Over the last months and maybe years, I observed some tendency on this site of what I would call “hostile downvoting”. I see often questions which are not-too-badly written (sometimes even well-written), belong clearly to the realm of software engineering, but still get downvotes without any explanation. Often, they get not even a close vote (which could serve as a hint of what the downvoter thought what was wrong with the question).
To make this clear – I see no problem in downvotes without explanation for really crappy questions. Chances are high such questions are closed soon and so the OP get an information about why this happened. I talk about questions which are on-topic and can often be answered sensibly.
Another variant of this hostility are questions which are mostly fine, but in the last sentence the OP ask not only for an approach to solve their issue, but does a minor “rule violation”, for example by asking for external pointers. Such questions immediately get a downvote and close vote for being a “3rd party resource request”, with no further explanation. Often, they could be saved by a small edit, or by simply ignoring the fact there is one minor issue in there which does not make the whole thing a crap question.
If these were just singular, rare cases, I would not have put so much thought into it. However, given the frequency I think I have seen this behaviour, I guess there is a broader problem here, something which might be perceived as a "hostile voting culture".
To give you some examples:
Are automated UI tests necessary? What should be tested? Well written, definitely on-topic, maybe a little bit broad. But why a downvote with no close vote and no comment on what is wrong here?
I accidentally overhauled someone's entire project. Any acceptable way to pull request? Well written, definitely not too broad, perfectly answerable, but why two anonymous downvotes and close votes (as too broad).
How to authenticate devices across organisation boundaries without a third party CA. See my comment below the question – 2 close votes for a well-written question where the OP simply asked “which technologies exist” at the end – which could be fixed by a minor edit. So why those downvotes with no hint to the OP? After I fixed that question, downvotes stopped, but the downvotes stay there – since they were anomymous, we have no chance to inform the casters they could retract them now.
Consequences of not doing a REST API the “right” way? Again, an anonymous downvote, no close vote, no idea what the downvoter did not like.
Should a Product Owner be responsible for an initial prototype? – I would understand the two downvotes if someone had cast a close vote of the “primarily opionion based” type, or given an explanation in this direction. But again, no explanation, no close vote, but enough answers to show the question was not too bad.
How to specify that a number is a random number, or a rounded number, etc - 3 downvotes, no comments, no close votes (ok, 4 upvotes either) for a question which is definitely on-topic, definitely answerable. Ok, the question seems to express a misunderstanding of the OP, but hey, that's exactly the reason why he asked us here, that is IMHO not reason justifying any downvote.
Of course, you may find flaws in all of these examples, none of them is a “perfect question”, of course, but I hope they help to illustrate my point (and I am pretty sure I could quickly add more to this list, all of them from the last three weeks).
I guess some of these downvotes or close votes are
given in good faith, to keep the site free of too much crap
cast because the downvoters mistake the “downvote button” for a “I disagree” button
cast because others are following the bad example of earlier voters
Maybe the "no comment for downvotes culture" has also something to do with the new "Code of Conduct". An honest comment for a question one does not like is not easy to write for everyone in a manner which is perceived friendly enough to not violate the CoC. It is so much easier just to downvote without writing anything - that's always in line with the CoC, at least literally - but is it really? Or is it a quite subtile violation of the spirit of CoC, one which is not easy to prove?
So here is my point:
IMHO by trying to keep the site clean this way, we produce too much collateral damage. Shouldn't we try to change something here?
I think many of those not-too-bad questions could be saved by investing a little bit more time. Some ideas:
let us read questions more carefully
count to ten and sit on our fingers before hitting the downvote button
if the question is no blatantly off-topic, let us take more time to tell the OP what they could improve (and give them enough time to fix)
try to avoid to over-interpret the site’s rules and the precanned close reasons - and consider not to cast a close vote for every minor rule violation
don’t vote for closing everything immediately that looks a bit broad as “too broad” or “too opinionated” – some broad questions turn out to be answerable on a second thought (maybe in a broad manner, but still comprehensive).
after casting a downvote or close vote, take the time and come back later and see if the OP has fixed the issue, and if yes, consider to retract the downvote or close vote.
As mentioned by Amon in the latest moderator election questionnaire, the site shows a decreasing activity across multiple years, and Robert Harvey wrote “we may have gerrymandered the scope of this site a bit too much”. To me, these observations look like symptoms of the same disease – there is a part of our community that is way too fixated on searching for excuses for downvoting and closing a new question instead of searching ways to fix a saveable question or communicate problems.
The site renaming helped us to make the focus of the site more clear to sort out the really crappy questions quicker and to drive away the plz fix my code askers. I think now it is time we should stop to drive away people who understood the site’s scope well and just need a little bit help to get their question asked in a better way.
So finally, here is my question:
am I the only one who observes this and has a problem with this issue?
do you agree with my suggestions to improve the situation, or do you have additional or better ideas?
(and if you have a different opinion, I would be happy if you give an answer or leave a comment instead of just abusing the downvote button for saying "I disagree").