It disappoints me that the admission
I don't explain my downvotes anymore because I get abused when I do so.
and the subsequent plea
Can you all be nicer to downvoters so that we don't feel disinclined to explain our downvotes?
is responded to with discussions of
When, how, and why you should explain your downvotes or should you even cast downvotes at all/it's understandable why the abuse happens, how would you like it if your answer was downvoted, especially without a comment?
What I'd like to see discussed instead are
the transparency and facility of the mechanisms by which such abuse can be reported and appropriately dealt with.
whether we should and how we could modify the expectation some users have that their answers should not be downvoted, which breeds the above abuse when downvoting occurs.
My position is that the purpose of this web-site is to generate correct answers to people's questions, not to give people the opportunity to puff themselves up on reputation. The abuse impeded that and therefore I am against it, whereas the voting mechanism (both up and down) serves to assess the relative merit of the answers according to the community, and therefore I support both downvotes and commenting that improves answers. It is up to an answer's author to ensure their answer is as
correct useful and correct as possible, especially when given feedback; abuse is unacceptable.
Apparently nobody reads the existing behavior guidelines. The very first guideline, quoted below (and bolded by me) directly explains when to downvote, in direct conflict with the tenor of all the existing discussion in the comment threads of this question and its answers.
Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Last but not least, edit and improve the existing questions and answers! By doing these things, you are helping keep Stack Exchange a great place to share knowledge of our craft.
While you’re doing all of those things, we also require that you...
Ah, but maybe they do, it's just that they follow the link to the privilege documentation on downvoting, and don't just stick to the behavior guideline.
When should I vote down?
Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.
Down-voting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.
Instead of voting down:
Why are these in contradiction to one another??!!!
The guideline suggests to always vote misinformation down, while the privilege documentation suggests that downvoting should be an action of last resort in improving a question or answer. I'd wager much of the abuse to downvoters stems from users believing in the privilege documentation and not the behavior guideline, while many of the downvoters believe in the guideline and not the documentation.
Obviously abuse is never justified, but the outrage of being downvoted would be justified by the way the downvoting privilege is described. I think this flaw in the documentation should be taken up to meta.stackexchange.com...
I also don't read the guidelines, otherwise I will have known that there already are well-written instructions on dealing with abuse by flagging. Specifically
Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:
Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").
Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)
Inappropriate language or attention. Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive. Also, this is not a dating site.
Harassment and bullying. If you see a hostile interaction, flag it. If it keeps up, disengage — we'll handle it. If something needs staff attention, you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.