# How to deal with “discomforting” downvotes?

I have noticed that recently the downvoting spree on MSE has increased by a lot.
It often occurs (also here and here) to me that, driven by my will to help people, I provide a solid proof/hint and suddenly

• It gets downvoted because it is "too advanced";
• It gets downvoted because the OP did not put much effort on his/her side, and someone thinks it is the case for blindly downvoting answers, too;
• It gets downvoted because the OP does not understand it and he/she is too lazy to ask for clarifications;
• It gets downvoted just as a small revenge.

Downvotes do not really affect my reputation, but I feel bad any time this happens.
I wonder if it is the case to make (anonymous) explanations about downvotes compulsory (yes, I know, that has been discussed before. I am quite pro-it) or... who knows. I bothered the mods many times with flags like "random downvote": they have been accepted many times, declined many times. Downvotes happen has been a recent comment, and If downvotes happen, Jack D'Aurizio keep bothering you about that happens, too has been my reply. I feel a great discomfort about the current situation; I would like to discuss if there is something we may do, or it is better to me to leave this place and live happily somewhere else (in the dream land where manors do not exist, for instance. I really hate them.)

• This question getting downvoted, too, is sad irony. – Jack D'Aurizio Sep 22 '16 at 0:29
• A friendly suggestion; why not try to focus on the positive instead of obsessing over the negative. You have gotten over 10000 up votes since you started here. I don’t know how many downvotes you have gotten, but I’m guessing it’s is less than a few percent at max. If you choose to look at it from that perspective than the question in the title is trivial. – Winther Sep 22 '16 at 1:18
• Only the users who downvoted your question on meta can tell you why they did so. I did not, but if I had to guess: A) There have been many posts on meta complaining about downvotes. Many users don't like when posts about the same topic appears again and again. B) You have mentioned that you flagged some posts because of downvotes. As far as I can say, this is incorrect uses of flags. (AFAIK mods cannot revert the downvote, so there is not much they can do. However, if you suspect serial downvoting. flagging would be right way to go. – Martin Sleziak Sep 22 '16 at 4:08
• I downvote this question on meta because I disagree with it (i.e you are not wasting your time). For downvotes on main, I don't think you need to care about them that much. There are always people who disagree. If there is only one or two people downvote /complain against you, then it is their problem. At least for me, your average answers on math.SE are signficantly above averge. – achille hui Sep 22 '16 at 4:15
• You're not wasting your time on the main site. Pouring drama into the meta is somewhat of wasting time, which I think is a motivation for people to downvote this meta thread. I can identify with you, and I can tell you that I appreciate your efforts, and surely I'm not the only one. And remember: if you do it for yourself, you're never wasting time. – Asaf Karagila Sep 22 '16 at 6:12
• I downvoted because I am opposed to someone flagging a post simply for being downvoted. – Michael Greinecker Sep 22 '16 at 8:02
• Hi Jack, your contributions are great, but sometimes I'm not convinced you are really trying to teach your knowledge. I did downvote you 2 or 3 times (among your 10 answers per days, it is not so much ?) and I was hoping it would make you trying to be more "pedagogue' – reuns Sep 23 '16 at 19:22
• @JackD'Aurizio I don't have the time to give the whole thread (question, comments and answers) a proper reading, so I'll just give my first impression at the risk of not addressing important issues that might have been already mentioned. I see where you're coming from and I'm mostly on your side. I hardly answer stuff anymore because of it. Not as a direct reaction to the current situation, but more because I simply don't enjoy answering anymore. It used to be fun. – Git Gud Sep 24 '16 at 12:58
• I can't really accept the typical reasoning that "if one answers for oneself (as one should), then one should have no trouble with misplaced down votes and whatnot". Not because I think this conditional statement is false, but because more and more one is kept from answering for oneself. When was the last time you helped someone and didn't feel good about it? I can't help but think that seemingly altruistic behavior is not altruistic at all. We help people because it helps us, it makes us feel good. As MSE currently is, the chances of helping people are much, much smaller than they once were. – Git Gud Sep 24 '16 at 13:05
• Late to the game, but let me add this: the flurry of downvotes that this question has received should be interpreted (as it often happens on Meta) as the answer to a tacit poll - "no, you are clearly not wasting your time here". Consequently, I shall downvote your question, too, sending you a hopefully strong signal about the usefullness of your presence here. :) Whenever overwhelmed by the downvoting crowd, think of the silent ones who appreciate you. After all, how else could you have amassed 155k reputation points in 4 years? Cheer up! Downvoting this as a token of appreciation! :) – Alex M. Sep 26 '16 at 22:11
• I downvoted not only because I disagree with the premise, but the title of this question is essentially clickbait. – bjb568 Sep 28 '16 at 20:57
• By the way, Jack – what do you have against manors? – Gerry Myerson Sep 28 '16 at 23:39
• Not having previously voted on those three questions, and not having voted on the answers, I notice that the first two are PSQ posts, and the first one in particular had a comment stating it was a duplicate for about 14 hours before your answer was posted. It should not be surprising to see downvotes in those circumstances. – Carl Mummert Sep 30 '16 at 19:40
• @JackD'Aurizio Because people answering bad question just encourages people to ask more bad questions without improving them. It's not rocket science. You can't eat your cake and have it too, if PSQs are not allowed then the people encouraging PSQs should themselves be discouraged from doing so. The most effective way is downvotes. – Najib Idrissi Oct 3 '16 at 8:47
• Once again, if you want to speak to me, then notify me instead of hoping I don't see your comment. I don't care if I convince you, but I'd like the others reading these conversations to get a complete picture of what's happening here. Let me mention that it's most of the community's opinion that PSQs are bad, not just mine. Don't like it? Too bad. – Najib Idrissi Oct 3 '16 at 8:58

You're too old for this... stuff. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, beyond downvotes. If we find someone is messing with the system, we will do our best to cease it. In the mean time, don't lose sleep over votes. At any rate, people have different views on usefulness, and perhaps you find yourself in front of a question you deem useful and lovely, and someone finds it utterly useless. This subjectivity happens everywhere, and it seems to me it is in your best interest to stop caring about it. One cannot please everyone.

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Pedro Tamaroff Oct 7 '16 at 2:18

Jack,

I imagine that I am somewhat older than you and perhaps I have thought about my mortality in ways you have not. (I do not know this of course, just a guess.) As I have pondered the rather dim truth about my remaining time able to work out neat integrals, I have developed an immutable iron law that governs everything I do in all walks of life, including Math.SE:

Life's too short to worry about things you cannot control.

When I post an answer here (an increasingly rare thing these days), I post it knowing I did the best job I possibly could. If there is a mistake either I will find it or someone else will. Otherwise, I know I put up a quality answer because that is what I want to do.

However people want to react to my answer - either by upvoting, downvoting, or neither - that is out of my hands. I cannot let myself get upset over these things. Sure, it sucks to get downvotes. But if you answered the question for the pure joy of it, because you love answering these questions - then you know you have put out something valuable. Nobody can take that away from you.

You have proven to all of us that you are really, really good at answering the types of questions you do. I cannot imagine you need any further validation of this fact. Just keep on answering so long as you are enjoying yourself. Leave the downvoters to stew in the toxic goulash of their own making. Don't let such people affect the joy you feel from working these problems out.

Cheers,

Ron

• Mmm... fatalism... – Asaf Karagila Sep 27 '16 at 10:29
• "Leave the downvoters to stew in the toxic goulash of their own making." - I'm stealing this, thanks. :) – J. M. is a poor mathematician Oct 3 '16 at 5:20
• +1. I agree completely with you. I ignore DV AFTER I recheck my answer. By the way, I have my private rude and offensive stalker that downvote, try to close or hold, check my $\LaTeX$, check the questions I edit, etc... I just ignore it ( yes IT ). In a particular question the stalker claims about the way to go from a sum to an integral in a rude, offensive manner. I didn't care to answer but I was thinking how a university professor doesn't know about 'Laplace Method for Sums'. I didn't even mention the reference about it ( Analytic Combinatoric by Philippe Flajolet and Robert Sedgewick ). – Felix Marin Oct 4 '16 at 20:14
• It sure sounds very wise, but maybe doesn't go far enough: those of us who have reached this level of spiritual sophistication really should not post any answers at all. After all, one has already gotten all the joy and satisfaction from working on one's piece of scratch paper, so why ruin the experience now by going through a tedious typesetting exercise. – user138530 Feb 9 '19 at 4:04

You ask if you are wasting your time. I looked through some of your answers from the last (little over a) week, here are some comments that OPs left for you:

I see you engaging with OPs in comments and I see people leaning and being appreciative of your time and work. For these people (as I am sure for people who don't leave comments) you are definitely not wasting your time.

Since I was the moderator handling this ill-fated thread in main let me give a summary of its history the way I saw it.

1. The question was asked by a new user yesterday. It was judged to lack sufficient context and was closed in due time.
2. The asker reasks the question (they also created a new account, but that is not very relevant here). Regulars point out the faux pas, and the reposted version begins to attract downvotes and votes to close as well.
3. Another user also finds an older question that is very closely related (may be a duplicate - I didn't check).
4. An hour later Jack posts his answer. I wasn't there at that time. Judging from the comment chain Jack knew that this is a repost (if I'm wrong about that I apologize). There was some discussion whether the duplicate target really is a close enough fit. Flagging ensued.
5. I came to investigate two comment flags. The easy decision was to give the asker a warning not to repost the same question (as well as point them at the help center to get their accounts merged and become able to edit the first version into shape).
6. I decided to merge the version Jack answered to the original version, and delete the new question. Deleting the reposted version is my normal procedure. The newbies repost occasionally as they don't know how the site works. The merging was done simply to save Jack's answer. I am not sure if this is a precedent (I don't believe much in precedents anyway), basically I didn't want to decide on the fate of that answer while deleting the question. An alternative would have been to delete the earlier version. I don't know if there is any difference.

Taking off the moderator hat.

My impressions of why the downvote came / advice to Jack:

• An experienced user should be alert enough to check the comments, and also know that reposted questions have a short half-life (apparently not short enough, working on it).
• Given this, it is always better to post the answer to the original version.
• If that original version happens to be closed, and you disagree with the closure, my recommendation is to act to get it reopened. You can argue the case in the dedicated meta thread. If your view gets support, the question will be reopened, and you can then answer it. I have never had problems getting support when I think a question was wrongly closed (this is from the time before I got elected).
• Posting an answer to the reposted version may be seen as dismissing the opinion of other users who think the question should not be here in the first place. Therefore it may/will lead to a reaction. Or, at least you should not be surprised and butthurt when/if a reaction comes. It is natural to think that you just wanted to help the asker, but ignoring opinions of others comes with a price. Think of it this way. May be many others who are equally capable of producing a similar answer passed by, diagnosed the situation, and thought better of answering. Some of them might even be miffed by seeing somebody else pick a low hanging fruit.

But, from what I've seen your answers generally are of high quality, and the site is much better off with you on board. Wasting your time? The only occasions I think you may be wasting your time come when you answer mundane questions that could be equally well handled by users who know a lot less. Granted, that happens to most of us some of the time.

• Since when is it ever the obligation of a user to read the comments thread? If the question was reposted by a new user and people knew about it for sure, then why didn't the mod making this determination immediately delete the duplicate and close the sockpuppet account? – user64742 Oct 1 '16 at 3:25
• @TheGreatDuck: You are suggesting that 1) I should have just deleted Jack's answer as well. And 2) also deleted an unsuspecting newbie account that was created simply because they didn't know how to save their login credentials? Sounds a bit harsh, don't you think? – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 1 '16 at 5:11
• You misunderstand. You say that Jack should've known that the question was a duplicate because someone said this in the comments. If someone knew for an absolute certainty that it was a duplicate account, then a moderator had to have commented on the post before Jack answered. So my question is, why didn't that moderator delete the post when he saw it instead of leaving it and giving Jack a chance to make that mistake? Secondly, if it wasn't a moderator who said the account was a duplicate, then why was that person making accusations towards a new user that they couldn't really prove...? – user64742 Oct 1 '16 at 6:26
• @TheGreatDuck You misunderstood also. I was the first moderator at the scene, and by that time Jack had already answered the reposted version. Regular users spotted both the repeated question, and the replicated account. You don't need any moderator superpowers to spot that there are two identical questions, both posted by the same username, but different accounts. Even the gravatars were different. And anyone can click a username to peruse the list of all the questions and answers posted by that user. Those tools are there to enable good site-citizenship. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 1 '16 at 7:05
• Fair enough then. I guess I was assuming moderator incompetence. Carry on, man! Keep up the good work! – user64742 Oct 1 '16 at 7:06
• @TheGreatDuck: as a user with 1,170 rep, you may not be aware that it is generally expected for users to look through the comments. It is true that you can't force someone to read them before answering, but if that causes any issues we do generally blame it on the person who didn't read the comments. For example, it's poor form to write up an answer which was already stated in the comments, as if the writer came up with it first. You may want to spend more time on the site before speaking about its norms. – Carl Mummert Oct 2 '16 at 14:04
• @TheGreatDuck: I think you may not be as aware of the site's norms as you think. Moreover, there are several reasons to leave hints in answers, such as for questions where we'd like the answerer to answer for themselves. The idea that comments are only for clarification, not discussion or other use, was suggested by SE.com but has never been a broadly accepted part of the culture of this site. I don't see much benefit to continue discussing this, but I hope you will take more time to learn the site's culture and norms. – Carl Mummert Oct 2 '16 at 20:37
• @CarlMummert A "hint in an answer" is not the same as someone actually providing a full and complete solution in a comment, and then getting salty cause someone posts an actual answer post with the same or similar solution. If someone leaves a hint, and someone answers it later, there shouldn't be any question of the answerer stealing the answer so to speak. After all, the poster of the answer didn't give a hint. They gave an answer with a full and complete solution (I'd hope). – user64742 Oct 2 '16 at 22:07
• @TheGreatDuck/ I couldn't agree with you more. In algebraic geometry for example (my favourite field) I'm quite annoyed by the many hints which display the commenters' complete ignorance of the problem at hand. It is not obvious how to prove that a hint is useless or misleading but it can be done: for example when the commenter gives a hint on how to prove a statement which happens to be false... – Georges Elencwajg Oct 27 '16 at 18:10
• @GeorgesElencwajg that is indeed annoying. – user64742 Oct 28 '16 at 0:17
• @Georges I'm fairly sure that Carl Mummert was not talking about incompetent hints:-) Anyway, not everybody can tell the difference between a bad hint posted as an answer (we see too many of those) and a good hint in comments. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 28 '16 at 7:18
• Dear @Jyrki. Oh but yes, there is a great difference! If you post a complete answer people can read it, or check a reference, and see whether it is correct. Hints are often buzz words thrown around more or less honestly, in the hope that they will lead to a solution. By the way I have a nice proof of Poincaré's conjecture. Hint: Use the Ricci flow. And as for solving the desingularization problem for schemes (in arbitrary characteristic) use my Penetrating Hint: Blow-up your singular scheme along codimension $\geq 2$ subvarieties again and again. Dare you disagree? :-) – Georges Elencwajg Oct 28 '16 at 11:28
• LOL @GeorgesElencwajg – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 28 '16 at 12:02

Here is a ritual that I do

Whenever a downvote makes me blue:

I put some Calgon in a nice, warm bath,

And reminisce on the sewer that was sci.math.

• Once upon a time, sci.math was fine. As was most of the sci.* hierarchy. Sometimes I still go back to sci.astro.amateur, which lasted longer than most. – Brian Tung Sep 30 '16 at 21:36
• Are you kidding? It's exactly how to deal with discomforting downvotes. Downvotes got you down? Best solution: Adjust your perspective. Remember how bad it used to be and the downvotes don't seem so bad. – B. Goddard Oct 1 '16 at 3:32
• I do not appreciate my post being deleted (whoever did that). The asker is wanting to know whether downvotes should have compulsory anonymous explanations to prevent vote manipulation. Your post about "discomforting downvotes" hardly contributes any real value to the question, nor does it attempt to answer the question of "should anonymous explanations be compulsory". I'm not being rude nor trying to be, but this doesn't answer the question. – user64742 Oct 2 '16 at 22:13
• @TheGreatDuck I'm not sure how comments are removed, but I assume it takes a number of flags and then a moderator does it. But I think your reading of the question is narrow and parochial. The OP's problem was that downvotes made him "feel bad". I responded to that. Language doesn't work like math; listening is an art. – B. Goddard Oct 3 '16 at 11:09
• @B.Goddard No, his issue was that he thinks the site is broken and wants people to discuss solutions to fixing the site. – user64742 Oct 3 '16 at 15:07
• @TheGreatDuck and one solution is to realize that brokenness is relative. The noise to signal ratio on Math Stack is, perhaps, the lowest of all the internet. – B. Goddard Oct 3 '16 at 16:13
• @B.Goddard Yes... but we asked for ways of preventing unfair downvotes, not to simply ignore the unfair downvotes. He was asking what policies could be used to prevent or undo downvotes like that. Your post does not at all reflect that. – user64742 Oct 4 '16 at 1:45
• @TheGreatDuck Then you have misunderstood the answers given here. There are no policies to prevent downvotes like this. Or, perhaps, the policy I suggested is not to answer questions that have been judged dubious by others. Moderators will not, can not, and should not do anything about an occasional downvote. Only systematic targeted voting is actionable. A user who is continuously flagging their own posts and whining about how unjust this and this downvote is, and how great their answer is, gets on our nerves. We could be spending that time tending to some real problems on the site. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 4 '16 at 21:24
• @JyrkiLahtonen Yes, but your post actually responded to the post at least. This person's post seems like all it did was read the title and make a random post about it. It just seems like it's off-topic to the post and not really relevant. – user64742 Oct 5 '16 at 1:27
• @TheGreatDuck No, Jyrkil was right: You don't understand. Yet you want to impose your somewhat hide-bound, literal interpretation on everyone else but somehow "don't mean to be rude."(?????) – B. Goddard Oct 5 '16 at 1:50
• For the record: I support this answer and the advice given in it 100 per cent. It is an adaptation of the old wisdom in somebody praying for "Courage to fight the things that can be changed, the peace of mind to accept the things that can not, and the wisdom to tell the two apart." (I may have screwed up the exact wording). Together with a reminder of how much things have improved since the usenet era. And not forgetting the frosty gravatar. This is the perfect answer, and it getting downvoted underlines what is IMNSHO wrong with the pity party this thread evolved into. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 5 '16 at 5:01
• @JyrkiLahtonen Fair enough. I never intended this to be more than me just remarking the post seemed off topic to me. The only reason I even commented again was because for some reason my post saying "this post appears off topic, imo" was deleted which I felt was wrong as it wasn't rude for me to simply say I feel it is off topic. I reported it and I left a comment. I wouldn't have thought twice if not for the fact that my comment was deleted and the OP responded in a way that I felt was pretty rude. – user64742 Oct 9 '16 at 6:12

The simple truth of the matter is that unless there is glaring evidence that votes have been made for reasons other than the content of posts, votes won't be invalidated. The moderator team has on occasion made vote-invalidation requests where we are certain that votes were given for reasons other than the content of posts, only to have the CM agree that something fishy is probably going on but deny the request anyway. So the bar for vote invalidation is pretty high. As it should be.

Flagging the moderators because of a "random downvote" will almost certainly not result in any action against that random downvote. Even a long string of "random downvote" flags probably won't result in any actions taken again the downvotes.

At the end of the day it is counter-productive to put too much power in the hands of others. Be personally happy/content with your contributions to the site. If you receive a downvote perhaps take a moment to read through the post to see if there is something you wish to change/improve. If you're happy with your posts the way they are, that's fine. It's also fine that others don't admire your posts in the same way you do.

If you're feeling brave you can even check the anonymous feedback on your posts in the SEDE. It can be eye-opening. (The up- and down-vote buttons are available to anonymous viewers and very low reputation users. When used by these users this information is stored as "anonymous feedback", but plays no part in calculating post score or changing the reputation of the author of the post.)

• I tried that. I don't understand what it is. The only way I know to make anonymous feedback on someone's post is to vote on it, but the numbers I'm seeing at that SEDE link seem unrelated to upvotes and downvotes. What other way is there to make anonymous feedback? And is there any way to see the feedback, not just count it? – Gerry Myerson Sep 22 '16 at 6:06
• @Gerry: The anonymous feedback is voting by transient users and visitors. It's not registered as votes, just as "behind the curtains votes". – Asaf Karagila Sep 22 '16 at 6:15
• @GerryMyerson Some basic info can be found here. (And to arjafi: Probably there might be more users who will be confused about meaning of the numbers in your query. Perhaps you could add to your post some explanation. I guess that the link I've mentioned here some of other related posts on main meta could be sufficient.) – Martin Sleziak Sep 22 '16 at 6:36
• I found that feedback query interesting as I had not realized such "anonymous" votes were being bucketed. I must occasionally have provided them myself on other SE sites when not realizing I was not a member there. – hardmath Sep 23 '16 at 0:30
• @hardmath I know I provide them sometimes completely spuriously when browsing the site on a mobile device (not logged in) and vote "against my will" just by touching the wrong part of the screen without a chance to undo. – quid Sep 24 '16 at 20:32

I like your question.

I don’t want to spend time for a detailed answer. That would require going into philosophy.

My simple view... Downvotes shouldn’t exist. Only comments. That is going into the direction of a comment from José.

And if I have to answer to the why question, it is fairly simple. I feel downvote as denouncement. That’s cultural. Denouncement in France is usually considered as immoral. You have when you denounce to say (1) who you’re and (2) why you do it.

• Bonjour! I encourage downvote on my answer. The higher number the better. Let’s do it... please! – mathcounterexamples.net Feb 1 '19 at 21:21
• "You have when you denounce to say (1) who you’re and (2) why you do it." OK, mathcounterexamples: who are you? – Gerry Myerson Feb 1 '19 at 22:21
• I hereby denounce your request for downvotes, by upvoting. I agree dwnvotes can be experienced as a denunciation. I think they should be reserved for answers which are actually wrong or misleading, or which wilfully ignore what was asked for—and that if the misinformation is fixed, they should then be retracted. A comment should be left so readers and the answerer know what's wrong, and the comment should be deleted if the answerer puts it right. A downvote should be a rare occurrence, only used when really necessary. – timtfj Feb 1 '19 at 23:52
• "Downvotes shouldn't exist." "I encourage downvote on my answer." Why would you encourage downvotes if you believe they shouldn't exist? – Joel Reyes Noche Feb 2 '19 at 1:06
• @Joel, I believe this was an attempt at sarcasm. But such things should be left to the professionals. – Gerry Myerson Feb 2 '19 at 4:17
• @GerryMyerson If you look at my profile, you’ll know who I’m. Nothing specially interesting though. – mathcounterexamples.net Feb 2 '19 at 6:42
• @Joel I assumed it was in order to be a mathcounterexample. – timtfj Feb 2 '19 at 18:31