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From the 221 unanswered questions's comments thread:

One thing to keep in mind in this context is that there is some automatic deletion of old unanswered questions without upvotes. – Hendrik Vogt yesterday

@Hendrik: As we've got a policy of not down-voting, it's going to take a long time for anything to disappear that way! – Joseph Wright♦ yesterday

@Joseph: True, I just wanted to point this out to people who don't know that feature. – Hendrik Vogt yesterday

@Joseph: One way could be to do give the really bad questions a downvote when they're old enough; then the auto-delete mechanism has a chance. Or would that be too much against our policy? – Hendrik Vogt yesterday

@Joseph: we have a policy of not down-voting? – Willie Wong 18 hours ago

@Willie: Around the time the site started, there was some discussion about downvoting. The conclusion was that in the main negative vote numbers were offputting. So the suggestion was that voting should be a broadly positive step. – Joseph Wright♦ 17 hours ago

Should we revisit this policy, if it is a policy? See Inadvertently driving off new users for some prior discussion.

  • Is it my impression, or a number (a lot?) of unanswered questions have just that single upvote that prevents them to be cleaned by the automatic deletion procedure? (and therefore clogging the unanswered section?) – Alessandro Cuttin Aug 18 '17 at 13:16
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I think that our "policy"[1] of not down-voting does not apply to old questions. The purpose of that "policy" was to avoid discouraging people from using the site; but if someone asks a bad question which we can't make head nor tail of, and never comes back to it, then I think that it is acceptable to down-vote it and/or close it. Once we've left that friendly "Hi, welcome to tex-sx; if you want us to help you then you'll have to do X, Y, and Z" note then I think we've shown that we want to be friendly but, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango so if the questioner isn't interested in putting any work in to learn the steps, I don't see why we should put up with poor quality questions. I have no wish to dance the Masochism Tango on this site.

[1] I put the word "policy" in quotation marks because I don't think that any decision we "make" here on meta really qualifies as a policy. In particular, there are no penalties for not following it. Rather, it is a suggested manner of behaviour that some (many?) of us try to follow and we made it public in the hold that others will read it, see the sense of it, and do likewise.

  • I should point out that I've got no issue with downvoting where appropriate: I was just flagging up (for newer people) the discussion early in tex.sx's existence. – Joseph Wright Apr 28 '11 at 20:15
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Note that closing questions as "Not a Real Question" or "Off Topic" (not migrated) incurs a downvote from the community user.

So even if you don't downvote, closing questions with those two specific reasons will cast one downvote "for free".

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