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There are many users that could be categorized as "chronic down voters". They can be easily spotted by reviewing activity records with an up/down ratio that is far less than one.

They usually don't leave feedback.

The problem is, these people's down votes effectively sink new answers (indirectly promoting their own). An new answer that goes negative is done for.

Do you agree or disagree? Can anything be done about it?

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    They usually don't leave feedback. A downvote is feedback. – yannis Sep 11 '12 at 23:36
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    A down vote is very poor feedback. A down vote is a tax on your score. A comment is helpful feedback. Comments don't hurt your reputation, they allow you the opportunity to improve you question or answer. Thanks for effectively killing the question by the way. Way to improve the community. Rude! – hiwaylon Sep 11 '12 at 23:40
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    How did I kill the question? – yannis Sep 11 '12 at 23:45
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    Down voting an answer costs a point of reputation. I doubt people are down voting answers to promote their own answers and gain reputation because it probably isn't a net gain. – psr Sep 11 '12 at 23:56
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    @hiwaylon - You should find some examples and post the links. I'm afraid I can't think of any examples where a great answer was unfairly downvoted into oblivion. – jmort253 Sep 12 '12 at 3:17
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    this has been discussed in depth at MSO, see eg What should be done to people who downvote strategically?, If you just witnessed tactical downvoting, is it a reportable offense? and questions linked there as related / duplicates. There is even a tag for that: tactical-downvoting – gnat Sep 12 '12 at 6:19
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    could you prehaps explain why leaving bad answers or asking bad question should not affect your reputation? Down votes are almost too weak as it is to balance out reputation – Ryathal Sep 12 '12 at 12:15
  • I am assuming you're only talking about answer downvotes on the main site. I don't think it's bad to downvote wrong answers, but I do think it's bad to downvote correct answers you simply don't like them or to promote your own. If you're referring to meta downvotes, or question downvotes (the up/down vote count on a user's profile includes both question and answer downvotes), please edit your question to specify that as the answers you would get will probably be different :) – Rachel Sep 12 '12 at 15:17
  • It costs 2 points. Significant for new users, discouraging even. @Ryathal It's a tough call there, I understand. Possible require feedback with a down vote? I guess it is jerky to DV without feedback. And we all know there are some jerks on SE. People are extra bold behind the anonymous veil of the web. It's much easier to just spam a click than stand up in a meeting and shout "Nope!" when someone is proposing an idea, which is what down voting feels like. Except in the meeting, the hater has to face actual, real, live people. – hiwaylon Sep 13 '12 at 1:59
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    Also, I'd like to point out that question has generated some interesting feedback, several comments and even some answers. Yet it is scored a -4, pretty bad. Is it a bad question? – hiwaylon Sep 13 '12 at 2:03
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    @hiwaylon - are you talking about the current meta question? Be aware that up and downvotes on meta are different - they are used to signal agreement or disagreement with your suggestion (see the meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/faq ). – Joris Timmermans Sep 13 '12 at 6:52
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    @hiwaylon I probably should have left sympathy votes out, but the larger point is downvotes aren't that powerful, it takes a lot to really make an impact even for a new user, and if your questions/answers are generating that many downvotes there is probably something wrong with what you are doing. – Ryathal Sep 13 '12 at 17:19
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    @hiwaylon if the downvotes aren't justified its likely they will be overshadowed by upvotes, its not uncommon if an answer gets a down vote unjustly to have someone else comment "why is this downvoted" and the score ends up positive in short order. happened to me at least once – Ryathal Sep 14 '12 at 21:04
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    @hiwaylon You seriously need to stop worrying about downvotes and reputation. No one owes you any feedback, sometimes people will explain why they are downvoting and sometimes they won't, and we can't (and won't) force anything on anyone. If you are discouraged from participating because you lost two imaginary points, I'm sorry, but I don't see what we can do about it. – yannis Sep 14 '12 at 22:41
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    @hiwaylon Are you serious? In no uncertain terms you accused people of tactically downvoting to promote their own answers, without bringing forth a shred of evidence, is that your definition of "discussion"? And then you called me rude for disagreeing with you? Right... – yannis Sep 15 '12 at 19:18
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As a relative Newbie to these sites, I welcome the opportunity to answer other people's questions, where I can be helpful, and to ask questions when I need help.

Feedback is an important part of the process.

An anonymous "Vote Down" is an indication that I've posted something less than ideal, but a comment would help understand why, to help me make it better (or not to repeat the mistake next time).

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    In the case of answering you can usually glean a lot of information by looking at the differences between your answer and the other, upvoted questions (if there are any). If there are no other answers then an anonymous downvote seems like bad form - someone is indicating they know better, but not actually providing the information. That is not constructive. – Joris Timmermans Sep 14 '12 at 14:49
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    @Andrew You are correct and this is exactly my point. The (anonymous) down voting is poor feedback for those who most likely need it (newer users) and can least likely afford the -2 points. It would be better to receive feedback first and if no improvements are made, then a -1. I don't like this "I'm such a P.SE power user that I haven't the time to give proper feedback. I'll just spam -1s 'cause it's my right with all this reputation to throw around." attitude. – hiwaylon Sep 14 '12 at 20:29
  • @hiwaylon I completely disagree with you on the comment that those of us with a bit of rep throw it around like we're top dog. If I downvote an answer (which I haven't done on PSE yet) I will leave a comment as to why I disagree. Normally on questions I will leave a comment where appropriate. The downvote should be enough for the asker to think "hey, what have I done wrong here?". Most of my downvotes are for questions that the user clearly hasn't read the FAQ - or it's just a terrible question in general. Oh, and just to note: I'm new around the PSE parts too. – Deco Sep 17 '12 at 0:37
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Tactical downvoting is underhanded, but I must say I haven't actually seen that happen in any of the Q&A I've been involved in.

Other, serious and well-meaning forms of downvoting are very useful and should not be discouraged in my opinion, for one simple reason: wrong information is worse than no information at all.

Multiple downvotes tell the answerer (or question-asker) that multiple people think the information is wrong, and this is very valuable. We can't reasonably force the experts to post detailed treatises on why it's wrong every time - especially when they see the same "wrong"-ness over and over again - hence the easy downvote is a valuable, quick, low-impact (for all involved, don't fret a few points of rep!) feedback tool.

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    +1, and in this recent MSO question, the op was harassed by a very high rep user (100K+) after commenting on a downvote he left on the high rep user's answer. This behavior supports Stack Exchange's decision to not require comments on downvotes. – jmort253 Sep 13 '12 at 5:40
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People get plenty of feedback on downvote reasons, just not usually from the voter. People frequently leave comments without downvoting, and if someone later downvotes for the same reason I've seen them actually apologize that it wasn't them. Same goes if the downvote came before the comment: "I'm not the one who downvoted you, but…"

Heck, authors often preemptively put downvote reasons into their own posts: "This will probably be closed as not constructive, but…" Then they're shocked when someone downvotes them without providing a reason. I downvoted an answer just yesterday with two disclaimers that he knew absolutely nothing about the topic (he was right).

If they're still mystified about downvotes without a reason, they ask in a comment and get answers 9 times out of 10. If they don't get an answer from their comment, they can ask in meta, where I've yet to see such a question go unanswered.

As far as tactical downvoting, I think the -1 does a pretty good job 99.9% of the time, and when it doesn't, it's usually corrected quickly with sympathy upvotes. You need to judge from the end result, not from a temporary sub-optimal state.

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    The preemptive down vote reasoning is most certainly not what I'm talking about. That's silly and self defeating. A -1 vote should require direct feedback from the voter (at least the voter should feel obligated). Relying on others to express your opinion is bad business. Otherwise it's just a power move from the veil of anonymity. – hiwaylon Sep 14 '12 at 20:33
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    @hiwaylon, I agree, and would go as far as suggesting that a DownVote requires a comment – Andrew Sep 18 '12 at 10:38

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