The Stack Exchange system lets you upvote answers you like, and downvote answers you don't like. I think nobody has a problem with upvotes, they feel like a pat on the back for good work. However, downvotes are a much more sensitive issue. Are they a kick in the back, for a shoddy job?

On the main site one at least has technical arguments why an answer is better or worse than another, and there are indeed bad answers (in content and format) that could deserve a downvote. On the meta site, I don't think I have ever seen a "bad" answer (as in "badly argumented or written"), so downvotes could be taken much more personally, even when the voter didn't intend this.

What do you think? Should we use downvotes on meta? Have you used downvotes? Why? Did you ever get a downvote, and how did it make you feel?

  • 1
    I just needed to downvote this question by definition ;) . Sorry Jan, nothing personally.
    – hakre
    Nov 14, 2010 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


I think using up- or downvotes on meta is an easy way to see whether we agree with an idea or not. For me, this has nothing to do with how the idea was presented: if I agree, I upvote, if I don't, I downvote.

Take, for example, one of my proposals for the domain name: capitalpdangit.com. It has some upvotes, but once was at -1 or -2, so it must have some downvotes too (unless the voters undid their votes). This given an indication that people are more divided on this idea than on others, which is good to know. If we only had upvotes, we only had half the information. I think this information is also used in moderator elections (some sites had more controversial nominees).

I think I used downvotes twice on the meta site, on two answers about the contents of the FAQ. I disagreed with them, gave a comment explaining why, and gave an alternative answer. We can't force people to give comments when they downvote, but I try to do it.

For performance reasons, the detail of up- and downvotes is only accessible if you have +1000 rep (but this can be circumvented). I think (and I am not alone) that this should change on meta sites, since downvotes could be used in a different way here.

  • I agree, votes on meta, should be used as an indicator of, I agree or disagree, not so much, if the post is well written or other stuff like that.
    – user94
    Sep 14, 2010 at 7:33
  • +1 I agree, though I hate the way you said... (Ok, not really) Sep 15, 2010 at 17:50

Downvotes are an important tool for leaving feedback on meta, just as they are on the parent site. It's important to make a distinction between a difference of opinion and believing someone is fundamentally or dangerously wrong. The former deserves an opposing answer. The latter may well deserve a downvote.

StackExchange communities have a great ability to be self-defining. Even if someone downvotes your answer, others may upvote, and still others may leave supporting comments. I don't believe we need to abstain from downvotes to protect someone's feelings.

My only complaint about downvotes is when a downvote is exercised, then the answer is modified to fix any errors within, and the downvoter never returns to review the downvote. I have two posts on SO that will probably live in the negative for eternity, one of which was just due to a simple error that was fixed.


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