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According to the Help Center:

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

Logically, if upvoting signals (among other things) that a post is interesting, and downvoting signals the opoposite, then uninteresting or boring posts should be downvoted, although that is not mentioned explicitly as a reason for downvoting.

Of course I don't downvote all the uninteresting questions I see; I wouldn't have time for that, even if I had an unlimited number of downvotes to bestow. But sometimes I will downvote an outstandingly unmotivated, uninteresting, or boring question, regardless of how well-researched or well-formatted it may be. Is this wrong?

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    I'm not sure I agree that this is a necessarily implication. For example, if an employee does very well, I may give them a bonus. But the proper response to an employee performing poorly is generally not to deduct money from their salary. – Adamant Jul 16 '16 at 2:27
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    Well, I'm not one to go starting arguments on the Interwebs, but I think that downvoting a post because you don't find it interesting is a destructive, evil, morally reprehensible, anti-intellectual, self-centered, close-minded, anti-social behavior that should be disallowed. – Hack-R Jul 18 '16 at 1:30
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    I have trouble with the fact that you admit you "wouldn't have time" to downvote all the questions that apparently bore you but "sometimes" you go ahead and make such downvotes. If you can't apply something consistently, it might be better not to do it all. Beyond this, I struggle to see the value of downvoting in anything other than especially egregious cases. More often than not, refraining from upvoting sends the same message as downvoting but without the negativity and trauma. – Praxis Jul 18 '16 at 14:36
  • @Hack-R It is impossible to "disallow" such DVs, though. – Null Jul 18 '16 at 15:13
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    Is it OK? Yes (in that you can't vote however you want. Is it helpful or recommended? Not necessarily. :) – RedCaio Jul 18 '16 at 20:56
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Yes, Absolutely, Without Reserve.

First of all, at the risk of repeating myself:

Users Should Downvote However They Want

Downvoting on Stack Exchange is anonymous for a reason. As long as a user is not abusively downvoting (that is, they are targeting a specific user, and not the questions themselves), SE has always quite openly asserted that users can downvote whatever and whenever and whyever they want.

The Help Center gives reasons why you might want to downvote, or why most people downvote, or what downvotes were invented for. But those are always just that: guidelines. (If we're going to start demanding everyone follow the guidelines to the letter, I have some scope and tagging discussions we can revisit...)

In the end, trying to tell users how to downvote is always wrong.

Secondly, though,

Votes Are How We Encourage Questions We Like

If I see a question that is so uninteresting that I think it devalues the site just existing, of course I'm going to downvote it. I, as one single user with one single vote on SF/F, am entirely within my rights to do that. It means I don't want you asking these stupid questions anymore.

If I'm the only one who feels that way, then the system registers my -2 rep points and everyone else moves on with life. If dozens of regular users feel that way, though, the OP gets a pretty strong signal that the community doesn't like these kinds of questions, and hopefully, stops asking them here.

That's exactly how a community-moderated site is supposed to work, and it's why votes exist. We upvote questions if we want to see more questions like it. We downvote questions if we want to see fewer questions like it. Whether that means it's well written, or detailed, or interesting, or even if that means "I hate that movie, stop asking about it here", whatever you define as "good" and "not good", that's how you vote.

  • Anything goes as long as I'm targeting the questions, not the users. But what if one user persists in asking questions that I despise, and I keep voting them down, maybe without even noticing it's the same user? I could get nailed for serial downvoting, right? I guess that's all right, AFAIK the only "punishment" is that my downvotes are nullified? – user14111 Jul 16 '16 at 14:10
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    well, if you consistently downvote abusively, eventually I believe someone will take notice and a human might step in. But in general, that is true, the "punishment" is your votes are reversed. And the algorithm is secret, but my understanding is that it involves lots of downvotes against one user in a "short" timespan with few other downvotes in between. So unless that one user asked tons of bad questions all at once, it shouldn't even trigger the reversal. – KutuluMike Jul 16 '16 at 14:31
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    @user14111 - When I was a mod, I recall looking over the vote-counts of several users. It was noticeable that they consistently downvoted certain users. On closer inspection, it became apparent that those downvoted users would ask certain types of question regularly and that the downvoting users in question would also downvote anyone else who asked that style of question. That behaviour was deemed acceptable, as long as they didn't go on a spree. – Valorum Jul 16 '16 at 15:29
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    @user14111 That is the case for me. there are a couple of users who regularly ask/asked questions I found to be of low quality and worthy of a downvote. But, as a habit, I rarely look at the OP before reading a post and voting. It has nothing to do with the user, and all about their consistent (lack of) quality.. – phantom42 Jul 16 '16 at 16:59
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    The problem with this approach is that a small clique of 4-5 like-minded grumpy users have the ability to shut down any questions THEY PERSONALLY find uninteresting that other people might enjoy (but not enjoy enough to bother upvoting, as for many users upvotes are reserved for truly great posts). Imagine if there was a ring of 7 people who hated Story-ID questions and thus almost every Story-ID question gathered 5 downvotes because to those users they are "uninteresting"? Only truly outstanding rare ID questions would survive that. Do you think the site would benefit from that? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 16 '16 at 21:58
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    downvoting a question cannot "shut down" anything. If 5 people think a question is bad and two people think it is good, that's a net zero. If you can't even find 2 other people who like your question, it probably really does suck. – KutuluMike Jul 16 '16 at 22:13
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    @Valorum WHAT? Moderators can tell who is is voting what? – user14111 Jul 17 '16 at 7:11
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    @user14111 - No, but they can see that user X has cast 100 downvotes for user Y and 100 up votes for user Z. It's one of the tools that supposed to help identify sockpuppets, voting rings and serial downvoters. – Valorum Jul 17 '16 at 8:43
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    @DVK-in-exile I could be wrong but I suspect most of the people who come here to find the title of a story couldn't care less about reputation points/ – user14111 Jul 17 '16 at 20:31
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    -1 There's a huge difference between "Users are free to downvote however they want" (true) and "Let's encourage/not discourage drive-by downvoting based on random whims" (damaging). Free speech may guarantee my right to walk down the street shouting "CLOWNS!" at strangers, but it doesn't stop it being a really bad idea. It definitely doesn't stop others from suggesting I choose a better hobby. Encouraging pro-social voting is not the same as telling people how to vote. "If the most compelling defence of your position is that it's not illegal..." – user568458 Jul 19 '16 at 16:52
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    @user14111 Compared to Movies and TV, SFF is blessed with relatively high quality ID questions. – Kosmos Jul 19 '16 at 18:05
  • @KutuluMike so a question with 4 downvotes and 3 upvotes actually sucks? I don't think so. Uninteresting topic for "some" is different from a question that "sucks". – Invoker Nov 4 '17 at 22:20
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It is allowed, but probably not to be encouraged

Outside of certain prohibited voting patterns (for example, those that target certain users), people may use downvotes however they choose.

On the other hand, there are certain guidelines for upvotes and downvotes, as conveyed in the Help Center and tooltip.

As noted in your question, the Help Center indicates that:

...voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

The clause after the colon clearly is meant to delineate good criteria for downvotes. Note that "uninteresting" is not among them.

By comparison, the downvote tooltip says:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

The first two of these are unrelated to anyone's interest in a question. The last is, but I think we should be careful in interpreting "not useful" as "not useful to me." There are many questions on this site with very narrow appeal, which I think should not be summarily downvoted. Conversely, there are some very popular works which some people hate with a burning passion, which is also probably a poor reason for downvoting.

So: If the question is not useful to people with an interest in the general topic, downvote. If it is merely not interesting because the general topic is boring, don't.

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    As this is a community moderated site, the "to me" part of voting is important. If enough people feel the same way, it can guide site policy and help define topics. By your reasoning the converse can be true as well; just because "you" find something interesting/useful it still may be a narrow appeal, and that would not be enough reason to up-vote... – Skooba Jul 18 '16 at 13:04
  • The "to me" is implied, I think. – DCShannon Jul 20 '16 at 23:15
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    @Skooba But there is an inherent asymmetry. "At least one person finds this interesting" implies a question has at least a small amount of value. "At least one person finds this uninteresting" does not imply that a question has no value, and does not cancel out the value from another person finding it interesting. If 50 people found a Harry Potter question interesting, but 100 people don't care about Harry Potter, those 100 people don't negate the fact 50 people found the question interesting, and they don't cancel out its value. – user568458 Jul 25 '16 at 11:24
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    @user568458, you are correct, and to emphasize that point: It is possible to block certain tags so you never see questions which have that tag, but it is not possible, by merely "favorite-ing" a tag, to see questions which have been downvoted to the point of deletion. – Wildcard Jul 25 '16 at 11:59
  • @Adamant I can see your point. Downvoting a question just because you find it uninteresting is soooo unfair. Some people might like it. This kind of downvoting attitude is unlawful knowing that posts with low votes actually go down to the bottom of the page. As a result, only high-scoring questions are featured. And that's why the interest of other users to a specific question are like disregarded. – Invoker Nov 4 '17 at 22:17

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