Suppose a question is not a "good question", and receives criticism and down voting, but then is corrected and becomes a "good question".

(Example: What could have prevented the decline of the Western Roman Empire, and it's fall in AD 476? , which currently has a negative score).

Should this perfectly valid question retain a permanently negative score simply because it was once temporarily incorrect?

(I'm assuming the answer will probably be "no", though you may surprise me. But, even if the answer is "no", that doesn't seem to be the reality here on SE. Many questions retain a negative score despite being corrected.)

EDIT: Perhaps this is a better example, since it is much older, but also currently has a negative score: Safely shooting antimatter

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    $\begingroup$ For the record, both questions linked sre still bad and off-topic. Thanks for bringing them to our attention, I just VTC'ed the second one. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ L.Dutch has answered the question, but the more underlying problem is because downvoters are not notified when the question has been edited. There's an old feature request to rectify that, but it has been declined. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. Way to spam an inbox. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan C'mon, sometimes you need a little bit of chaos. Besides, I'd be just fine with that spam. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Should it? No. Will it? Yes. Could it be changed? Yes. Will it be changed? No (Jon Skeet's enhancement request was made in 2009... It's older than some of my socks). C'est la vie. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ In the case of the Roman Empire one, I don't think it's salvageable. The cause of the fall of the western Empire is the sort of thing you can spend a lifetime writing scholarly articles on -- and people have spent more than 1500 years doing just that. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 8:23

3 Answers 3


Votes can be retracted within five minutes after they are cast, then they become locked. An edit to the voted post unlocks the votes.

Edited questions are also placed on top of the list, when ranked by activity.

So, there is no mechanism in place that prevent users from changing their mind.

However, this doesn't mean that all the downvoters will go back and actually check and maybe retract their vote. If they do, they probably do when the post is fresh.

Addendum after aCVn comment: Questions that are voted net -4 or lower don't show up on the front page, so very poorly received questions are liable to receive less attention.

Underlying lesson which I have learned: put as much effort as possible into posting good content from the very beginning, and try to react quickly on comments requesting improvement.

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    $\begingroup$ Questions that are voted net -4 or lower don't show up on the front page, so very poorly received questions are liable to receive less attention. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 8:14

Andrew T pointed out that there is no system in place on Stack Exchange to notify us when a post we have downvoted has been edited. There's also no way to tell who downvoted (unless they left a comment), so there's no way to request a downvoter undo their downvote.

Which means all you can do is upvote it. And with that in mind, the answer is actually surprisingly obvious:

  • Upvote good questions

That's it! If you think the question is good, give it an upvote. If you don't think the question is good, don't give it an upvote. There's no reason to say "this is a good question with a negative score, I should up vote it" when you can simply say "this is a good question, I should up vote it."

Now if a question is ho-hum, and has a negative score, you can choose to upvote it if you please. I don't think you should upvote a question merely because it has a negative score and you don't like that, but you can vote differently than me.

If you really want a fresh slate, get a fresh slate. Write a new question. Delete the old one! The only real disadvantage of this that I know of is that a rash of heavily negative deleted questions can get you a ban from asking questions, but its pretty hard to do that without gross negligence or intent.

Stack Exchange's voting scheme is designed to be simple. It's most definitely not designed to be perfect! This may be one of those cases where simplicity conflicts with perfection, but changing it would be a mighty feat.

  • $\begingroup$ Given low-score questions are hidden, how do you get enough people to even see them that they can vote to override their negative score? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 15:34

I'm going to say:

Yes. Maybe...

Questions that have been downvoted are generally --- but not always! --- downvoted for a reason. There's no reason it can't later be upvoted. Case in point, the antimatter query you indicated. I don't understand why it was downvoted so much (and the contrarian in me just upvoted it). It seems a perfectly reasonable worldbuilding query.

The suggestion I'd make is quite simple: if a "bad" question can be made into a "good" or at least a "better than bad" question, edit it!

That question was asked and edited two years ago. If you think it can be improved, do so. As L.Dutch says, it'll be bumped to the top of the queue and a whole new generation of reviewers can look it over and either downvote it into query sheol or else upvote it as they see fit. In looking at it, there are areas where better wording and formatting could help.

Might be an interesting experiment for you to try?


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