I am very disappointed to see that a recent question by a complete newcomer was given -5 votes.

See Who created the most chess problems? for a particularly nasty recent example of Stack Exchange's worst habit.

I think that anyone who added a negative vote on this beyond the first one was effectively violating our Code of Conduct by not being nice to a new contributor. This is not inherently a bad place, but toxic behaviour such as drive-by downvoting is neither curbed nor punished.

Here's a thought: let's prevent downvotes on someone's first post when it's already at -1.

I know that for many people life is difficult at the moment, and for some their only joy appears to be found in downvoting posts in Stack Exchange.

Please can moderators address this, thanks.

EDIT: and here’s another today: “what happens when a world Champion doesn’t defend his title?” Driveby downvote with no explanation is no way to welcome someone who is completely new here.

  • Since Laska explicitely asked me to comment, I think capping downvotes is definitely nicer but would have its downsides either, especially when questions are controversial (some vote up, some vote down - a cap violates commutativity and thus is problematic for democracy). A polite explanation what makes a question "bad" (which was given in this case) is e.g. OK for myself even if I'm downvoted to hell again, but YMMV. That said, since the question attracted many comments (proving it's not inherently "bad", just needs better formulation) I edit it and vote to reopen. Jul 31, 2022 at 7:38
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  • Disappointed that you don’t focus on newcomers which was my intention Hauke - I don’t think your faint comment was helpful
    – Laska
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:34
  • @Laska: So, Newcomer bonus? Well, any public forum always walks the thin line between undermod (gets overrun by trolls) and overmod (scares away newbies). Frankly, I have no idea what SE already tried, to what effect, and am no newbie psychology expert anyway...Doing a survey still might be interesting. Aug 2, 2022 at 11:30
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2 Answers 2


First, thanks for editing the question into a much better shape. It would be ideal if you were around when it was posted, but we all understand that's not possible. I've voted to reopen it; it might still be a bit too broad according to some community members, but let's see.

Now, votes (down and up) are a way to rate content, not users. I do agree it can feel a little unwelcoming, but calling multiple downvotes toxic and a Code of Conduct violation is a little extreme IMHO. Nor has it anything to do with life being difficult. I remember the first downvotes I received (not here, on Stack Overflow) which made me think again about the quality of the posts I write. I believe they've made me a better user.

Here's a thought: let's prevent downvotes on someone's first post when it's already at -1.

I'm pretty sure I've seen that proposal on Meta Stack Exchange or Meta Stack Overflow, but all I can find right now is Do not allow giving minus one for new user questions. The problem is that we share the same content rating system with all sites, and on e.g. Stack Overflow there's a lot of bad questions in all degrees, and not many editors who are capable of turning poor questions into much better shape (if possible at all).

  • Has there been any exploration of what happens when someone gets rejected by downvotes. I am happy that a tough person such as you persisted Glorfindel, but how many dozens have we needlessly lost.
    – Laska
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:33
  • The company may have done some research about that (see e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/q/364572/295232) but I don't know if they shared the results with the general public.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Aug 2, 2022 at 6:13
  • @Laska there's a famous Over-Meta post by Shog. I found it recently. I'll look for it again. Aug 2, 2022 at 12:12

Newcomers are treated just like everyone else on the site. There are clear guidelines on how to make good questions that are useful not just to the person asking but also to anyone who in the future may have a related doubt.

When registering the Stack Exchange network, users are asked to take a look at what those guidelines are. A downvote is not something to be taken as a personal offense, but rather a warning that those guidelines are not being met, so the question is not an acceptable one.

While it's true that Stack Exchange moderation is more strict than most other online forums, it's precisely this obsession with high quality questions and answers what makes our sites the go-to resource for so many people.

  • Yeah fine theory but that’s not what happened here. How much greater could se be if well-meaning newcomers were not bullied out as soon as they arrive? See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/342779/…
    – Laska
    Aug 14, 2022 at 9:49
  • @Laska read the accepted answer in the link
    – David
    Aug 16, 2022 at 8:17
  • As I said, that’s not what happened here. A interesting open-ended question which inherently does not have a simple answer was responded to with downvotes and quibbles. Compare this nonsense to other forums such as Writing and Worldbuilding where is much less wooden insistence on a simplistic view of what is a question. The comments should be answers
    – Laska
    Aug 16, 2022 at 22:12
  • I dispute your categorization of what has happened here as “obsession with high-quality”. I think it’s an obsession with something much more dubious - that only simplistic “left-brain” type questions can have a place here. Other healthy forums in SE that I learn from do not have this narrowness
    – Laska
    Aug 16, 2022 at 22:20

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