This occurred on my very first day of trying to help people on StackExchange.

A user had a problem with the reported host name of their system, and wondered how it could have happened.

Fedora changed hostname

I offered how they might set the host name that they wished to see, qualifying it with the statement that I didn't have an explanation of why the problem happened. My answer was down-voted. There was no explanation, and apparently no way to even know who the down-vote came from. There was no comment or response from the user.

I am wondering why

  • Evidently, down-votes can be anonymous, thereby there is no responsibility associated with them.
  • No explanation to down-vote is required, allowing a down-vote to be entirely subjective.
  • There is no appeal to a down-vote, or perhaps moderators are not systematically reviewing them.

I only offered a suggestion to the user, which might have satisfied them, and lost a point. Since the suggestion would have been easy to try and would have caused no harm, I can only conclude that there is something else going on other than the technical issue, that is responsible for the down-vote. Perhaps there is some subjective standard of "quality" at play here, but I can unequivocally tell you that, as a new participant that potentially has a lot to offer here, it is a real turn-off.

Any insights would be appreciated.

  • An anonymous down-vote. LOL. Thanks! Thanks for reminding me "It's just StackExchange".
    – orylis
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 0:23
  • 3
    Voting is anonymous by design, just like voting in general should be. See also the following recent Q/A here: unix.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5552/…
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 6:53
  • 1
    Voting is not in general anonymous, only in popular elections. Legislatures and courts do not vote anonymously. That is for purposes of accountability. It would better for down-voting adhere to the reasons "that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information" as stated in the link you provided.
    – orylis
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 11:54
  • Thank you for voicing your concerns. I assure you that there are countless victims like you. More people need to speak up against the abuses.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 1:03
  • @Tim It was worth losing all my points to ask the question. terdon was very kind. Six downvotes on one answer does seem like piling on. I reckon people clicked over there from the meta discussion and down-voted. I have to wonder whether they really felt compelled to weigh in on the technical issue, or were just trying to send a message.
    – orylis
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


First of all, I'm sorry you had an unpleasant experience, I know the rules here can be daunting to new users. However, there are good reasons why the system works this way. The issue of anonymous downvotes has been discussed at very great length before, both here (e.g. Why do we have downvotes? ) and on the main meta site of the network (e.g. Why are votes anonymous? Let's make with the transparency and have them publicly attributed or the many examples listed here). I will repeat some of the main points here.

First of all, voting is the backbone of the entire Stack Exchange (SE) system. The idea is that good posts rise to the top and bad ones go down. Without voting, both up and down, the system collapses and becomes just another forum. All of us who participate here, do so precisely because we don't want that. After all, if we did, we'd be using the multitude of forums out there that cover the same topics.

Given that voting is so essential, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to vote. Downvotes do carry a minor negative penalty (it costs you reputation points to cast a down vote on an Answer) which acts as a slight deterrent for people voting out of spite, but we want them to vote and we want them to vote often.

Now, people being people, they often take downvotes personally. Kind of like you did here. Which is understandable, they see it as an attack on themselves instead of as a commentary on the quality of their answer. So they will try and guess who downvoted and try and get their revenge. We see retaliatory downvoting, where the user starts downvoting the posts of whoever they thing downvoted theirs. We see abusive comments, with the person downvoted hunting the assumed downvoter across the network and leaving aggressive, rude, and downright abusive comments. This is not a rare occurrence, sadly it happens very, very often if someone is decent enough to leave a comment explaining a downvote.

So, the main reasons votes are anonymous are:

  1. To remove a possible barrier to voting and make it as easy as possible for folks to cast their vote as they feel it should be cast.
  2. To protect voters from attack.

On to the specific question, which was (edited for brevity):

the hostname, has changed and the new hostname is the same as the one set for the Windows OS. [...] I am lost on why this happened and how the two systems could have communicated in such an unexpected way [...] is this a known bug?

To which you answered:

I am not sure of the cause, but you can try fixing it by writing the desired host name as a single line in the file /etc/hostname and rebooting.

The question is asking how this change could have happened. Not, how to fix it, the OP most probably knows this already, but how and whether it is a known bug. Therefore, your answer wasn't actually answering the question asked and that's most likely why it was downvoted. Note that of the 24 people who have seen your answer (as of today), only 2 downvoted, so it isn't like everyone attacked your answer.

Finally, your suggestion isn't the recommended way of changing a hostname in Fedora, which is another reason why folks may have downvoted it. The recommended ways are given here on redhat.com, and that article has this to say about manually editing the /etc/hostname file:

Editing this file manually is not necessarily recommended, because it doesn’t update all the other hostname values the way hostnamectl does. For example:

$ sudo echo "galapagos" > /etc/hostname 
$ hostnamectl
   Static hostname: galapagos
   Pretty hostname: rockhopper computer
   Transient hostname: rockhopper-computer

(note that their example is flawed since sudo echo "galapagos" > /etc/hostname will fail anyway, you would need something like echo galapagos | sudo tee /etc/hostname for it to work, but their main point stands).

So, in summary, your answer wasn't really answering the question asked and it wasn't giving a very good suggestion for changing the hostname in general either.

  • Thanks for the explanation. I understand about the risk of retaliation. Perhaps the site could have a feature whereby an anonymous explanation could be given. I am sure that most participants are more interested in the reason for a down-vote rather than who it is from.
    – orylis
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 14:28
  • 2
    @orylis people do give explanations sometimes. The general consensus, however, over many years is that they shouldn't be required. Just like they aren't for upvotes. You can see many of these discussions in the links I provided in the answer.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 14:52
  • ... and unfortunately sometimes the hounding doesn’t stop at the SE network’s boundaries :-(. Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 15:33

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