So - most [closed] questions are posted by new users.

But experienced users continue to "pile on" and -1 vote them, even after they are closed!

What gives?

As far as I can see this:

  1. This discourages new users because:
  2. Does nothing to improve the question. (That's what comments are for.)
  3. It seems to encourage me-too/piling on.
  4. It often leads to the dreaded -1.

How many ways do we have to kick a new user in the shins when they arrive?

I don't understand why voting remains active at all - at least once it reaches 0 and is closed, could we lock out downvotes?

If we can't change the software, let's change our behavior. Please don't down-vote new users' already closed questions.

Ugh. Actions like these can make us appear as unfriendly - without intending to do so.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ A question closed for certain reasons (Off Topic and Not Constructive) gets an automatic -1. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Jun 16, 2013 at 12:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross The question I'm referring to took the -1 from the close and was had at least +1 reputation - then two more came after that. - BESW - This is not a stand alone event - I have complained about this here before (search my comments here on Meta.) I don't see a problem standing up for new users and calling on us to consider the effects of our votes. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 16, 2013 at 15:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The new, new-user-friendlier on-hold status for newly-closed questions might just make this conversation obsolete. I'm hoping it changes the dynamic around closed questions enough that we will see voting, commenting, and question-fixing behaviour change around temporarily-closed questions. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25, 2013 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! That's some real improvement @SevenSidedDie! I'm not sure if it will address this particular behavior, but I am willing to see how it shakes out. If downvoters learn to be patient with questions on hold, we'll be fine. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25, 2013 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @F.RandallFarmer That's my hope! The semantics of "on hold" are much friendlier, and I suspect will influence the voters to hold on as well. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2013 at 0:08

5 Answers 5


I've been dragging my feet to write a full answer to this. But I think the functionality needs to stay and I think the behavior needs to stay. Here are some good reasons to keep the functionality (and to keep downvoting questions below -1).

  • Allow for instant deletion. Questions with scores of <-2 can be deleted by immediately by 20k users.
  • Hide from the home page. Questions of score of <-3 are hidden from the home page (they still appear in the questions list).
  • Expose them to eventual abandonment deletion via the Roomba
  • Send a clear message that specific posts are unwelcome here.
  • Optimize for Pearls not Sand
  • Generally indicate a low quality effort

That said, most questions probably don't need to be down voted after they are closed. But that should not a mechanical enforcement. Down votes on questions are free for a reason (because we want good questions and we shouldn't be afraid of down voting them).

It's good to be nice to a user, but sometimes the best thing we can do for new user is to send a very clear message that their question does not meet our guidelines and if they want to participate here they will have to do better. This can be communicated in comments, but seeing a -1 or -2 next to your post sends an even clearer message.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Here's the new user experience, that I can't believe your summary defends: 1) Comment: "Welcome, but your question needs fixing" 2) X votes to close, 3) your question is closed 4) the community gives you a -4. How many slaps do you really think it takes? Provide data to support your statement that a negative score is needed given all these different forms of feedback. I can tell you that multiple people have walked away in disgust after having it happen to them. I was almost one of them. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 18, 2013 at 23:11
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @F.RandallFarmer I'll be honest, that's certainly not ideal. If a question is salvageable it should not be voted off the front page (and in fact should likely not be downvoted at all). I imagine that's what you're getting at. However, downvotes on questions that are not salvageable should be used so that they do indeed disappear off the front page and are not cluttering the site. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:29

I don't know if disallowing downvoting is the right answer or not, but I do think this is an issue which should be looked at carefully.

I know that reputation is meant to be --at least in part-- a measure of how well a citizen understands the site's philosophies and is willing to play along with them. EG, the 20 rep minimum for chat shows that the citizen is able and willing to cross that low hurdle by contributing positively to the site. In that context, downvoting is a crucial part of the site's social engineering structure and shouldn't be casually blocked out.


Closing questions is often done to "protect" them from unhelpful answers while the OP works on how to rephrase their concern. Giving answers to questions is a much more crucial element of the site than downvoting, and we have a mechanic to prevent it when inappropriate. Perhaps we should consider whether this intended function of closing questions would be enhanced by limiting or banning downvoting.

But maybe mechanical solutions aren't what's needed? We know that downvotes aren't always leveraged as intended: downvotes often go hand-in-hand with close votes, when the two serve very different functions. We also see that monkey-see-monkey-do is a common ailment of the community, and is probably one of the major reasons for dogpile downvoting on closed questions. Looked at in this light, downvoting is symptomatic of ignorance about the site's tools and tenets. Education about the tools and concerted effort to cultivate an environment in line with the tenets would then be an appropriate response, because any response that targeted only the downvoting behavior would fail to address the underlying cause of that symptom.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ A great time to do that education is when 1) A downvote explicitly registered on a [closed] question. 2) Whenever a en explicit downvote would take a [closed] question negative. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2013 at 17:09

Not an answer, but here are some related discussions on MSO:

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that @codinghorror himself has said that not all StackExchange servers have the same community dynamics as StackOverflow - so the comments on MSO may be more or less relevant to this group. Our "good question" criteria are much squishier - and there's no way a new user could be expected to know them. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2013 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @F.RandallFarmer Load up the site while not logged in, and you'll get a great big infographic with explanatory links. Click "Ask A Question" whether you're logged in or not, and the righthand column will feature How to Ask with appropriate links. We generally also try to link them to the help with a "welcome!" comment as soon as we notice they're new. It seems to me like new users can be reasonably expected to know the basics of the site's question criteria. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jun 17, 2013 at 23:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I disagree, but comments arent the right place to discuss all the detail. Good questions require practice (reading and answering. What about Good/Bad subjective? I am not sure even I understand. This question is what to do about discouraging downvotes, not blaming the new users for not reading enough instructions. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 18, 2013 at 0:32

Turbocharging the Roomba: solutions for premature deletion

Might also be relevant to this discussion. It may help inform other user behavior other than just voting.


There is never a reason for a system to have downvotes. The vote of 0 is plenty enough to show that no one cares or thinks little of the question, comment, link, whatever in the system used. Closing, Locking, or Deleting solves what downvotes would otherwise solve as well.

Think about the downvoting of comments on sites like reddit. What other use are they besides to tell others they are [insert favored insult]? They serve no purpose but to insult other users, or in other words: troll them. It is a literal troll feature, developed by a troll designer, and only a troll would implement such a feature to any system. Perhaps if the downvotes flagged something as spam to hide the comments, such as youtube does. However, most downvote systems fail to implement this, and instead have a SEPARATE function for reporting spam or inappropriate comments. Once again, making it useless. Downvoting is also NOT a good implementation of spam/deletion because unpopular opinions that do not violate the rules will become hidden or deleted, which is counter-productive to a free-speech environment. Such a system allows for trolls to abuse others by simply disliking their comments, making them disappear. Imagine if downvotes deleted that which was downvoted. Trolls can already delete any comments they wish on StackExchange, and moderators can do nothing to prevent it or reverse the damage.

Downvotes were made by a troll designer who enjoys spreading negativity on the internet (as if there wasn't enough already...) and every troll after him decided it was a good idea to mimic the design.

Few people actually contemplate whether or not the feature being used is good, bad, useful, effective, etc. They merely copy/paste from design to design and change parts they like or dislike, without any thought to creating their own system.

If we had more originality in web design, and less mindless copy/paste, we would have more people implementing their own systems and not other people's. We would see the elimination of pointless troll features such as downvoting, and an increase in innovative features such as upvoting (which give good statements more visibility). Innovative features that would otherwise not be created or improved upon by original thought in design.

Of course, that is to naively pretend that every web developer is a great web designer. Honestly, it is probably best that people copy what works, due to the high possibility that their lack of skill will produce a worse design (or even a nightmarish one that no good designer wishes to even fathom!) As it stands, all of the good designers ARE original. They are allowed to be original, even encouraged to be so, due to their talent as a good designer. The rest just copy/paste and ruin or improve small bits at a time. It takes an intelligent person to instantly think "Hmm...what is the benefit of a downvoting system? There sure are negatives..."

Downvoting closed answers is simply a redundancy to the stupidity of the downvoting in the first place.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Telling a community that downvoting is a troll feature, regardless of the truth in the statement, will most likely resort to downvotes itself. Fortunately, it'll only prove my point about bullying vs free-speech and the power of trolls to silence those they disagree with. I won't be surprised when this answer receives negative votes. The truth is often very, very, very unpopular on the internet. Pandering to the LCD with popular themes and the typical internet negativity? Quite the opposite. \$\endgroup\$
    – user8550
    Jun 18, 2013 at 14:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The StackEx system seems to work pretty well. If you want to make fundamental changes to how it works, why not go start your own Q&A system and prove that it works better without downvoting? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Jun 18, 2013 at 20:53
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't support everything in this answer, but reject @ObliviousSage's assertion that everything works perfectly well with how StackExchange mechanisms interact with our community. Of COURSE we can petition for change. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 18, 2013 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @F.RandallFarmer Certainly we can petition for changes (and should if we think it will help). But there's a difference between a minor tweak (disabling downvotes on closed questions with a net vote of 0) and completely scrapping a major component of the system despite all available evidence pointing to its perfectly acceptable performance (downvoting). It's easy to come up with a rational-sounding philosophical argument for why something you're butthurt about should be removed, but major changes shouldn't be made without some evidence that the change would improve things or fix a problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @obliviousSage Agreed. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19, 2013 at 0:49
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ This is just a barely-topical excuse to soapbox by someone just before they were banned for using sockpuppets to game the SE voting system. Nothing they say on voting has any relevance to how SE actually runs. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19, 2013 at 3:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Obligatory response to free speech rant \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2015 at 16:16

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