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This post is inspired by something that recently transpired. Looking through the question edits, this is what I thought of the question:

  • Content-wise, I agree with T.. and Matt E that it is a reasonable question to ask on this website. Furthermore, that content is already visible in the original version of the question.
  • Language-wise, however, it was unfortunate that the original phrasing of the question made the post more provocative and "cranky-sounding" than it actually is.

Now, I would like to make a small suggestion for the future. In general I see relatively little point in voting down a question to -5 or -6. The community has already made a point that the question is no-good by showing a score or -2 or -3. The excessive downvotes seem a bit unnecessary to me. This sentiment especially applies to questions asked by relatively new users who may not have completely acclimated with the social norm on this website.

Now, in the case of a question/post so devoid of mathematical content, my personal bias prevents me from complaining as loudly. But in the case as above, where the question can be reasonably re-written with minor modifications to both be mathematically interesting and not "shockingly offensive" (taking a very prudish point of view here; I find the original version slightly disagreeable but just that), excessive down-votes effectively prevents the redemption of a reasonable question upon re-writes and edits.

Therefore I would like to ask users to pause before casting that down-vote when the score is already negative. Instead of joining the down-voting bandwagon, maybe it is better to leave constructive criticism as comments as Qiaochu did for that linked question.

(Note: please share your thoughts on this general issue below. Specific discussion about the "Do zero and infinity exist" question should be left at the other meta discussion linked at the top of this post.)

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    $\begingroup$ How about upvotes? $\endgroup$ – kennytm Dec 27 '10 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @KennyTM: what do you mean? $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Dec 27 '10 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie: I mean can upvotes still be piled? :) $\endgroup$ – kennytm Dec 27 '10 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I certainly promise not to downvote any question more than once. Seriously, if I think a question is bad, then I may want to give my feedback on it. Letting others' voting practices determine mine makes things a lot more complicated. Moreover, maybe I think some -3 questions are worse than others. But I take your point that getting -10 on your first question is not a very warm welcome. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 27 '10 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ but what about the reversal badge? $\endgroup$ – BBischof Dec 28 '10 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Pete and @BBischof: those are very good points. I think if you will be willing to track the question and reverse the vote if minor edits to improve the question were made, I strongly support the use of downvotes. In fact, I do that all the time myself. Unfortunately, I don't think many users take advantage of that feature. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Dec 30 '10 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm gonna vote this question down. Who wants to join me? :D $\endgroup$ – Jeff Jan 31 '12 at 1:42
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I agree that there is probably not much difference between -3 and -10 in terms of showing the community that the question is not a well-proposed one. I can think of a couple situations when 'piling' the down votes could be useful (e.g. when we are dealing with a post that is clearly intended as inflammatory, kalle-numbers being an example of that). That being said, I am glad that many people removed down votes on “Is mathematics based on lies?” after capitalization and wording were fixed.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, the score is now +12, -10. So most of the downvotes have remained. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Dec 28 '10 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ oh, well that's not good. I am glad enough people with up votes came along then. $\endgroup$ – InterestedGuest Dec 28 '10 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe most people don't know that votes can be undone if and when a user edits? $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Dec 28 '10 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ The window for undoing votes is pretty small (I don't quite remember the exact time) even after edits. And most users, I think, won't bother to patrol their old votes to see if they want to rethink them. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Dec 28 '10 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Qiao: An edit that generates revision will unlock the vote reversal window. If it does not, please file a bug on meta.SO. (Also see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/18788/… if that's a problem you encountered.) $\endgroup$ – kennytm Dec 28 '10 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @KennyTM: no, I just mean that the vote reversal window is short. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Dec 29 '10 at 10:41

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