Can someone tell me why my answer was downvoted? All I can see is that it was reviewed and the reviewer said "looks ok" but I have a downvote on it. How can I see why it was downvoted, or by who? What is wrong with the answer? Also I cannot see other posts by people asking why their answer was downvoted - how is this question usually asked? How are people supposed to improve or fix problems without any context?

Thanks in advance

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  • 4
    In addition to the answers you got: I reflexively downvote new answers posted on old questions unless they add significant value (90+% of them are blatant plagiarism of an existing answer). I probably would have let yours go personally, but I'm not super shocked someone else felt differently. Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 15:17

3 Answers 3


Unless the down voter leaves a comment, there is no way to figure out who they were or their intention with their vote. Voting is private.

Absolutely everyone who spends time asking or answering questions here will get their fair share of up and downvotes. The reason questions regarding why someone may have downvoted an answer relatively seldom appear here is because there is no definite answer to that question. A more interesting question is "How can I improve this answer?"

Answers should generally answer the question as it has been posed. In this case, the question is "Does parens for pattern matching need to be escaped inside sed regex-es?".

One way to improve your answer may be to address the user's issue with the parentheses (that is to say, explain how parentheses are used in regular expressions in sed). You may then recognise that the user is using the wrong sed command (d rather than s), explain why, and then suggest what they should do instead.

This makes your text read more like an answer to the question instead of a comment on another answer or an expansion of somebody else's comment. We like specific answers to specific questions, not a discussion that moves from answers into comments into new answers based on ideas or follow-up questions in comments, etc. (these things are ok, but the resulting answer should still be an answer to the original question, at a minimum).

I would also avoid "This worked for me when solving a different issue and here's my code for that"-type of answers. If you are enthusiastic about a specific solution that you have come up with for your own problem, it is better to post a separate question that you immediately self-answer (this is allowed and encouraged as long as the question is not a duplicate of existing questions).

I'm also noticing now that your suggested sed command is identical to the sed command in the accepted answer.

What could you have done differently? Well, given that the point of your answer was to remove the anchoring of the regular expression and the g flag at the end, you could have suggested this as an edit to the accepted answer. As it happens, this was instead an edit that I made (along with adding extra text), prompted by reading the accepted answer, prompted by the question bubbling up on our front page due to your answer.

An additional edit that could possibly be made to the accepted answer is to address the user's issue with parentheses or at least say why parentheses aren't needed or wanted in the suggested command. This is probably not enough to warrant its own answer though, as the second part of that answer would invariably have to duplicate the sed command from the accepted answer again unless a novel and better approach is provided.

  • Thank you for responding to my question. I will review & reflect.
    – Gostega
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 4:01
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    With regards to "I would also avoid "This worked for me when solving a different issue and here's my code for that" - in fact these are the answers that most frequently help me when I am myself stuck with the trickiest problems. There are so many variations in IT, coding, & computing that that same or very similar symptoms can often be caused and solved by many different methods. And for the same reason, a method that previously worked may not work in an identical looking situation, hence it is very useful to have multiple answers and solutions to the same question.
    – Gostega
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 4:08
  • @Gostega I would still say that it would be more useful to have each possible issue as a separate question. If the issue is found to have the identical cause and solution to another issue, then the issue is a duplicate, and we can mark it as such. What we try to get is specific answers to specific questions.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 4:12

Kusalananda already covered several aspects; I'd like to add a couple more.

How can I see why it was downvoted...?

The main ("Meta") discussion board for the Stack Exchange system has discussed this several times:

I cannot see other posts by people asking why their answer was downvoted - how is this question usually asked?

Exactly like you did, by asking here on Meta! Many have done so previously:

It took me quite some time to get used to how Stack Exchange works; I still search our Help Center and Meta FAQ pages regularly. I remember trying to answer questions that were on their way to be closed, and seeing different kinds of answers get upvotes or downvotes. The culture of each SE site is a little different, I think, but each revolves around the same central system. Hopefully you can take the feedback you've received so far and find a good niche for your expertise -- in Questions, Answers, or both!

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    Thanks for providing all the references Jeff, you're a better librarian that I will ever be :-)
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 14:11
  • The majority of your links I did see already while searching and are referring to Questions not Answers but thanks for responding and for the other context, I will review & reflect.
    – Gostega
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 4:00
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    FWIW, while it's not possible to require downvoters to leave comments, I still think the system should allow accompanying downvotes with a written "objection" tagged to the downvote itself, not just as a comment that's technically totally distinct to the downvote and can get lost within other comments or deleted at whim.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:43
  • That sounds like it could be useful, @ilkkachu! I miss the (client-side) plugin that would go through my downvotes and report which had been edited after my vote was cast -- as a convenient way to see if the issues had been repaired. Your idea sounds similar -- an easy way to identify the problem with an answer and then un-do it. Sounds like it would take some coding to create that separate pipeline of: issue DV & objection -> edit -> review -> clear.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 15:42
  • @JeffSchaller, I was mostly thinking of that for the sake of future users reading the answers too.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 18:25
  • Note, that while Jon comment seems sensible, it has other results: accusations or mistreatment of the commenter by author of the post. Also, Shog own anecdote where an answerer usually selected the best action (fix or remove) to the post when no comment went with the downvote.
    – Braiam
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 19:20

The other answers to that question were faulty or lacking at the time the OP posted a correct and better answer, therefore the OP was wrongfully downvoted.

Why was the OP's correct answer downvoted? People make mistakes, people are ignorant, and some people are arrogant or malicious. Take your pick.

Please accept my upvote, and have a happy new year.

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