I was idly looking through a list of questions that I had downvoted. Some of those questions now looked OK, and I wondered why I had downvoted them. In one case I investigated, the explanation was that the question had been quite transformed, by the OP in response to criticism and after editing contributed by others.

My first inclination was to retract my downvote to match the current question. However, I have second thoughts about this. (1) My vote was appropriate when I made it, and it is up to later readers to respond to improvements. (2) Some of these questions are a ship of Theseus or stone soup, where the OP did not earn the unrebated upvotes that the question eventually received. (3) To revise my downvotes fairly, I should check through the editing history of every question that now looks OK, and judge whether the downvote is still merited; but I lack the motivation to do this.

I wonder whether anyone else has thoughts on this matter.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I mostly think of downvotes as a useful signal to others, and not a reward/punishment system. It is largely irrelevant what the history of a post is: if it's a good post then I upvote it, and if it's a bad post then I downvote it. If a post changes from bad to good, then I'm happy to change my vote. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Mar 11 at 18:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "the OP did not earn the unrebated upvotes that the question eventually received". Just a reminder that we are not grading people's exams here. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Mar 11 at 18:39

1 Answer 1


You are free to retract (or not) a vote for any reason you like, at any time you like, with the exception being that votes cannot be retracted after a certain amount of time unless the post has been edited in the meantime.

If you believe that your vote should reflect the state of a post at the time that you first encounter it, fine. If you believe that it would be somehow unfair to retract a downvote on one post without retracting downvotes on other posts, that is your prerogative. Personally, I disagree with both of these points (personally, I would prefer that my votes reflect the current state of a post, but I don't feel strongly about going through a history of votes to find those that might need changing), but if this is the way that you want to cast votes, you are welcome to do so.

However, there is something in the question here which I think should be addressed:

Some of these questions are a ship of Theseus or stone soup, where the OP did not earn the unrebated[sic] upvotes that the question eventually received.

This is irrelevant. Your vote should be about the post, not the author of the post. Whether or not the user who is going to get the imaginary internet points for an upvote (or a retracted downvote) is not something which should be part of the calculus. The primary goal of an upvote is to signal that the post is useful, and might be helpful to a future reader. Upvotes send a signal to search engines (both the internal search, and outside engines like Google) that a post should be shown to other users.

You should not be using votes to punish or reward specific users.


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