A while ago, I asked a question trying to find a high-quality, reliable translation for a particular work.

To date, no comments have been posted offering helpful insight as to why the question is below quality, while existing meta precedent says very explicitly that these questions are categorically on topic and of high quality. (That answer was at +9/-0, but it seems like some of the downvoters on my question also went out of their way to downvote that answer.) However, my question has been noticeably downvoted.

While it's certainly possible to write a poor-quality question in an area that is categorically on topic, I'm struggling to see what about my question led people to feel that way. It makes me curious, then - why has this question been downvoted? Is there some quality issue I'm not seeing?

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    I haven't voted either way on the main-site question, but I'm downvoting this meta because I don't think "why was this post downvoted" is a useful meta question. While I won't put it as snarkily as this CM did, people can downvote for any number of reasons, and there's usually little point in speculating why. A more useful meta would be "how can I improve this question" or "what makes a translation request high/low quality".
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:55
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    "these questions are categorically on topic and of high quality" - I wouldn't say any class of questions is categorically high-quality. On-topic, yes, but it's always possible to ask a crap question even in the most suitable of topics. (Not that I'm saying your question is crap!) "two of the downvoters on my question also went out of their way to downvote that answer" - unless you know some mod tools I don't, this is pure speculation (and, even if correct, feels a bit accusatory).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:58
  • @Rand I agree. What I mean by "categorically" is that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the category of question. (i.e. implementation detail questions are categorically on topic on Stack Overflow - doesn't mean it's not possible to write bad ones, but the category is on topic.) The question I'm really getting at is, "what in this question led people to believe it is low-quality?", which is encapsulated in a downvote. Maybe I should be more explicit, though.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:25
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    @Randal'Thor I've seen many "why did this get downvoted?" questions that stimulate useful conversation about community attitudes and values--conversations that would be difficult to have without a specific example to talk about, and which wouldn't happen at all with your other example questions because they assume the downvoting is virtuous. The CM you quote is talking about "static of the universe" voting--one downvote is just noise in the system. Four downvotes to two upvotes? That's worth talking about because it indicates a trend.
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:31
  • @Rand I've edited a little to incorporate your suggestion, and make it more about the perception and less about the votes.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:34
  • @Zyera Thanks! I've changed my meta downvote to an upvote, and will probably also upvote your question on main.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:22
  • @Zyera - it has been my experience on SFF that people have wildly different opinion on whether a specific category is "nothing is intrinsically wrong". And would downvote anything in that category on sight due to hating whole category.
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 2:22
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    To be honest, the downvotes on this question baffle me more than the downvotes on my main site question.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 6:20

2 Answers 2


I can't speak for the downvoters since I'm not one of them, but I can think of a couple of possible reasons why your post may be being poorly received.

  • At very first glance, it sounds almost like a recommendation question.

    Your title starts with the words "Is there a good ... ?" Most questions starting with these words would probably be off-topic here as recommendation requests. Of course, your question isn't a recommendation question, but unfortunately first impressions can sometimes affect people's voting. (This is exactly what I was trying to avoid with my comment on your question, btw.)

    Constructively, your best way of combatting this perception might be to edit the title to move the specific book and author closer to the beginnning. For example, "Has “Foundations of Geopolitics” by Aleksandr Dugin ever been reliably translated into English?" Word order may seem unimportant, but it can help to change the emphasis of the sentence.

  • Maybe people think translation questions should be off-topic.

    Your note that this meta answer has received more downvotes recently is interesting - it suggests that some people are seeing it for the first time due to your link in comments, and voicing their opinion on it with votes, as is their good right to do. It's still highly-voted enough to be taken as a community consensus, IMO, but apparently the community is no longer as strongly behind it as before. Unfortunately, without comments from the "anti" users, it's hard to tell why. We can only speculate based on comments such as this on previous questions:

    This doesn't really feel like a literature question to me. There's no question about the actual literature here, simply just a re-translation. That's off-topic imo, so I've voted to close

    Constructively, though, there's not much to suggest here. If some portion of the community feels that translation questions as a whole should be off-topic, then there's literally nothing you can do to your specific question to make it satisfy them.

  • What do you mean by "reliable"?

    Perhaps some people feel that your question isn't clearly enough defined. You mention an existing English translation which doesn't satisfy you, but you don't explain exactly why (the text is "extremely poor quality", in what way? - and is "broken in many places", how?) You might think it's obvious what makes a translation satisfactory or unsatisfactory, but maybe the voters don't, and therefore think your question is unclear because you're not setting clear goalposts.

    Constructively, to fix this you could be more specific about why the existing translation you link to isn't good enough (e.g. include some excerpts of badly translated text from it?) and about what you're looking for in a "reliable" translation.

Once again, I don't personally think any of these is a good enough reason to downvote (I haven't voted either way on the question myself yet). But I've tried to examine the question objectively and find possible criticisms of it that other people might make and which might cause them to downvote it. I hope this is what you were looking for.

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    @yannis That's essentially what this meta post is asking for, though (unless one or more of the downvoters is going to step up here and explain their reasons, which IME doesn't often happen). You can interpret these as "minor constructive criticisms of the post" rather than "reasons to downvote" if you prefer. As far as I'm concerned, this isn't about votes, but rather about possible issues with the question.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:15
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    Also, I wouldn't agree that these are "childish" reasons to downvote; note that I haven't criticised the downvoters anywhere. #1 is maybe a silly reason to downvote, but I could understand #2 (if you think a whole class of questions is bad and shouldn't be on the site, then you might well downvote them all) and #3 (if you think a question is unclear and insufficiently explained, that's a reasonable cause to downvote).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:16
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    @yannis Well, I disagree - to me #3 is the most sensible reason of the three. Your version on Politics includes a quote from the bad translation to show why it's bad, which I think is a good idea and helps people to identify with the question.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:22
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    @yannis - "All three of your guesses are very childish reasons to downvote" - and yet, many people DO downvote (in practice, from my SFF experience) for those "childish" reasons and are open about it in comments and chat.
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 2:27
  • @yannis - Also, reason 3 is not really childish. Not worth a downvote per se but I may have thrown a VTC for that if I was in a bad/picky mood while reading the question, as it does sounds subjectiv-ish (and i'm closer to an expert on translation from Russian than pretty much anyone on this site, at a guess)
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 2:28

At first read, the only skill the question seems to require is Google-fu (or library-fu). Therefore, it's - in my humble opinion - a very boring one. I don't find that reason enough to downvote it, but it's why I haven't upvoted it, even though I would be somewhat interested in reading its answers.

I have seen a discussion of the politics behind the book elsewhere that touched the issue of translations and revealed a non-obvious layer of complexity to the question. I don't think we can expect such an answer on Literature, which was partly why I decided to repost it on Politics.

It's not a bad question. Probably just one of those that only shine once a good answer is posted.

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