Okay, this is really less a question and more a plea for people to follow "Wil Wheaton's Law".

For the most part I enjoy this site, but there are a couple of people (I think, there is no audit trail, but timing indicates less than random) that downvote, close, and otherwise make this happy place a bit less happy.

My guess is that there are a couple folks on here that are also active in some of the higher volume stacks where a more draconian attitude is appropriate. They are high volume enough that if there was no policing the stacks would become near useless. I don't think that's the case here. We are low volume and can take the time to give an opinion rather than a cut and dry answer. We can hit some tangential topics. I would love to hear ideas on first aid for road rash, this applies to many more cyclists than does a question about the differences between 3x and 4x lacing of wheels (and I love to chat about wheel building).

If the downvoting and enforcement is just the random acts of trolls, oh well. If not....

thanks for listening,

Happy Riding.

Bit of an update, for whatever reason, I just reread the FAQ for this stack. interestingly found this tidbit under "Etiquette" (emphasis mine):

Be honest. Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Best of all — edit and improve the existing questions and answers!

  • I'm thinking troll. Pity as I thought I could add something here. Not worth playing if it causes stress with no reward.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 0:35
  • If you raise specific examples, then people might be able to speculate about what motivated a downvote. I feel like I can almost always come up with a pretty good guess.
    – amcnabb
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 21:09
  • Why the close vote? Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 16:38
  • The couple of folks that respond are in the "give us specifics" or "this is the way that stack works" and I didn't see any benefit of continuing to slog away. I was trying to foster, at least in the more senior members, a "let's improve the quality". I think a downvote happens for one of two reasons: (1) troll; (2) serious desire to improve stack. I think if (2) a reason for downvote might help. NB: I actually disagree with anon, but that's another issue...but how about anon-comment with downvote as a new priv?
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 18:26
  • 1
    I entirely agree and would take this even further. The site should force a user to make comment in order to allow them to downvote. The biggest turn off of the site is seeing your questions/responses downvoted without knowing why. For a set of sites whose very mantra is to be objective, it surprises me somewhat because this whole area is so subjective. Personally I have never voted anything down.
    – PeteH
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 10:24
  • 1
    I don't think its necessary if there already exists a comment which already describes your reasoning - if someone says, for example, the right way to clean your bike is by dousing it in gasoline and lighting it on fire, and someone already said "this is dangerous", I don't think I should have to repeat that. That being said, I think Bicycles.SE is pretty good at stating why a downvote occurs.
    – Batman
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 20:01

5 Answers 5


Speaking as someone who votes a lot (actually, as the person who votes the most, both here and on StackExchange as a whole), I wanted to mention a couple of points:

  • Individual votes are not very significant. It's the accumulation of multiple votes from multiple people that marks a good question or answer.

A question with several upvotes is probably worth reading and answers with several votes are probably accurate and helpful. OTOH, questions with a single upvote and a few answers with maybe 1 upvote hasn't really been "rated" by the Stackexchange system.

So a single downvote (or upvote) shouldn't be treated as a big deal, it usually means the question simply struck someone as not being very good. I'm always surprised when a guy with the most reputation on a site is concerned about a single downvote.

  • It takes time to comment. It takes a lot more time to comment than to click the little up- or down-vote arrows. I think Stackexchange is better served by having multiple votes, i.e. by having multiple people state their opinion of a question.

  • More people need to vote. Not just on this site, big ones like ServerFault could use more voting, and I think it's a really bad sign on Cooking.SE that in the past 3 months, I've voted an order of magnitude more than the next guy.

If anything, I think SE, Inc. would be better off weighing in on threads like this one and emphasizing the official position "comments are nice, but absolutely NOT required." I'd guess there are people who might vote more except they feel they should take the time to comment on every downvote.

  • A comment on a marginal question is an invitation to fight. There are people (e.g. that highest-rep guy on SciFi.SE) who will argue about your reasons for downvoting if you give them. I don't think that necessarily applies here, but it's always a possibility.

tl;dr: I don't downvote to troll, or to punish people, I downvote questions and answers I think aren't very good, and nothing more than that should be read into a downvote.


I think that this can be answered by backing up and pointing to some fundamental Stack Exchange concepts. (Since you're not citing specific examples, I'm answering this in a broad, general way. If I'm covering stuff you're very familiar with, I apologize if it comes across as lecturing or talking down; that's not my intent.)


Stack Exchange sites are not web forums, whose job is to encourage a happy community that will come back and keep the site running through ad impressions. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's true. The purpose of a Stack Exchange Q&A site is not to provide a forum for people's questions, or even to help people. The purpose of Stack Exchange is to make the internet a better, more curated place, with lists of on-topic questions where the community votes the best answers to the top of the page. We want to ask and answer questions so well that when you Google "How do I fix [problem] on my [type of bike]", that Stack Exchange question is the first hit on Google. Furthermore, we want to be viewed as a reliable resource. (That last is very important.)


Communities are provided with the close and delete mechanisms to ensure that questions that are off-topic, or unanswerable (i.e., can't be answered definitively and voted on) will be removed from the site. Closing a question disallows further answers, so the question can be edited. If the question is beyond saving, it can be deleted. Of course, individuals will disagree on what questions are good ones. This helps make the question more reliably answerable with answers that can be voted on.

Closing is not unfriendly, nor is it malicious. Think of editing a letter: Would you want to edit a letter as the replies came in? Of course not, you'd want to edit it before it's sent out. Similarly, it's worth noting that, when borderline or problematic questions are closed quickly, they can be edited with a freer hand than if they're left open. If they're left open, answers pile up, then it makes it harder to edit the question into a good one. "What bike should I get" may be edited to "What features should I get in a winter commuter bike". If the more general question is answered, it's a waste of everybody's time.


In order to encourage good content and discourage bad content, users are also provided with the upvote and downvote mechanisms. Upvoting good content is a way of telling the system, "this person does good stuff here. We can trust them." Similarly, misinformation needs to be voted down, or the site will fill with it over time. Downvoting is a deterrent that needs to be exercised or Stack Exchange won't work.

Now, to the meat of this: Leaving feedback when downvoting is undeniably helpful. Downvoting someone's question or answer without explaining why leaves them to guess at why they were downvoted. It feels like a slap, getting a downvote like that. Requiring users to leave a comment while downvoting has been discussed on Meta.SO. However, filling out a comment to fill out a comment seems pointless, and it's important to preserve voter anonymity.

As long as most users are leaving constructive feedback, I think we'll be fine. Drive-by downvoting is, as far as I can see, the exception and not the rule.


If the downvoting and enforcement is just the random acts of trolls...

It's easy to feel this way when you see a question closed. And I would agree that responsible downvoting and closing should be accompanied with comments explaining how the question can be improved, or it's worthless. (However, I also feel that anonymous downvoting is desirable. But that's another discussion.)

If you feel that "enforcing" is a bad thing, perhaps Stack Exchange isn't for you. This is not a feee-for-all discussion forum, it's a place meant to generate good, worthwhile, structured content that will improve the internet. People who downvote and close questions are absolutely required, and calling them "trolls" dismisses their contributions to the site. They are encouraging good content by taking these actions. Rather than worry about the few anonymous downvoters, simply encourage constructive feeback by listening and responding to it. And viewing closing as an opportunity to edit and re-open will result in better questions and answers.

  • 2
    You bring up exactly why I think folks should comment on downvote...especially if you are "experienced" with what makes a good/bad/etc question/answer/comment. If you downvote with no feedback how do people improve? I'm NOT asking for folks to stop downvoting...but if there's a reason for the downvote, share it.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Aug 22, 2012 at 3:52

Sometimes you just don't want to pick a fight. A vote is just a way to share your opinion, but a comment can be interpreted as an invitation to fight. This depends both on the tone of the comment (which you can imperfectly try to get right) and on the mindset of the reader (which you can't control). If you just want to voice your opinion without potentially getting into a negative discussion, a vote without a comment can be so much easier.


There will always be disagreement about what constitutes high-quality and appropriate content. I agree that it's good to encourage healthy discussion. However, I don't think that closing and downvoting are inherently unfriendly, and I think the community is accepting of almost any answerable question.

In the end, I think it's hard to talk about this in general, so it's better to raise specific cases where you disagree and when possible to try to edit/improve content. For example, I recently edited the question How does a two wheel drive bike work? because I thought it contained the kernel of a great question. I agree with the original closing, though, because it was vague and unanswerable. I think it's worthy of reopening now, but I don't think there was anything wrong with closing it. Looking at other questions that have been closed recently, I really can't argue with most of them. For example, https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/10870/link-to-a-photo-of-eddy-merckx-seen-from-below-the-bike is searching for a very specific photograph, which is an impossibly specific request.

I upvote far more often than I downvote, but I generally downvote any question that seems inherently unanswerable, chatty ("What is your favorite...?"), or requests recommendation of a specific model or brand of something (answers to such questions expire almost instantly). In general, I think that I and others on the site tend to be pretty accepting of questions that are more subjective than other Stack Exchange Sites. The only major area where I seem to disagree with others is that I think that medical and especially first aid questions should be considered on-topic. When people downvote answers, they may either think that the answer is wrong or that it's not really an answer or would be more appropriate as a comment.

Do you have specific questions where you disagree with everyone else? If so, I recommend either adding a comment about how why you think it is a good question, or to add a specific meta question. I agree that it's nice to add a comment about why you're downvoting, but it's not strictly necessary. And it's just as helpful for someone who likes a post to add a comment about why they like it as for someone who dislikes it to add a comment about why they dislike.

  • 1
    There are two issues at play, and perhaps I should have separated them...The first, closing questions, should (IMO) be done with a very light hand...and probably only after several (more than 3? 5? some number > 2)...downvotes. The second, and more important, is a reason for a downvote. I don't mind downvotes, I mind downvotes where there is no feedback other than the downvote.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 18:51
  • My main point is that it would help if you give specific examples and post about them either in meta or in comments or on the questions. For the sake of this question, could you point at a few posts where downvoting/closing have seemed troublesome?
    – amcnabb
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 19:38
  • ANY place where there is a downvote with no comment. It is not the specific places, but what I feel is a general attitude of a select few...as noted, I could be wrong here. If I have problems with specific questions, I wouldn't be bringing it up in the meta, I'd bring it up in the question. IMO, A downvote with no explanation offers little or nothing. If a question is vague, help the person with that. If it seems off topic, guide them to a better place, if it's only answerable with opinions...well, we are talking bikes here.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 20:09

Speaking generally (not so much about Bicycles SO), I tend to either downvote or leave a negative comment. Or often I'll make a negative comment and later, when the OP doesn't react to his error, downvote.

Downvotes to me represent either egregiously bad information, or, more often (especially in the original question) a simple failure to think out the problem and follow through before asking someone else to do their homework. These are things that a simple comment will do little to correct -- in the case of egregiously bad info the comment is usually an invitation flame, while in the case of failure to think, well ... they're not going to think about my comment either.

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