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Sometimes questions which aren't appropriately formed according to the site guidelines get a lot of down votes. I would not normally up vote these questions - but I don't feel they are necessarily worthy of so many down votes. So is it then considered okay to up vote the question purely to cancel out the down votes? Or does this somehow defeat the purpose of the system?

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    $\begingroup$ Closely related: A minor gripe about upvoting things that have been downvoted. (Maybe also som of the posts linked there might be of interest.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 20 '17 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ Aside: have you also considered downvoting questions that aren't worthy of so many up votes? $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Mar 20 '17 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl That's a good question which I hadn't thought of. For me the answer is no, I have never down voted a question in that manner. But I'd like to raise a distinction between the two. Usually the people who ask the poor questions are new to the site and so receiving an excessive amount of down votes can deter further participation. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 20 '17 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @mrnovice: While it probably should be the subject of a new meta post rather than a comment discussion, deterring further participation is a goal; not everyone submits to the philosophy that "all participation is good participation". (or, more precisely, deterring further participation of the same sort as the downvoted post) $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Mar 20 '17 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaid: Canceling downvotes is the same as telling people "Maybe this question is bad, but your opinion doesn't matter". You effectively cancel out someone's opinion. For no good reason, other than canceling it out. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I would say it depends on how you vote. I usually up vote answers based on how good/difficult/well they answer the question and how many votes they already have. For instance if I see a very basic answer with a high number of up votes, I wouldn't up vote it, but if I see a very well thought out and researched answer with a low number of up votes, I'd up vote it. If other people vote with the same mentality - then in theory the total votes on an answer tend to the number which the community deems appropriate. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 21 '17 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think there are so many "basic answers" with a large number of upvotes? Because not everyone vote the same as you. Sure, some people downvote out of malice, spite, or because they dislike the user posting for one of many reasons. But sometimes people downvote out of consideration. And automatically canceling those votes is tantamount to canceling other people's opinions for no reason. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Well, there are plenty of examples of questions (I can link some if you'd like) where a very simple question which has a very simple answer that subsequently can get a large number of up votes. What I'm saying is that if a very basic answer which was entirely correct had 0 up votes, I'd be more inclined to up vote it than if it had say 20. I think there are others who follow the same voting pattern as I do. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 21 '17 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaid, mrnovice: You are both relatively new to the site. And I understand why you feel the way you feel. But downvotes are important to the site, in part to educate users about posting etiquette and to help drive away "help vampires". As someone who is proud to call this website a kind of home, don't ruin my home. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Of course I can understand wanting to 'keep out' a certain type of user with down votes. However, when there is a clear attempt by them to engage in the spirit of the site, but they fail on something like formatting - then receiving a barrage of down votes can be demoralising and turn away a potentially active member. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 21 '17 at 4:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaid: This is not about time, it's about energy you've put into the site. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:36
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    $\begingroup$ @mrnovice: If you don't look around to see what is acceptable before posting something, that is your fault. Just like walking naked in the street will get you arrested, even if you weren't aware of any rule requiring you to put on some pants. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Here's a link to my first question I posted on this site: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2142822/wronskian-matrix At first I received a down vote, and got a bit demoralised - but then some one commented some advice and it helped me to learn Mathjax. On a different day, that question could have easily been barraged by down votes, and I probably would never have gotten 'involved' in the site $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 21 '17 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, and you could have stepped outside and got hit by a bus. Life is full of randomness and events outside our direct control. There are genius people who will forever remain in their impoverished villages in underdeveloped rural areas. Equally so, you could have been heavily downvoted and left the site. And I am sure more than a handful of people who could have contributed nicely left for such reasons. That's just life. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ Let me also add to my previous comment, that it is just as reasonable that some people who could have contributed to the site very much came in, saw that badly written questions get upvoted and answered, and decided not to contribute. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 21 '17 at 5:45
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In principle, the point of a voting system is to gathers information about everyone's opinion on the question, not just yours.

Voting to cancel out downvotes very much goes against this — in effect, you are saying your own moderate opinion on question is so valuable that you will go out and erase someone else's negative opinion on the question.


Not to mention this is a very disenfranchising action; there are already a number of barriers in place towards downvoting:

  • The reputation cost (only relevant to answers)
  • Peer pressure into believing downvotes are 'bad'
  • Aggressive reactions from people receiving the downvote

It can be quite distressing for someone who is affected by these things to go out and down vote something they think deserves it, only to find someone decided to cancel it out. So, the person suffers from all these negatives without their voice being heard — and even worse, the net result is positive feedback to the recipient of the votes. (upvotes give more reputation than downvotes subtract)

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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe down votes on questions have a reputation cost. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 20 '17 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I didn't know that upvotes on questions with a negative score gave the standard 5 reputation points. I had assumed it would just cancel the -2 out. $\endgroup$ – mrnovice Mar 20 '17 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ @mrnovice: It's correct that downvotes on questions don't have reputation cost, but upvotes "canceling" downvotes still give +5 (or +10 for answers). Here's a pretty old post but still relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1390/… $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Mar 21 '17 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ I have trouble mustering compassion for the harm my upvotes cause to the feelings of the downvoters who are merely doing their best to achieve the noble goal of running certain posters out of the site on a rail. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 1 '17 at 20:22

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