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I've noticed on this site (math.SE) that downvotes get noticed and reactions get announced far more often than on other SE sites I frequent. Often, the respondent sincerely asks the downvoter to identify himself in order to clarify any ambiguities, but rarely does this happen. Sometimes the downvoter votes down every answer, which looks suspiciously like trolling. Another instance would be to follow a particular contributor around and downvote everything he writes.

Question: Would it be prudent to ignore downvotes rather than commenting on them so frequently?

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    $\begingroup$ Here is more context on the linked thread. After I commented on the downvote on my answer, someone remarked on chat that in fact every answer but theirs got downvoted. Then another chat member remarked that they had just downvoted the lone undownvoted answer too. I have no clue what motivated all of those downvotes. But I doubt that it is a troll. I didn't downvote any answer. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 19 '12 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ Given the content of your question—particularly ending with "Question: Would it be prudent to ignore downvotes rather than commenting on them so frequently?"—I think it'd be much better if the title were "Would it be prudent to ignore downvotes rather than commenting on them so frequently?" $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 19 '12 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Update: Now every answer in said thread has been downvoted twice. Perhaps, now someone is trolling. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 20 '12 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Every answer in that thread has been upvoted at least 5 times. As of now there are 69 upvotes and 13 downvotes on 6 answers. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer May 21 '12 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ The likeliest explanation is that someone felt that the question was either too simple / too simple to find with google / homework and therefore shouldn't receive answers. Ergo, downvote all answers. This is less than ideal, but not trolling. $\endgroup$ – Phira May 26 '12 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Ignore sounds good, people who downvote completely correct answers are probably off their meds. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas May 28 '12 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think that a downvote is often forgotten about. Certainly, if I downvote an answer I do not usually go back to see if the answerer is asking me why I downvoted them. Perhaps if @downvoter hailed the downvoter more queries would be answered? $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 29 '12 at 10:43
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I want to add my recent experiences with downvotes here, instead of starting a new thread on the same subject. It may also help to answer this question.


Event 1: bound on recursive series

When I first looked at this question, there were two answers. A short answer by WimC which gave (and still gives at this moment) a correct expression that is undefined for $\beta=1$, but the limit interpretation is correct for this value as well. And a second answer by Brian M. Scott that was wrong.

Both answers had 0 votes. So, I voted up the correct answer and voted down the wrong answer to indicate to the OP which expression was correct.

Brian complained in a comment about the downvote and implicitly about the lack of comment accompanying the downvote.

Now, I know the typical quality of Brian's answers and I had no doubt that there was some minor arithmetical error, but it isn't my responsibility to find Brian's boring arithmetical error. The correct expression was already given in the other answer and it was trivial to see that Brian's couldn't be right without checking his calculations.

A downvote is not a value judgment on the poster. And no, I don't feel obligated to explain the downvote of a wrong answer. It is much more work to correct a post than to see that it is wrong, and it should still be marked as wrong if I don't want to spend the time looking for an error for some reason.


Event 2: An answer of mine to a question about the number of digits of $2^{100}$ using a particular hint cited in the OP. I cannot find the question now because my answer has been deleted.

Yesterday, I posted a wrong answer to the question. Someone downvoted it, and someone else said that I don't deserve to get a downvote for a simple typo.

Well, I agree that I don't deserve downvotes, but my answer certainly did.

The fact that it just got one downvote was detrimental because the total number of votes remained positive and the OP accepted the wrong answer.


I think that is very bad to regard downvotes as downvotes of the poster.

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    $\begingroup$ With regard to Event 1, I think you are presenting a false alternative. That is, there was another option, other than either not downvoting, or spending the time looking for an error; namely, downvoting and pointing out (as you have done here) that the answer can't be correct if it disagrees with another answer that is correct. Of course it's the responsibility of the person making the error to find the error, and not the responsibility of the downvoter, but I don't think it's asking too much of the downvoter to briefly indicate motivation. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 27 '12 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ I am downvoting this answer to indicate that it is incorrect, but can't be bothered to explain why I think there is an error. Maybe it's actually correct and I just misunderstood it, but eh, who cares! Have fun figuring out if you've really made a mistake or not! $\endgroup$ – Rahul Jun 15 '12 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ @RahulNarain I have 40 downvotes among my 1500 upvotes. Some of them are for questions/answers that are regarded as off-topic and are part of a comment discussion already. For the rest, I have never downvoted an answer as wrong and have it turn out a misunderstanding, because I only do that if I am sure. If you happen to have trouble being sure about these things, I suggest that you don't downvote for that reason. Yes, it happened to me, too, that other people erroneously downvoted my answers, but that doesn't change that I will downvote when I know that I am right. $\endgroup$ – Phira Jun 15 '12 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ That's not really the point. Let's say you downvoted my answer because you are absolutely sure that it is wrong. How am I supposed to be sure that it is wrong just because it got downvoted? I don't know whether the downvote came from someone who only casts downvotes when they are certain, or from some dummy who just didn't understand the answer. Even if we got everyone to be as careful as you are, it doesn't help me -- "I thought the answer was correct when I put in the effort to write it, and I still don't see how it is wrong, but it's been downvoted so it must be incorrect... $\endgroup$ – Rahul Jun 15 '12 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ ...I guess I'll delete the answer in shame without having learned anything?" I see downvoting without comment as analogous to yelling "WRONG!" in the middle of a presentation and walking off. Perhaps it is indeed wrong, and perhaps it does benefit the rest of the listeners to know that. But it's rather rude to the presenter, who now has no way of defending themselves. $\endgroup$ – Rahul Jun 15 '12 at 18:29
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Of course downvoting is not the equivalent of trolling.

You can ignore anything you feel like ignoring, really.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you're missing my point? Trolling is doing or saying something you don't actually believe because you enjoy watching the response. Downvoting every response (even though they are all correct) did elicit some responses, so it feels like a troll to me. Saying that downvotes can be ignored is irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Fixee May 19 '12 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ While such «downvoting every response» has actually occured in practice, it has happened a tiny number of times, so tiny in comparison with the number of up and down votes emited each day to render the whole phenomenon absolutely insignificant. To my knowledge, none of those times was connected with those responses that were elicited that you mention. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 19 '12 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Fixee: I agree that someone could use downvoting as trolling, but the way you've phrased your title question, the answer is "no" as Mariano said. I don't see how a choice to ignore particular instances of downvoting would be based on anything other than personal feeling. If it causes stress, then given how unimportant it is, I would definitely ignore it. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer May 19 '12 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed: you can also be trolled by upvotes... $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 19 '12 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Mariano: I don't see it: how can you be trolled by upvotes? I have never seen a comment like "if someone would care to explain the upvote on my lame answer, I'd really like to see how you could possibly find any value in it." $\endgroup$ – Fixee May 19 '12 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know whether it is trolling, but upvote sprees have caused concern at least one time that I recall: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/1683/…. I am a fan of Alex B.'s take on this: meta.math.stackexchange.com/a/1722 $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer May 19 '12 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ Well, that only shows it is easier to troll by upvoting... :) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 19 '12 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Fixee, I saw something very like that quite recently: someone editing one of his answers, and expressing surprise that people had upvoted the previous version despite some serious errors in it. I don't know how to find that one, though. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 19 '12 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ Mariano, tell that to all those cities destroyed by Mongols after feeling like ignoring their demands for surrender... :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 19 '12 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ Well, in light of this, a sincere thank you to all commenters here for not upvoting my question. $\endgroup$ – Fixee May 21 '12 at 7:18

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