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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?

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    $\begingroup$ I will just add a link about a brief conversation (related to this topic.) we had in chat: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/64952/2020/5/9 $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 9 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ Normally I am upset about downvotes but for this answer I am just perplexed. I have new questions: $\\$ Why am I being downvoted for asking about the site rules? $\\$Why has no one responded with a yes or no to my question? $\\$Isn't the purpose of Mathematics Meta SE to clarify the rules of this site? $\endgroup$ – user400188 May 10 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ I hadn't down-voted this here meta-post, but in response to your new question: I believe that people frequently use up- and down-votes on meta to express "I agree" or "I disagree" -- they have a different meaning here that on the main site. So you are totally allowed to ask about site rules, but people disagree with you. I'm guessing they are expressing either "no, it is not appropriate [by the rules]" or "I don't think it should be appropriate". $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC May 10 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ As @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC says, votes on Meta are different from votes on the main site. Upvotes, particularly to yes/no questions mean "Yes. I agree with this post." Downvotes mean "No. I do not agree with this post." I downvoted this question because the answer is "No, it is not really appropriate to ask about the reason for downvotes on meta." Don't take it personally. Also, note that there is no reputation on meta, so there is no penalty for asking questions to which the answer is "no". $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson May 10 at 15:08
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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).

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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.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. I searched up related posts but couldn't find any specifically asking for a rule clarification on this. I hope this question shows up for future people wanting to know. $\endgroup$ – user400188 May 10 at 5:59
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with most of your post, but strongly disagree with the opening. Why do you believe that the ideal is for every downvoter to explain? Do you feel that every upvoter should explain their votes? If not, why the asymmetry? $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson May 10 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ Voting is feedback. If every voter were required to explain their vote (up or down), this website would rapidly become unusable. Perhaps, rather than insisting that voters should explain their votes, we should reinforce for new users that the voting is intentionally anonymous, and that one or two downvotes may be simply ignored. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson May 10 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ I am responding to the first line: "Ideally, every downvoter would also leave a comment explaining why they felt the post was lacking..." I do not think that this is ideal, and I don't think that we should be telling new users that this is ideal. As you state, the system is intentionally anonymous---indeed, you even give several good reasons why this is the case. I think that this opening line significantly weakens the rest of your post, which is otherwise spot-on. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson May 10 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson There is an inherent asymmetry: if your answer is downvoted, you may assume it's because it's wrong, but that doesn't tell you why. If it's upvoted, you may assume it's because your answer is good, and there is usually no need to know why. I understand that making votes public or making comments for downvotes mandatory could cause much harm to the site. However, leaving the possibility to anonymously comment a downvote may help (with maybe an incentive: lose less rep, for instance?) $\endgroup$ – Jean-Claude Arbaut May 11 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Hey Brahadeesh, I have accepted @Martin Sleziak's answer over yours recently because it answers the question more clearly. Users searching the rules on this will be able to read his answer quickly and understand the Meta sites rules. $\endgroup$ – user400188 May 18 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @user400188 That's completely fine, thanks for letting me know :) $\endgroup$ – user279515 May 18 at 9:29

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