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I'm new to Workplace.SE, though I'm active on other SE sites.

One thing I've noticed is that there is a downvoting police, that goes around giving -1 to anything they don't like. Go to the main page, and there is a whole list of questions with 0 and -1 scores. Several questions I gave a +1 to have a score or 0 or lower(which means others downvoted them).

It's the same with many answers. They have a plus score, and I found them useful; yet when I come back a few minutes later, they have gone to negative.

Some of these questions were valid, though they could have been written better. But is that enough reason to mark them down?

Are the people of this site too eager to give downvotes? Is this a good practice to get more people into the community?

Edit: Thanks for downvoting my question. I guess it proves my point.

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    Hi Shantnu, glad to have you here. What makes you think there's a downvoting 'police' and not just users, like you, eager to participate and help increase the quality of this site? – CMW Mar 31 '14 at 12:56
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    I would recommend that you try to look at the downvoted items through someone elses eyes. Try to understand where they are coming from in the comments. If you are having difficulty doing that you can always drop by The Workplace Chat and ask there. We are pretty active in chat and always willing to help someone improve their contribution or even just understand where the community may be coming from. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 31 '14 at 14:06
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    Also note downvoting here basically means "agree/disagree" and is otherwise much less meaningful on meta. Downvotes on this in particular likely mean, "I disagree." For what it's worth, I've not voted on this. – enderland Mar 31 '14 at 16:16
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    I upvoted this question not because I agree (I don't think there's too much downvoting, in other words) but because I think it's an important question to ask. We need to be able to discuss things like this as a community and to check how we're doing over time. – Monica Cellio Mar 31 '14 at 18:24
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Some of these questions were valid, though they could have been written better. But is that enough reason to mark them down?

Sure. There are other reasons to downvote something, but "hard to read" is legit. This isn't some grade-school essay contest where you get points just for completing the assignment - if your question or answer isn't accessible and understandable by others, it's just noise.

And no, there isn't too much down-voting here. Over the past 28 days, the site has seen 2,066 down-votes and 12,070 up-votes.

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    2,066 -- does this number include votes on deleted posts? – gnat Mar 31 '14 at 18:54
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    Yes it does, @gnat. – Shog9 Mar 31 '14 at 19:21
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One thing I've noticed is that there is a downvoting police, that goes around giving -1 to anything they don't like.

Good, the system works. We encourage people to downvote content they don't find useful.

It's the same with many answers. They have a plus score, and I found them useful; yet when I come back a few minutes later, they have gone to negative.

Apparently, other people didn't find said answers as useful as you did. It happens, you shouldn't lose sleep over it.

Some of these questions were valid, though they could have been written better. But is that enough reason to mark them down?

Yes. If you want to help those questions get upvoted, you could try fixing them. You can comment and ask for clarifications, or you can edit them. Or both.

At the end of the day, a downvote is just a signal to readers that there's something wrong with the question. If you agree those questions could have been written better, then I don't see what's your problem with people signalling just that.

Are the people of this site too eager to give downvotes? Is this a good practice to get more people into the community?

No, at least not in my experience. I'd say it's the opposite, really, this site has had a bit of a history with upvoting crap. But it's getting better.

Now, downvoting may scare some contributors away. However, we don't just want to get more people in this community. That's relatively easy. What we really want is to get people to stick around and become more and more active over time. Our main way of achieving that goal is to constantly provide quality content, and downvoting is one of our primary quality control tools. Thus, in the grand scheme of things, downvoting is a good thing.

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Many of the down votes seem to be in regards to answers either not being answers or not meeting the guidelines listed in The Help Center:

How should I answer?

Make sure your answer adds helpful information and is a complete, stand-alone answer. Read other answers first and be sure not to completely restate information that has already been posted.

Please note that answers should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally. You should always include in your answer information about why you think your answer is correct.

A good alternative to the back it up rule is to make sure your answer provides plenty of detail to back up your claims. Following the Six Subjective Guidelines is a good way to do this.

With that said, down votes are a tool used to push unsubstantiated, as well as incorrect content, to the bottom of the page. Our site exists to help not just the asker but all future visitors who come here from Google searches. To achieve that goal, we need to be sure that these visitors trust us. Otherwise, we're just random people on the Internet making claims that may or may not be true. If that's what our site is about, then people with real problems to solve won't trust that this is the place to come for real answers.

Lastly, many of us do leave comments that are hopefully friendly and encouraging. We want people to participate, but we also want contributions to be positive and correlate with our site's mission to make the Internet a better place. Not everyone will get that. Those that do will take heed of those comments and do some editing, and the community can, and does, review their down votes and even reverse them when newcomers fix the problems with their posts. Hope this helps!

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I see your point - and at least can agree to the observation that in my experience, as well, the downvoting is faster and more likely on this site than on many other SE sites I've seen. I'm torn on whether that's good or bad and/or what it means. Being so torn, I don't have a great answer on what to do (if anything) about it, but here's some observations.

Nature of questions is a bit different

The Workplace has wrestled with this since it's inception. Our questions are a bit different and there are times when SE has even debated whether these types of questions can even fit the SE format in a useful way (there was a podcast between Joel and Jay on this a while back). The problem is that The Workplace questions can be both very opinion oriented and have more than one successful path. I think there will always need to be some fast-acting downvoting to provide a certain deterrent.

Things I feel are particularly hazardous here:

  • highly opinion driven questions - they almost always boil down to "I'm right, aren't I?" - it may be we can reword them, but I see enough of them in a week that I don't mind the gut reaction to the question being a downvote, to hopefully deter users from getting in the habit of submitting this type of question.
  • sagas of woe - long questions that tell such a particular set of circumstances that I can't see how they can possibly be reuseable. While the specifics of lines of code can be really helpful on Stack Overflow, the intimate details of a person's background and the last 5 years of a horrible problem is both hard to read and hard to answer. If it can be summed up and made generic, great, - but I'm glad to see the penalty start with downvotes.

I agree that bad questions can be saved, but every time we try to save a question, we also risk morphing the question so heavily that it's no longer useful to the original asker. That really breaks the mold of the site, and starts to drive us away from the usefulness of answering actual questions.

Why it's bad

I dislike the trend of "come to The Workplace, get a downvote" and I do worry that it happens too often. I think if you got slammed for your first question, then it's unlikely we'll hear about your second or third question - and those might be really useful additions to the knowledge base and the greater good. In all honesty, I think we have a couple of key entrance question areas and I'd like to see the question base broaden.

Why it's good

We can't be the pit of every badly worded question. There's awards for those who help make questions better and that's a useful function for members of the community. Downvoting may highlight the very areas that need a fix, and at a minimum, they highlight what not to do. Hoping that by downvoting less we'll somehow improve the forum doesn't seem like a way to go here.

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    +1: I think if you got slammed for your first question, then it's unlikely we'll hear about your second or third question... Correct. // I actually got slammed for my first question. Within literally minutes on a Saturday morning, a pro tempore moderator unilaterally closed my question without any guidance on how to make it better. Fortunately, I stuck it out, and I'm glad I did, but I think I'm the exception to the rule. – Jim G. Mar 31 '14 at 23:32

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