I know that we should not downvote all bad questions/answers. So in what case should we downvote those questions/answers?

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    Everything which should be deleted (spam, questions posted as answers etc.) should be downvoted, not because it needs a down vote, but because this enables a "delete" button for users with enough rep – samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz Dec 19 '18 at 9:28
  • @samcarter -- another, and possibly quicker, way to mark spam is to flag a question or answer. that alerts a mod. i reserve downvotes mostly for questions that are obviously "do this for me -- it's my homework" that are also identical to another question asked just a short time previously. another category is a question or answer that includes a personal attack (as opposed to a polite, well-reasoned critical analysis). – barbara beeton Dec 19 '18 at 12:39
  • @barbarabeeton Sure, flags should be raised in addition (in particular for spam flags are important, because I think there are automatic processes which should prevent this from happening too often from the same user/ip/whatever ) – samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz Dec 19 '18 at 13:25
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    I leave a downvote for questions when the O.P. does not react or gives no feedback for answer of mine, or she/he is apparently a lazy slacker that just wants to get her/his problem solved – user31729 Dec 30 '18 at 23:10

First separate the question into two categories: Posts on Meta and posts on the Main site.

Meta posts

Voting on meta doesn't influence your reputation and therefore people might be more willing to downvote, especially questions. Regardless, voting on meta is considered different from voting on the main site since the posts deal with content on the main site. This includes things like a , a or about certain functionality. Voting is often used as a form of support for/against a proposal. The proposal might be well-written and show a lot of research effort, but you're against it.

Main posts

Voting (including accepting) is the main way to rank content on the site. Posts with higher scores are considered more useful than others. So, have that in mind when voting. You have 3 choices: Upvote, Downvote, No vote. Downvote if the content is bad and doesn't benefit the community; don't feel bad about it, it's your choice. Upvote if you feel the opposite. Abstain if you're indifferent or otherwise.

The current spread of votes from the top 10 voters on the main site points to 0.4% downvotes (1,510) compared to 99.6% upvotes (356,448), or one downvote for every 200 upvotes.

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Downvoting is associated with reputation loss (there used to be reputation loss when downvoting questions as well). So people tend to (should!) think twice about why.



As far as I know, this is completely up to you. Of course, the understanding is that you might downvote a question if

"This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful".

and an answer if

"This answer is not useful."

In case of a question, the first part on the research effort can be judged rather objectively. However, whether or not a question or answer is useful is very subjective IMHO. I guess the idea is that, since there are many users, on average useful questions will receive a higher score than not so useful ones, whereby "useful" is an opinion that emerges after averaging over many users.

Another question is what this might be good for. Probably the idea is that highly voted posts are more visible, and a highly voted answer may be the one which is endorsed by more users than not so highly voted answers. In practice, of course, this model turns out to be far from perfect. For instance, posts with a rather popular tag such as tikz-pgf get read by more users, and may thus receive more votes than posts under a more "exotic" tag. (According to this analysis tikz-pgf is not exceptionally strong in drawing votes. I wrote these lines before I knew the data, and now I feel I need to avoid singling out tikz-pgf here. The question why so many users feel that tikz-pgf is particularly good at attracting votes is very interesting, but I do not think I can answer it. In any case the data seem to indicate that the votes depend on the tag. So the score of a post has, at best, a relative meaning.) Yet it is probably hard to come up with a better scheme.

I personally downvote very rarely, and if I do, it is in cases of severe academic dishonesty, i.e. someone trying to advertize the post of another user as their own.

I also agree with @moewe's comment below. In particular, downvotes should IMHO be cast with care.

My main message is that it is up to you.

Bottom-line: vote as you think is right. If everyone does that, an average opinion may emerge that could be somewhat useful, at least on a tag by tag basis.

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    I agree with everything you said, especially the first sentence. An unwritten rule on this site seems to be that people try to avoid downvoting posts below -1 especially questions of new users. I would also add that it is often (not always) useful to also leave a comment explaining why you voted down: For questions a comment will hopefully give hints as to how the question could be better. For answers a comment explaining why that particular answer is bad is very valuable in itself (and more visible than a downvote, especially when the net score is non-negative). – moewe Dec 19 '18 at 16:18

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