I recently received a downvote for an answer I gave, but I am unsure of the cause. I would like to ask for a possible explanation of the downvote on Mathematics Meta SE, but I am unsure of the policy regarding such questions on this site. Is it appropriate to ask for possible downvote sources on Mathematics Meta SE?
You might be better of asking in chat, there is a room called Constructive Feedback. (There also used to be a room called Why the downvote?, but that one is now gone.) As this room does not have many active users, you might also consider the main chatroom. Before starting chatting there, it might be good to have a look at Main Chatroom Guidelines.
Clearly, it is allowed to ask about this on meta - as you can see if you check some past questions here. However, sometimes they are not well-received. Quite often users asking why their post was downvoted have simply ignored some rules and recommendations and do not take the feedback too well. In some cases, the answer on meta would simply be a reiteration of something which was already said in comments. Such experience might explain why users around here are not too keen on such questions.
Anyway, you can find some past questions of this type, for example, if you check the posts tagged down-votes+specific-question or down-votes+specific-answer. (You can browse a bit through those questions to see for yourself how they were received.) There aren't too many questions with these tag that were closed (specific-question, specific-answer). A few more questions were deleted (specific-question, specific-answer).
Ideally, every downvoter would also leave a comment explaining why they felt the post was lacking (or upvote such comments that they agree with), but this does not happen. The reasons for this are varied:
- They are not required to do so by the system (this is worth mentioning, though it's not much of an explanation).
- They are not interested in having a discussion about the merits of the post.
- They do not wish to set themselves up for retaliatory voting.
- They do not have the time or inclination to help salvage a terrible post.
- The post is blatantly off-topic or spam and does not require a comment to accompany the downvote.
- Etc. etc.
In the past there have been requests to modify the system to require a comment to compulsorily accompany a downvote, but this has been declined for these and various other reasons.
Since voting is meant to be anonymous, you cannot know who the downvoters are and what their reasons are for downvoting. Asking on Meta why the downvoter downvoted will not be useful, because no one can tell you except the one who voted.
Many users post on Meta asking for the reasons that they were downvoted without being aware of these difficulties and past discussions on the matter. Moreover, they are often indignant that a downvote was received and are stubborn when receiving feedback. Meta users are generally wary of such questions, and this is probably why you have received so many downvotes on this question without any comments or answers.
So, no, it is not useful (and hence not appropriate) to ask on Meta for possible downvote sources.
All this being said, there are a few things that you can do when you receive a downvote:
- Assume that you were downvoted for legitimate reasons and go through your post to double check for errors, typos, misleading statements, etc., and correct any of them that you do come across. Making an edit bumps the question to the front page, so new users may take a look at it and you may receive upvotes if you have improved it (you may also receive more downvotes with this increased exposure, beware).
- If you can't find any reason for the downvote, comment underneath your post politely asking for reasons for the downvote and expressing your interest in improving the post. It is possible that the downvoter will notice your comment and respond, seeing your positive response. With the introduction of the "follow" feature, it is more likely now than before that a downvoter will track your post for changes by following it, so commenting like this can help. Even if the downvoter does not reply, it is possible that other users will come across your post and reply to your comment explaining what they think is lacking in your post.
- You can link your post in the chatroom Constructive Feedback, asking for suggestions for improvement. Users who are active on that chatroom may offer you some advice. Again, it is better not to just post a link and ask why you were downvoted. Express that you are willing to listen to feedback and improve your post, so that others are encouraged to provide feedback.
Lastly, for what it's worth, I upvoted this Meta question of yours. It is a legitimate use of Meta to clarify the rules of the site. In the future, it would help to mention that you have read related posts on Meta (and link to them) and explain why they did not clear your confusion. I hope you were not put off by the reception your recent posts have had, and that you find Mathematics SE fruitful for you.