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I recently asked a question after spending some time researching the web for an answer. It turned out that there was already a similar question on Stackexchange. I had not found it, but not for lack of effort. So my question was labeled duplicate and closed, with a link to the other question. I think that was fair and reasonable. But I do not understand why it was downvoted. The criteria for a downvote that I see when I hover over the arrow are "It does not show any research effort; it is unclear and not useful". None of these apply in this case. In the question I explicitly mentioned the research I had already done and time spent, and included a link. It was surely not unclear in its formulation. And I can argue it was useful because it attracted comments that clarified some of the topics. I am not posting this as a complaint, only as a genuine attempt to understand how to avoid downvotes.

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    $\begingroup$ With respect to voting on meta, you might want to read math.meta.stackexchange.com/q/718 (downvotes are different here). $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 24 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Also, this precise topic came up in chat earlier today. "What is meant by "useful" can vary a lot from person to person. However, I am sympathetic to the point of view that if the answer to the question evokes the response "Oh, I was just being careless" or "Oh, I overthought it" or "Oh, that was really simple... d'oh", then the question probably isn't all that useful." So a downvote might simply mean that the voter didn't find your question "useful", for whatever definition of "useful" they have in mind. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 24 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Downvotes can be freely made without disclosing the reason, and there are no penalties for wrongful downvotes. Downvotes cannot be completely avoided. $\endgroup$
    – Hayatsu
    Mar 25 at 0:05

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