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    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2013
    Why do people downvote correct answers to questions? For example, had an accepted answer with 0 upvotes and a correct answer by Todd Trimble, both of which have been downvoted. Todd makes the apt comment asking why the answer was downvoted and nobody has responded. The same happened to my accepted answer to I think it looks a bit bad when correct, accepted answers get downvoted to 0 because people may think the consensus is that the response was wrong.

    Are there good reasons to downvote a correct answer?

    It seems to happen frequently. I guess it is justified when someone gives a correct answer to a question that is obviously inappropriate for MO, but that is not the case with the ones you mentioned.


    I can't think of a good reason for downvoting a correct answer except for the situation Bill mentioned. (I've downvoted on a few such occasions, but probably not recently.) Probably in both cases mentioned by Benjamin, some people thought the answers were either flawed or mistaken.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2013

    I have no reasonable reason beyond the one mentioned by Bill Johnson. But:

    Sometimes people might just simply click the wrong way. And, well, sometimes people just downvote something for completely unrelated reasons (fortunately not too frequent but some cases are on record on meta, and I am also pretty sure it happened to me more than once).

    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2013
    Now these 2 questions have had their answers upvoted, but that wasn't my point. I was curious why anybody would downvote a correct answer. I guess I can see the logic of downvoting answers to HW questions because answers I suppose could encourage more HW questions.

    I earned my Critic badge by accidentally downvoting a great answer I enjoyed. Another likely reason is this:

    I gave the downvotes for the Boolean algebra question that you are all worked-up about.

    While we are at it, I also downvoted seven answers to the question because they all say the same thing. They all give the ultrafilter proof of Tychonoff's theorem. Who wants to go through pages of answers that all say the same thing?

    I didn't think anyone was "whining", or "crying" (as I just saw in a comment below my answer at MO), Joseph. On the other hand, I think you are being extraordinarily rude in your comment here.

    Alright, I changed the word "whining" to "worked-up".
    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeFeb 26th 2013
    CW is intended to have lots of downvoting to reorganize/sort the big list. So downvoting away on the Tychonoff question is as intended. This is the reason CW exists. Of course people can downvote anything they like. In general I mostly downvote questions that I don't think are good and answers that are wrong and which the poster doesn't delete shortly after it is pointed out the answer is wrong. Otherwise if it is correct but I think other answers are better I only upvote the answers I like. But I don't downvote the correct answers that I think are not as complete or informative as others in order to better sort the answers. That in my opinion is the difference between CW and usual mode.

    I do understand some people downvote answers to questions that are off-topic. I find usually such answers are by newbies so I don't do it.

    @Joseph: I still think you should moderate your language. As far as I can tell, we were just wondering and talking -- no one struck me as being "worked-up", before you showed up.

    To get back on topic: it appears to me you believe that an incomplete answer might deserve to be downvoted because it is incomplete (in the case of the Boolean algebras and probability measures question cited by Benjamin, you mentioned something I had already admitted, that I hadn't addressed the probability measures part [I had wanted to ruminate on that further before saying more], and presumably you mentioned that as part of your reason for downvoting).

    For what it's worth, I don't think that's a good reason for downvoting. It's often the case here on MO, as in real life, that one has only a partial answer at hand, or maybe a partial answer is all one is willing to put up for public scrutiny at the moment. Such a partial idea may then go on to suggest an avenue for thought for someone else. The general idea is that those who are trying to make an honest contribution to MO are trying to be helpful in whatever way they can, and IMHO such efforts should be respected. On the other hand, if someone says something that is outright wrong, even while trying to help, then absolutely it is fair to downvote, preferably with an explanation as to what is wrong.

    Edit: my general downvoting policy is consonant with Benjamin's. I feel no remorse in downvoting CW answers that I think are off. And I think correcting someone before downvoting their (non-CW) answer is the collegial thing to do.

    I say that people are worked up because there were posts here and on mathoverflow about why this question was downvoted. I don't see why you are making such a big deal about why an answer was downvoted. As for an incomplete answer, Alexander Pruss asked a question earlier about extending measures to products and it is very clear that he was mainly interested in extending measures to products. In fact, in Alexander's question he already had the idea of the free product of Boolean algebras outlined. Furthermore, he was interested in standard notation and standard representations. Regarding Boolean algebras as rings is far from the standard practice with regards to Boolean algebras. In summary, I was just not satisfied with the answers that had already been given and I did not see it as very helpful. Also, I do not even think that people will seriously question the veracity of the answers because all answers were equal having 0 points right after I downvoted. The only thing that will happen is people will read the answers more carefully (as they should). Nevertheless, I will consider your last comment concerning when to downvote and I will try to be more civil in the future.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 27th 2013

    @josephvanname: There is or at least used to be some sort of convention that a downvote should be accompanied by an explanatory comment. Also, you underestimate perhaps how rare an event it is that a mathematical answer gets downvoted (leaving extreme nonsense aside). This hardly ever happens (at least to me and I have no reason to assume it is more frequent for, say, Todd Trimble and bsteinberg). So it gets noticed.

    Personally, I have no problem with people that are critical (and sometimes rather wished there where more on this site), however an unexplained downvote somewhere is not so much unfriendly or anything in this general category but often simply pointless in my opinion. Since the receiver reasonably might simply not understand what the motivation behind it was. (For example, it is still not clear to me for why I got my first downvote on this site meanwhile a long time ago; was it for the content or for editing something three times within a short period of time, or for still something else.)

    So, if you intend your downvotes to have some "educational" effect I think it is better you explain them in addition. Even just the explanantion will have likely more effect than some downvote somewhaere.


    Downvoting on regular questions should be rare and this is enforced by the fact that each such downvote costs one point to the voter. Downvoting on cw questions is encouraged for sorting purposes and has no cost to the voter.

    There is or at least used to be some sort of convention that a downvote should be accompanied by an explanatory comment.

    That's not entirely true. The only rule of conduct on MO is to be nice, honest and professional at all times. It is preferable to leave a comment by common sense: it's not nice to go about hurting people's feelings for no reason. Downvoting for obscure reasons is discouraged but not prohibited. Moderators will intervene if there is evidence that someone is downvoting for wrong reasons (vengeance, humiliation, discrimination, etc) or if this is part of a larger disruptive behavior.

    A common use of downvoting is to indicate wrong or misleading information. In this case, a comment is in order since you do want readers to see the error. Another common use of downvoting is to indicate off-topic or irrelevant information. In that case, an accumulation of downvotes will have the effect of moving the post out of the way and commenting is not always necessary. Users should use their own judgement whether to leave a comment on a case-by-case basis.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 27th 2013

    François G. Dorais: thank you for the clarification. Perhaps I did not express too well or sufficiently precisely what I meant, in any case what I meant is quite in line with what you said.

    By the way, it is very nice to see so many explications on the difference regarding voting in CW and non-CW :-)

    Francois, I hope that we still going to maintain this on MO2.0, where downvoting questions is freeeeeeee.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeFeb 28th 2013 edited

    @Asaf Karagila: downvoting questions on SE2.0 is free? Really? This would be great in my opinion! Since then there is a small hope finally score on "controversial" questions will be more reasonable.

    General add on: while I do not downvote questions that much either, I would still like to stress that at least regarding me what was said above is for answers (as the subject indicates) not questions. And François G. Dorais said on questions not of questions.

    To elaborate on this slightly the "official" description of votes is also totally different for questions and answers: for answers the criterion is 'helpful' (yes/no) for questions it is 'useful and clear' and 'not useful or unclear'.

    • CommentAuthorskovacs
    • CommentTimeMar 1st 2013
    Could it be that people downvote correct answers because the caption on the downvote button says "This answer is not helpful" and so they interpret it literally. The problem with this is that then most answers for most people are not helpful (the ones in parts of math they don't know much about), so following this logic most people could downvote most answers. Perhaps the moderators could change the caption to something different such as "This answer is incorrect or inappropriate".
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 1st 2013

    @skovacs: But then what is "inappropriate"? :-) Giving an "incomprehensible" answer could be seen as something inappropriate to do. Likewise, for giving an incomplete one.

    Personally, I quite like the "helpful" as it stresses more the intent. I would typically not downvote even an incorrect answer given in good faith; but rather point out the (perceived) error. Then it can be either corrected or deleted (by OP). This is also what happened to me the one time (I know of/rememeber) I gave a truly wrong answer, and the few times I gave one that missed the point completely (due to some misreading of the question).

    On the negative side, I sometimes got annoyed by what I would call "correct but very low quality" (some unexplained link to somewhere, and so on; no effort at all on the side of the answerer, and this also in cases where it was not some very busy top-expert on the subject giving some pointer, but more on general things). This is something I consider as problematic since it rather impeds some "better" answer being posted. (Things like this where a long time ago discussed under the somewhat different angle of "questions spoiled by comments"; though it is not exactly the same and the thing I currently describe is IMO rather more problematic). Typically, I do not downvote this either, but sometimes I think I should. Yet, the problem with downvotes is that as (I think) Noah Snyder once remarked a downvote can have the opposite of the intended effect (somebody will see the need to 'balance' it, and then one "downvoted" by +8). This is particullarly relevant in this scenario since sometimes it feels like such answers are given mainly to increase the point count.

    • CommentAuthorskovacs
    • CommentTimeMar 1st 2013
    @quid: I totally agree and wasn't sure about that the wording I suggested was very good. I've just been annoyed by a comment by someone that induced 8 downvotes (so far) on an answer that otherwise got 17 upvotes the OP found helpful enough to accept. Anyway, none of this is really important. Cheers!
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 1st 2013 edited

    @skovacs: thank you for the context; I think I found what you had in mind. Indeed, this is annoying! Never seen this in that form. (Not that it changes anything but the score is +13 - 4 I think; the -8 should be 4 times (-2), though it is 'funny' the comment + 7 match exactly the eight, still I think some just upvoted the comment but did not actually downvote.)


    @skovacs: I think I found it too. Yes, this seems to be a case where someone thinks an answer doesn't look helpful and therefore should be downvoted. Even after it had been accepted!

    People can be myopic at times, thinking they know what's best for others.

    • CommentAuthorskovacs
    • CommentTimeMar 1st 2013
    @quid: you're right, it is 13-4, I just saw the -8. That makes more sense. Anyway, it's not a big deal, but it feels like some people behave like they're not getting the service they expected which is kind of annoying with respect to something that depends on volunteers willing to help. I didn't put the link here, because I didn't want to direct traffic to that particular question, just tried to explain my motivation. Anyway, it's not a big deal.