Firstly, this is very relevant. This is also related.

Due to the launch of the new Star Wars movie we have an influx of newcomers. There are many posts from 1 rep users offering answers of varying quality.

Some of them has no idea what scifi SE is about. For example, answering to Why did Luke call the lightsaber by a different name?, one answer was

It's just a story. One of the script writers decided to call it a Laser Sword and they decided to keep it. Maybe there is no deep meaning.

Currently it has -2 overall points. An answer to Why did Vader need to freeze Luke in carbonite?

I just have one problem with this entire thing. They are acts like he doesn't already knows if it's possible. But in the Star Wars the Clone Wars animated series there was an episode where Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker with a batch of clones were frozen in carbonite in order to sneak past a separatist scanner that could pick up life readings. After their Droid I think it was R2 brought them back to Consciousness they then broke two prisoners one of whom is Tarkin out of the prison in order to get them offworld to secure hyperspace Lanes or something like that. Now I don't remember if everything in Clone Wars the long-running animated series is canon but if it was you would think later would not be playing so aloof. Or more likely Vader remembered how much it hurt was still angry at Han Solo and decided that putting him through that discomfort when not only remove him from the equation of being able to rescues Luke this time but the same time as small bit of Revenge for having had his tail shut off at the Death Star

a forum-like answer, which may serve as a good comment but not as an answer, currently has -1 points.

This made me remember one of my earliest contributions to here, to the question http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/102669/why-did-leia-give-the-stolen-version-of-the-death-star-plans-to-r2-d2-instead-of/, my answer was

Not all data can be copied. It may be in quantum bits. Quantum bits (qubits) cannot be copied. No cloning theorem came in 1982, but a good sci-fi movie anticipates future developments in science. Maybe they guessed such a data structure will be available in the future.

My answer has -4 points right now. After all this introduction, my question is

Should we downvote contributions from new users who do not know how SE works, let alone scifi SE?

My standing is No, because

  • Reputation system is more useful for people who knows about privilege system as well and new users cannot possibly know both of the systems.

  • Having a downvote to their first contribution may feel like scifi SE has a hostile environment. It actually has a hostile environment, but the new users do not have to learn this as the first thing about this community.

If we want this community to grow, I am not sure many contributors have the same vision as I do, we should be more welcoming to new users until they learn how scifi SE and SE in general operate. As a result, I never downvote a bad answer by a new user, and I try to upvote anything from a new user if it resembles some sort of an acceptable answer, even if it is of low quality.

  • 1
    I have less problem with the downvote if accompanied by an explanatory comment which gives the new user the chance to improve their answer...
    – user68762
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 17:33
  • @Morrigan actually the related link at the beginning suggests no welcome post at all, so at the end, new users are left with a download and no explanation.
    – user65648
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 17:37
  • 1
    You could recommend to users to try and leave a comment with suggestions and when possible retract their DV if the answer was improved instead of not downvoting.
    – user68762
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 17:44
  • 6
    Because Rule #33 applies. Don't jump in headfirst, lurk a little first.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 20:12
  • @C.Koca whatever they downloaded I hope it’s not get any malware
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 8:19
  • 1
    Notice that your first answer is still not a good answer and still has a negative score and you are still a user here. So you are proof that merely getting downvotes does not necessarily drive new users away. Second, you are proof that we should vote on the content, since if your content is still bad when you're not a new user, then it should still have a negative score. Third, why don't you go back and edit or delete your bad answer? No reason why you can't. Now that you know how things work. Improving the existing content is one of the whole points of the SE system. Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


The whole point of the voting system is to identify good and bad contributions. Good contributions should be upvoted and bad ones should be downvoted, regardless of whether they're from new users or more experienced users.

It's fine to go looking for good contributions from new users to upvote, but giving them a "free pass" on off-topic or otherwise bad posts will tend to encourage more bad posts.

Your two examples of other peoples' anwers that received downvotes are actually excellent examples of the SE system working very well - both of those answers look bad to me, but instead of just a couple downvotes, there are constructive comments on what's wrong with them that the user could learn from.

  • Thank you for your answer. I agree that they, including my answer, are not quality answers but downvotes on new users is like negative feedback on cats: They do not know how to comprehend them. The best you can hope for is them getting scared of you and the worst is that they will simply walk away.
    – user65648
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 16:39
  • 7
    @C.Koca I'm not convinced that having users walk away, users who can't be bothered to look at how the site works, or read the tour, is "the worst". People will get downvoted, and if they care they'll either 1) complain 2) leave 3) look at what they need to do to improve. I'm only concerned about people in group 3.
    – user31178
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 17:33
  • Although I still believe there is no point of showing the stick before telling them there is a carrot somewhere, the community obviously wants to chastise the newcomers using the same standards as the veterans. This will probably result in an inbred society with few newcomers and I see many signs of it in this community. Nonetheless, if this is the will of the community, I will abide by it.
    – user65648
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 22:29
  • 1
    @C.Koca - It's not hard for new users to see the kind of quality of answer that gets a positive response. Both answers you've posted as examples of the community being beastly are quite literally the worst answers on those questions.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 23:04
  • @Valorum These extra low quality answers will definitely not get any upvotes, so the bad answers will be weeded out anyway. If the main point of downvotes is to distinguish good and bad answers, we do not need them for the low quality 1 rep user contributions.
    – user65648
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 23:10
  • 1
    @C.Koca - Downvotes indicate disapproval. Note that I've (as usual) made some effort to explain my downvotes, despite that making me the site's lightning magnet for complaints.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 23:40
  • @Valorum I actually got my very first downvote from you and looking back, I know that deserved it. I sometimes wonder if I would feel something similar for the way you act in closing questions. But in the top example in this post, there was no comment, just downvotes. I offered the first explanation, which was later followed by yours.
    – user65648
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 23:47
  • @C.Koca - I can only hope that by explaining why I don't like certain answers, that it "rubs off" on people. Certainly your questions have dramatically improved since you joined. Your answers are still a little hit'n'miss but they're improving.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 23:55
  • @C.Koca If I’m getting in trouble for holding “veterans” to different standards than newcomers when it comes to questions than I sure as hell am not holding different standards for answers. I’ve left a comment on almost 2000 first posts in the past 12 months. If they care to improve they will, most don’t, they’re not positive contributors to the site and are not needed
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 8:26

It's possible to downvote without being unwelcoming.

The motive behind your question is a good one, but your suggested solution is wrong. We should be welcoming to new users, yes, but not at the expense of sacrificing quality. Bad answers should always be downvoted, and non-answers should always be deleted, regardless of who posted them. The Stack Exchange system only works because we're strict about quality control. If we allow people to post bad content just because we feel sorry for them, then this site would become more like just any internet forum. But we can explain that to them without making them feel unwelcome. When I delete a non-answer from a new user, I often leave a comment something along the following lines:

Welcome to Stack Exchange! Unfortunately this doesn't really answer the question being asked (did Yoda kill Dumbledore?), so I'm afraid it'll have to be removed. FYI, this site isn't a standard discussion forum: answers here are expected to actually answer the question, rather than just being relevant commentary. Please take our tour to find out more. I hope you stick around and ask or answer some more questions here! :-)

Regardless of the details, the point is to explain the community standards, nicely. People who are willing to put in the effort to conform to those standards will stick around, post more, and end up being valuable contributors. People who can't be bothered to stick to basic standards like actually answering the question asked ... probably wouldn't have been valuable contributors anyway. The SE system isn't for everyone. If instead we let new users get away with posting non-answers, then they could just keep on doing so until the site was overrun with dross.

The balancing problem of how to both maintain quality and be welcoming is one that's plagued the SE system for years (see here for a start). There's probably no simple solution to it, but "not downvoting new users" certainly isn't a workable one.


I think you're confusing Low Quality (deletable) answers with good answers. Let's take your example

It's just a story. One of the script writers decided to call it a Laser Sword and they decided to keep it. Maybe there is no deep meaning.

Now, this is an attempt to answer. It's not necessarily Low Quality (although I would be tempted to delete it). But it's far from a good answer. It makes a supposition without any supporting points and then dismisses the question. Nobody would accept that as an answer. And when you compare these answers to other, high quality answers, it pales by comparison.

This is what downvotes are for

As noted on Meta.SE in Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

But the fact remains, the up/down vote system is the core of how we get the "good stuff" up and the "bad stuff" down. It is not designed to be a personal attack against the users in question.

While we don't need to dogpile on poor answers, the fact remains that these bad answers don't deserve any standing. Worse is that new users (speaking from experience on SO) tend to be recalcitrant to being taught how to make their answers better. Once you hit 10k and can see deleted answers, it will make more sense, because many of these questions are filled with deleted bad answers, where commenters tried to save them from themselves.

  • 1
    The first example is a meta answer. We've decided (as a community) that those sorts of answers aren't appropriate. They're belittling and not a little smug
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 20:23

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