How to downvote a question “not useful”?

When I hover my mouse on the downvote button, it shows:

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

Yet there is no consensus for the minimum research effort. Being unclear is also understandable. But! how to decide the given question is not useful?

• Should I downvote a question because it is not useful to me?
• Should I downvote a question because it does seem to be not useful to SE goals?
• Or is there any other criteria for deciding what is useful and what is not?

Personally I find every trigonometry question not useful to me because I do not study trigonometry; should I downvote every trigonometry question?

Every homework question is not useful to fullfill SE goals so should I downvote every homework question?

Recently I've downvoted this question of @draks... Is my downvote justified?

Last but not the least. I asked this question yesterday. I got 2 upvotes and 3 downvotes.

• What is the reason of those 3 downvotes?
• If a question is useful as an explanation to someone in the anticipated audience, I would deem it useful. There is a lot of subjectivity to all of these decisions. – robjohn Jun 4 '14 at 2:06
• Why is this question heavily down-voted? – Apurv Jun 4 '14 at 6:56
• @Apurv Perhaps it is not useful. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 7:52
• @JyrkiLahtonen I've found a similar question in a standard Math book. I'll post a new question on meta giving appropriate references. You say [I suspect that your question was downvoted because there is a strong sentiment against these "continue this sequence" -questions] I don't get your point. If they don't like my question on main site then how they disagree with this meta post? If I cant ask for the reason of the downvotes on my questions of main site then what is the purpose of this Meta.MSE ? – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 10:42
• @JyrkiLahtonen My question(sequence) was closed because "it was not about mathematics". By showing the reference I'll prove that the question is a mathematical one. If that book comes out to be technically incorrect then that will be a different case. I am not a native English speaker. To me useful word means something that gives mileage. I do not know what the anticipated audience find useful. As I am a part of the audience, I find all the trigonometry questions not useful. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 10:55
• @JyrkiLahtonen You seem to be a part of the specific group of users censored by SE. People like you do not downvote a question because they don't like it; they downvote them because they don't fit into the big picture. When there is no appropriate reason for the downvote you and others say- they downvote because they don't like beginner(in present case number sequence) questions. Every time beginners will be suppressed on any SE site, I will stand against people like you. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 11:10
• I don't quite understand how you managed to deduce all that from my motives from these posts, but you are welcome to think that way. I make a note not to try and waste my time trying to share my impression about how some people here think, as you will apparently make hostile extrapolations from anything. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 4 '14 at 11:25

No, you should not necessarily downvote questions that you don't find personally useful - if that were the case, then $99\%$ of questions should be downvoted by $99\%$ of users, which would make the entire process silly.

In general, there are a few reasons that I personally will downvote (but I don't downvote all posts of these types):

• (1) The question is extremely poorly phrased, and missing crucial details.

• (2) The question is clearly lacking any research effort, or is a mere problem statement that came from the OP's homework.

• (3) The question involves spam or is offensive in some way.

• (4) The question is very clearly off-topic here.

In general, I will almost never downvote questions that are tagged with things such as , , and so on, unless they are egregiously in violation of the first two points above. It can be very difficult to research what a concept is called if you don't have a name for it, so I think we should be particularly forgiving for these sorts of questions. (And no, I don't agree with downvoting the question you mention in your post). There also seems to be a consensus that questions with tags like should be given more leeway than other posts, too.

Your mileage may vary - the question of whether my point (2) is valid is a debate that has consumed meta for years. Regardless, I only downvote a question when I think it's a bad question; so "not being good" isn't usually sufficient for me to downvote.

Regarding your comments about whether you should downvote things that "seem to be not useful to SE goals," note that the purpose of SE is to compile a list of questions with authoritative answers - especially considering that homework questions are frequently assigned (or at least seen) by a general audience, I don't see how homework questions are any less useful with respect to SE as a concept.

Finally, regarding the question that you posted that was downvoted: It's stated without any thoughts or efforts (see point (2)), and there's not really a definitive mathematical answer to any of these "find the next term in the sequence" questions.

• Regarding my question that was downvoted--[It's stated without any thoughts or efforts]-- As I said in the question I did not know how to solve it. What kind of thoughts or efforts I should have added? – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 2:39
• [note that the purpose of SE is to compile a list of questions with authoritative answers ]. Let me make it more precise, "the purpose of SE is to compile a list of questions with authoritative answers s.t. those questions should be searched on google so that SE become popular, Re: The big picture. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 2:43
• @user31782 You should share anything you've tried, even if it's failed. It at least gives a starting point for people to write an answer. You should also mention the source or context of a problem. – user61527 Jun 4 '14 at 2:45
• I've edited the question accordingly. Now I will downvote every single question of MSE which doesn't mention his/her thoughts or effort and the source of the question. Regards. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 3:00
• @user31782 Considering that you only have $40$ votes per day, that's not at all possible (nor is it what I meant in my answer). Voting is fundamentally subjective. – user61527 Jun 4 '14 at 3:06
• @user31782 As another comment, you don't have to vote anything down - there are users (such as Brian Scott) who never downvoted a single question or answer on main. Don't go out of your way looking for things to downvote. – user61527 Jun 4 '14 at 3:08
• I downvoted a couple of things in 2012. Not a good idea, but I was kind of immature. – André Nicolas Jun 4 '14 at 3:23
• @AndréNicolas I suppose a ratio of $932:1$ isn't that harsh. (But I wouldn't agree at all with the seemingly implied idea that downvoting is immature...). – user61527 Jun 4 '14 at 3:26
• @user31782 Wait, I just realized that you also asked this question, in which you give three examples of questions you downvoted for not having enough research effort. Your question had about as much research effort as any of these, and perhaps less - why would you be surprised by the downvotes, then? – user61527 Jun 4 '14 at 14:50
• @user61527 I'm not surprised for the downvotes. I wanted to know which was the reason, lack of effort, clearness or usefulness. See I'm exhausted now. I just want to know the real reason of the downvotes(which is lack of effort as I understand). Secondly I've improved the question so the downvoters may reconsider it. – user103816 Jun 4 '14 at 15:20