I would like to start by telling a story.

A young man who has not been to your town before and is not at all familiar with where he is specifically turns onto a street to figure out where he made a wrong turn when his car stops running. He is not too familiar with how cars work. All he knows is that his car stopped and he is lost in a strange town.

He reaches down for his cell phone and discovers that he forgot to charge it and it will not turn on at all.

So he looks around and goes to one house and knocks on the door. He can hear people inside so he continues to knock asking for help. No one answers.

He looks around again and goes to a pretty little cottage style house that looks much friendlier. Perhaps he can get help there.

He knocks on the door and a man answers. He tries to explain what happened and ask for help. Not fully understanding what happened, he stumbles a bit as he speaks.

The man who answered the door says he does not understand what our poor friend is asking, flips him off, then slams the door.

What would a reasonable man conclude? That the SE ethos is not a friendly one and that he may not find the help he needs on SE. That is an understandable conclusion since SE has had this reputation for a long time and the new policies are designed, in part, to help reverse this problem.

Recently, we have been the man in the pretty little cottage who slammed the door.

Let me explain.

An new user had gone to one stack and did not get an answer. The user found what he thought was a friendlier venue and asked the question again.

He was told that his inquiry was not clear, given the finger (down-voted), and had the door slammed in his face by having his question put on hold. He was rejected twice.

We missed an opportunity. All we needed to do is to take the time to try and understand what the OP was asking. A few simple questions would have helped. But that is not what happened.

I read the links in the OPs post and could not find any reference between the question asked and what I could see. I asked a few questions in the comments which may now never get answered. The OP may be lost to us.

Just this morning, we did things right. We guided an OP with kindness and understanding.

I am a firm believer that any question asked honestly and earnestly should never be down-voted. I personally reserve down-votes for the more severe posts such as spam posts.

Also consider that a close vote starts a different process where we are asked to chose to close a question or not without a full context of the question. One close vote begets other close votes. One close vote makes it more likely that other close votes will follow. I like to open a new tab and review the question more closely before making the final decision.

OPs are not always sure what they are looking for or what to ask. They may not always give details or connect the dots. This is especially true when frustrated. We have all done this.

I am reminded of "as ye have done it unto one of the least of these". Some of you may know these words. For me, this means that in all things, be kind, gentle, and patient.

We are not perfect beings and fail sometimes. I get that. We all fall short. I am just saying that we failed one OP and I wanted to reflect on this.

Take this as you will.


  • 2
    Don't have time for a lengthy response, but "be nice" was, and still is, a hot topic for the entire network with those stressing quality content (mostly power users) butting heads with those who want a friendlier network (stack exchange employees).
    – John Conde Mod
    Sep 15, 2019 at 17:16
  • 1
    Well said, closetnoc. If there is a moderator election soon, I would urge you to put your hat in the ring. Sep 15, 2019 at 17:37
  • 1
    @JohnConde I believe that both goals can be realized, quality and kindness. BTW- I am not saying questions should not be closed, I am saying that perhaps we should give more opportunity to OPs on occasions where it is helpful. I have found that some of these confused OPs have ultimately asked really excellent and unique questions once we dug into the issue more. Sometimes, they just need a bit of hand-holding. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Sep 15, 2019 at 17:40
  • 1
    @StephenOstermiller Cheers mate!! Sometimes when we are in the thick of things, we cannot see our cosmos as others can. This was one case. Coming in after the fact, I was able to see things differently. No fault on anyone's part. It just kinda made me sad for the poor fella. Now he may never be back. We may never have the opportunity for a do-over. I remember some new users that were quite a bit awkward that ultimately, over just a short period of time, became great contributors asking really thoughtful and clever questions and provided high quality answers.
    – closetnoc
    Sep 15, 2019 at 17:48
  • @JohnConde Some stacks are rough, very rough, and seemingly continue to be. Attitudes are short and users do not suffer fools too easily. Okay. I get it. These are busy stacks and all OPs should really do their best especially when asking questions. I clicked on the first link and the OP answers his own question with an example of patience and niceness in a comment after a full on rant. It is a perfect example. Thankfully, webmasters is a gentler and quiet place. Thanks for sharing the link. I will read more later. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Sep 15, 2019 at 18:03
  • 1
    @closetnoc This is precisely why I encouraged you to participate again on the site, providing you have the time to do so. Q & A sites like this can grow pedantic over time, and we all need a reminder from time-to-time to keep it positive. Good job.
    – dan Mod
    Sep 16, 2019 at 0:28
  • @JohnConde If there was no quality content, there would not be any network to begin with, and by extension not many Stack Exchange employees. So it is strange to oppose the two, and I think it is the crux of the issue that many people are missing and instead believing that by just accepting any kind of bad question will make everything magically better. If you run a website just to give help to poor souls that will probably never come back after getting their very own specific reply, maybe. But certainly not if you are trying to run a long standing quality QA/knowledge site for the future. Sep 19, 2019 at 14:51
  • A downvote (or a close call) is a signal that "Based on the rules of this website, this question is below the expected average, and can be improved.". Now it seems many new users and even old timers make the fatal error of confusing that with a signal that would read "You, as a person, is not welcome here". It is really a fatal confusion, and as long as people do not understand this difference, everything is doomed. Now, the only valid discussion here can be "Should downvotes be associated with a comment?". This is not new. Of course some people would abuse voting, and thresholds vary. Sep 19, 2019 at 15:36
  • 1
    Awesome post, @closetnoc - I'll just add that the man in the pretty cottage can sometimes forget that he too was once lost in a strange town with a broken down car. We as professionals can forget what sorts of things we used to ask senior engineers, some 10 - 20 years ago, how we asked those questions, and what we must have looked like to them. But thanks in part to the kindest of those engineers, who walked us through patiently step by step, we are now in a position to help others. Dec 2, 2019 at 19:31
  • @HenryVisotski Perfectly said! Thanks. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Dec 2, 2019 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


As much as possible, the community should be putting out the welcome mat to new users, and trying to help everyone that shows up here in respectful ways. Respect is paramount to building and maintaining a community, and something I've been striving to keep the community aware of.

Sometimes questions or answers might simply be outside the scope and format of this site. In other cases where they might just not contain enough details or be seemingly unclear, we should try to improve them through edits or by asking for clarifications with comments. As you wrote, if we can salvage a post, we might just be able to help one more user, and possibly others who happen across it in the future too. And as a result, that might promote more activity and users here...and so on.

As I've indicated in other Meta discussions, on a site this size, it's not really helpful to downvote a question or answer just because it doesn't check all the boxes, unless it's in some way harmful to others. Instead, try to improve it, or indicate what the issue might be in a comment, or just offer a better answer. If that's not possible, then vote on closing it or flag it for moderation.

On a larger, more active site where there's lots of voting taking place (like Stack Overflow), downvoting has less of an impact. On a smaller site like this one however, nothing says stay away from this house like a bunch of downvotes on the New questions page...

Lastly, much of this is covered in the Code of Conduct that Stack Exchange has implemented site-wide. For anyone who hasn't read this yet, please do so, and remind others to try to rise to the occasion of an opportunity to help someone else (versus knock them down, which doesn't accomplish anything).

  • On a larger, more active site where there's lots of voting taking place (like Stack Overflow), downvoting has less of an impact. This is true in part, however, respectfully, I disagree only in this regard. I have tried SO and other stacks before and was waffle stomped into oblivion for valid and good questions. SO was, for me, hostile as heck. (It is Sunday, I will save hell for Monday. Oh Nertz!!) I get that down-votes are necessary on the larger sites. I do get it. My personal experience with SO has not at all been pleasant. That is why I do not go there. I ask, Why bother?
    – closetnoc
    Sep 16, 2019 at 0:38
  • 1
    Stack Overflow has had a long-standing issue with that - technical users don't always have the best people skills, or exhibit them when "anonymous" online.... That's something Stack Exchange has tried to improve however with the Code of Conduct. It will take time for that to permeate, but it's a good start in the right direction.
    – dan Mod
    Sep 16, 2019 at 0:44
  • I absolutely agree!! BTW- In 30 years of IT work, I have found only a few obtuse IT people. I could count them on one hand. My experience in the world walking around has been profoundly positive. Even working in D.C.! We were always professional, welcoming, polite, and helpful. How SO got the way it is beyond me. I just don't get it. I worked with IT people all over the world and have never seen such hostility. I have always found IT people to be the finest people I have ever met. Especially webmasters! DUH. That goes without saying. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Sep 16, 2019 at 0:53

The reason newcomers are not welcomed not because the people in the town really don't want to welcome them, but because they are busy to do things. After all, they have work to do. We all know that.

I have been through all the feelings you describe, and have tried to construct a good theory about voting, of vagueness/objectiveness, using my understanding on cognitive psychology. If interested, you can check it here: https://www.scribd.com/document/426789662/A-theory-of. Note that it is just a draft, so expect to meet unfinished sente

enter image description here

  • Cheers!! I have an interest in psychology as well as another user. I will check this out tonight. Going to the hospital for a bit and will be running around most of the day.
    – closetnoc
    Sep 17, 2019 at 12:17
  • I just read your document. Clearly you have thought about this topic! I will reread it when I can focus more. You make important points here - clearly. I appreciate your contribution here. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Sep 18, 2019 at 15:29
  • glad you like it :)
    – Ooker
    Sep 18, 2019 at 17:14
  • "The reason newcomers are not welcomed". The reason? There are probably many. And not being welcomed or not feeling to be welcomed are clearly two different matters. Most users do not want to be "welcomed". They do not care about any kind of community or set of rules, they just want their question answered immediately. As soon as the plan does not go as they wish then they will complain of not being welcomed. But it goes two ways: what did they do to welcome good quality answers? Certainly nothing if they do not adhere to the rules, ask on topic question, read the help, etc. Sep 19, 2019 at 14:57
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    @PatrickMevzek yeah I think the article (the "the") is correct. That sentence, if standing alone, should be rewritten as "The reasons newcomers are not welcomed (by the insiders) and don't feel welcomed (even when they do try their best to ask good questions)". Don't forget that the rest of the sentence and the whole premise of the OP are about newcomers who do care about reading and adhering the rules. Certainly a portion of the cold face are because of not adhering to the rules, but here we are only discussing about when they have already been doing that and still feel unwelcomed.
    – Ooker
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:31
  • "here we are only discussing about when they have already been doing that" I do not think that is the case. At least the two cases the OP has in mind are certainly not falling in that case. This is certainly reinforced by positions like "I am a firm believer that any question asked honestly and earnestly should never be down-voted." which clearly shows that learning the rules or applying them when asking for a question is irrelevant in that opinion because only "honesty" counts. So basically in that opinion, voting becomes irrelevant altogether (spam can be dealt with separately). Sep 19, 2019 at 17:56
  • 1
    @PatrickMevzek I see your point. But what matters here is that there are various interpretations of a downvote (at least 5 in my count), so that a downvote alone is still not enough. My assumption here when I read OP's question is that the newcomer does understand and agree with the voting system of SE, but having an unexplained downvote is still confusing to them. I also believe that when the OP says "I am a firm believer that any question asked honestly and earnestly should never be down-voted", they also assume that the newcomer does do research and read the rules before asking
    – Ooker
    Sep 19, 2019 at 18:18
  • From my experience when the asker decided to rant and ask why the question (not him) was downvoted it is never accompanied with an effort to understand why it could have happened and trying to improve the question. One may like or dislike the fact that explanations are not mandatory for votes, but again from experience it is mostly futile to try to engage then and explain the downvote reason because the mere fact of a downvote is the only thing triggering the asker anger and most often no useful discussion spins from that. Sep 19, 2019 at 19:24
  • "Assuming" that newcomers do research and read rules is fine, but unfortunately this is often clearly proved wrong by the facts,and especially in the cases the OP has in mind.Again, downvotes are a judgement based on the question, not the user. If the user did not read the rules as the question shows evidently,a downvote is completely merited and should not have to be explained. Sugar coating things for users is a disservice to them. The single act of a downvote should trigger, from respectful OP, a review of their question and an edit if they read the rules and find what can be improved. Sep 19, 2019 at 19:27
  • 1
    @PatrickMevzek One may like or dislike the fact that explanations are not mandatory for votes — yes, and that's what I (and perhaps the OP too) trying to say here. There is no obligation to explain the downvote, but it's extremely useful to do so. After all, the culture here encourages its users to explain what they think, and the OP just want more people to do that. The OP simply doesn't discuss the case that newcomers don't read the rules. Perhaps they should explain that clearer.
    – Ooker
    Sep 20, 2019 at 7:15

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