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I'm on a number of forums and I have to say that Workplace has the most insane voting patterns of all the forums.

I'm all for some downvoting when needed, but I see a lot of questions with heavy downvotes, and a lot of good answers -- maybe not "the answer" answers -- with heavy downvotes.

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    The Stack Exchange sites are not forums (fora?). They are think tanks. You can use "site" / "sites" instead. – Peter Mortensen Jun 20 at 3:35
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  • @rene - Thanks, and thanks for the pointer to data explorer. – Julie in Austin Jun 20 at 10:51
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    I've made the analysis over all sites across the network for vote ratio: data.stackexchange.com/workplace/query/1068071 – rene Jun 20 at 13:13
  • @rene - Oh, wow. That's a lot more variation than I'd suspected. – Julie in Austin Jun 20 at 18:23
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    Unlike for example Stackoverflow, where you could be given some code and it simply solves your problem, I think "workplace" topics tend to be a lot more subjective in nature. – Lost Crotchet Jun 23 at 21:09
  • Your title is about voting, your question text only about downvoting. Please edit one of the two. – Jan Doggen Jun 26 at 14:29
  • I will nitpick on Peter's nitpick: Stack Exchange sites are forums. The content control and the wiki/Q&A style do not change "a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged." – Victor S Jul 8 at 17:10
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If you're talking about questions where there's a genuine issue at hand that isn't a troll question or otherwise poorly posed question, there's a natural reason for it. People sometimes field "horrible ideas*" that seem reasonable to them as questions. That garners downvotes, no matter how the question is presented.

For example: Pass on medical information about a job new applicant?

The question is well phrased, gives background, reasons for the proposed course of action, etc... Yet the votes aren't about how useful the question is, they're about the idea and intent behind it. Understandably it's an idea people dislike, so the question gets downvoted.

Basically:

If you ask a question that has any hint that your motivations are greedy, selfish, or even just completely clueless, it will probably be interpreted in a very harsh manner and garner some downvotes. You'll have to be exceptionally careful to put it forward in a neutral or positive light if you want to ask certain categories of questions.

*Some rather horrible ideas regularly get submitted, but they can be good questions.

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    Side note: I know there have been deliberate trolling questions, but decided to focus on legit questions since there's no need to rehash the trolls again. – Booga Roo Jun 20 at 5:25
  • There also appears to be a bit of downvoting that aligns with how many crappy answers a question got. For example, a question about workplace racism, that's very clearly racism, getting answers suggesting it isn't racist at all, and about as many downvotes. The next time I'm in "Patents" I'll have to see if downvotes are similar to "I think patents are evil and just plain suck." – Julie in Austin Jun 20 at 11:23
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    @JulieinAustin It's...complicated. At least in Stack Overflow, downvoting good answers that respond to bad questions definitely happens. It's probably rather difficult to discern which voting patterns exist on Workplace since it's far more subjective than the technical sites. Workplace votes could probably boil down to "Agree/Disagree" rather than "This is correct or useful/This is incorrect or not useful." – Booga Roo Jun 21 at 0:16
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Some of this, it seems to me, is the nature of the site. On some of the more technical sites, there are questions where only a handful of people in the world may be able to answer. In fact, sometimes even the questions can only be understood by a (relatively) small number of people. Furthermore, answers are often very clearly right or wrong/work or don't work/etc. When answers are shown to be wrong, they are often either corrected or deleted. So, downvotes aren't made so often

On the Workplace site nearly everyone can understand the situations presented and will have an opinion as to what to do. Furthermore, an answer that works for one person in one situation will fail for another person who seems to be in an almost identical situation ... because the particulars of the two work places are different in terms of personnel, policy, culture, legalities, etc. So, you'll get questions where some people will think the issue(s) presented are worthy of answers and upvotes, while other people will think something like "The OP is just being stupid, the only thing to do here is downvote and move on." Answers may be even more susceptible to an individual's opinions and experiences, and lead to widely divergent voting.

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I started to write a comment on another answer but realized my thoughts might be worthy of their own answer. Basically, I think @BoogaRoo is more or less correct that downvotes often happen because people think "golly this is a bad idea."

Personally, I try to take the approach of seeing things through the asker's perspective, and assuming they have the best intentions. Or at least, innocent intentions. In other words, to them it may not be a "bad idea" they're suggesting or asking about.

This lets you separate evaluation of the question (it may be a "good" question by TWP standards) from the idea (it may be a "bad" idea). Then, I address bad questions by editing, commenting, and voting. Address bad ideas by answering to point out the badness.

We have to keep in mind that there are people from all backgrounds, with all different perspectives and experiences, gathering on The Workplace. In my opinion, someone asking "should I X?" that causes us to think, DUHHH!!! Why would anyone ever X? deserves an answer just as much as someone asking a question we actually have to pause and think about ourselves.

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    I like this approach to voting. Bad ideas are countered with good ideas, not some vote that communicates, "Your idea is bad, and you should feel bad." After all, how can others learn better ways to handle things if nobody ever puts forward those "bad idea" questions? – Booga Roo Jun 21 at 17:42

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