I recently posted How to prevent Wikipedia's desire for donations in Bitcoins from enslaving the world. I was surprised that the upvote-vs-downvote ratio is 50%. I've never seen that before. So I posted a comment asking downvoters to help me understand their issues so that I could either modify or delete the question.

The only respondant was AlexP. He pointed out some areas that he felt did not permit him to sufficiently suspend his disbelief, which I repaired. Then he pointed out that it couldn't be enough. Due to his background, the pretext of the question simply wasn't believable to him and therefore, downvote.

This led to a brief exchange (see the comments to the questions for that exchange) leading to the question:

Should an individual's inability to suspend their disbelief justify a down vote?

The reasons I ask:

  • You can't make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time.

  • Suspension of disbelief is a choice, not an emotion.

  • Whether or not a question favors suspension of disbelief seems independent of whether or not it's a good question. It suggests that part of our duty is to judge whether or not a story ideas is "worthy." That's subjective.

  • The principal use of up/down voting will forever be a popularity contest, despite the fact that they were never intended to be so.

  • The downvote rollover states, This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear and not useful. The upvote rollover states, This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear. Those statements make more sense for a programming question than they do a creative question.

I'm curious to know the community's mind about this. I've never once downvoted simply because I felt the pretext of the question would not permit me to suspend my disbelief. As I think about it, my education makes some pretexts harder to believe than others, but does that mean the pretext wouldn't be enjoyed by others (probably many others?)

So, to make a short question long, should up/down voting only reflect our belief that the question is well asked, or should it also or rather reflect our belief that the question is unworthy to be asked here?

All the while knowing perfectly well that up/down voting will always be entirely subjective and ultimately a popularity vote. Remember, this whole thing started because I thought it unusual to see a 50% up/down count with at least a dozen votes in play.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Lack of suspension of disbelief is a personal failure.... of the author. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 7:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I down voted because I felt like you were trying to copy the success of the earlier question, and your question didn't seem original or interesting. No offense; I really didn't spend more than 15 seconds thinking about it so its hard for me to justify my downvote with more time than that :( $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot ... of the author... do I understand you correctly? It's always the fault of the story teller whenever any reader chooses to not suspend their disbelief? If I've understood you correctly, can you please point me to any story that ensures 100% suspension of disbelief - any story that requires no work, choice, or use of imagination on the part of the reader? Just curious if you can actually support that statement. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 13:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JBH "100% suspension of disbelief" and "no work, choice, or use of imagination" are your statements, not mine, so it is your job to support it if you want them supported. I say that author who didn't make it worth to suspend disbelief for the audience he writes to, who didn't make them want to do it, failed. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Depending on your goals, you might want to accept and cherish your downvotes :) if the questions are even slightly interesting and you get a 50/50 split then for every downvote you will probably get someone wondering why it's negative and give you an upvote. If you were actually interested in rep, this could be the easiest way to get it (Since every downvote/upvote pair is +8 rep). I bet some people deliberately game the system this way... $\endgroup$
    – Bill K
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ I DV'ed because I didn't think the question was useful. For the record, I also DV'ed the Cthulu question. What I saw when I read the question was a request for a story plot. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 1:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The reason lack of suspension of disbelief is always the authors failure is because it is the authors goal to achieve it. Your goal, your failure. Other people cannot fail your goals. The reader does not owe you effort, it is your job to make them give it. And while 100% success is not achievable, you should know your target audience and get very close to 100% for them or you have failed. I'd guess this last part is what AlexP was actually complaining about, you were asking a question with a premise implausible to the same group you were asking it from. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2018 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ Are you not entertained?!? Well... apparently not. There are sci-fi series that require a lot of suspension of disbelief, like Doctor Who. And I still gladly enjoy it and ignore things that would break it in any other series. Why? Because I don't care. Because I am entertained. I am enjoying it and a more "correct" story would probably be worse. That's the point. Light sabers are stupid... but awesome. Suspension of disbelief is easy when you are entertained. Apparently, OP didn't exactly fail at creating a believable story.. just an entertaining one. And that's a failure for an author. $\endgroup$
    – xDaizu
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 10:10

4 Answers 4


I was thinking about downvoting when I saw there was a meta post, so I figured I'd post where it was more useful.

The issue I had with it is, once I peeled away the context, the question was

and with it, the ability to incorporate subliminal imagery onto the screens of nearly every Bitcoin miner planetwide.

And their first task is to brainwash more people to devote their GPUs to Bitcoin mining for the purpose of donating to Wikipedia. Today Bitcoins, tomorrow world domination.

Which, as a question, really gets paraphrased as "My evil bad guy(tm) has invented a form of mind control. How do I ensure he doesn't mind control people?" In that sense, there's not much context to build a question from at at all. We don't know how much mind control, or what weakenesses it has, or anything like that.

And it took a few re-readings to even realize that was the important part of the question. I think part of the challenge is that, if you understand how bitcoin operates, some of the flavor-text you put into it actually gets in the way of reading the question because the assumptions don't line up with how things actually work.

The real issue for me was that there simply aren't all that many miners in the world. Estimates are between 5000 and 100,000. When I try to think about an answer to this quesiton, I tend to think "just leave them alone, there are religious cults that are larger than this. They'll be small fries."


I rarely downvote questions

Or at least I think I rarely do. (People who can look at site statistics, and know how to do it, might possibly know better, but deep inside I believe that I rarely downvote questions.) The StackExchange network provides three ways for a user to register their dissatisfaction with a question: leave a short comment, vote to close, and downvote.

The way I use them is as follows: if the question has some sort of fundamental flaw which should have been obvious to the inquirer, I used to leave a short comment, usually with a link to some illuminating web page, with the hope that the inquirer will see it, follow the link, and become illuminated; if the question is technically unsuitable for the site, I vote to close; if the question is well-formed but not at all well thought, and I am in not so good mood, and it rubs me the wrong way, I downvote.

I am of course fully aware that my reaction could be wrong, and I find that being corrected for a faulty opinion increases the enjoyment of this site, and of StackExchange in general. I am also aware that StackExchange has recently posted a policy which frowns upon short illuminating comments. I won't do it any more.

Now we are not all experts in all fields. I understand that. I also understand that crime movies don't actually show how detectives work in real life, I understand that most space operas rely on dodgy physics, I understand that in real life dramas are much more muted than in fiction. But. I do expect characters and situations to act in a believable way and for actions to make sense in the universe described in the book or the movie.

  • Does this create a problem with fiction set in the real world? Not really. Good fiction imitates the real world, but the imitation does not need to be, and cannot be, completely faithful.

I've got a little list

  1. St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.A.

    This is good. Not only it is in the U.S.A. and not Russia, it is in Florida, a province with a climate definitely not at all reminiscent of St. Petersburg. Yes, I know that there really is a town called St. Petersburg in Florida; nevertheless, I truly enjoyed the dateline.

    +1 −0 = +1

  2. The Wikipedia Foundation today announced a groundbreaking partnership with The Bitcoin Foundation to become the first global distributor of information to accept donations in Bitcoins.

    First of all, that's the Wiki m edia Foundation. Wiki p edia is just one of the projects of Wiki m edia Foundation

    +1 −1 = 0

    Why does the Wikimedia Foundation need a partnership with the Bitcoin Foundation in order to accept bitcoins? People all over the world accept American dollars and yet they don't feel a need for a partnership with the American Federal Reserve. And "the first" global distributor of information to accept bitcoins? Isn't there a rather famous Bay in Sweden which has accepted bitcoins for ages?

    +1 −2 = −1

  3. To facilitate the new donation system, The Bitcoin Foundation worked closely with the Wikipedia Foundation to incorporate a protocol layer within the open source Bitcoin software [for some purpose].


    • So basically the Bitcoin Foundation changed the protocol, or in other words it forked Bitcoin, and Wikimedia foolishly agreed to accept only New Bitcoin, a variant which (1) at first nobody uses, and (2) nobody in their right mind will ever use.

    +1 −3 = −2

    • And who is this Bitcoin Foundation who is so important that it can single-handedly fork bitcoin successfully? Aside from a bit of advocacy and lobbying, both concentrated in the Sole World Superpower of America, it doesn't appear to do much.

    +1 −4 = −3

    • There are multiple implementations of a Bitcoin Network client. None of them is made by the Bitcoin Foundation:

      • There is Bitcoin Core, the original client released by Satoshi Nakamoto, and maintained on GitHub by a large and active team led by Wladimir J. van der Laan -- who has nothing to do with the lawyers and lobbyists at the Bitcoin Foundation. This is the most widely used client; about three quarters of the nodes run Bitcoin Core.

      • Then there is Bitcoin Unlimited, maintain also on GitHub by Roger Ver and others. It supports large mining rigs; more than 10% of the clients run Bitcoin Unlimited.

      • And let's not forget Bitcoin XT, the last Mohican fighting the good fight for updating the protocol in order to allow for better scalability. (See? Even a protocol change which brings real tangible benefits failed to propagate.) About 10% of the nodes (mostly, smaller nodes) run Bitcoin XT.

      +1 −5 = −4

  4. The consequence is that Wikipedia now has a piece of its own programming running on each of the untold millions of ASIC mining hardware assemblies and, more importantly, video GPUs on the planet — and with it, the ability to incorporate subliminal imagery onto the screens of nearly every Bitcoin miner planetwide.

    This would be the world's first and only open source malware in the history of computing. It's open source. It's right there on GitHub for all to see. So Wikimedia (1) makes its own Bitcoin client, (2) puts it on GitHub or wherever (because it's open source), (3) includes some malware in it, (4) somehow convinces untold millions to download and install it, but (5) by Divine Dispensation nobody notices that it does nefarious things?

    +1 −6 = −5

    Putting up a piece of open-source malware signed with their own name should definitely get Wikimedia Foundation a Darwin Award, Special Corporate Edition.

    Those "untold millions" of users are actually about 6 million people worldwide, or roughly the population of Transylvania. OK, with their families they add up to the population of mighty Romania. Some world domination.

  5. And their first task is to brainwash more people to devote their GPUs to Bitcoin mining for the purpose of donating to Wikipedia.

    Bitcoin mining on general purpose hardware doesn't produce any significant return of investment, that is assuming that by a miracle it somehow manages to cover the cost of electricity. Not to mention that most individual miners participate in mining pools, which run orchestration software which switches dynamically between altcoin networks in order to maximize the profit to be gained from burning kilowatt-hours.

    Hmm. And "hmm" is conceding that subliminal advertising works, which is very far from being proven.

  6. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to advise the World Council on the most efficient method of avoiding what some are calling the most viable zombie apocalypse ever considered by living man.

    How do we proceed to eradicate a piece of malware of which we have the source code? Let me see... What about

    • Have Microsoft release an update to the malware signatures for Windows Defender? Those come every few days, install silently on billions (not millions, billions) of computers, and do their job quietly and effectively.

    • For good measure, add updates to Kaspersky, McAfee, and whatever other anti-virus software.

    • Put up articles on Ars Technica and LWN. Problem solved with no need of superpowers!

    +1 −7 = −6

    (This really would have merited a lot more demerits. The entire unbelievable setup does nothing but install a piece of software easily removed by an anti-virus signature update.)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I applaud the fact you took the time & effort to write such a comprehensive post explaining your reasoning in evaluating a question. Plus one. This is despite I don't agree with your conclusion. The mechanics of a fictional world have to be plausible, but not necessarily right. If fiction can be improved by getting the technicalities right, then it should do so. I will tolerate bad science in good fiction, but not if it can be better if the science was. There should be more answers like this to questions. Well done! $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android: What tripped me was the idea of open-source malware. I just cannot see how this could work in any possible world. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ Everybody has their tripping point. For me it's usually space whales. Marine mammals adapted to planetary oceans are absurdly impossible as space-dwelling life. However, I decided to let it go. We all have our no-go triggers. They usually catch us unexpectedly. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Open source malware is possible. Take the Underhanded C Code Contest for example, at least as a proof of concept. In practice, of course, making your malware open source is just making things much harder on yourself than it needs to be. $\endgroup$
    – Ray
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 20:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ray: Yes, and the famous Ken Thompson hack will be remembered forever. (For the profane, he wrote the ur-compiler for the C language, included code which recognized when it was compiling itself and inserted a backdoor, then deleted the code which persisted without being present in the source.) But that was then, and this is now; and anyway, this kind of deep technical discussion is obviously not appropriate here. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 20:50

Personally I'd say anybody is free to downvote stuff he doesn't like - this can mean badly written, badly researched and topics you really don't want to have on the site; Suspension of Disbelief is likely more ofen encountered when reading in-character questions making them more difficult to be well received

We've had some discussions about more difficult topics, such as brutally torturing people, about different methods to kill people, about methods to create a government that is a brutal dictatorship and lots of other topics that, while they are on-topic, might still not really leave you with a nice feeling of "This is what I want to see and read when I am on this site."

That's why I think the standard tooltips on the voting buttons about a question being well researched and useful are only two things that you might want to take into consideration - the other being that you simply don't like the question and don't want to see it on the site.

In your case some people might have felt that calling out Wikipedia as a brainwashing future company might not really be a nice thing to do. Facebook wanted to prevent the world from being consumed by an Eldritch Abomination - your question reads at first a bit like libel. Not saying it is, just saying it reads a bit like it and some people might not take kindly to this. After all we are here because we want to share knowledge, so you might have hit a sensitive spot there for some people. Yes, I see your message at the end of the post - but many people might not scroll that far.

Another thing is that in-character questions are a strange two-edged sword. Sometimes they work incredibly great - and sometimes your nice question turns out to be everything else but well received. You have a bit of in-character speech, but not too much - maybe you have just hit the 50% ratio of people thinking it's a good rate of in-character and people thinking it's too much? Maybe some people don't like in-character questions?

People should be able to vote however they see fit. If you like a question and think "That's a great question, because it's well-researched." or you think "That's a great question, because it's the kind of question I like to read." then by all means upvote - and if you simply don't want to see this kind of question then by all means downvote.

Of course this is not a call to go ahead and simply downvote all questions that are not your favourite tags - I am talking about stuff you find truly aweful to read (for example I didn't downvote the linked AI question, but I was close to that; it reminded me of a certain troll we've had on this site some time ago) or for questions you just feel very, very bad reading on the frontpage alone (torture, killing, rape, ...).

If you feel that a question is really bad because there is no way you could possibly stretch your suspension of disbelief so far, for example because you are a computer guy and someone is talking about deleting the internet or something like that then this seems to fall into the classic no research category. Imagine I said "Just imagine for a moment that all atoms in you body were replaced by molecules" - could you really say this is a well-researched question when I didn't even realize that molecules are made up of atoms and that this statement simply doesn't make any sense? Depending on the people who see such a question it might immediately get voted into oblivion.

Sometimes you are just in bad luck and hit the wrong side for some people. Popularity is a weird thing and never seems to work quite the way you thought it would work. Maybe people didn't like the style of your question, maybe people didn't like your topic, maybe people didn't like your phrasing, ...

All in all "Suspension of Disbelief" is a combination of how well an author can convey his world to me through his writing and in regards to the topic the question is about. And that is incredibly subjective and depends on style, topic and my personal knowledge in the specific field. If someone says they downvote because they couldn't suspend their disbelief far enough then in my personal opinion they just haven't looked at the real reason - style, phrasing, topic, ... - and they are just using one of the standard reasons for downvoting. They also might be really critical if they can't outright say that it was your style or topic, but that it was something intangible like their Suspension of Disbelief. I wouldn't do it, but if others want to have such high standards then okay.

I suspect that "Suspension of Disbelief" is a phrasing more often used when you encounter something that is written in a fictional style, as in that moment we are changing from reading a plain question and being somewhat scientific in our answering/asking mode to reading a fictional work for a moment - that's probably what makes in-character questions so extremely weird as you have to be a really good author and you have to find the right crowd when posting. Some people might use different measurements when reading in-character questions opposed to out-of-character questions.

When reading a neutral question you are not worried about the "Suspension of Disbelief" - that's the authors job at a later point. But when reading a story you automatically have to "Suspend your Disbelief" in order to be part of the world and you have to interpret that world to understand the question.

I liked your style. Don't worry too much about it. Bad luck, it will be better next time. (Probably... maybe...?)

  • $\begingroup$ :-) Maybe. I'm not offended so much as I'm confused. Literally, I've never before seen a 50% distribution with so many votes. Especially on a sight that's famous for upvoting almost everything. Thanks for the insight! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH That's "site" not "sight". Your fingers must have been running on automatic. Famous for upvoting almost everything, indeed! Next you'll be telling me all those downvotes I see were figments of my imagination. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, yes they were on automatic! Actually, I can't speak to our fame, but this site awards positive rep more frequently and more quickly than any other SE site I use regularly. If you want to see something slow, go post on English Language Learners, where if you're luckly you'll get the OP to upvote you. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I'm not on many other SE sites, but I've been reasonably upvoted on them. Perhaps, I've either been lucky or haven't had enough experience to tell. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 9:41

Premise of your question includes things that make no sense.

The code on the GPUs is the principal problem as all that is concurrently used as an actual graphic card will influence anyone sitting before the connected monitor.

That is simply false. Graphic cards are great at separating physics calculations & other similar operations from actual graphics. Been like that for what, decade, two? And most of the cards are probably in dedicated mines, with no monitor connected to it and monitored remotely via SSH anyway.

Also, bitcoin code is open source: https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin Wikipedia Similarly, Wikipedia's code is, too: https://github.com/wikimedia. There is no room to conspire, no way to put some code in it so no one sees.

If you write technical things that are technically impossible, lack of suspension of disbelief is your fault. Questions that include impossible things in their premise regularly collect downvotes, as lack of research is legitimate downvote reason. Facebook chutuchtu question simply called it magic.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .