I recently noticed that 4 of my questions now have a -1 vote.

Up to now, I've been deleting the questions as soon as they go to -1.

Even though I put in a good amount of time to make the question as clear as possible and responded to each comment, I was willing to delete them if they are truly of negative value to this site.

Now, it has happened 2 more times. These last two times do not seem right to me.

The questions have been posted for a long time. Someone without providing a comments or any indication why has down voted them.

This leaves me with a dilemma. I take my participation on this web site very seriously and really want to be a good community member. A 0 votes is legitimate. It indicates that my question is not of interest.

A -1 indicates to me that someone thinks that i did something wrong. Since I am not clear what I did wrong, I am confused how to respond to this.

I am a math amateur who comes to this site out of a true love of mathematics and with a recognition that my areas of interest may tend to be very focused on historical proofs and my own speculations which are usually naive. Even with my speculations being wrong, it is how I learn and it may represent mistakes that others make.

I ask you now am I the type of person that you want on this site? Is there something to be done to stop people from down voting and just being mean?

This experience has motivated me to vote for moderators. I voted for the folks who sound like they will take this site in the direction where I hope it will go: amateur friendly where people can learn, ask sincere questions, and enjoy the mathematics.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't worry about it. I believe there is a user who dislikes me and for the past few days they downvote 3 of my answers at a time and then do another a different day. I have an idea who it is but I don't care because they are obviously pretty petite so I let them have that minor victory. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 2:38
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Obviously there is nothing wrong with your questions and that one or two persons using their 125-point privilege to vote down questions of you shouldn't be a problem. Sh*t happens... $\endgroup$
    – Lehs
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 19:51

3 Answers 3


I sampled maybe 10-15 of your questions, and it seems that the downvotes are all on those that you answered yourself. I didn't find anything objectionable with any of your questions at all, so I assume that this is not a coincidence. I can share a guess, and a maybe unfortunately necessary recommendation.

The site has been used by some as a form of scratch board - post a question you pretty much know the answer of, and add your own answer at about the same time. It's like sharing bits and pieces of research you engage in. While self-answered questions aren't in general unwelcome, it appears a clear majority on this site (or at least on meta) believe that such types of self-answered questions are not welcome.

Now, you don't fit this pattern at all. You do what I've done with I think 2 of my questions: you are stuck; you ask; and if you don't get a good answer but make progress yourself, or resolve the question you had, you post your progress or solution. I think that's a nice form of closure, and find it highly desirable. My guess is that some lazy person on a mission didn't check time stamp (your answers come with a delay probably representing your continued research), and downvoted a wrongly perceived use of this site as a scratch board.

As far as I can tell, this shouldn't happen; but as users are free to vote as they like (except for large-scale targeted downvoting), there is probably little you, or anyone, can change about it. While it shouldn't be necessary, maybe start future such answers by a short comment indicating that you figured it out now, or such. But I hope this doesn't discourage you from posting.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks very much for your explanation. I feel a lot better understanding the basis for the down votes. I will be more cautious before answering my own questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ @LarryFreeman This just happened to me too, so I'd say there's a very good chance you got hit by someone categorically downvoting self-answered questions. $\endgroup$
    – user7530
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @LarryFreeman Please don't stop answering your own: many of the most valuable answers I find on these sites are from people who were looking for something specific, held out against 'quick' or 'easy' answers (or just not quite what they were looking for) only to eventually answer with something really insightful. Hope you won't be too cautious! $\endgroup$
    – Rax Adaam
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 19:27

To start with, looking at your activity on the site, the answer to "Am I the type of person you want on the site?" is resoundingly yes.

Voting, however, is not necessarily the best representation of what the community thinks of your contributions as a whole. The set of people who see your questions is random, and sometimes, they apply varying standards in upvoting and downvoting or perhaps misread the question or are in a particularly foul mood or something. Besides, your word that a question is good is as valid as the word of the downvoter - it's just one vote; it's not like the entire community has decided to come crashing down on you. It can be really frustrating when you receive a downvote with no explanation on a post you don't see fault with - and even more so when that's the only attention your post gets, but try not to take it too personally.

There are mechanisms in place on the site which try to prevent malicious downvoting - in particular, every 24 hours, the site searches for instances of serial downvoting, where one user downvotes many of another user's questions. If it detects such a pattern, it will undo all the downvotes, and you'll see in your reputation tab, "Serial Downvoting Reversed". Your situation sounds like that, especially since they're old questions which would probably be found through your profile more likely than else - but you can never know if this was just an instance of bad luck when multiple people decided to downvote.

In general, the proper response in your situation is to do nothing. You can't improve your post if the downvoters didn't leave comments. You can't convince them to change their vote. But, the fact that your post has a -1 next to it doesn't change the intrinsic merits of the post and, therefore, I wouldn't recommend deleting questions that you think are of good quality, even if they get a slightly negative score. If you judge your question to be positive contributions to the community, even if they receive a downvote, it's more than likely that you're right.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks very much for your answer. Now, that I'm clear on the reasons, I can accept the down vote when it occurs. I will not automatically delete my questions going forward. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 6:28

I'd just like to point out that deleting your questions as soon as they earn a score of $-1$ might be an overly harsh metric. It requires only one disgruntled user to fire off a downvote after you've posted your question -- i.e. you are making a significant decision on a very small sample size (as little as one). Remember that other users might give you upvotes! I would recommend the following:

  1. If you receive an immediate downvote, leave a comment: "Why the downvote? What can I do to improve my question?" and try to improve your question, regardless of whether or not you get an answer to your comment.
  2. If you receive more than one immediate downvote, be concerned. However, such downvoting will usually be accompanied by comments explaining what's wrong with your question.
  3. If you're receiving both downvotes and upvotes such that the score of your question is greater than zero, don't worry too much about it.
  4. Try to heed the advice of more experienced users if your questions are being downvoted. However, remember that some people may be unreasonable, so use your own judgement. As you spend more time on this site, it will become apparent what constitutes good behavior and what doesn't.
  5. As a rule of thumb, I suggest ignoring commentless downvotes, unless you incur them in great number. A single commentless downvote usually indicates a negative nancy, whereas several suggest error on your part.

Finally: the very presence of this meta-post indicates that you're sufficiently thoughtful that your questions are probably just fine. Don't worry -- you are a desired member of this community. Some people are simply unreasonable, and it is unfortunate that you have encountered them so early on.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't believe leaving a comment asking "why the downvote?" is worthwhile at all. The person who downvoted won't get a notice and will likely have completely moved on without looking back. $\endgroup$
    – NotMe
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisLively I don't think so. In my experience, the comment "why the downvote?" does elicit a non-trivial response rate. People do occasionally read questions more than once. $\endgroup$
    – Newb
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisLively It's helpful because if there is actually something wrong with your question/answer, a different user will explain: "I didn't downvote, but I think someone downvoted you because..." This kind of positive response has happened to me multiple times. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 21:44

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