Is down-voting supposed to be completely arbitrary to the user down voting?

I ask because I received a down vote of my answer on this question: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/122734/some-who-can-help-me-program-a-game-in-c/122736#122736

The justification for the down-vote was:

I am downvoting this just because you basically enabled the OP to cheat on what was very clearly his homework assignment. All of the code is right there for him to plagiarize.

Is this right or fair?

If it is arbitrary, am I justified in going to the user's profile picking one of his answers at random and down voting for revenge?

  • 3
    I don't want you to hate me, I just think it wasn't a good answer for a horrible question :( I am tempted to ask you though if you can edit your question here to not gush with emotion so much...
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:41
  • What do you mean: I laughing :). What can I say, I have an odd scense of Humor. We are all friends here at SO.
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:43
  • 5
    @Morons - I'll admit I read this with a tone of rage and not a tone of humor.
    – Nicole
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 18:41
  • 3
    There is a policy of long standing—handed down from SE, Inc.—of preferring to call out content and behaviors rather than users, so I have edited your post to remove the personal attack.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:25
  • 1
    @Mark that was not an Attach. That was an extreme example on a really bad reason to to down vote. (For the record i did not revenge down vote)
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:27
  • @Morons Fair enough: in the future, please try to keep it to specific behaviors, if only so that what's discussed is generalizable in the future.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:28
  • Wait... Now i am confused.. what exactly did you delete?
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:29
  • 1
    Like I said, I removed the references to a specific user. We're here to address problem behavior, not users.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:36
  • 4
    I downvoted this question because I can.
    – Marcelo
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:41
  • Oh..ok.. Tnx...
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:41
  • I downvoted this question because @Marcelo can do it :) Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:43
  • Down vote all you want, meta votes don't count :).. PS: it didn't let me down vote it.
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:46
  • 1
    I upvoted the question because it shows research effort. (the tooltips on meta vote arrows are useless)
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:15
  • Hey at least he left a reason for the downvote! I'd +1 him for that
    – Rachel
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 14:24

4 Answers 4


What are the guidelines for down-voting?

The tooltip when downvoting an answer reads:

This answer is not useful

That's the only guideline and it's open to individual interpretation.

Is it completely arbitrary to the user down voting?

Yes, in a sense. The only actual requirement to down vote is to have 125 rep.

Is right? Is this fair?

I think @maple_shaft's down vote is justified.

The question was extremely poor, any way you see it. You are not a Programmers noob, you are a 6k user and you should be well versed on the mechanics of the site. Your answer is of no benefit to anyone but the OP. And a "just a link" answer? Really?

Your answer could have been a comment, if you really thought that it would be helpful to point the op to that link.

Am I justified in going to his profile picking one of his answers at random and down voting for revenge?

That wouldn't be the nicest thing to do. And the probability of you getting caught is very high and the consequences severe - I've heard a rumour that Atwood delivers the spanking personally.... But if somehow you manage to not get caught, no one will ever know...

Except, of course, all of us who read the question were you advertise your intention to serially down vote...


Something that you may not know but it might be important: If a question has an answer, the OP can't delete it. So by providing an answer to a clearly poor question, you've robed him / her of the choice to later delete it.

That's something important to me, because my first question was a poor one, by any standard, but it got a few answers (and a few upvotes - it wasn't that bad). Now that I'm a little bit more familiar with the site I wish I could delete it, it's kind of pure noise.

It's a bit of a judgement call, but the question in question (pun intended) was clearly a very poor one.

  • 6
    There hasn't been a vote fraud and revenge down-voting pattern we haven't caught, and it is an actionable offense. Do not do it. Ever. ಠ_ಠ
    – user8
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:25
  • 8
    "There hasn't been a vote fraud and revenge down-voting pattern we haven't caught" - How would you know? Logically, if such a scheme had been successful, then by definition, you wouldnt know about it. Its like a president saying that "there's no corruption in my administration because no one's been caught". Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 21:30

My reasoning for the downvote is simply following precedent that it was not a useful answer. Besides the fact that you handed a lazy student his homework assignment on a silver platter, I personally just dislike single sentence answers that consist of a link.

A link to an answer is not a good answer because it shows too little effort. Links to outside sources should be used as supplementing your own answer, or provided as a comment for additional information supplementing an existing answer, or providing context to an existing question.

  • This does not answer the Question. The Question is "Can you down vote arbitrary?" (I should down-vote this answer!)
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:51
  • 1
    @Morons Is right? Is this fair? You also asked this in your question too, my answer is specifically targeting this facet of your question. I personally feel I did a good job of explaining what was exactly wrong with your answer. Can you down vote arbitrary? Yes. If you have 125 rep or more you can vote however you want. If this was your only real question then it wouldn't be the hard hitting kind of question that is worthy of being asked on Meta.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 18:22

The only guidelines are in the tooltip - for a question:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful (click again to undo)

or for an answer:

This answer is not useful (click again to undo)

There are mechanisms to detect serial down-voting, but beyond that it's everyone for themselves.

So if someone thought your answer wasn't useful they could down-vote and not tell you why. In this case the down-voter justified his down-vote. If that's the way he saw the answer then that's up to him.

  • The answer was clearly researched, Clearly Clear, and Clearly Useful. SO You are saying the the guideline is just a recommendation and Down voting is in fact completely arbitrary? (IE: I am justified in a revenge down vote)
    – Morons
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:48
  • Actually the guidelines quoted are for downvoting a question. The downvote here was on an answer. The only guideline is the tooltip "This answer is not useful".
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:53
  • @YannisRizos - thanks. Updated the answer
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 19:07

I just deleted the question: it's way below our quality standards, had a tremendous amount of down-votes, and was never going to be saved. Feel free to recalculate your reputation to get your points back.

I mention that because when you answer a question like that, you're only setting yourself up for pain: the question's going to get closed and deleted, and you're not doing yourself any favors by answering it before it does.

Instead, you just open yourself up for something like what happened: bad question, you leave an answer most people don't like it, and now you've got a negative-scored answer on a question that really wasn't worth anyone's time of day.

And your answer was nothing more than a link to an external resource: even barring the implications of cheating or what-have-you, it's not an answer. From the FAQ:

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are …

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

As others have said, people can vote however they like, but in reality, people should've flagged your answer as "not an answer."

Now, if you left that as a comment, it wouldn't have been subject to downvotes or have affected your reputation, and would've been perfectly fine. Keep that in mind in the future: if you just want to link to something that might help the OP, just do it as a comment.

To your final question, about whether it's acceptable to revenge down-vote someone who's done you wrong: no, it's not. It'll almost certainly be caught and reversed, and you'll likely wind up getting a message from one of us moderators about it.

And in reality, it wasn't just the person who said they down-voted that did it: there were 4 people who did. At least one person had the courtesy to tell you why they did it: why retaliate against them when clearly several people felt the same way about your answer?

  • it wasn't just the person who said they down-voted that did it At the time the meta question was asked, it was just the one downvote. Mine was the second one, didn't really felt obliged to comment, as I've already written my answer here. But it's good to point out that more than one people didn't like it...
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .