We've received a few questions recently that are asking how to do something that they really shouldn't be doing.

These questions are generally well-written and on-topic for the Workplace, but they still garner a lot of downvotes and close votes because users don't think the proposed solution is the correct one. I think these questions are useful so that we can prevent other people from making the same mistake in the future. Also, a string of downvotes and close attempts to a new user asking a useful (though flawed) question in good faith often scares them away.

I've been making the following comment, which has at least seemed to be somewhat effective.

To the close and down voters: This question is well written and fits the on-topic definition for The Workplace. If you disagree with the premise of the question, it is perfectly acceptable to post an answer which explains that. (See this question on Meta)

Sometimes I'll give an up-vote just to counteract all the negative votes, and I've voted to reopen the departments question. Are there other ways we can discourage this sort of reactive voting?

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    A lot of people have been saying that over and over again since years, sadly, people just don't listen.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 16:33
  • 4
    I agree with you on closing. That should be only done if it's genuinely off-topic. I disagree on the votes. We're not voting on the topicality of the question, but the quality of the question. I think downvotes for something a person thinks is a bad question is not only appropriate but the actual purpose of a vote.
    – Chris E
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:11
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    Further, I don't believe that " it is perfectly acceptable to post an answer which explains that" is correct. Answers for answering the question, not explaining why you disagree with the premise. Answers like that tend to get deleted.
    – Chris E
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:14
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    @ChristopherEstep Did you read the Meta post I linked about "Don't foo the bar"? I think that perfectly states that it is acceptable to tell someone not to do what they are asking, so long as the answer still gives support and alternative solutions.
    – David K
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:30
  • Agreed. But sometimes what I think is clearly off topic might not line up with other views...
    – Neo
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 17:31
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    I sometimes will downvote based on a user's attitude, as was the case in this question. I did undownvote after removing some language from the question which was unnecessarily provocative.
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 18:05
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    regarding the second two, should we really be leaving questions open that ask how to behave in an unethical fashion? Also, voting up to counteract a downvote is discouraged as the upvote carries more weight. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 18:38
  • @RichardU I think it's okay, as long as the answers say "That is unethical, don't do that."
    – David K
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 18:39
  • Yes I read it, and I don't agree. That's just an opinion with some upvotes. It's not policy. The help he linked to is more clear which instead advises to "Answer well-asked questions". Meta is important for discussion and guidance, one person's opinion (who isn't even a mod) doesn't make policy. If an answer is a critique of the question and not an answer, I'll downvote it every time. If an answer is poorly constructed, edit it. This is the guideline I'll follow, not a 3 year old discussion that's not policy.
    – Chris E
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:07
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    @enderland I remember editing a post where the OP was getting angrier and angrier at the downvotes (it had a bad tone to it) and then it went up from -5 to +25 (or so) so, you're not alone on that. Once the tone was changed, he got some good answers too. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 20:04
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    would be interesting to have a corollary discussion: "Discouraging up and reopen votes because you like the question"
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:44
  • @gnat Your question is pretty much equivalent to "How can we keep bad questions off of HNQ?"
    – David K
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:57
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    oh I didn't realise that when writing prior comment. Though now that you mentioned it, you seem to be right. :) Which makes such a discussion useless because in case of HNQ 99% of (up)voters wouldn't care about what these boring site regulars discuss at their boring meta or write in their boring canned comments
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 13:11
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    FWIW: I don't agree with the premise of upvoting to cancel a downvote.
    – Tas
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:46

3 Answers 3


Downvotes are a measure of how useful visitors find a post. It can be well-written, on-topic, thoughtful, and still not very useful to the commuity.

I'm willing to wager that lots of people don't think it's very useful for The Workplace to host deceitful tips and that's their right according to the site rules. Vote up if you disagree of course.

  • 3
    Good point. "not useful" is even part of the hover text on the down arrow. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 1:20
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    For most users, I don't think "useful" or "helpful" are the reasons for up and down-voting. I think it's mainly used as Like/Don't like. So many people are used to "like" buttons in social media that having a "don't like" button habitually gets used (especially when they don't have to explain themselves).
    – user44108
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 7:34
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    But that's my point. A question asking "How do I do this wrong thing?" is still useful when all of the top answers are "That's a mistake, here's why, and here's an alternative"
    – David K
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 12:11
  • I see your point. I'm not here to deny it, just trying to explain things. We'll never get everyone to agree on a site this size.
    – user30031
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 13:42
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    @DavidK I've usually seen this turn out well eventually, often after someone points out that the OP should (usually) be applauded for at least asking the question. Very often it comes down to the attitude OP displays. Genuine questions asked out of ignorance or those that the community edits into shape after the OP disappears are usually upvoted as they're useful. If the OP disagrees with edits and just wants to hear a pre-existing opinion validated often reap downvotes.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 13:40

I only agree with close votes part. Closing should be reserved to questions which can't possibly be answered well, like questions asking for opinions, rants phrased as questions or unclear questions which can only be answered with guesses.

Voting is a different matter. We all have different views on what questions are useful, and are free to vote accordingly. On multiple occasions when searching for an answer I had to go though many highly upvoted questions (courtesy of HNQ no doubt) which discuss something related to what I search for. Yet they are completely useless, often revolving around something completely trivial or equally implausible. However, I still have to go though these to find what I'm looking for, and to me such questions are hardly useful.

I'm pretty certain that not once in my life will I (or anyone I know) will need a detailed write-up on how to use a toilet on an airplane. If someone here could give me one good reason why I should consider this question useful, I'll happily retract my downvote.


The bottom line here is you CANNOT know the reason for a vote of any kind unless the user has the good sense to comment on the item being voted on. ( I don't always comment when I vote in the positive direction, but I do most of the time if I vote in the negative direction.

You cannot assume voting occurs based on popularity ( I like this question ) versus content ( this is a well written and useful ).

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