Downvoting is a feature provided by the forum (or whatever you want to call this place). I didn't know what its inventor's idea on that so I can only guess that his intention may be just to let people show that they disagree with what the OP said.

That makes perfect sense. It's human nature to criticize and disagree with others and people need a way to voice their opinions.

However, the system is designed in a way that if you downvote a post, the OP will lose points. The introduction of points may make Q & A more interesting. That's fine. But points are linked with privileges. The more points you have, the more you can do in the forum. And if you lose points, you may have less privileges.

So when people downvote a post just because they disagree with that, they are actually depriving the OP of privileges, although they may not realize that effect. It's completely fine to disagree with someone. But it isn't right to remove his rights simply because you disagree with him. There's a famous saying, 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' It also applies to downvoting. People making posts are just voicing their opinions. They don't commit a crime so why punish them?

So unless it's some extreme case like a completely disgusting or immortal post, I don't think it's right to remove OP's privileges by reducing his points through downvoting. The best way might be to alter the system so that downvoting is still allowed but won't affect the OP's points, if possible. If that's not realistic, downvoting should be avoided and discouraged. If you don't like what the OP said, just put a comment below his post or simply ignore that.

Also as a matter of fact, you can only downvote a Question or Answer, but not a Comment. This inconsistency also doesn't quite make sense.

What do you think of this matter?

1 Answer 1


Your misunderstanding is that downvoting is about disagreeing. On Stack Exchange, that's only true on meta sites (for example, I downvoted your question here on meta because I disagree with your central hypothesis that downvoting is about disagreeing in general), and voting on meta sites doesn't affect points at all.

On main sites, such as Literature SE where you've been posting recently, scores should reflect quality of the post, which means a post should be upvoted if it's good (e.g. a well-researched or interesting question, a well-supported and correct answer) and downvoted if it's bad. Admittedly, the assessment of a post's quality is sometimes subjective, but voting should be based on some essential core principles, generally understood by the active site community, of what a Stack Exchange post should look like.

[In practice, of course, sometimes people do downvote simply because they disagree with something in the post. But that's not the general principle, and we can't start discouraging downvotes in general even if some downvotes aren't for "correct" reasons.]

Another reason for downvoting might be for content that doesn't belong on the site, in one way or another. For example, a totally off-topic question (say, about computer programming or cooking but posted here on Literature) might get heavily downvoted even if it's a well-written, well-researched, and interesting question.

The reason why voting affects the user's reputation points is that the rep score is (in theory) supposed to reflect the user's expertise. Someone who knows a lot about their subject will, in principle, write good posts and get upvotes and therefore get more rep. Someone who posts wrong answers or silly questions will, in principle, get downvotes and their low score will reflect that they aren't so expert as someone else.

[All those provisos ("in theory" and "in principle") in the previous paragraph are because this system doesn't always work as it's supposed to. For example, I have more reputation than Gareth Rees, Tsundoku, and verbose who are all much more knowledgeable and expert about literature than me. Some very low-rep users with a single post might also be much more knowledgeable than many of the high-rep users. In practice, reputation depends on many things, including how long and how consistently you've been around on the site (that's why I'm the highest-reputation user, not because my posts are better than anyone else's) and how quickly you can answer a newly posted question (Hot Network Questions bring reputation faster than anything else).]

So, yes the voting system isn't perfect, but no we shouldn't discourage downvoting. Downvotes are important as a way of quality control, to ensure that only good content has a positive score and bad content is marked as such.

Further reading:

One final note, as this sentence in your meta post just registered with me:

People making posts are just voicing their opinions.

No no no! If you think posts on Stack Exchange are just about opinions, that might explain why you're getting downvotes. (I haven't actually gone to check your posts on the main site, hence "might".) Anything that's "just voicing [an] opinion" absolutely should be downvoted or sometimes even deleted - this isn't a site for random opinions! The Stack Exchange model is supposed to be about verifiable answers to useful questions. Further reading:

  • Suppose someone doen't like Ulysses and answers a question about that novel saying it's boring something. I'm sure he will get downvotes. Do you think it's because his post is of low quality or simply because others disagree with him? It's very subjective in literature. And people tend to think something that they don't agree with as low quality. It's human nature. Commented Mar 9 at 13:17
  • 1
    Can't edit my comment. So have to write a new one. I mean quality in literature is a very subjective thing. And you can't assure that people downvote just because the post is really bad. In many cases it's just disagreeing. E.g. mentioning AI is deemed low quality? But (if) pretending the quote from AI comes from a real person will not be considered as low quality? So it's a matter of low quality or just disagreeing? Commented Mar 9 at 13:26
  • Take one of my questions for instance. When I mentioned quotes from ChatGPT, I got a lot of downvoting. After the moderator (maybe you or someone else) removed that part, it received some upvoting. The question part remains unchanged and the only difference is the ChatGPT quote which I already explained as providing some reference. Do you think by removing that part the question's quality got upgraded? Commented Mar 9 at 13:44
  • Another thing, as I mentioned, points are linked with privileges. So if an OP gets low points, he may not be able to comment. And Comment is opinion-based, right? So by downvoting and reducing an OP's points, it is possible that the OP's right to voice his opinion may get affected. Commented Mar 9 at 15:13
  • See point 3 in this answer linked above. Saying "Ulysses is boring" is too subjective to belong anywhere here, and can be removed without affecting the post. (A question "do you think Ulysses is interesting?" should be closed, and for answers to any other question, opinions on Ulysses's boringness are irrelevant.) To your other point, posts based on AI output are something the community has decided don't belong on this site (see 4th para in my answer), and as you saw, your post's score changed when that unnecessary content was removed.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 9 at 16:47
  • The problem with some sites on SE (especially the language ones) are that answers, even documented and referenced, are nevertheless opinions. And that's a good thing. Otherwise, it suggests that Literature is like science or math, which it isn't. And if I'm not mistaken, Phd oral judges may not like what a candidate says but if that candidate can present a well-reasoned, cogent argument, they can't be denied that Phd.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 21 at 15:09

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