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I recently gained the privilege of reviewing new user's first posts. Several of them have been sparse, poorly written or didn't really constitute an answer at all (more of a comment, if that). I have been trying to gently guide them on proper usage of the site and give them a chance to correct and/or expound on their answer before down-voting.

That said, I have been pretty disappointed to see several of them immediately get down-voted several times. I mean, sure, it's not a good answer, but they might just not know what a good answer is yet. I can't imagine that feels good and I wouldn't be surprised if they just don't ever come back. Does anyone else see this as a problem? Is there anything we can do to handle it better?

  • Without specifics, I'm not sure how well we can talk about this especially since there are functions like spam and rude flags that trigger separate down votes which can come up. I'd rather not have tie site functions with being mean or nice. For example voting up and down are to help the quality of the site. You should not use them to be nice or be mean, if you are that's not how it's designed to works. – Dom Sep 12 at 18:00
  • I'm not saying people are trying to be mean, just that they might be a little too quick to down vote. I know down votes are a serious thing that most people don't want to do as it costs reputation and that it's entirely at the discretion of the user whether or not to use it. I'm not saying that new users shouldn't be able to be down voted or something. But the site does say to be extra kind and helpful to new users that haven't figured things out yet, and I feel this doing the opposite. With such little rep their answer will fall to the bottom anyway, without being "pushed" down by down votes. – WillRoss1 Sep 12 at 18:14
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    User rep doesn't have anything to do with where their answer goes. You can't sort answers by the user's rep. There are a lot of mechanics to cater to new users including the queues to help show and guide the user that are already in place to help with this. If you can point to a specific example, we can go over what happened and what a better path might be. – Dom Sep 12 at 18:21
  • Huh, I noticed that when two answers have the same score the higher rep user's usually comes first. I skimmed over several threads and found a few exceptions to this, so there must be some other deciding mechanism that gives similar results. – WillRoss1 Sep 12 at 18:52
  • It appears the example that got me thinking about this has been deleted, but it went something like this: new user posts answer (something like "I want you to teach me how to do this"), so I review it (explaining what answers are actually for, that their post would belong in a comment and what they can do to earn enough rep to comment) and by the time I click submit it has been down voted 3 times already. – WillRoss1 Sep 12 at 18:52
  • It was perfectly clear to me that they simply didn't understand how to properly use the site. I wouldn't even call it a "poor quality answer" (in my mind what down votes are for) because it wasn't an answer at all, it was a mistake. I totally get flagging it and deleting it, or at least letting them know what the down votes are for. The rest of us know what is going on, but out of context a new user will probably just think we are saying "you suck!" and leave. – WillRoss1 Sep 12 at 18:52
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    I generally think there isn't much quality control on this site, and it could do with a bit more downvoting, but there are indeed situations where flagging a post makes more sense than downvoting. Once you've flagged a post, there's not much point in downvoting it too. People probably do it to discourage other users from engaging with a post that they think will be deleted anyway. – Your Uncle Bob Sep 13 at 12:31
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    As some may be aware, I've banged on about this for some time! To me, there's little point in merely dv-ing when the rep. is 1 doesn't help anyone. Dv for me is pointless to the recipient without reason given - that way, we learn a little. But particularly with new contributors, who aren't versed in our sometime esoteric system, surely a comment is far better? I suffered initially, and nearly wrote the site off as hostile. Glad I didn't... – Tim Sep 14 at 13:24
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    @WillRoss1 "when two answers have the same score [...]" they will always be ordered randomly to prevent any bias from the poster. Refresh the page, and the order may change. – Andrew T. Sep 15 at 5:20
  • @AndrewT. Cool, thanks for the info! As a software engineer, I have an insatiable desire to know the inner workings of things :) – WillRoss1 Sep 15 at 14:53
  • @Tim If I remember correctly, you once persuaded me to explain a downvote, and when I did, a whole lot of drama ensued, and eventually the downvotee had his account suspended. Are you suggesting I should give it another try? Because there's an obvious candidate :-) – Your Uncle Bob Sep 23 at 1:46
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    When I first came here, I didn't know how to properly use the site, and the site expects that and it warned me and all of us when we first created accounts that Stack Exchange is different. It's also pretty clear early on that Stack Exchange is different. So I read the help. And then I started posting questions and answers and I got downvotes and comments and then I started reading more and paying attention to comments and learning how the site works and now I have the #4 rep on Music.SE. We all start with downvotes because we all start naive. – Todd Wilcox Sep 23 at 8:41
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    @Tim I think mere downvotes can be helpful to the community as an evaluation of the content, as intended. They are of course less helpful to the poster of the content but still a very imprecise form of feedback. Uncommented downvotes of my content have of course caused me to re-evaluate it and in some cases I’ve been able to see problems for myself without the comment. – Todd Wilcox Sep 23 at 14:46
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    @dfhwze Tougher than Stack Overflow? Have you ever asked a question with the C++ tag? :-) (Btw, I think the user who wrote the now removed answer would have trouble fitting into any online community). – Your Uncle Bob Sep 23 at 14:48
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    @Tim A new user, who listed all his music degrees ("with distinction") in his profile and apparently thought that that would carry considerable clout here, went completely off the rails when I downvoted one of his answers. In the end a moderator suspended his account. It seems that people who enjoy some sort of expert status in the real world have trouble adapting to the more egalitarian world of SE, where they have to gain their reputation all over again. music.stackexchange.com/questions/83057/… – Your Uncle Bob Sep 23 at 15:15
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To me, downvotes have always been an indication of the merit (rather, lack thereof) of the post that receives them. I have no qualms with downvoting posts from any user, as the voting system was put into place as a kind of determinant of value of posts.

However, I also realise that new users often aren't used to the site and make honest, easily correctable mistakes. I think the best way to help with those situations is to explain in the comments (respectfully!) the relevant information they need to know. I'll also put in a good word for being extra nice to new users; wouldn't want to scare anyone away, after all! Also, downvotes shouldn't be taken personally; they shouldn't be interpreted as an emotional statement about the user.

And if that user does go back and fix the issues, undownvoting is always an option, so I don't feel any responsibility to wait on voting, because votes can be changed once a post is edited (and I like to tell myself I'm pretty good about circling back to the few improved posts).

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If new folks read the welcome pages they will see that votes are entirely for the post itself, not anything to do with the individual. Sadly, many do not read the welcome pages, despite SO doing their best to make it obvious.

There is only so much we can do - and you are obviously one of those who helps by editing, commenting etc - but if a post is bad it should be voted down, no matter who wrote it.

We'd like users who down vote to explain what needs to be done to change it to an upvote, but that is absolutely not mandatory or even required.

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