[META] When is it appropriate to downvote?

Given that this is a budding new community, what are (or should be) the accepted downvoting standards?

I am inspired to ask by a question I saw downvoted that, in my personal opinion, did not "deserve" to be downvoted. It is true that it was a simple question about a very small issue that most experienced SQL Users would probably know the answer to, but it is my personal opinion that we should be accepting of "newbie" questions and just provide the answer to help that new person learn.

My personal thoughts are:

Answers should be downvoted only if they thoroughly unhelpful. This may be because they are factually wrong or because they are display "trollish" behavior such as being deliberately and aggressively argumentative, being insulting to another user, etc. If I think an answer is bad in the sense of being incomplete or not the best solution, it is better to just provide a comment/another answer to enhance the discussion.

Questions should only be downvoted if they are either "trollish" or clearly and undeniably a homework/cert exam question.

But those are my opinions, what is the consensus of the community here? (Since there is no right answer, I will mark the answer with the most upvotes right on Friday.)

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asked Feb 02, 2010 at 08:09 PM in Default

TimothyAWiseman gravatar image

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7 answers: sort voted first

Agree with a lot of what's being said here, just wanted to give my slant....


Downvoting answers should be done when the answer is plainly wrong, dangerous or completely off the mark, although sometimes I would possibly add a comment for the answerer to clarify why they have given such an answer, and only if that doesn't resolve it, then downvote.

I think it is wise to add a comment if you downvote, so that the anwerer has an idea of why you have decided to do that.

Don't forget too that you can flag agressive, insulting or otherwise offensive posts for moderator attention.


This can be a difficult one.
Is there such a thing as a bad question? If it is actually a well phrased question, then no!

Even homework/exam questions can be useful in adding good content to this site, it's just that some people are dreadful at asking them, or at least disguising them!

I have seen a number of questions that make me initially think 'WTF!', but sometimes I wonder if there are language and/or cultural barriers? And I try to edit the questions to make them seem less 'plz hlp immediately'.

Certainly we should be tolerant of newbies, we were all there once. Newbies and not-so-newbies alike, we should help guide everyone in the use of the site, not be quick to jump on them! Voting, up and down, can be used as that guide, just have patience!

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answered Feb 03, 2010 at 06:20 AM

Kev Riley gravatar image

Kev Riley ♦♦
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I don't mind helping to explain some facet of a homework assignment, especially if it is clear they already tried or even have the answer but want to understand why. I know I had some really tough ones in a database theory class I took. But I personally am not fond of someone essentially asking this community to do the question for them.
Feb 03, 2010 at 10:24 AM TimothyAWiseman
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For questions, I think we should be open to both newbie questions and experienced developer and/or DBA questions. I would flag and vote down a question that is "trollish". Determining "obvious" homework questions can be difficult, but I agree with your idea if it truly is obvious. In addition, I have no problem voting down questions that are unrelated to SQL Server or are very unclear. In the latter case, I would undo my negative vote if the person asking the question rewords it.

I agree with your comment that factually wrong answers should be voted down but not incomplete ones. In fact, I've voted up several incomplete answers because I thought they were particularly good even if not 100% complete. This is especially likely for some of the more complex questions.

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answered Feb 02, 2010 at 08:22 PM

Tom Staab gravatar image

Tom Staab
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I also have upvoted several incomplete answers if they provided useful information, I just also tend to add comments/another answer if I think it is incomplete.

This is especially true, like you said with complex questions, where the answer may require many parts or even have numerous valid answers (How can I import data into SQL Server? Let me count the ways....)
Feb 02, 2010 at 10:11 PM TimothyAWiseman
As a separate note, it has only happened once, but I did see one question that seemed amazing familiar and it turned out to be almost word-for-word from an exam prep book I had read with only the multiple choice options left out. That did irk me slightly.
Feb 02, 2010 at 10:14 PM TimothyAWiseman
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This is a good question and very close to the sentiments that I was feeling yesterday. I tried a couple of times to phrase a question along these lines and gave up as I couldnt get what I wanted to say into a sentence without feeling it could be misinterpreted and start digging myself into a hole. So, congrats to Timothy for doing a splendid job.

I'll admit to a down vote here and there. I may have been overly harsh and after seeing the comments here I will be taking a little time out before clicking down vote in the future, to make sure it really deserves it. In my defense, this is the first site that I have joined with a view to trying to contribute more than I take out (I am actually learning just as much by thinking about my answers and researching parts of SQL Server that I dont use) so I am feeling my way on how to deal with voting and such.

I do feel that when I ask a question that I should put some effort into explaining the situation, what I have tried and what I am having problems with. Generally I BOL and Google before I ask a question openly in any forum, possibly so save public embarrassment as much as anything! A question that is barely a properly formed sentence that covers several huge topics (JOINS and KEYS in one question I seem to remember) doesnt lend itself to any concise responses - people have written books on the subjects. People are kind enough to takea few minutes to compose a question that is going to help me - for free - surely its only fair I pay them the courtesy of that effort?

Would this be the sort of question that would be flagged for moderator attention? Perhaps a moderator intervention with a standard piece of advice on how to compose a question in order to get the best answers on questions like this would help people re-word questions or compose new ones in a better way?

Why not have a category for 'Exam question'? Be open about it. Answers added could offer multiple choices and start discussion and, hopefully, that will bring understanding to the asker so that they understand why the right answer is right.

I tend to consider the order in which answers sit under the question to be the community opinion on which is most accurately responding to the question so misleading (wrong) ones should be down voted to make sure they stay low down. Hopefully the comments from the down voters will explain why its wrong, incomplete ones can get no votes or positive ones depending on readers opinion and the 'perfect fit' answers should get a vote from everyone, thus bringing it to the top.

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answered Feb 03, 2010 at 06:05 AM

Fatherjack gravatar image

Fatherjack ♦♦
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if exam questions, at least the microsoft 70-xxx questions are posted then i think these should be flagged. It's in vioation of microsofts copyright, as well as the poster violating their NDA for sharing the questions
Feb 03, 2010 at 08:32 AM Nick Kavadias
Yes, obviously following appropriate legal requirements for content
Feb 03, 2010 at 09:02 AM Fatherjack ♦♦
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I think it's just a judgement call. Individuals are going to use the downvote in different ways. Personally, I think I've downvoted twice in the three months I've been on here. It's really a question of deciding how and where you're going to use it.'

I don't agree that silly, badly phrased, or down-right ignorant questions should be downvoted. I do think that trolls, utter non-sequitors (like questions about MySQL or Oracle), and questions that are completely indecipherable, like the question about JOINS, should be downvoted. But again, those are my criteria, not others.

I treat homework a lot like I do over on the original SSC site, I don't answer the ones that haven't tried.

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answered Feb 03, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Grant Fritchey gravatar image

Grant Fritchey ♦♦
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I can see where people are coming from sometimes, but I tend to downvote very rarely. I do think that if it's clear the user simply can't be bothered to even type a sentence then that's a 50/50. It depends mostly on the mood I'm in, to be honest! But I think you're right, given that we're doing community building, downvoting probably isn't the way to go. More carrot than stick.

With respect to answers, I think factually incorrect ones are probably worth a downvote, but only if they are posted after factually correct ones. I think users trying to answer a question should be encouraged, and downvoting people who try isn't the most helpful thing when we're trying to build up a community...

Just my 2 cents :) or 0.0125079 pence.

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answered Feb 02, 2010 at 09:23 PM

Matt Whitfield gravatar image

Matt Whitfield ♦♦
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I tend to think that factually incorrect answers should be downvoted at least to -1 not as a slap in the face to the poster but as a warning to readers who do not yet know better so they are not misled. Of course, I also think any downvotes for that reason really should come with a comment Or another answer (comments have a small character limit after all) explaining why it was done.

Fortunately I haven't felt the need to do that much here, and I am willing to change my behaviour if that is not the community consensus.
Feb 02, 2010 at 10:09 PM TimothyAWiseman
I think down voting should be saved for the egregious answer that may cause damage/data loss, and as Timothy states, could be used as a warning to others. If and when the answer is corrected it could be up voted again. I know the answers here are as is, without warranty, but some code and advice will find its way into production so a little peer review is good. For other seemingly worthless questions/answers, zero votes is just about right.
Feb 02, 2010 at 11:59 PM Scot Hauder
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asked: Feb 02, 2010 at 08:09 PM

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Last Updated: Feb 02, 2010 at 10:14 PM