While I haven't been a part of MSE for too long, in my time I have been fairly active and seen a wide variety of questions. Obviously, the most common of these question have been homework-style questions with little to no thought or working from new users who don't know any better or believe that they'll get away with a no-effort question.

My question here regards the former, as with frustrating frequency I have seen these no-effort question immediately get multiple down and close votes and are very quickly marked as off-topic on account of this. While I completely understand why these users vote as they do - the questions are not of the required quality for the site - what infuriates me is that there is no teaching or learning being done - the least the voters can do is provide a comment linking to 5020 or 9959 or other similar pages designed for helping these new users to ask better questions, or telling the OP "please add your thoughts" etc, and then if the OP does not change their question to reflect your advice (within a period of 15-30 mins), then a downvote is certainly applicable and ought to be given. This means that the users are able to learn - I recently saw this, by the time I had seen the question, two down and close votes had been awarded, and no comments, yet within five minutes of me commenting on the question asking the OP to add their working, they had done so and changed their question into a worthy one for this site.

My solution would be to allow a user to downvote/closevote if they commented on the question at least ten (perhaps more) minutes earlier.


  • $\begingroup$ "Downvoting without comments" has been discussed a lot before. this is one of them. $\endgroup$ – user99914 Aug 24 '18 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ and the requirement to comment before casting a vote is unnecessary: voting to close is a clear communication. (BTW, 10-30 minutes is nothing: when someone post an answer they might just close the webpage/put down their phone) $\endgroup$ – user99914 Aug 24 '18 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ (1/2) A recommendation is always that you are going to defend a cause is to do it without getting emotionally involved (I fail in it ). Is important that in your communication will be explicit that people asking about mathematics maybe have handicaps in the learning of mathematics, that since we were kids we learn our native tongue and mathematics, and is well known that a huge number of persons fail in learn mathematics. I think that users are sensitive, but they need to know this kind of thoughts. Nobody thinks that an adult who don't know read is lazy. $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 24 '18 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ (2/2) It seems that society treats mathematics as an aptitude that a select few have, when it is a very useful and valuable language. Another thought (and my opinion) is that I think this network Stack Exchange should to modulate the fact that asking for maths is different from asking for travels or for coffee. $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 24 '18 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ The closure notice has a link to 9959, so the asker of a low-quality question does have an opportunity to learn about the question standards here, so I don't agree with your characterization of the issue. I'd also add that votes ought to be based on the question rather than the user; this is a Q&A site, not a social network, after all. So holding off a downvote because the asker might at some point in the future improve it lessens the utility of voting as a quality control mechanism. (Also, as a side note, can we please not have the drama of being 'sickened by a lack of decency'?) $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 24 '18 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ Also, on numerous occasions, the response to a polite "please improve your question using ..." post has been rude, obnoxious, or harassing. Even well-intentioned users fall into the trap of haranguing people over their votes (hint, hint...), so I'm rather sympathetic to people who don't want to expose themselves to that. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 24 '18 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Finally, this has been discussed on meta numerous times, dating back at least to this one. The consensus every time has been in favor of the custom that a comment is encouraged but never required. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 24 '18 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ @quid (and T. Bongers) Thank you for this perspective... in hindsight I agree and so have removed said line. $\endgroup$ – Rhys Hughes Aug 24 '18 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ I've downvoted this post because I disagree with the proposed answer -- your solution is not "encourage people to "teach", but instead to strongly discourage some forms of voting. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Aug 24 '18 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ ... it would have been better if your question proposed a question (or prompted a discussion), and you posted your answer as an answer, so that voting on the two can be decoupled. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Aug 24 '18 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the edit, I removed my comment. . $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 24 '18 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ The question Downvoting for no stated reason is abusive was already mentioned in the first comment. Other posts linked there might be of interest too, especially this one is related to some points raised here: Can we be nicer to downvoters? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 25 '18 at 4:22

The issue you raise is important and comes up frequently. Let me first comment on the specific proposal.

My solution would be to allow a user to downvote/closevote if they commented on the question at least ten (perhaps more) minutes earlier.

On the one hand there are good reasons to allow users to express their view semi-anonymously as T. Bongers explains. But, on the other hand, even if we'd agree for the sake of argument that this is irrelevant or that the interests of askers take precedence, the thing is:

If you force people that do not want to comment, to still comment, they will just comment in all kinds of ways, laconic, sarcastic, humorous, tricky, you name it, but they just won't be helpful or constructive.

Because those that want to leave a constructive comment, will already do so, and those that don't, they just won't, and especially not if the system tries to coerce them.

Alright, maybe I went a bit over the top here, but still forcing to comment will not be all that effective in encouraging desirable behavior, that's a near certainty.

Now, that said why is moderation on questions sometimes swift.

  1. For every poster that reacted well, there is one that does not react at all (and still gets an answer), or worse lashes out. At some point some decide they have been ignored and insulted enough, and they stop commenting.

  2. Every new asker on the site just saw this: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/ask/advice and ticked a box that they'll keep this in mind. Thus, it is not the case that we did not inform them at all. They, ignored our advice. Yes, no one reads all the text on all the websites where we tick one box or other to do what we want to do. Thus, we should not be too harsh. But, there is also no need to be overly critical of ourselves.

  3. The downvotes are useful in that they signal to the asker and to others that there is a problem. The asker that received a down-vote might be taken aback. But maybe it could still make them realize that the page on which they just ticked a box was not just a fanciful way to say "Welcome, user!" but is actually to be taken seriously. Or also, if somebody experienced sees a post at -1, they can go there and explain if they feel so inclined.

  4. Sometimes answers come in very quickly, too. There is concern that if one does not moderate very quickly against a question it'll be too late. See the other point above.

  5. Volume is high, and people only have that much time and energy.

Thus, I do understand why user do not always comment. But also, I agree it is often better to comment, and I encourage everybody to leave helpful and constructive comments.

Finally, regarding the downvoting, as explained above I think a -1 can have some actual relevant and ultimately constructive effect. To pile on with more downvotes maybe does not add much in addition and might just alienate and frustrate. It also puts the user in a situation that the improving may seem hopeless.

Thus, I would say downvoting to -1 even without comment is fine and can be useful. To pile on for no specific reason does not add much, and maybe everybody pondering to cast a vote below -1 could pause and consider if it is really necessary and if there is not a better use for that vote.

Conversely, those that want to help the questioner should actually try to help and not just undo the downvote with a counter-vote, especially not prematurely, that is, before the problems were addressed. Because if that happens too much, others will feel confirmed in piling on preemptively.

  • $\begingroup$ (1/3) I understand your words, but I would like to add some remarks. First I am agree that it's a problem, even in differen sites, see these posts from Pets Stack Exchange Should we require comments on close and/or down vote? and Why don't we use comments with down-vote in Pets.se? having answers and questions very reasonable as yours, but I don't understand how the same solution $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 25 '18 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ (2/3) and consensus is useful in different situations: asking about pets versus asking mathematics. Mathematics is a very difficult subject since babies when they acquire topological, projective and metric notions, or the construction of the natural numbers from the onetwothreefour... melody in kids. It is well known that the problems of educators in order for students to acquire mathematical knowledge. An early failure can be a considerable loss (and I'm not adding the differences or problems of many people learning mathematics). Secondly maybe a premature and apparently poor reception $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 25 '18 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ (3/3) of new users (these are the ones that matter most to me) can discourage these users from using this site MSE. Third. I cann't to presume that a new user (member for few days) has the ability to write in tex a post, or that he/she analyzed where is stuck and know to express it in a right way (and I do not add fears that can arise when we want to express that we do not know how to do something). Finally. This is communication, I do not know what kind of message new users receive in these circumstances: negative votes (many will be fair) without an explanation for his/her need. $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 25 '18 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ That is maybe not popular with some, but it is not at all clear that the individual interests of all kinds of people that want to get a personal advantage from this site should take precedence over most everything else. Yes, the point is to help, but this is maybe better achieved by trying to be a useful resource over all rather than to try to save each and every questions of whoever just decided to dump their coursework on it, especially if we already have 3562 very similar questions on the site. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 25 '18 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Of course we should still treat users respectfully but if they can't participate for lack of background or certain basic skills, this is in some absolute sense unfortunate, but it is not a problem this site can solve, and there is maybe not that much point in trying. I do understand the ideal of trying to help others that are in a more difficult situation, but maybe those that have access to internet at all are privileged relative to those that don't and we'd better stop the site and first go on a mission to distribute internet in places where there isn't, or maybe let's start with food. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 25 '18 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ I myself have taken the worst grade notes in some of my subjects when I was a math student. On one occasion I got a 0.5 over 10 in a topology exam. It is not the case that I consider that the site MSE is not sensitive to new users. I still have exercises of sheets or asigments of some subjects that I do not know how to do. The cost of obtain knowledge in mathematics is very great. $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 25 '18 at 14:44

The real situation is about users who upvote poor quality posts, with no expectation from the community that they justify their votes.

Then, when a poor quality question has been closed, despite the fact that the closers, and their reasons for closing are made quite explicit in a public banner with their names and the majority reason why the post was closed, such down-voters or close voters risk hostile invites to chatrooms, and worse, they risk being harassed even off site.

Currently, users who vote to reopen a closed question are not required as are closers, to identify a reason why they are doing so. And if a post is subsequently reopened, those reopen voters are not featured on a banner across the page, after the post; They ought to be of such form "These users: _____,_____, _____, _____, _____, voted to reopen this post, which had been formerly closed, for These reasons: Blah Blah Blah.

If you insist on accountability from all voters, then we need to hold all voters: up and/or down voters, as well as both "close" and "reopen" voters, none of whom should vote unless they have first provided a reason(s) for doing so, for public evaluation.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't vandalize your post! $\endgroup$ – user243301 Aug 31 '18 at 7:08

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