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Quite recently I saw a few posts of new users of this site (which were just joining MSE) which were on a very basic level and indeed contained some mistakes or even basic mathematical misunderstandings.

I tried to figure out what the problem was and tried to provide enough basic information in my answers to clear things up a bit. Additionally, I edited the questions regarding the formatting (Latex etc), which one obviously cannot expect from a user who just registered to MSE, and after I finished, I even edited the content to make clearer what the asker wanted to know — I just tried my best to shape these questions into some worth staying on MSE.

But while I did this, the question got voted down quite fast.

This got me actually a bit upset, because after the discussion and editing the Q&A was not at a state that would have deserved these votes, and it feels like there were just some people looking at the question in its first state saying “this is basic rubbish, how can one not get this basic stuff!”, but not even bothering to leave a comment or even editing the question. But because of the downvotes, it seems that my attempt to improve this question would've been completely useless. But as I perceived especially on some meta discussions, new user's posts are generally not disliked, especially as this is not MO.

So my question: Is there any possibility to notify downvoters that someone edited the question or something similiar to make them rethink their vote? Or generally — how would you handle such situations? What could I do better to prevent such downvoting?

Examples of such questions are this one and this one.

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    $\begingroup$ The attitude of “this is basic rubbish, how can one not get this basic stuff!” is one of my pet peeves. It really bugs me when questions are closed because the OP didn't understand their own question. In such cases, the OP should be helped to understand their question, not have the door slammed in their face! $\endgroup$ – user1729 Jan 29 '15 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Did It was a general comment, and not about the questions linked to here. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Jan 29 '15 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 Then why post this general comment, seemingly as a reaction to the post above? If the comment does not apply to the two specific cases mentioned in the question, a casual reader might be misled. $\endgroup$ – Did Jan 29 '15 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 the problem at least in the first case is rather clearly that it was a photo-only question. These also are not so well received when about more advanced things. There is more to be said about your comment, among others, that whatever you might wish this site will not be able to provide one-on-one tutoring for all the confused students of the world. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 29 '15 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Did It was a reaction to the post above. The quote was from the post, and just because the two questions linked to were not closed does not mean that this never happens. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Jan 29 '15 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ I do not intend to accuse the voters of bullying or similar, nor do I think that this is really appropriate; it is rather counterproductive in this discussion. The only thing that would really help is that people start to think and especially help each OP to improve the quality of the question before they vote down. But to be honest, I do not have a clue about how to achieve this. And by the way: Voting down does not primarily mean “not useful” — the help center actually says “[…] that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.” $\endgroup$ – Lukas Juhrich Jan 30 '15 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ I must admit that I don't understand why not only basic level questions, but a large amount of questions, in particular "non-numerical" questions relating to abstract algebra, analysis, differential geometry, topology..., looking tremendously interesting to my eyes of self-learner having an arbitrarily small mathematical education get downvoted, closed and deleted, making the site a poorer repository of knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Self-teaching worker Feb 1 '15 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ As it turns out, comparing a website that sees hundreds of new questions a day, whose users come from all over the world and have all sorts of backgrounds, and who aspires to be a useful knowledge repository is difficult to compare with the one-on-one real-life interactions between a single student and a single prof. Who knew. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Feb 1 '15 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ @quid (and everyone else) Actually, people under 13 are allowed to use the website, with parental consent. They are not allowed to register (the part that would require giving personal information to SE). But their eg. parents can register and then formally allow them to use the parent's account. Meta.SE thread. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Feb 1 '15 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Self-teachingDavide This has already been explained, please see this comment for example. Questions lacking context are generally not useful in the building of a knowledge repository. They generally need a lot of improvement to become useful, something that some people seem not to be aware of. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Feb 1 '15 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi Your remark that "questions lacking context are generally not useful in the building of a knowledge repository" is not generally true. In fact a strong contrary argument can be made: quite frequently such "context" is unhelpful nonsense that has been injected into the question for the sole purpose of preventing closure. Such nonsense usually highly obfuscates the essence of the matter. Further "lack of context" is now being abused by many users as a generic reason to close questions that they do not like (for whatever random reason). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Feb 7 '15 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque You've already made this argument, I've already replied to it, and it's degenerated into pointlessness every time, but... If I understand correctly, you are saying is that it's possible for people to mistake what is useful context to include in their questions (plus an irrelevant claim about the motivations of people voting to close). And somehow you conclude that questions lacking (useful or not) context are thus useful in building a knowledge repository (the opposite of my initial claim). Please enlighten me about the logical path between these two statements. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Feb 7 '15 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi It is easy: Start from Klamkin's compilations of IMO problems, almost any book of problems, the very accessible although too simply designed Topology Atlas "Ask a ..." boards, and even older posts here that haven't fallen in the hands of your kind, all have first the question. Only further below you find the sections of hints and answers. Halmos' A Hilbert space problem book has all sorts of comments around the problems. There is no question on the usefulness of neither of these examples as knowledge repository. The difference is: You would not dare bully any of them. $\endgroup$ – user205090 Feb 10 '15 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi On the other hand, compare to many of the more recent questions here. Anyone wanting to read them has to swim through all the junk the students are being forced to add to their posts. Those with experience in math and knowledge of the question could quickly decide what is relevant and what is not. But those are not really the ones for which the post will serve later as a knowledge repository. The ones that don't have a clue are the ones that need a cleaner view of what is important/useful and what is not. $\endgroup$ – user205090 Feb 10 '15 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Carol what you do not seem to take into account though is that a compilation of IMO problems provides context by the very fact of being a compilation of IMO problem. Just today I asked somebody for context on a question here, they replied by saying it is a contest problem, and I was happy. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 10 '15 at 20:47
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It is impossible to notify downvoters; the possibility to do so comes up from time to time as a feature request (that might have some merits but is also open to abuse).

The situation was handled quite well. You took the time to help the users that asked a question in quite a bad way (I mean especially the first case) and were told so be others via the votes. One can hope that they thus got away with the impression that this site provides good information yet there are also some demands imposed on the questioner. This is the way it should be.

Indeed, what I would do differently is not make that big deal about the down-votes. Just explain why they get down-voted. Just posting a photo normally gets down-votes, because this is not a good way to present the content. The solution is simply not to post pure photo-questions (in the future).

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    $\begingroup$ On EE.SE when people post a photo as question (usually some textbook problem), experienced users sometimes post a comment with a single link to an image that says "and here is my comment" or some like that. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Feb 7 '15 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ I am not that much a fan of this form of educating users. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 7 '15 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @RespawnedFluff: On EESE the photos are often of stuff that can't reasonably be described in words. I find photos of handwritten text a little hard to read and it is impossible to edit/correct. It smacks of pure laziness to me. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 7 '15 at 18:32
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The website is very clear as to what the downvote function is to be used for: "this question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful". There is nothing mentioned about "This question asks about material below a 3rd year mathematics course", think about what the tags "Elementary-Number-Theory" or "Elementary-Set-Theory" or "Algebra-PreCalculus" exist for. This isn't a website for junior mathematics students and beyond, it's a website for mathematics questions, of any level. With that being said, sometimes a basic question is asked with poor formatting, and fits the downvoting function perfectly. I think since voting is anonymous on the website, and that is a feature that would be difficult to give up, we should try and educate downvoters and poor question askers.

Down Voters:

You guys need to know that down voting is a right, and as with any right, it comes with responsibility. If you're going to downvote a post, you also need to be willing to monitor that question for improved formatting. This doesn't mean you have to spend your time constantly refreshing your page waiting for an edit, but maybe favourite the question (which doesn't effect points) which will give you notifications on the status of the question and maybe direct your attention to an edit which has made it a good question. Once you see this edit, you can perhaps remove your downvote and maybe even turn it into an upvote.

Poor Question Askers

It can be hard being new to stackexchange and asking a good question. I lucked out an had a year of university under my belt when I started, so I was used to having professors demand I ask questions in a format similar to stackexchange. If you want a good format to post answers, I've found the following layout to be well-received:

The Full Question

Post the full question from your instructor or textbook here. Try to copy it down verbatim as this will help users understand what is being asked.

My Research

Show them the answers you are looking for and mention why you found them insufficient

My Work

Show them all your work. This will help us now where you got stuck on your approach to the question.

My Problem

Clearly state what is giving you trouble. For example, if you're trying to understand a proof, maybe say I have trouble understanding the logic and how they went from step 9 to step 10.

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    $\begingroup$ "If you're going to downvote a post, you also need to be willing to monitor that question for improved formatting." No; sometimes it is better to get rid of the whole thing instead of amending it. (youtu.be/_VhzmpChRm0?t=1m57s) $\endgroup$ – Mister Benjamin Dover Feb 10 '15 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ That is true. However, before deciding that, you need to give it a chance to improve. Do you want to be constantly downvoting a bad question that became a good one? $\endgroup$ – Dunka Feb 10 '15 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ You would recommend that we favorite all the posts we downvote? I notice you have downvoted twice, and there are 2 questions in your favorites. Coincidence? $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Feb 10 '15 at 11:41
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    $\begingroup$ I do not understand the negative reception here. It really frustrates me when a good question has lingering down votes. For example, see the discussion about the linked question here $\endgroup$ – user1729 Feb 10 '15 at 12:43
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    $\begingroup$ @JonasMeyer temporarily, why not? It lets you see the progress of the question, and maybe gives you a chance to reconsider your downvote if the question becomes something acceptable to the stackexchange standard. $\endgroup$ – Dunka Feb 10 '15 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Dunka: More seriously, I agree that revisiting votes is often worthwhile, but using "favorites" isn't a good way to do it. There is already a feature for doing this: the votes tab on your user page. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Feb 10 '15 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JonasMeyer I didn't know that. I did a search on google and favorites was the method that came up, so I assumed that was the method used here. Thanks for the update. $\endgroup$ – Dunka Feb 10 '15 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ Be careful what you wish for though. As frustrating as it can be for votes to go or remain contrary to our opinions, there is no way of knowing that the original downvoters agree that changes have made it worth undownvoting; attracting more attention from those who judged negatively might in some cases speed up close votes. It might be better to try to appeal to the general audience for positive feedback on improvements. An upvote more than cancels a downvote anyway, no need to worry that it's not the same user. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Feb 10 '15 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ This is a good post in principle, but the somewhat polemic style at the start overshadows this unfortunately. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 10 '15 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Dunka: you shouldn't use the word "need" when people actually don't need to do it (in any sense of the word "need"). $\endgroup$ – Mister Benjamin Dover Feb 10 '15 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: It’s only barely polemical, if at all. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Feb 10 '15 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott since to me "somewhat" and "barely" are almost synonyms in this context, we can settle on "barely." $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 10 '15 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ I don't want to attack anyone. I was just posting my ideas on how to make the website a better place. $\endgroup$ – Dunka Feb 11 '15 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Your idiolect appears to be rather idiosyncratic in this respect. Somewhat is much more open-ended at the top, and barely indicates a degree too small to justify the disapproval indicated by unfortunately. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Feb 12 '15 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott This language was not sung at my cradle. Sorry about that. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 12 '15 at 2:23

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