I'm active in other Stack Exchange sites and just signed up for this one, and I'm amazed at how many questions here have negative ratings.

Why don't some of you lighten up? People would not be asking questions if they weren't confused and didn't have a question they were trying to understand. Gosh some of the new kids on the block are probably just really confused and so it's a little hard for them to ask good questions.

I think the administrators here need to make it more costly to down-vote!

And frankly, I don't care if you down vote me for this, as I'm not really sure I want to further participate in such a negative environment. Oh yes, and in case you are curious, since I'm new here with no reputations, my qualifications: I've been programming since 1975, in dozens of languages over that time, and across a huge variety of computers. The project I'm currently building has 28,000 lines of original code.

[EDIT: It might be good to limit the downvote to zero. Zero is down far enough to make the point I think. Don't need drive people away by drumming them out with negatives.]

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    You could try to be a bit more positive when you are pointing out our negativity... Jan 6, 2014 at 3:24
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    Only 28k lines?? You seem to be concerned about helping confused new kids on the block. So instead of joining and as first post declaring, "I'm taking my ball and going home", why don't you stick around. Help those kids and do some real influence. Btw, but questions like this clearly belong on meta (here and just about every other SE site)
    – DXM
    Jan 6, 2014 at 3:25
  • a negative times a negative equals a positive Jan 6, 2014 at 3:26
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    However the operator in question here is probably +, not x
    – fragorl
    Jan 6, 2014 at 4:17
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    @myusernamewashijackedhere you may find Limit downvotes visibility to -3 and Don't show negative score on questions on MSO to be useful.
    – user40980
    Jan 7, 2014 at 16:07
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    To somebody designing the site: I had a hard time finding what topics belong here. The number of off-topic posts I see on the front page lead me to believe that other people do, too. If the list of topics accepted here is a key feature of this stack exchange site, then why on earth isn't it listed in the tour? I really appreciate the site but I think that this key part of the vision for this site needs to be almost unavoidable, rather than buried in help.
    – J Trana
    Jan 14, 2014 at 6:04

3 Answers 3


A big part of the problem is that Programmers gets a large number of off-topic posts by people who have not read the FAQ, but think that any computer-related question which does not belong on SO should come here. I tend not to downvote these questions anymore, but that is since I can now vote to close, which is even cheaper.

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    Where is this FAQ? Jan 6, 2014 at 3:33
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    @myusernamewashijackedhere It is in the help center That is linked in the bottom of every page. The most useful (least read?) one is likely the on topic section.
    – user40980
    Jan 6, 2014 at 3:36
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    Thanks, I'm digging thru it now. ...IMHO, burring it in the basement if it is so important for new users is the problem. Jan 6, 2014 at 3:40
  • I think that's a good point. MichaelT beat me to it while I was trying to find it... Jan 6, 2014 at 3:49
  • @JamesMcLeod you can quickly type it in the comments as {help} except with square braces.
    – user40980
    Jan 6, 2014 at 4:15
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    @myusernamewashijackedhere with the new navbar, it's also at the top, next to "search"
    – user40980
    Jan 6, 2014 at 5:37
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    Unfortunately the same type of person (typically) that posts questions that get down-voted can't be bothered to read the friendly manual also will have the same attitude and effort towards the site FAQ. Jan 8, 2014 at 19:33

Programmers.SE has had a bit of history to it. Much of it you can read about in the Meta here and on Meta.StackOverflow too.

The short version (glossing over much) is that it started out with a very permissive "what is allowed". There were difficulties with this and a new direction was charted to something that is likely more in line with what exists now.

Part of that readjustment of vision has been a more active moderation (not necessarily moderation by moderators, but rather the community that has formed since). Part of this moderation is close votes, but part of it is also down votes - both are necessary as close votes don't always signal to the OP that the question is need in revision or fixing.

For some reason, there are many people who ask questions that aren't good questions for the Q&A format. Polls, recommendations, fix my code because I'm question banned at StackOverflow, etc... Without down votes, there is no way to signal to the person that they need to fix their questions. Whats more, down votes contribute to the algorithm that feeds the automatic question ban and stops people from asking questions that doesn't generate good content for the site.

I would suggest reading Yannis's answer in How can I encourage Stack Overflow to rein in the 'subjective' vigilantes? which goes a bit of the history with the stats.

Another bit to read is Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand

Its not negativity, it is a firm commitment to keeping the quality of the site - the questions and answers you read and others come here to read - high. It is through this commitment that the site continues to grow.


Allow me to illustrate with an allegory. At its inception, this site was a crime-ridden city. There was a lot of bad questions, and people didn't stick around very long to invest their time in improving it. So a posse was formed. The gangsters and crime lords were kicked out, quality was restored, and the site started growing. People still tried to post low quality questions and answers, but they were quickly dealt with, and soon people stopped trying so much.

The posse wanted to see their success continue, and having fewer crime lords to occupy their attention, they started focusing on the speeders and jaywalkers. They continued to cite the site's growth as evidence that the community doesn't welcome speeders and jaywalkers, but neglected the unseen even higher growth opportunity of the excited newcomers who left after getting a ticket for going 45 1/2 in a 45 mph zone.

Then the mayor makes it even easier for the posse by creating the review queues, so instead of the entire posse having to go out on patrol and read and evaluate each question, only one or two dedicated members can flag the questions and the rest can just visit the review queue. Some posse members even go back to review old surveillance camera footage, and issue tickets for speeding that happened two years or more ago, and the review queue makes it easy to get the four extra votes needed, but does nothing to notify people who thought it was a good question. The mayor sets up incentives to complete as many reviews as possible, without regard to how helpful the reviewers are to the new members.

Admittedly, the posse members also provide a lot of helpful answers, but it's a very thin line to get on their bad side. They might start to answer what they thought was a good question, find out it's a homework question, then immediately shut it down. Likewise, good questions are killed for using magic wording that makes it sound like a poll, or a resource request, or career advice, even when the question isn't really asking those things, and could be easily reworded without changing the gist of the question. Long time citizens learn to avoid those words, but newcomers don't know any better. The posse looks for reasons to close questions, rather than reasons to keep them open.

A few concerned citizens try to help by casting reopen votes, or editing questions, but their tools are much more limited. They can't keep questions from being closed in the first place, but can only try to reopen them after the fact, when the damage has already been done. They create a few SEDE queries to help, offer bounties, and occasionally respond to a meta post, but it's hard work to oppose such a dedicated posse, so their efforts go largely unnoticed by newcomers to the city.

To the posse, their success is unassailable proof of their policies. "Sure, half our drivers get speeding tickets every day, but look how law-abiding all the other drivers are now! We wouldn't have to be so harsh if people weren't continually trying to break the law! They don't understand how things work around here! If we stop cracking down on jaywalkers, the drug dealers will take over again! Sure, we've lost some prominent citizens, but that's their problem, not ours."

Despite all that, a lot of good still happens around here. Only time will tell if we can manage to make the site more newbie-friendly or not.

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    I think you have a valid point regarding the ability to track questions and be notified if they get closed. MSO requests along those lines haven't been prioritized by SE though. We are getting more close & reopen reviewers, so I think questions nominated for reopening have a better chance of being seen. More reviewers also allows for a better reflection of the community. Also keep in mind that you can use The Whiteboard to harangue either the initial flaggers or their lemming-like posse (of which I can be accused of belonging to.)
    – user53019
    Jan 7, 2014 at 18:48
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    Many of the most active of the reviewers are frequently in chat (or are happy enough to drop in), and it's fair game to ask someone why they chose to vote in a particular manner. For example, I have called out when I thought close-as-duplicate votes weren't quite close enough. Likewise, I've been called out for leaving things open that others thought should have been closed.
    – user53019
    Jan 7, 2014 at 18:52
  • "concerned citizens try to help by casting reopen votes, or editing questions" -- you got to be kidding. At Programmers, I see like 5x-10x less of such an activity, compared to much smaller Workplace.SE. That's... laughable. After Rachel "unsubscribed", my reopen and revocations of close votes here are more frequently triggered by edits done by inexperienced askers than by those of long term regulars (latter coming almost exclusively from @GlenH7)
    – gnat
    Jan 9, 2014 at 14:55
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    @gnat - the answer was specifically opened with Allow me to illustrate with an allegory and no mention was made of relative volume compared to other sites. While I'm a fan of hyperbole, the rhetoric in your comment is a bit past the mark. Try to remove any personal projections you may have from reading that paragraph and try to look at it again objectively. The tools and "rewards" SE provides are heavily weighted towards closing as opposed to encouraging constructive edits to bring within current guidelines.
    – user53019
    Jan 9, 2014 at 16:31
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    @GlenH7 I'm OK with the allegory, I commented on the statement that doesn't look allegoric at all. And what's wrong with comparing to Workplace? I am active at both sites and I find them pretty similar in terms of good and bad questions and closures. And it's really sad to see how much more active they are at reopenings. There's more regulars involved in edits, and more related activities in chat / meta there. I see comments complaining about closures less often there, because instead of whining, TWP regulars simply edit and vote reopen. Would be great if Programmers follow their example
    – gnat
    Jan 9, 2014 at 18:47

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