A downvote is supposed - metaphorically - to mean that:

  1. The poster did something bad/wrong, and needs to be sent a message to stop doing it

  2. The post is bad and needs to be signalled to the readers to be ignored.

(I'm paraphrasing).

In my opinion, downvoting a question merely because it is duplicate (with caveats listed below) goes against both of those ideas:

  1. If the poster could not realistically (see below) know it's a duplicate, they didn't do anything wrong. Their actions were not wrong and should not be punished even if the content deserves to be closed.

  2. Duplicate questions - if properly identified and closed as dupes - are sometimes/often not really "bad" content. If the question can be worded in more than one way, a dupe is possibly even GOOD content, since it is likely people would be searching for the information in both of these possible ways. It should still be closed so the answers are all in one place, but it shouldn't be marked as "bad" via downvotes.

    And since VTCs as duplicate clearly mark the question as a dupe, there's no need for using downvote mechanism to mark the question as "needs to be ignored".

Main proposal

As such, I would like to propose the following simple guidelines/rules on downvoting a question when the only problem with the question is that it is a duplicate:

  1. If the question is identifiable by StackExchange SFF software as a duplicate when posting (e.g. it shows up in a list of "Questions that may already have your answer" when typing it up; or at the top of "Similar Questions" on the right when composing) - then it's a bad question that you didn't put effort in. Fair game for downvoting on the "no research" grounds.

    EXCEPTION: When OP explicitly notes in the Q or comments that he saw possible duplicate lists, evaluated them and gives good reasons why they were not satisfactory to find the answer. Even if the OP is wrong and they really ARE duplicates, the OP did the research and this should not be penalized merely for being wrong.

  2. If the question is identifiable by obvious search as a duplicate (in other words, you type the subject of the question into Google and an existing SFF.SE question that can reasonably assumed to be a duplicate pops up in top 10 results). Fair game for downvoting.

    EXCEPTION: Same as above. If OP explicitly mentions that they did this, found X, Y and Z questions and were not satisfied, they DID their research and should not be punished by downvoting.

  3. If the question is bad for OTHER reasons that deserve a down-vote, and happens to be a duplicate, you may downvote but please clearly communicate via comments why you are downvoting.

  4. In any other case, do NOT downvote a duplicate question. Either simply vote to close, or if not enough rep, flag for closing, or post a comment linking to the possible dupe.

To re-iterate, merely commenting "this is a duplicate of X" without explaining how X could have been found by original poster should NOT be valid grounds for down-vote.

Just because Slytherincess probably remembers almost every SFF Harry Potter question by heart, it should not be expected of every user.

If the community accepts these rules, I even have a suggestion for a possible enforcement mechanism:

  • If you DV for "no research" but don't leave a comment explaining how the OP could have found the duplicate question (I read that question 6 months ago and remember it is NOT a valid explanation), moderators - assuming they have that power - will be petitioned on meta or flags to remove that downvote.

  • If you DV for "other bad reasons" on a duplicate question, but leave no comment explaining why, it will be assumed to be a previous case and will be also petitioned to have the vote removed.

  • We ask StackExchange to develop a script that deletes all downvotes from a given question (akin to serial downvote reversal one); no matter who cast them; triggerable only by a moderator. Just to be clear - this is not about removing specific user's votes. It's about clearing all of them from a given Q; if meta discussion of it shows that it doesn't deserve downvoting.

    To be crystal clear - "doesn't deserve downvoting" here is not a generic "any question's downvotes can be removed by Meta discussion" but very specifically applicable to downvotes cast on duplicate questions because a large amount of users are not familiar with the guidelines of when a duplicate question should be downvoted - in this case, Slytherincess was not aware of it, and she's not exactly a newbie. So were others. It's a bit of a niche topic, but one that has clear potential to harm and drive away new posters.

  • Downvotes on them matter little. Once closed, they're on their way to being deleted. Once deleted, all negative rep related to downvotes is refunded.
    – user1027
    Aug 22, 2012 at 1:38
  • 2
    First thing that popped into mind: Hi <relatively new user>, I see you've just gained the Downvote privilege! Now please go read this checklist of things to go through to know exactly when to use it.
    – Izkata
    Aug 22, 2012 at 1:54
  • 2
    Please see my comments related to the fact that some duplicates are NOT bad content and should not necesarily be deleted. I don't have a link now but the idea is actually, AFAIR, sourced from either Jeff or Joel's prior post (blog or meta) Aug 22, 2012 at 1:55
  • 3
    I've posted about four dupes and, speaking only for myself, it was because I didn't research whether or not it had been posted before, and I think we all know that's bad form on my end. Man, I even posted a dupe of an original question that I myself gave the correct answer to! slinks back under rock Aug 22, 2012 at 1:55
  • 2
    @Izkata - as noted, I actually had an enforcement mechanism in mind that would work around the (very valid) issue you raised. Just like serial downvoting, undeserved (as per community standards) downvoting should be erasable. Aug 22, 2012 at 1:56
  • @Slytherincess - that one clearly falls under my "fair game" rules. I am concerned with the ones where the user either DID research, or could not reasonably do one that can be demonstrated. Aug 22, 2012 at 1:57
  • @DVK - I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but I do think it would be hard to quantify what constitutes adequate research. :) Aug 22, 2012 at 1:59
  • @Slytherincess - does my 2 step rule in the OP not seem specific enough? Adequate== (1) checked all SE suggestions/related lists when posting; and (2) Typed question title into Google and checked every SFF links on front page. And told people upfront why none of those possibilities are valid. Aug 22, 2012 at 4:13
  • 1
    @Keen - see one; two as examples of what I was referring to in my reply to your comment Aug 22, 2012 at 5:54
  • While some of the solutions presented here may not be possible, the general idea is completely agreeable and putting forth the message that downvoting simply because something is flagged as a duplicate could be discouraged the way Izkata points out above. Downvotes on non-helpful flags aren't refunded and there is another meta discussion that points out that dups aren't deleted so that searches can still re-route to the original. Dec 22, 2013 at 20:34
  • There already are rules for this problem - Close Votes are not Super Downvotes. A question you vote to close is not necessarily a bad question, and a bad question is not one you necessarily vote to close. Low-quality content is separate from close-quality content, and always has been.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 3, 2014 at 20:28
  • I completely agree with the proposed guidelines. However I think they should be just that: guidelines, with no enforcement mechanism.
    – Blackwood
    Jan 30, 2017 at 14:33
  • @Blackwood - Guidelines without enforcement are known as suggestions, which is another word for worthless.
    – Valorum
    Jan 30, 2017 at 16:37
  • 1
    @Valorum I don't think suggestions are useless. There are plenty of people who are grateful for helpful suggestions. This is just a matter of semantics, but I think guidelines are suggestions, but guidelines with enforcement are rules.
    – Blackwood
    Jan 30, 2017 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


Votes are private and it is always, ultimately, up to each person to freely decide whether to upvote or downvote or not vote on each post. The only rule is that your vote about the post and not the user; even that is only enforced in extreme cases (and not by moderators, only developers can do this), since only you can truly know your intent.

It is reasonable to suggest that being a duplicate is not in itself a reason to downvote. Downvotes on questions are supposed to indicate a lack of research, effort, clarity or usefulness; each person decides according to their conscience whether a post is sufficiently lacking to warrant a downvote.

You don't need any insanely complicated rules around votes on duplicates.

Moderators cannot see who downvoted a post and cannot revert any such vote. (Not that we would if we could, but anyway we can't.)

Responding to your edit: no, there will not be a moderator tool or anything like that that removes votes on a post based on a meta discussion. If people disagree with the outcome of the meta discussion, they are still free to vote. A meta discussion can decide whether a question remains open (moderators will enforce the community decision if there is a majority and the question does not violate general Stack Exchange rules), it cannot decide about people's upvotes and downvotes.

  • I edited your answer to remove 100% accurate but useless information on downvote removal issues on a technical level. I added a last paragraph to my proposal to clarify how I intended to address that which makes your objections 100% inapplicable in this case. Please feel free to roll back the edits (or at least edit out my citaton needed - didn't mean to be cheeky but I'm afraid people are upvoting your answer on merits of your "downvotes are anonymous" objection without realizing you haven't explained the main disagreement you have with me on the spirit of the issue) Aug 22, 2012 at 10:49
  • I was assuming that we can ask SE to create a moderator tool - that simply deletes ALL downvotes from a specific question, independently of who cast them. Sorry I wasn't clear on that - of course I'm aware that voting is anonymous. I edited both Q and A to reflect this. Aug 22, 2012 at 10:52
  • Can you please back up yor last 2 paragraphs with some proof or at least reasoning? (1) I don't see how the rules I propose are in ANY way complicated, especially compared to, eg, "GR" graph – please see my last comment to Slytherincess where the rules are condensed to 2 short lines with 3 bullet points. Aug 22, 2012 at 10:54
  • ... (2) I have clear examples where we DO need rules and resolution paths because we have a strong contingent of people on SFF who sees it 100% fitting to downvote a dupe simply for being a dupe and not because they can prove lack of research or any other fault. Sachin's yesterday's harry potter posts being examples, and associated META discussions. I see that as a strong indication that we DO need rules. Aug 22, 2012 at 10:54
  • @DVK The Stack Exchange rules are that people get to decide whether they vote or not on a post, and their choice is private. This is so firmly ingrained that you will not change this. If you want Quora, you know where to find it.
    – user56
    Aug 22, 2012 at 11:22
  • Serial downvote reversal script proves that there are exceptions. I never used quora so I have no idea what you mean. I have absolutely no desire to have NON-private votes, I merely think that in this specific case un-backed-up votes should be erasable - of course, pending meta or chat discussion. I am not sure why all the hostility? Hell, if someone feels strongly enough, they can back up their vote via a moderator flag instead of a comment - I will trust you guys to weigh in on meta with the content - but not the user - of what the presumed "shoudl have seen this" duplicate is. Aug 22, 2012 at 11:32
  • I don't understand why you consider it an unreasonable burden to show proof that "the OP should have realized it was a dupe" - after all, a proof is just a link to Google Search or to "related links" when typing a question. 10 seconds of research on each. On the other side of the balance, you drive away well intentioned and presumably good users willing to post questions. Which users we don't really have enough of, I think. Again, this whole thing does NOT apply if the question is just crappy on top of being a dupe. Aug 22, 2012 at 11:35
  • Just to be clear - nobody is required to back up their downvotes. BUT if after meta discussion the community feels that downvotes aren't deserved, your downvote will be removed. Simple as get go. No great privacy concerns. Again, this is only for dupes; because I feel they get disproportionate amount of undeserved downvotes because some people do not underestand the guidelines for what deserves a downvote and that merely being a dupe is NOT a reason to claim "lack of research". And there are negative consequenses to the site from this musunderstanding in hostile atmosphere for good posters Aug 22, 2012 at 11:40
  • @DVK For your information, the edit you did to my answer is not within the limits of acceptable edits. Never edit an answer in a way that the original author could not have written those words. You have been on Stack Exchange long enough to know better. A fellow moderator from another site actually expressed surprise that I seemingly let you off without even a warning for this. So consider yourself warned.
    – user56
    Aug 31, 2012 at 22:59
  • May be if you bothered answering my question instead of getting upvotes by stating a bunch of straw man true facts not related to it I wouldn't have needed to cut down irrelevant stuff? The very fact that I've been around that long and edited that much should tell you that your answer was bad enough that it prompted such a drastic edit. If it wasn't META I would have flagged this as "not an answer" instead of bothering to edit. Of your answer, literally 80% is NOT applicable to anything I said. I never propose un-anonimising votes, NOR permanently protecting answers from DV. Sep 1, 2012 at 0:15
  • Oh, and most downvotes on my proposal happened AFTER you suggested I proposed what would have indeed been those idiotic ideas (know who downvoted or forever protect the question from DVs) that you so successfully objected to but I never raised. Partly (or mostly) my fault for not having been clearer, but wouldn't have happened without your "help". Sep 1, 2012 at 0:25
  • @DVK Please tone it down. I don't see anything in my answer that indicates that I misunderstood your comments in any way. Now, given the comment velocity here, I'm going to flag it for a fellow moderator to review (and lock it temporarily because none of the other mods seem to be around).
    – user56
    Sep 1, 2012 at 0:55
  • @DVK Start a meta question if you need to discuss moderation and policies with regards to edits. Commenting 6+ times is not the way to discuss issues on this site. Alternatively, you could post a rebuttal against the points in Gilles' answer that you disagree with and argue for your proposal in a separate answer on this question.
    – user1027
    Sep 1, 2012 at 15:01

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