On questions that are just questions with literally no apparent effort put in by the OP, I often see several downvotes. (Example here.) Occasionally there is an accompanying comment that the OP should mention what he or she tried as an attempt. Where in the guidelines does it say that a question asker should do this? That's a serious question, not angsty sarcasm. I checked and couldn't find it so I figured maybe I missed it somewhere. If we're going to downvote people for not doing it, I feel it should be stated somewhere in the guidelines that they're expected to provide evidence of an attempt.

On the other hand, I also occasionally see questions with literally no apparent effort that are not downvoted, and sometimes even upvoted. (Example here.)

What is different about those two examples so that the first is downvoted and the second is upvoted? I'm just trying to understand how this site works, because I thought I understood for a while but perhaps I don't.


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It is easier to guess about particular cases than to give an elaborate rationalization about "the process" which is (in reality) the behavior of an inhomogeneous group. In my experience Questions that are interesting but accessible to a broad audience are more likely to get upvotes than Questions that are dull (routine) or inaccessible to most Readers. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 1:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You may be interested in the acronym "PSQ" used here on meta, which stands for "Problem Statement Question". $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 1:29
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ There is no "process"; every user has their own criteria and it is often quite random which posts happen to be noticed by users that judge them downvoteworthy. This is not to say that there are no noticeable trends. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 4:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Up/Downvotes are hoped to reflect the quality of a given post. While there certainly is a correlation between these two 'metrics', they are not the same thing. Posts with initial upvotes seem to be less likely to receive downvotes and more likely to receive additional upvotes and a similar theme - although weakened - can be observed for downvotes [it's not symmetric, because downvoted posts are less likely to be seen by user - since votes are used to sort them further down the list]. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 7:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I find this disagreement to be most apparent in 'viral' posts. Many of them are of mediocre quality which indicates that popularity has, at least in these cases, a bigger influence on there score than quality. However, this isn't a bad thing. Popularity of a given posts is a good indicator for its entertaining qualities and entertainment is a key reason for regular users to visit this site. It may not always be in the best interest for mathematics, but it clearly seems to satisfy human desires. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks all for your input. Definitely helps clarify things although it's too bad things have to be the way they are. Would the downvoter of this question care to explain? $\endgroup$
    – user307169
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @tilper: Note the section of the Meta FAQ "Voting is different on meta". $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


To answer this part of your question:

Where in the guidelines does it say that a question asker should do this?

screenshot from the tour

The question why some posts are upvoted even if they show no effort or are simply copy-paste of a problem has been discussed before:

(Maybe there are a few more discussions on the topic.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info! $\endgroup$
    – user307169
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 11:18

You must log in to answer this question.