We seem to have a particularly large number of (sometimes reasonably well asked) questions being downvoted recently. Here are three examples, where I don't think the question has been too badly asked. (I grant that there may not have been much visible research effort, but I suspect that in some cases people may simply not know the terminology to perform decent searches):

I know that we don't need to provide comments to justify votes. I'm also fairly sure that in the review phase there's a recommendation to provide an explanation of what's wrong and to encourage better question writing.

Just wondering out loud how we can help these users better. (Or indeed if we should help these users better.) I've carefully avoided included Kali examples because those are addressed elsewhere.

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    there's the hover text for the downvote arrow, but I finally put my hands on the Meta post that describes the "please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved" text for users under 2k reputation who downvote. (comment on the "review phase" portion, not a full Answer)
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 17:51
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    Another non-answer; I was curious if we had an influx of new users (students?), since it is September. A quick query (New Users by Date (last 60 days)) does not support the theory, though.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 17:07
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    As I commented already in SE threads, the bigger elephant in the room is calling users with low rep "new" users. With the ease people create discardable users to not go through the effort of writing good questions or several other reasons those stats are pretty much meaningless. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 21:53
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    @Rui, did you mean the 3 examples roaima linked (new users of 2, 3 and 4 days as of this instant), or the SEDE query I link to? Because the SEDE query specifically looks at the account's creation date, not their reputation.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:00
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    I agree with you, I'm sure I've seen others where people were just not able to explain what they wanted but the question were fairly reasonnable.
    – Kiwy
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 8:43
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    @KiwyBut that should be a assumption. You can't teach people from zero. People should be able to learn language, internet search engine, basic logic to properly express their doute, other people are not paid to answer question. Downvoting bad questions encourage people learn the basic manner, instead of creating an atmosphere "I don't need effort, kind people from the internet will see me struggling and try their best help me out". Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 11:41
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    @JeffSchaller The creation data is virtually meaningless with the ease you just open a new question with a new user. You have got a lot of "new" users with the same writing style and also commanding very well our meta post "language". I understand SE disseminating the information that every account is a "new user", it is on their best interest. Us, buying that, hook, line and sinker, does not make sense. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 19:35
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    @Rui if you mean Markdown, I find question after question where no thought whatsoever has been given to making a question readable. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 19:50
  • @roaima Talking in general only. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 19:52
  • "or if we should help these users" -- help should always be voluntary. corollary: nobody should stop us from volunteering our help. i have been chastised, mass-downvoted, etc for assisting users that simply need a nudge, i do this by reviewing recently-closed or voted-to-be-closed posts and provide those users with the info they require. The culture-problem is a sense of ego and elitism that doesn't belong in a "community of peers" -- if you can't/won't help? no problem however, those that 'attack' us when we volunteer should be held accountable for what is tantamount to user abuse.
    – wilson0x4d
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 3:29
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    Strange, that first question is clear, it's just a tangled mess. He's got 2 IPs from his ISP, one NAT, and wants a server running behind the NAT to have exclusive access to the secondary public IP. The answer to that question is ... just give the server the secondary public IP and take it off the NAT -- not sure why that got closed.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 12:49
  • @TimPost I'm with you on that. (I've already cast my reopen vote but clearly others don't agree with me ;-) ) Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 14:14
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    Comments to justify votes are encouraged by StackExchange.
    – neverMind9
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 22:05
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    @MatthewElvey a workaround tagged as such seems good to me. There's nothing stopping you rolling back the edit. If necessary you can flag your own answer for moderator review, to see if they'll ask the OP to desist - or at least explain in the changes summary field. Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 6:48
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    The editor ignored my comment and made a further edit, also with no edit summary, so I'm flagging it. Some parts are good, but now it starts off with something that's flat out wrong. (I'm NOT suggesting folks cd to a subdirectory, and then run ls, then enter... ; running ls twice like that makes NO sense.) I see three introduced English errors/poor phrasings. Presumably, Goro isn't a native speaker. (That's fine, but not if you're introducing so many errors while editing another editor's answer!) Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:39

8 Answers 8


I have noticed downvotes when being new as well. Especially on StackOverflow. This was up to an extend, where I did get scared of posting something, fearing about my reputation. After all, you work hard to get some reputation up here... and getting downvoted a lot, especially when being new and without any reason given, is quite bad.

To be honest, I try to avoid StackOverflow up to this day, mainly using the UNIX and Ubuntu parts of StackExchange. And for a long time, I have just been referring to other platforms, when asking questions. Though I have been frequently around when I was looking for answers.

I think it would be nice to have some improvement here platform-wide. At least some comment or advice would be nice.. some questions of course are just bad, but many times the user does not even know what's happening to them. I know that from first hand experience.



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    Hello Ben, I can relate to you. When I joined, users rapid-fired onto me.
    – neverMind9
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 22:06
  • Not just any users, users with a reputation of at least +5k are usually the down voters because they won't get banned for too many down votes... they roam with a superiority complex lol
    – user179061
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 7:26
  • I fear stack overflow the most. Other stack exchanges are chil
    – Machinexa
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 5:06

I know that we don't need to provide comments to justify votes.

Perhaps comments should be required for downvoting posts from new users?

Downvotes without comments are very discouraging to new users who don't understand the site rules, or the criteria for limited scope and objectivity.

Because question downvotes are free, it encourages drive by downvoting. Few users take effort and time to justify their downvotes with comments.

In my observation questions with few views have downvotes without comment but when it has been viewed sufficient times (say 100) there are usually a few comments and edits.

This could be tested by comparing the view count against votes and comment count of posts.

So the solution here could some combination of following (only applicable to new user's posts):

  1. Limit downvotes on posts from new users until it has had a chance to be viewed by enough users

  2. Restrict votes until a set time has elapsed (say 2 hours?). This prevents questions that don't reach required view count from sticking around forever

  3. Make such downvotes cost a point

  4. Necessarily require a comment to be added before downvote

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    I'm pretty sure that downvotes cost -1. But for users in the thousands it's effectively free. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:04
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    Only answer downvotes cost -1. Question downvotes are free. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:04
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    Ah ok. Couldn't remember. Thanks. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:09
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    This has been discussed on Meta.StackExchange.com several times; the closest system currently flashes an additional pop-up for downvotes when your rep score is under 2k -- unix.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4988/…
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 17:30
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    I agree with your general direction, though. Downvotes send a signal, but comments could go a long way towards improving the responses and thus the site.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 17:31
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    @JeffSchaller In my observation most users in 0-300 rep range don't understand how SO works and mistake it for a phpbb style discussion forum. If we are to grow the site special consideration needs to be made for such users until they can come to speed. For that the popup doesn't seem to be having the desired effect. It'd have to be addressed by restricting votes for a set time, or until a certain number of views. Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 8:58
  • @KshitizSharma I think you're seeing to different issues. The phpbb issue is very common, but I'm not sure at all that it's these completely new users who downvote. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 7:54
  • Some questions will never get 100 views. Are you suggesting to keep these forever, regardless of quality? Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 22:51
  • @DmitryGrigoryev Good point. I've edited my answer. The gist is to be more considerate to new users. How we get there could be a combination of things. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 11:48
  • I'm in general favor, but I don't like the limitation on fast downvotes. That can be abused, but it's also important to bury trolls and spammers.
    – mattdm
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:39
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    @mattdm Spam posts should be dealt with by flagging not downvotes. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 18:33
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    @KshitizSharma Both, if you want 'em off the front page quickly.
    – mattdm
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 20:34
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    @mattdm flagging as spam automatically downvotes (and for free, when it’s on an answer). Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 13:59

I've been an occasional visitor to this website for a little over a year and I have to say the climate has notably changed for the worse throughout my stay, what with the downvotes with no explanation, close votes with no explanation, and semi-hostile edits expunging politeness from posts without any explanation why.

Thus, I think the necessary first step in helping those new users in getting better is to become better and more accepting of "newbies" ourselves, throwing any pretense and egos out of the window.

One practical way to make people more considerate about making "hostile" votes could be hard limiting the number of "negative" down- and close- votes any user can cast per day, regardless of their reputation. That will encourage people who spend a lot of time on the website to be more thoughtful and try more socially acceptable options first, such as suggesting an edit, writing their own better answer, or just "minding their own business" and not casting any votes whatsoever if they don't happen to like a certain question which at least one other person deemed worthy enough to ask.

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    Both close votes and (up or) down votes are limited per day already, albeit at fairly high levels (25/30). It tells you to come back tomorrow when you hit the limit. Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 19:52
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    (1) You want an explanation why people expunge politeness from posts?  See Should “Hi”, “thanks”, taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?   (2) If my neighbor throws a piece of trash on the sidewalk, I may very well pick it up and throw in into a trashcan or a dumpster, because I like to live in a neat, clean community.  “Minding my own business” is not a reason for me to leave my neighbor’s trash on the sidewalk.  Same principle applies here. Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 7:38
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    As a long time user and browser there are way too many "little men" willing to downvote and mark as off-topic because they are incapable of seeing the relevance. Topicality, relevance etc are of course important but it doesn't hurt to try and appreciate what the person is trying to say even if they are a little less than clear. If we were all as well informed and articulate as the next man such wonderful resources as Stack Exchange would not exist.
    – RichieHH
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 9:26
  • @MichaelHomer Is there a badge awarded when you hit the limit? There should be. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 2:32
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    @Shule Vox populi. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 2:34
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    @G-Man the fact that garbage thrown from a car window is considered equal to a polite greeting is exactly why this site will never be friendly to newbies.
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:20
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    Yeah, we’re almost as bad as Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is such a cold and heartless place, it never says “Hello” or “Thank you” either.  The thing is, Stack Exchange isn’t meant to be a chat site or a forum.  Stack Exchange is a question&answer site; we want to be like Wikipedia. Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 15:09
  • @G-Man But you are never like wikipedia
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 14:50
  • @RichieHH well said. I wish I can upvote it more than once.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 14:51

I hate to say this, but I kind of expected this would happen when the whole new code of conduct thing started.

Don't misunderstand me, I don't approve of rude comments or anonymous downvotes. But haters gonna hate whatever you do, and if you deprive them of one tool to express their anger, they'll find another.

Encouraging people to explain downvotes has been discussed in lengths. The gist of the discussion was that there is no meaningful way to make people leave meaningful comments. Some people are also afraid of revenge tit-for-tat downvoting, a fear I don't think is well-founded.

Perhaps in the new circumstances some of the ideas expressed there should be revisited. My favorite is to make any downvote cost 1 rep, but give that rep back if your comment on a downvoted question or answer has been upvoted. What I'm afraid of is that SO staff won't have time to implement and test such ideas, which become very complicated once you consider all edge cases like questions/answers/comments being deleted or edited and voted on again.


I'm new to this site. My short experience here is that some of this community have the intention (nowhere evident when a new user joins) that this group be only for experts, whereas others are keeping up the traditional Linux ethos of welcoming all learners as potential future developers.

This question is a great addressing of that problem: people are being downvoted on this site for not being experts, when there is nothing in the description of the group that suggests we shouldn't post if we are just midlevel or new people seeking advice. How were we supposed to know that nonexperts would be downvoted/ put on hold? That needs to go in the description. Why not have one group "Unix and Linux Experts" and another general one?

I posted a question last night when I wound up here at random after various Google searches came up empty. I got the answers I needed, which I have come to take for granted because every Linux usergroup I've ever asked a question on was very encouraging and supportive to new users.

But I was surprised when my question was almost immediately put on hold for being "too broad". And this was a false pretext. Because the comments told a different story: those who kindly answered me were totally clear on what I was asking, and no one expressed confusion about what I was asking. They merely complained that my level is too basic.

"This is more a fit to security.stackexchange than here. An IT illiterate person would be better off paying a competente professional (expensive) or selling that system and buying an iPad."

"The computer won´t run alone and the expectations of taking care of it via Internet boards might be a bit too optimistic." (Spoiler: Ubuntu does run itself, if you install the updates. It's actually designed to do that. I've been running it like that for years.)

"Nevertheless, this kind of answers do invite lowering the quality of this forum with very lower quality questions that are not a fit here."

"This forum is not intended for... end user support." (Well, actually, everyone who uses Linux is an end user. So this person is saying that it is only intended to support expert end users. And we'll get downvoted or put on hold if we're not experts. And we have no way of knowing that.)

I've never had pushback telling me to get out of their online space from any other Linux usergroup. Maybe an occasional surly comment, but a platform never before came to a consensus to put my question on hold.

My question: My ex set up my computer and is a little possessive still. I want to make sure they can't monitor my computer usage, access files, etc. I wonder if there is a blanket setting in system preferences or something that I can use to decline/ reset all ssh permissions? I'm concerned they may have installed some kind of back door or something, with all good intentions at first for being able to help me out maybe, and I don't really know what I'm looking for. I'm running Kubuntu, the most updated version, and don't know any of the lingo or jargon. I just want to make sure my computer is closed to the outside.

My edit: I see that this question is now on hold because certain people feel it's "too broad". I had a number of responses clearly telling me that the only way to be sure of blocking all remote access is to reinstall the system, and no responses that answered a different question. So I'm confident that my phrasing clearly communicated the single, targeted question that I was asking, as well as why I was asking and what language level I needed the responses to be at. My thanks to the multiple users who provided the response I needed!

I'm reading that "too broad" is being used as code for "not advanced enough for our group". If you don't want requests for basic level help posted on this site, maybe consider renaming it to "Unix and Linux Experts". Or even create a separate group, because there is clearly a great willingness among among the community to answer questions like the one I asked, in the short time before it was blocked! Props to the helpers!

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    "Too broad" means that the question probably can't have a specific answer that voters feel would be suitable. I don't think I'm out of place in saying that people here are not really happy with an answer of "reinstall your system", but there isn't a better answer for a situation where you might have a compromised system. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 19:06
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    In response to "you're not advanced enough" my opinion that this is specifically targeted at the knowledge required to be "sufficiently sure" that your system is not compromised. If you look around the rest of Unix & Linux you'll hopefully see lots of questions with specific answers. Yours was too general to have a useful specific answer, unless you consider "reinstall" a useful response. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 19:07
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    Yes, it was useful to know that "reinstall" is my best option and that there isn't a blindingly obvious system settings button or command line that would be certain of securing it.
    – user311397
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 1:28
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    @user311397 you are missing a point. This isn't a support forum. There are some of those out there, and many of them have experts, that can help you with your specific issue (often for a price). StackExchange sites work as QA — if a question can't have a definitive answer, that question simply isn't fit for QA. In your case "reinstall your system" isn't a definitive answer, it is just some placeholder to shut you up (think how some doctors love to prescribe antibiotics to quicker get rid of a whiny patient). The real gist of your question is: "how do I outsmart my ex"? Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 13:21
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    @user1643723 Actually, "reinstall your system" is the real answer. There is no shortcut to making sure people who used to have admin privileges can't log in remotely. Why do you think it's relevant that my ex was involved, compared to, say, a former employee? I'm just being responsible for my system's security. And what do you mean, this is not a support forum? People ask and answer specific, targeted questions like mine. I see that you want us out of your online space. Think that'll keep us out? Uh uh. It's my space too, & it's the space of the great guys & gals who answered my Q.
    – user311397
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 20:34
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    @user311397 "Think that'll keep us out?" — keep who out? You are already here, aren't you? Anyway, the main problem of unix.stackexchange.com/questions/469731 is that it is too theoretical, based solely on imaginary premise. "Reinstalling one's system" may ease someone's fears, but does it matter, if you have used a compromised system for a while already? All your network accounts, used on that system, can be compromised as well. What about your router? Isolating a security breach is more complex that giving away some cheap advice. And SE has o lot of cheap advice already. Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 21:11

This sounds like one of those "easy to articulate but difficult to solve" problems (akin to "how do you make everyone happy at a party" or "how do you ensure all students are comfortable when they join a new school").

As I see it, it's a balance and generally there are far more new people than there will be people who can give them help they're after (and that's counting those who might know the answer but are unable to deliver it in a "digestible" form). If starting out feels like hazing where the rules are there so people can delight in punishing you then eventually you get no more new experts (or those who do make it are extremely bitter). If you instigate "all barrier-to-entry behaviour directed towards newbies must be fully explained in a transparent manner" you can tire out those who know answers (and once they're gone there's no one around to answer the truly difficult questions from those who made it to intermediate level).

How do you get someone to ask really great questions? Unless you're lucky you have to teach them, you have to give them feedback and they have to both recognise the need to improve and then act on it (if they never see it as an issue then it's somewhat futile endeavour). The previous mentioned points are hard to do when either side (the learner or the teacher) is impatient for whatever reason. Additionally which groups of people have the most patience?

Could new folks mentor each other thus pulling each other up their collective bootstraps? Do you need a protected playpen StackExchange where new folks ask and grade each other's question skills until they build up enough velocity and XP such that they can go and ask questions on the permadeath^Wpermarep StackExchange sites? Some sort of horrible cliquey "to join you need to be recommended" and the person recommending you loses half their rep if the person they're mentoring has their questions downvoted to oblivion (and to give an incentive to those "trying to win by not playing" you half someone's rep every month they don't mentor someone)?

How do you keep it fun and useful for everyone all the time? How many people is the current system working for and are their numbers declining?

  • It wasn't easy to articulate either. Part of StackExchange's success is that it is intentionally easy to ask a question. You have a problem. A quick Google throws up either gibberish that you don't understand or else nothing useful, so you pop across to the (appropriate) Stack and ask away. Sometimes you'll get people asking for clarification. Other times there'll be "Closed - unclear" or anonymous downvotes. It's a tricky one to answer, for sure. Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 19:29

Newcomer is even in general life considered vulnerable till he proves himself

And therefore, in here, prone to (even unexplained) downvotes.

I can only deduce the settled users feel comfortable to downvote without an explanation since they don't have to. I do that sometimes too, but only in cases I feel they are horribly wrong formulated. And I don't find anything wrong with it.

What can we do then

While in life we don't enforce the authorities to explain themselves, it should, in my opinion, cost points here.

Example model, my proposal

Every downvoter could get a choice. Reason: For one, people love when they have a choice. Well, not everyone, so in settings, the choice could be remembered.

  1. To drop some points:

    • For users > 125 <= 1000 points, it could cost -1 point

    • For users > 1000 <= 5000 points, it could cost -3 points

    • For users > 5000 points, it could cost -10 points

  2. To explain himself. With a proper explanation length control, we all could get what we want.

    Notice, that users below 125 cannot vote down, these are out of the scope of my proposal.

  • Just FYI, it takes 10 minutes to make a script adding a generic "This question doesn't show enough effort" comment every time the user downvotes. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 11:55
  • @DmitryGrigoryev Alright, maybe a re-captcha or whatever the devs would choose. The specific implementation of countering bots is out of my field and is not important now. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:03
  • This would be very counterproductive. Think of users who post comments as they review: making them solve the captcha would sabotage the review process. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:07
  • @DmitryGrigoryev Is it not my point? I mean, we want to eliminate the downvoters, unless they have a very good reason. I would welcome it. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:15
  • I don't think you understand me. If I have to solve captcha every time I want to downvote a poor question in a review queue, I'd rather not review at all. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:27
  • @DmitryGrigoryev Then I think you downvote a lot :) Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:47
  • I believe anyone going through low-quality and close queues will downvote a lot. Good questions rarely go into these. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:59
  • I disagree that there should be a formula. It should be super easy to explain - "a downvote costs a point". Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 20:57
  • I downvote only when the OP shows very bad willingness and poor explanation on top of that. If I just see someone asking a bad question but trying to explain and add some element I don't downvote bad question with bad explanation and no volounteer to explain is quiet rare.
    – Kiwy
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 9:33

A downvote should cost one reputation point.

EDIT: PLUS, most importantly, it should tell you that you just expended one point to downvote. If it costs nothing and you are not told that then you do not place any value on that expenditure.

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    Downvoting does cost one reputation point.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 6:55
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    @Kusalananda You are mistaken, only answer downvotes cost a point. Question downvotes don't cost anything. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 10:13
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    @Vlastimil You are correct. This is indeed a bit surprising...
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 10:17

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