate what you think could improve a post. Either leave a comment or use chat for discussing this.
  • Don't upvote. This will clearly leave a poor question or answer behind others, better ones over time.

Do we have to fulfill a downvote quota?

There is no guideline that says we should. In fact, the reason we have less downvotes than other sites is likely because we have a lot of good content here. Let us put effort in further improving the content rather than nagging people with downvotes.

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    +1, and once more the description of a good reason for a downvote: "[...] egregiously (übersetzt: unerhört/ungeheuerlich) sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect".
    – Jan
    Mar 16 '12 at 11:20
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    I don't think education is a bad thing. Many people don't read a FAQ, don't look around, to inform, what the standards are, and just post bad questions and bad answers. Having them around here would be fine, if they get educated. You do them a favor in educating them. Lerning something new is always an education experience. Mar 16 '12 at 14:19
  • We have already lost users that contributed a lot just because of that. Is this an assumption or a fact? Mar 16 '12 at 14:20
  • By no means we should downvote to push our own answers further up. Soll das eine Unterstellung sein? Voting down, also known as "casting downvotes", is how the community indicates which questions and answers are least useful. is the first sentence from your cited SE-page. I guess you missed it by accident. Mar 16 '12 at 14:21
  • @user: Well, apparently we lost Gigili (which is a shame), who posted the accepted answer to the Schäckern-question. Mar 18 '12 at 9:14
  • @HendrikVogt: Well, that is one user - Takkat talked about users, and my question was, whether it is an assumption or a known fact. I assume Gigili didn't tell you why he/she left? Mar 18 '12 at 10:41
  • @user: My comment was deliberately not formulated as a confirmation of Takkat's claim but merely as one piece of evidence that could count in this direction. Mar 18 '12 at 14:39
  • @HendrikVogt: My English isn't that fine - 'evidence' can be used as 'Indiz', but as well as 'Beweis'. I don't see much evidence, just speculation. Mar 18 '12 at 20:17
  • @user: Well, Indiz = Beweisstück :-) Maybe fundierte Spekulation fits? (Maybe we should switch to German ...) Mar 19 '12 at 7:36
  • @HendrikVogt: Switch to chat would make more sense. Mar 19 '12 at 8:08

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