I've noticed an increase in down-votes recently. Most of these are not accompanied by any explanation of why the questions or answers have been down-voted.

A lot of users provide helpful comments (without down-voting) suggesting how questions or answers could be improved. An unexplained down-vote does not do much to help improve questions or answers.

I think that down-votes should be quite rare on the Mathematica SE. This is perhaps different from some other sites where down-voting a buggy answer is helpful to sign-post that this is not an approach to use.

Is there anything we can do about this? (Perhaps post a question on meta suggesting that those responsible think again?)

  • 5
    " An unexplained down-vote does not do much to help improve questions or answers." One cannot polish a turd: I will downvote zero-effort/do my work for me/homework/et al. as a matter of course these days.
    – ciao
    Jun 21, 2021 at 3:48
  • 7
    @ciao It is strongly recommended to still leave a comment about why you downvoted. Even if you can't fix this question, it can help OP understand how their question is perceived and ask better questions in the future. I would also urge you not to downvote as a matter of course since it can create a hostile environment. If you feel strongly that you need to communicate that the question is not suitable for the site (0 votes and no interest shown is not considered enough), then it's preferable to just leave a comment explaining the lack of interest and not downvote.
    – C. E.
    Jun 21, 2021 at 7:22
  • 2
    @C.E. I am not sure if I agree that "0 votes and no interest shown" is enough. When this happens to one of my questions on other sites, my assumption is that it slipped through the cracks, or that no one cares, not that it is a bad question.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:08
  • 3
    Another concern I have is: does the fact that there are upvotes, or that there is interest, mean that a question is fine? I noticed that many obviously bad questions (e.g. clearly unintelligible or clearly insufficient information to answer, no subjectivity involved) get upvoted. I don't know why. I have not noticed this in the recent couple of weeks, but it is something that happens periodically (for many questions at a time).
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:11
  • 1
    I would also like to bring up this example, which I downvoted. The asker is saying that their question is fine as it is because similar questions have received attention. My comment was "upvoted" several times, so I guess that should make it clear to them that the question really is not fine as it is. But it clearly didn't. I am worried that encouraging or even just tolerating bad questions will be to the detriment of this QA site, even if there are some people who sometimes answer these question. Once the amount of such questions ...
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:17
  • ... crosses a critical threshold, many people (including myself) will no longer have any motivation to participate.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:18
  • 2
    I fully agree that piling on downvotes makes a hostile impression. But I think having a question sit at -1 can often be appropriate, if the asker has a chance to understand the reason for the downvote (and therefore has a chance to make improvements). That can be achieved with a comment, but in the case of repeat offenders it is a waste of time to keep explaining again and again. It's better and healthier to put our energy (and time spent on this site) into something positive, such as writing a good answer, than keep trying to explain how to improve questions when OP won't respond anyway.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:19
  • 1
    I really do blame StackExchange for not explaining better in the tour what questions are or aren't appropriate. It shouldn't be necessary to keep explaining again and again and again what is wrong with a question. There should be a central place to link to.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:37
  • @Szabolcs it's often the case that long questions are bad questions, but I don't tend to have the patience to read them to find out. Sometimes questions that I haven't taken the time to understand attract interesting answers. No-one should feel compelled to consider questions that don't interest them.
    – mikado
    Jun 21, 2021 at 10:41
  • @mikado I think it would be nice to have a discussion about when downvotes / closures are the best response. Yes, we did in the past, but it's good to revisit this topic periodically. This is an open-ended discussion though, so it would be good to talk it out in a chatroom first. It would be good for those of us who've been here for a long time to try to present a consistent image of this QA site and explain expectations to new users consistently. I would be happy to follow a consensus position, even if I don't agree with all its details.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 21, 2021 at 11:01
  • 2
    I occasionally downvote and leave no comment but only after repeated attempts to get the OP to provide code fails (and especially when the OP responds but still shows no code. I guess I should put in the comment "I'm downvoting this question after repeated attempts to obtain at least a start on code has not materialized."
    – JimB
    Jun 21, 2021 at 21:32
  • 4
    FWIW: if another user has previously expressed displeasure/dissatisfaction with a question or an answer in a comment (that I agree with), I usually upvote the comment and downvote the post, without leaving a comment of my own. Jun 26, 2021 at 15:08
  • I disagree with your assumption that downvotes should be rare. I find it an obvious indication to the asker that the question is poorly received as is. I agree that accompanying comments are very useful as well, but having to explain for the hundredth time in a week that questions on code need code to answer causes burnout in regular users and is the very reason why my activity on this site has been on hiatus recently. A deluge of poor questions also creates a hostile environment.
    – MarcoB
    Sep 28, 2021 at 2:33

1 Answer 1


According to the query (adapted from the one by Sam Saffron) https://data.stackexchange.com/mathematica/query/1428515/number-of-downvotes-over-time?points=72&period=36#graph dynamics for the overall number of downvotes goes like this:enter image description here

According to the suggestion by @xzczd, here is also the downvotes/upvotes ratio (scaled by 1000)

enter image description here

  • What period are the down votes counted over?
    – mikado
    Jun 27, 2021 at 21:52
  • @mikado See below: from July 2014. Jun 28, 2021 at 4:31
  • Oh maybe you mean which period does each point represent. These are totals over each tenth of a year. Jun 28, 2021 at 5:12
  • Perhaps the line should be weighted by the number of upvotes?
    – xzczd
    Jul 1, 2021 at 6:01
  • @xzczd Here it is (if I understood you correctly). I believe any clear growth trend for downvotes is still absent, no? Jul 1, 2021 at 7:57
  • Thx for the efforts, now it's more convincing :)
    – xzczd
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:11

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