There are network wide recommendations also reflected in our Help Center on the purpose and on how to use our votes on a post:

These recommendations evolved over time and are one of major features on all Stack Exchange site that led to their success.

Still, on a recent post I am not sure if these recommendations were adapted on voting:

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I and apparently 4 other people who upvoted the answer fail to see why this answer should be "sloppy, no effort-expended, or clearly incorrect" as per the recommendations for down-voting.

This makes me wonder if the community here on German Language SE had criteria different to those on other Stack Exchange sites for voting. If so, there would be a need to better define them for people who received these votes to better understand.

What is the intention of a these votes, and would these votes be different to other Stack Exchange sites?

  • 2
    This answer was in my opinion off-topic, because instead of adressing only the question it meandered in a lengthy explanation of rules of deriving words in German. I fear this is a typical German problem that recommendations for downvoting are taken as orders ("Alles was nicht explizit erlaubt ist, ist verboten"). german.stackexchange.com/questions/24242/…
    – Karl
    Jul 7, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1
    @Karl: of course you are free to use your votes in any way you personally think they are appropriate, including answers you individually feel they are off topic, the recommendations only give you an idea as to what voting is all about. In many cases here the number of downvotes on some disputable posts (that may even not be completely wrong) differ from other sites where people are not so harsh. I believe it scares people away who come her for helping others, and to have some fun. For some off answers I believe just non-voting may be sufficient.
    – Takkat
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:24
  • @Karl, that’s what flagging is for.
    – Crissov
    Jul 7, 2015 at 20:30

4 Answers 4


My not totally uneducated guess is that the particular answer in question received so diverse votes because people have different notion of what exactly constitutes a German word, more specifically people will answer the following question differently: Is a word that is not used in a considerable manner but formed with certain mechanisms a German word or not? If you answer this with yes, the answer in question is okay; if you answer this question with no, it is clearly wrong.

This is also reflected by the comments arguing against the answer:

Das ist doch Käse. Nach Deiner Logik kann ich "-ist" an alle Wörter anhängen und das neue Wort ist automatisch ein deutsches Wort? Bananist? Tigerist? Schnapsist? Hemdist?


"Es ist allerdings kein besonders häufiges" Leichte Untertreibung, oder? Bisher haben wir genau eine Verwendung in der Bedeutung von "Mitarbeiter einer Praxis" die mal jemand in freier Wildbahn gesehen hat. Und für das Kriterium "ist ein deutsches Wort" gibt es strengere Kriterien als "ein Muttersprachler kann sich den Sinn im Kontext erschliessen", meiner Meinung nach.

So, as a first conclusion, I do not consider the voting behaviour mysterious or going against the fundamental concepts of voting. The downvotes come from people considering the answer to be wrong (and they have arguments to do so) and this is exactly what downvotes are for.

Now, if the upvotes and downvotes are based on a different interpretation of the question, is the question to blame? In my opinion, at most partially. We can hardly expect all askers to have the linguistic prowess to know the difficulties of defining German word or to give a definition for the purpose of their question.

Therefore a good answer to this question should address exactly the linguistic problems that make it difficult to give a clear yes-or-no answer or at least state on which definition of German word the answer is based. The answer in question fails to this and thus deserves its balanced score – in my opinion.

  • 1
    Well coming from the view that the questioner asked if a word was found in dictionaries the answer may be not what they had looked for, but in my opinion it would still not be sloppy, effortless or clearly misleading. In fact it does show that any new word people make up may be valid, is grammatical, and hence is German. The OP of that question presumably is a native German and they may also have access to a dictionary - so the question must have had another intention than just hearing "no, I never heard of it" in an answer. These downvotes are not fair
    – Takkat
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:41
  • 4
    In fact it does show that any new word people make up may be valid, is grammatical, and hence is German. – I disagree; the answer does not show this (not that it could; this is a mere question of defintion). Instead it just directly states: “Natürlich ist Praxist, -en ein deutsches Wort.” This is more or less the source of the problem: The answer makes a strong statement that assumes one possible definition as valid and does not discuss the alternatives.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:57
  • 2
    To put that in context, there had already been two other answers that strongly stated “no!”, both with more up than down votes at the time. The problem @Takkat is tackling on here is that people use votes less to assert the quality of an answer but more to state their support because it reflects their view (or not). This happens on all SX sites to some degree, but seems more severe on language sites. Anyhow, it’s been just 5 people or so.
    – Crissov
    Jul 7, 2015 at 20:43
  • 1
    @Wrzlprmft: The answer makes a strong statement that assumes one possible definition as valid and does not discuss the alternatives. - this is exactly what the most upvoted answer does too ("Scherzbezeichnung"). So the "balanced" voting may be rather biased in this example.
    – Takkat
    Jul 8, 2015 at 13:18
  • 2
    @Takkat: this is exactly what the most upvoted answer does too – No it doesn’t. It does not directly address the question (Ist Praxist ein deutsches Wort?), but only says: »Mir kam das Wort als Muttersprachler bisher nicht unter.« This implies that usage is employed as a criterion. I do not consider this a particularly good answer either, but it does not suffer from the same problem.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Jul 8, 2015 at 13:41

The answer on the particular question may be meandering. But if we were to down vote all meandering answers we would be down voting a lot (some users in particular would rake in dvs like crazy). However, if someone makes the effort of writing a lengthy but thought out, well phrased answer in which the fact are correct and which doesn't lead to wrong usage of the language, then we

should refrain from down voting

even if we personally don't like the answer.
Writing up something and then getting down votes is frustrating and by down voting answers as described above we would very likely discourage people from writing them. And that would be a loss to GSE. We want to discourage wrong and sloppy answers, not good ones that are a bit off but add information that some might find interesting.


In my opinion there was no reason down vote Crissovs answer. On the other hand there are two possibilities:

1) the OP has some axioms in mind that German words should satisfy. Then he should have stated them. While I certainly liked Crissov's contribution, I kept wondering whether or not he was answering the OP's question. This is, clearly, an undesirable situation and the person responsible for providing clarification is the OP - with help from us.

2)the OP had no such axioms. Then in the framework of this site I see the question as strongly opinion based. It should be rephrased and moved to a site dealing with linguistic philosophy. Perhaps this one:



Every user has their own way of using their votes. It is naïve to assume that this is different on other SE sites.

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