My question is motivated by this answer by a new user: https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/244573/137989. A score of -3 seems like a great way to drive away new users; how did this happen?

Naturally, we start with the Help Center: How do I write a good answer? Did this answer break any of the rules listed here? No. The post did answer the question. It did a poor job of citing its source, but the Help Center says:

Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

This help page seems to be a generic Stack Exchange help page. It does not include advice specific to this site, like: include quotes or links to primary sources. Now we might be getting somewhere. Indeed, the answer also has a similar comment (by Boolean):

Hi Louis Thompson, welcome to the Science Fiction & Fantasy stackexchange! Do you think you could add any quotes to back up what you have said? (This could be a direct extract from the book or a page/chapter reference.)

So is this indeed the reason for the downvotes? And, if so, why is this information not provided before the user posts an answer? I had to specifically search for this information after coming across this answer. I typed a bit into the answer box to see if any helpful messages would appear, but none did.

  • 9
    In general Stack Exchange does a terrible job of on boarding new users. And that's just for the SE format. Things get even worse when you need community/site specific advice and even more so when there's tag specific advice as well.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:39
  • 3
    The downvotes on that answer do seem somewhat justified, though I am not one of the downvoters so only guessing next. There's no evidence in the answer, and answers without evidence are usually in danger of downvotes. On top of that the only but that really answers the titular question is the first paragraph. I haven't read the question body but the rest seems to go off on a tangent that's not really relevant. And then it doesn't add anything to the accepted answer at present and answers do tend to get downvotes if they add nothing new.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:43
  • 4
    Lastly, to answer the titular question: we have some generic help pages (like you linked to) and there are likely even more meta posts out there on the subject. However, I'm not sure there's anywhere that has a full guide/rules on this (outside of some tag specific guidance). What makes an answer good is subjective and can change per work and per type of question. It's usually really more of a you'll know a good answer when you see one and a bad answer when you see it kind of situation.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:46
  • 3
    This is the first I've looked at the post, so I can't comment on downvoters, but it does seem to be a low-quality post. There's only a glancing mention of the answer (with no references) and an extended discussion of something irrelevant, followed by a short (but also irrelevant) dispute about the wording of the question. I think that one of the downvoters could have left some constructive criticism as well/instead, but nobody is required to do so.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:52
  • 2
    FWIW as per this feature/request there is more advice when asking a question and little bit extra for first time askers as well. However, this is assuming anyone reads it in the first place. I'd imagine a lot just close/ignore writing in front of them if it's not really relevant to what they're doing. There's no comparative feature for answering yet (that I'm aware of anyway).
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 15:03
  • I'm to the point where I do not downvote anyone below 0 unless their answer is factually wrong. If an answer is just low quality, I just don't upvote them. The way the UI grays out negatively voted Answers communicates to me that the purpose is to obscure wrong answers--as in telling the reader to realize that said Answer probably isn't correct. If the Answer is correct, I think it should stay unfaded. Higher quality answers will still naturally rise to the top simply from upvotes, so it's not like they'll be the first Answer anyone reads.
    – trlkly
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 2:46
  • @trlkly - Downvoting an answer below zero allows others to cast a delete vote. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see a garbage answer and not be able to mark it for deletion because it's got a random upvote
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 11:49
  • @Valorum I said I only avoid downvoting or upvote a low quality answer when the answer is still factually correct. If your desire is to delete answers that are correct, them that desire should be frustrated. It's a waste of time that could be spent cleaning up spam, bad faith actors, and actual incorrect answers. The harm of a poorly worded correct answer sorted below a higher quality correct answer is minimal. Delete votes should not be used as a super-downvote, but for actually dealing with problems the voting system cannot handle. IMHO, of course.
    – trlkly
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 13:03
  • 1
    @trlkly - The delete button isn't for factually incorrect answers, it's for answers that are (for some reason or other) harmful to the site.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


In this instance, the answer was likely downvoted because it's extremely poor.

Only the first sentence answers the question being asked (e.g. "How did James get the cloak?"), and even then it's just a statement without any evidence to back it up, repeating information that's contained in other, better answers above it.

At this point, and for the rest of the answer, it veers off into a tangent talking about statement that OP made in their question about the cloak wearing out over time. Interesting, but not actually relevant.

To summarise: 90% of the answer should have been a comment or not included at all. The bit that is an actual answer is of very low value and adds nothing that wasn't already in existing answers.

What rules did it fall foul of in the FAQ Guide?

I'd argue that it fell foul of "Answer the question - Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for?".

OP hasn't answered the question with anything that isn't already there, written in a higher value format. Most of their answer doesn't answer the question at all.


In a Harry Potter forum, the readers might be expected to have their own copies of the books, and not require spoonfeeding with specific text quotes

  • 8
    There are over 3000 pages in just the main 7 books. It's not reasonable to expect everyone, even people who have read the series more than once, to remember exactly what was on every one of those pages. Besides, this is not a "Harry Potter forum;" this is a site for all works of science fiction and fantasy and most people will not be fanatical followers of Harry Potter.
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 16:15
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    I strongly doubt that people downvoted for this reason. On SFF:SE, assertions that don't offer any backup (in the form of book quotes, for example) are more likely to get downvoted. We value primary sources above all else.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 19:18

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