On a recent answer a user made the following point:

-1. It's not about you or your answer (which is actually good). It's just that X's answer is just so much better than yours; better as in more grounded in historical observations on disasters and references.


When you downvote without saying why, you get all sorts of crap for doing so in meta; and when you downvote and say why, you get all sorts of crap in comments. [...] The only positive out of this is that it worked: X's better answer is the most upvoted

When it comes to voting, our help center states

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

While reaffirming that votes do not require motivation and they are perfectly anonymous, how do you feel about this usage of voting: upvote and downvote to widen the gap between the good answer(s) and the less good answer(s)?

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    $\begingroup$ I call it voting to order. I used to do it and afaik there's no rules against it, nor should there be. How should I vote? $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 7 '20 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura Just because something isn't forbidden doesn't mean it's permitted. That's the whole point of the Tragedy of the Commons, after all. Exploiting the rules to get what you personally want because there's no consequence to you will end up screwing you over in the long run when everyone chooses to do it. Or do you want a downvote from everyone who upvotes a different answer when you post answers? $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 8 '20 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Having the permission to do everything that isn't explicitly forbidden is exactly what Jefferson wanted the Constitution to reflect, and it does. Luckily it was written primarily by Madison and not Hamilton who wanted explicit permission to prevail. (iirc) $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 9 '20 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'm literally on meta because I got the critic badge even though I down voted 0 times out of 152 votes and I was curious to see if it was a badge given automatically. $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 15 '20 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ I just got critic too, because the top answer is such the exact opposite of what I would say that a simple DV says it all. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 15 '20 at 22:10

For starters, let's call a spade a spade here. Downvoting an answer because you liked another answer better is not only mean-spirited, it's contrary to this website's whole point. It's not about your opinion, it's about everyone's opinion. You don't get to decide which answer is right. You upvote the answer you like, other people upvote the answer they like, and if your answer get outvoted, too bad. That's how democracy works. Rigging the system by using an exploit and then justifying it by saying 'Well it all ended how I liked' only makes it worse. You are doing a site a disservice by exploiting the rules like this, and if this keeps up, we'll have to make new rules and restrictions to prevent exploits from taking place. That would be bad, and none of us want that. So, for the love of those of us who like having nice things, please under no circumstances should you ever downvote an answer because you like another one better.

Now let's dissect this false dichotomy:

When you downvote without saying why, you get all sorts of crap for doing so in meta; and when you downvote and say why, you get all sorts of crap in comments. [...] The only positive out of this is that it worked: X's better answer is the most upvoted

I'm going to propose a novel approach and suggest that there exists a third and fourth possibly for downvoting - you downvote without saying why and don't get flak from the meta, or you downvote and say why and you do not get flak from the comments. I typically don't explain my downvotes in the comments, or I'll leave a comment explaining why I didn't like the answer without saying explicitly that I downvoted. Shockingly, I have yet to be called out on this behavior. Why? Well, because I don't downvote like a jerk. If the answer contains factually incorrect information or otherwise contains contradictions which doesn't answer the question, I'll downvote it, sure. But, the fact of the matter is, for all the downvotes I've cast, I've never felt that I ever got heckled about it, mainly because (as I said) I don't downvote like a jerk, I downvote as a cold decision.

I don't have ironclad rules on the subject, because I do think that downvotes need to come with user discretion, as with a lot of things on the site. That's also why I'm not going to propose a strict set of rules, but here's a good guideline if you need one. If people get mad whether you do or don't explain yourself, maybe it's a sign that it's not them that's a problem, it's you that's the problem. Justifying a stupid downvote by saying 'well, you get mad either way' isn't a justification.

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    $\begingroup$ Relative to there being a third and fourth option, I totally agree. So far as I can remember, I've never gotten flak of any kind for my "I'm downvoting this because..." comments. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks May 6 '20 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm downvoting this because I don't like you optimistic flowers and sunshine additude. Just kidding, +1 $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 7 '20 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ I have only ever downvoted for these reasons: Incorrect or misleading information, doesn't answer important parts of the original question, or has no explanation of the choices made and is practically a one line answer (despite it being a creative correct answer with no explanation it is useless) $\endgroup$ – IT Alex May 8 '20 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Related: sportsmanship-badge $\endgroup$ – Mast May 13 '20 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm downvoting this because I don't like you optimistic flowers and sunshine attitude. You don't get to decide for me something that exists (for eleven years now) by-design to work the way that it does. I myself do have ironclad rules on the subject, those being: your opinions do not apply to me or anyone else here. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ ... Nor mine apparently as I wrote How you should vote in 2014 (for you noobs who have been here at most 1.5y, and who have never mysteriously received a few DVs all of a sudden after a tiff...) and it was never incorporated into the help center (you feel like DV me now don't ya? ;) ... so if they're not going to incorporate that, then screw this. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ The only voting behavior that's unacceptable is to be inconsistent. I've changed my criteria once in six years (and my name, never. Are we done with that yet or what.) $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura Pardon me, but I'm afraid I don't understand you. You say that the only ironclad rule you have is that my opinions do not apply to you or anyone else on this site, and then you go on to say that the only voting behavior which is unacceptable is to be inconsistent. You cannot say that the opinions of others should not affect you and then turn around and proclaim your own criteria of 'the only unacceptable behavior is to be inconsistent. That's kind of rank hypocrisy. Especially since you're the one being inconsistent. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 14 '20 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Furthermore, this is the Meta site, where the point is to discuss opinions on what the site should be like and give suggestions for the rules. It's true that I don't get to force you to play by my rules but it's also true that I have no intention of doing so. I'm simply giving my opinion on how I think things should be and I'm doing so based on my understanding of this site, game theory, and incentives. Furthermore, spiting me because you've been here longer and haven't received as much attention is both juvenile and crass. This website is supposed to be a meritocracy, not a gerontocracy. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 14 '20 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Consistency isn't a rule, it's an ask. The 'rule' is that no one ever gets to tell you how to vote. The one time people's opinion matters is their votes. And if you vote inconsistently your votes lose the little currency that they have, which is much more egregious than a consistent order-voter. "opinions on what the site should be like" is the part of meta that I don't buy into, only 'giving suggestions for the rules' which they stopped taking suggestions for (or for anything for that matter) for at least half a decade. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ "Everything is a dupe." is what they said when I got here 6y ago. If you don't agree with that, that's what I'm spiting you for. Sounds like we're going to have to agree to disagree, which is the case in point. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura You know no one's forcing you to participate in the meta, right? If you think no one listens to you and everything has already been discussed, then it's really a waste of your time to argue with me. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 14 '20 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ Also, downvotes are downvotes no matter how consistent you are or aren't. It's not a credibility thing, you cast them anonymously so people don't see a downvote and say 'oh, it's User X's downvote, I can ignore him'. They see a -1 and that's it. Being consistently bad is not better than being inconsistently bad. I don't agree that everything discussed here is a duplicate of a previous discussion and even if it is, circumstances change and sometimes things need to be brought up again. And there are better things to spite me for than that, by the way. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 14 '20 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ I couldn't have stated 'wasting time' any better myself. This comment on meta and all the ones under it is where I'm coming from. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 15 '20 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed May 15 '20 at 0:21

Problem: the comment in question seems to have been deleted or removed, so I have no context to go on.

Assuming that all is as stated, it's very simple: that particular user is being a monosyllabic word that rhymes with Warwick. It's not an "illegal" vote (there being no such thing in SE) but it is unsporting to the second respondent because the answer is actually good and it is utterly useless to the community, because it gives us a skewed perspective of what is otherwise a good answer.

My opinion: The best uses of the upvote is to show support for a) what you deem to be a factually good answer and b) what you deem to be a creatively good answer. The best use of the downvote is to show that the answer is a) substantially inadequate to the task (e.g., it doesn't take into account all 16 caveats) or b) demonstrates some odious or atrocious behaviour or mindset that really doesn't have a place here (needless, gore, sex, violence, hatred, abuse, etc).

shrug We just move on.

It's an abuse of one's voting privilege to downvote an answer that is reasonably demonstrably good a/o creative. If you don't like the answer, but it still does the job, there is no appropriate rationale for downvoting it.

As for the other sub-issues: I really don't care if other users give me grief in comments over my downvotes. If I think your answer is inadequate or inappropriate, and I choose to downvote, I am most certainly going to spell it out in comments! If you want to take your gripe to Meta, I would say "please do!" I'd love to hash it out with you, and pepper you with examples of why I think your answer sucks, or why it is you're behaving like a disyllabic word that rhymes with troll.

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    $\begingroup$ The second quoted comment was not meant for the "comment while voting", rather for the "double my vote by downvoting" $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 5 '20 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica -- um, okay? $\endgroup$ – elemtilas May 12 '20 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ It's not an abuse of one's voting privilege, it's their prerogative. I do however agree with your criteria for a DV. But "hatred, abuse, etc" are all already explicitly against the rules in the help center; random meta posts from the current regime are unnecessary (prerogative). $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura - On standards, fair enough. I'm not sure where you're headed with your last phrase though. Posts from the regime...? $\endgroup$ – elemtilas May 14 '20 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ 'Discussing opinions on what the site should be like for the umpteenth time' instead of giving suggestions for the rules. The 'current regime' is always trying to make pseudo policy via meta... if it isn't in the help center it isn't against the rules. (the not-so-pleasant but thoroughly enjoyable comment thread on @Halfthawed 's answer might shed some light) $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 23:33

I doubt there is a regular SE participant (possibly no SE participant at all) who has not been subject to the vagaries of SE's voting system. For example: I have been subjected to one respondent who systematically downvoted each and every other answer in an effort to bolster their own answer. (I've also been subject to a user who visited every answer and question I'd ever posted on that particular SE site and down voted all of them.) This brings two quotes to mind. The first is mine:

Proofs that God has a sense of humor are the size of an avocado pit and teenagers.

The second is attributed to Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley (1955 to 1976):

Vote early and often.

Finally, while serving in a pastoral role I once sought legal advice about what to do with a parent who was jeopardizing their child's welfare. The attorney's point is one that I've never forgotten:

There is no law against bad parenting — and that's a probably a good thing.

What he meant was that every parent is a bad parent at one time or another and that laws that try to force everybody into one perspective of what a "good parent" is are generally worse than having no law at all.


So, in conclusion, I leave you with the humorous wisdom of Gary Larson's "The Far Side":

enter image description here

Everybody's a jerk at one time in their life (some, perhaps, more than others). Should anyone use down votes for any purpose other than to express an objective opinion about an answer's quality? No. Will pretty much anybody follow that admonition? No. So, in the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman:

Kitten, what I'm saying is that, sometimes, *!@# happens, someone's gotta deal with it, and who're you gonna call?

Answer: a babysitter moderator!

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    $\begingroup$ but....what about the....be nice and be honest? $\endgroup$ – Li Jun May 13 '20 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ i wonder what med skinned people is or look like ? $\endgroup$ – Li Jun May 13 '20 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ ah never mind, i assume its probably referring mediteranian skinned people. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun May 13 '20 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ So basically, deal with it because it will be done, and it's not against the rules let alone anyone's better judgment, so quit your whining. +1. @LiJun, what happened to signal to noise? What's that; can't hear ya over the duplicates on the HNQ.... $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 14 '20 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun actually, Gary Larson was probably using it as a secondary joke. (You can't just have two options, there's obviously something in the middle.) And since the range of human skin color is really quite impressive, the idea that there's a "medium" that represents most of the people on the world is (at least to me) quite funny. (You know, everybody else who aren't part of the eternal argument....) $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 19:42

Describing the behavior as a weapon misses the service aspect to future readers. Pulling a particularly good answer up to the top can be a service, I don’t generally use the “downvote others” on active questions, but I have done it on historical questions to bump something good up once the dust settles when a whole bunch of answers are all within 1 or 2 votes of each other.

I don’t think it is good behavior on active questions.


Voting is a privilege not a right !

Downvoting as weapon to promote a different answer you upvote is, I suggest, a violation of the Be Nice principle on SE. I'd suggest a pattern of this behavior ought to be grounds for moderator action - a warning, then maybe more serious action if the individual persists. I do think this behavior is destructive enough to warrants a ban if the offense persists.

The argument that it's not explicitly against the rules is a false argument. It's a violation of the be nice principle and that is a fundamental rule on SE.

If an answer is reasonable, and even if you don't agree with it, the nice thing to do is vote up the answer you prefer (or none of them).

If an answer has a fundamental flaw (in your opinion) then it's legitimate to downvote, but downvoting in the "nuclear option".

Two deep flaws with the argument of those promoting downvoting-as-tactic, IMO, are :

  • This would turn the voting process into a popularity contest, rather than a vote for what is considered the best answer by consensus. We would be in danger of people downvoting against particular posters, rather than their post. It's a very slippy slope and all downhill.

  • It will turn people who post decent answers away because they are getting negative feedback despite posting a reasonable answer.

I'd suggest that adding a comment explaining the weakness you see in a post is the correct approach (or voting up a comment that already says that). It is extremely negative to just downvote and not explain to the poster what you think the problem is.

Note that "I downvoted because I prefer this other answer" is such a negative thing to do to another contributor and just because you prefer an answer to another does not make it flawed in a fundamental way.

While reaffirming that votes do not require motivation

Any downvote must have been motivated by something. If there's a logical reason to do with a fundamental flaw the voter sees in the question, then downvoting without explaining why achieves nothing in the long run. We must recognize also that a small minority of people will abuse any privilege they have for their own benefit (including ego).

So my argument boils down to : a pattern of behavior can indicate a motivation and that revealed motivation can be treated as a violation of the "be nice" principle if appropriate.

I'd prefer keep the people who try and post useful answers and respect others, than let them be driven off the site by people who think we're here to validate their egos and opinions and want to force their own opinions by gaming the voting system.

how do you feel about this usage of voting: upvote and downvote to widen the gap between the good answer(s) and the less good answer(s)?

A terrible idea that punishes good answers and hence punishes good posters. This is the last thing we should be doing on SE. It should be actively discouraged where possible.

  • $\begingroup$ The voting process is a popularity contest. Downvoting against particular posters is serial dv and is explicitly against the rules. Turing people away is half travesty and half by-design. IDK how to actively discourage this, other than calling them out for being inconsistent. DVing someone takes a piece of your soul with it, if you can stomach that everyday on every part of every q&a you ever read, then you're my hero. Note, this requires you read every answer before you vote on any of them, which is a lot of work and ultimately a vote(s) that's the most perspective. That, I still do. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 15 '20 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Please see my brief answer, which I wrote somewhat in response to this. I generally agree but think there’s a common case that warrants notable exception. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jun 8 '20 at 13:25

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