I've just taken the plunge and answered a few questions. One has attracted two downvotes

Is it possible to recognize a person who has achieved Arhatship?

I think i shall just about survive the shame. But it spurs me on to ask a general question about how we should use votes - specifically downvotes. Are we going to encourage downvoting of content to encourage the best to rise to the top - in a bit of a Darwinian fashion. Or are we going to use them sparingly perhaps only to flag up the worst content and event then only by a little downvote tweak.

I would personally like to keep things as positive as possible. Philosophy SE has always had a positive vibe to me and even quite bizarre questions don't attract a mass downvote fest. Whereas Stack Overflow can be quite an extreme (hostile) place particularly on certain subjects (JQuery is brutal)

Anyway I hope this isn't a moan - but just an opportunity to clarify ethos of the site in it's early days.

  • 1
    I looked at the answer that received two downvotes and did not see anything that would merit those downvotes (though, as a commenter noted, if you happened to find a citation for the story in your first paragraph, that would make the answer better).
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 16:06
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    My guess is once we open the site up and people calm down a bit, downvoting will decrease; we seem to have quite a few "noobies" here (I'm not so advanced myself), so we'll probably learn proper etiquette over time, I'd think. Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 17:57
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    This is something important to work out because on a place like Reddit /buddhism, which is where I first experience the up/down vote thing, it was amazing what people downvoted. I can remember seeing posts where the advice and sources were so dubious it was laughable yet when someone comes in with a sutta link and straight up good buddhism it gets downvoted... on a BUDDHIST page. I suspect this is an issue that will not "go away" per say, it's the nature of the ability to downvote. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 23:13

3 Answers 3


There are lots of questions at Meta.SE about downvoting. What I have learned from there:

  • Voting is merely site-specific. They show what Q&A are good or bad for this particular community
    • Except several common SE rules;
  • Downvotes on questions define scope of the site — as it is seen by the community;
  • Downvotes answers define what the community expects from the answers — again, it may not match what you think on this;
  • Communities are really different. What's good for one, can be unacceptable for another.

I have abandoned my participation at one of the betas where I'm still in #21 by reputation (an year after abandonment) specifically because of aggressive donvoting. IIRC, I have seen Q&A downvoted to the oblivion (nearly 10 downvotes) there.
To me, it is sufficient to make a Q or A some score of -1 or -2 and cast a close-vote. But again, not many people are actually aware about this.

You actually have several options:

  1. Adopt to what the community expects from you. Maybe this is the most Buddhist approach. :)
  2. You are the part of community. Try to form another attitude:
    • by commenting on good or bad Q&A, explaining your opinion. This takes a lot of effort;
    • by trying to invite more people to Meta discussions and raise questions here. You do it already, but not many users visit Meta sites.
  3. Or, as the very last option, just leave.

P.S. I don't want my answer to look very pessimistic, so let me finish it with a statement that we are here to learn and share our knowledge. Let's find out some rules that will make us happy together.

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    Thank you for this. Very true that aggressive downvoting can be surprising demotivating. I would argue that there could be no down votes for this site other than were something is just balantly wrong and misleading. Otherwise vote up your favourites and and vote to close. IMHO of course Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 21:52
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    @CrabBucket Exactly. Some of SE creators (can't google for a proof) said that votes is a currency for StackExchange. The best what we can do is vote on whatever we see (and understand enough to vote reasonably). It can be up- or downvote, of course. If you convince more people to vote, received downvotes weren't that frustrating. Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 22:42

I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech. Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

In Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching this training is expanded to

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

In the Pali canon there is also the concept of right speech (samyag-vāc / sammā-vācā):

And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

I would like to suggest that in our corrections we endeavor to "cultivate loving speech and deep listening." This would seem to me to indicate that we should first attempt correction by comment and only if that fails down-vote or flag.

I would prefer that we in the forum cultivate the Three Virtues:

  • Compassion
  • Loving Kindness
  • Equanimity
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    This seems the proper way; down votes cause suffering. The system itself is built to reinforce this. A close is less harmful than a down vote, so in the most egregious cases, a close would be preferred. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 12:41
  • Maybe we could carve a statement over the doorway: "I will not utter words which could cause the community to break." Of course, not everyone perceives this as a community.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:55

I have some experience with moderation on large, busy sites and will offer my experience / advice.

I would suggest downvotes can be used as an opportunity for improvement and are not necessarily intended as some sort of punishment or discouragement.

Part of the puropose of downvotes, at leaset IMO, is to encourage improvement in the quality of answers. When I downvote I try to add a comment as to the reason for the downvote and suggestions for improvement.

If the OP edits the question, I then retract my downvote.

I would also suggest, one alternate to a downvote is to edit the answer.

At the end of the day, moderation is a community effort based on elections of moderators and also one's reputation and IMO the goal of moderation is to improve the quality of answers on this site.

You can not "force" anyone to use downvotes in any particular way without editing the priviliges of this site and it would take a large consensus to do so.

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