Today, I noticed two okay questions, which are quite reasonable student-level questions, and they are downvoted. I understand that there is at least one habitual downvoter who consistently downvotes and rarely writes an answer. That gentleman himself acknowledged this in chat that he downvotes a lot, rather proudly. Is this practice considered okay? Every other question in SE chemistry has a downvote.

My annoyance is that downvoting without commenting simply discourages new users. Most students do not love chemistry at all, and if they see this treatment by the initiated chemists, they will not ask questions again. ResearchGate used to have a downvote option, too, and fortunately, it was removed. I think StackExchange should also mandate leaving a comment whenever someone downvotes.

Question 1: One down vote

I'm a high school student. I noticed $\ce{H+}$ ion is commonly present in my books while I didn't find any presence of $\ce{H-}$ ions in my books. However, I found on internet that $\ce{H-}$ also exists but it is less common. Because Hydrogen has just one electron, it can either receive one electron to be $\ce{H-}$ or omit an electron to be $\ce{H+}$. So, both should have the same possibility to exist. Then, why is $\ce{H+}$ more common than $\ce {H-}$?

The answer to the question might be obvious to most of the users here with their knowledge. But please share a detailed explanation that is suitable for a high school student.

Question 2: Three down votes and closed

I have just started learning salt analysis in inorganic chemistry.In it i came across the names of colors of various precipitates and solutions.Why they have those prefixes like Scarlet Red.I mean isn't the name of color enough. Why it need to be Red litharge and not just red, Prussian blue and not just blue, Crimson Yellow and not just yellow Apple green and not just green. There are numerous other examples.

I wanted to know if there is any decided rules for Nomenclature of such colors or they are just named randomly.

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    $\begingroup$ As a personal comment, I often find such questions interesting because they can force you to think about things you wouldn't ordinarily. However, people have limited time and mental bandwidth, and their response might reflect that. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Aug 2 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ BTW please insert links where possible: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/155501/… $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Aug 2 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ BTW after posting my answer I looked more closely at your question and realized that it is actually a feature request as you would like to modify the site. I think Martin's answer addresses this. I am not at present in a position to answer the question of whether such a change as you suggest could be implemented if only at chem SE (but am asking around). $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Aug 2 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Mandates are difficult to institute without a programmatic way to trigger this. Think about it from a software point of view. You should probably go to the SE meta site if you are really keen on this. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Aug 2 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @BuckThorn, You are right "However, people have limited time and mental bandwidth." and this is my point. If one does not know the answer, or one do not wish to answer then move on (there is no need to spit on the questioner to vent one's anger). In my opinion both questions are reasonable. People talk here about low level questions. How many high quality PhD level questions get answered? $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 2 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Down vote of decent questions without an explanation is rather "intellectual phoniness.” $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 2 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Downvotes are somehow psychologically not quite the opposite of upvotes, I agree, and the way votes are issued doesn't seem entirely fair. Rep certainly counts. However others might have a different opinion regarding the meaning of "decent". I think that is a difficult point to unravel. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    Aug 2 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Reasoning or commenting before downvoting $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Aug 3 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ Receiving down votes after getting > 10 reps and acceptance by the OP is a bit disconcerting. Perhaps such voters should provide justifications. $\endgroup$
    – user55119
    Aug 17 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ If naming names wasn't deemed inappropriate, I'd have asked you to publicly announce the name of this gentleman and many of us could go ahead and downvote his questions, to show how it feels to the receiver. If the person doesn't have too many rep, mass downvoting could probably bring his rep to <10 and a part of the problem would be solved :) $\endgroup$
    – TRC
    Sep 27 at 5:56

Voting is subjective.

  • Up: This question shows research effort, it is useful and clear
  • Down: This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Everybody using this site has to interpret this by themselves, they have to make this decision. This site is designed in a way that the hive mind will raise good questions above others.

If the voting habits of a user are targeted towards content, then that is the intended way to use it.
If there is targeted voting towards a user, then we (the moderator team and its tools) most likely will notice that. This behaviour is not in accordance with the code of conduct, and hence not permissible.

There is a vague description about what is the target audience in the tour. This also gives every user the leeway to judge whether the question is appropriate for their understood primary target group.

From my personal point of view, I think both down-votes are justified.

For me the intended target group of this site is at the earliest a first-year university (or similar) student.

For the first question you quote you can probably use any general chemistry textbook and find a better answer than what should be offered on this site. SE basically operates within the gaps of the existing (and openly available) knowledge.

The second question shows no prior research and it is lazily typed. The answer is quite obvious when browsing through Wikipedia. I am also quite confident that some of the examples are mentioned in general chemistry textbooks.

There have been numerous attempts to introduce the forced down-vote comment, too many failed attempts to count them, too many to justify linking to any one of them. Browse this meta site and the main meta site to review why this was never introduced and why this would destroy Stack Exchange.

And don't even get me started on Research Gate …

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    $\begingroup$ Martin, you missed my point. I also down vote when the question is very bad! What if someone is habitually doing it? And joke of the century is that someone down voted this post too :-) I don't care about down votes, the only point is that one should not shoo away new users, especially if they begging that they are new to science. If anonymous down voting makes anyone happy, let it be that way. At least I contributed to their happiness. $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 1 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ Someone told me an interesting approach while setting a exam paper. He used to ask himself, "Could I solve this question if I were in this class?" If the answer is no, this question is not perhaps not justified. Yes, we are adults, and most of them are yound /old PhDs. Now we think that they can search this place or that place. The point is could we, if we were 15 year old, search the answers? Proper literature search in chemistry is not taught until one reaches the last years of undergraduate or fresh PhD classes. $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 1 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @M.Farooq If I missed your point, then you probably missed mine. I would have down voted the examples, if I'd seen them. I do not think they are appropriate for this site. This shows how different our views are, and probably also how different our understanding of this site is. And since there are plenty of opinions between us, the voting system is a somewhat democratic tool to equalise the playing field. And yes, proper literature is not that to 15 year olds, but these hardly ever take university level classes. (Votes on meta usually signify agreement or disagreement; no joke at all.) $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ What about clarifying the rules for new users? For example, if a new first time user is about to ask a question a pop-up should can clarify that SE Chem Q&A will not entertain homework questions without any effort, or other similar items like that. They should not be able to post unless they have read it. Just a suggestion. I am not a ResearchGate fan either. They just have flag, or upvote option and they removed the anonymous downvote because it was doing no service. And what is the purpose of votes anyway? Up or down, what was the purpose to begin with? $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 6 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ @M.Farooq The general idea of Stack Exchange is to have the lowest possible energy barrier. That is also why you can still ignore most of the notices that are supposed to help you, including the tour, and the new question interface. Except for very few things (like tagging here with chemistry) you can and should be able to post your question. You can also do that entirely anonymous, which is a feat not many places provide; and we're still maintaining a good level of quality with minimum rudeness, spam and other 'internet stuff'. $\endgroup$ Aug 6 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, overall it is a pretty useful site. $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 6 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ And if you want a pop-up, asking the user to confirm they have read the 'rules', then please ask yourself whether you have accepted license agreements and terms of service that you have not read. This would only lead to more frustration, and no improvement. This discussion is not new at all. There is plenty of it on the main meta. I encourage you to look for it. And if you then still think this is a good idea, you need to take the discussion there again. At our end there is nothing we can do to change this situation. @M.Farooq $\endgroup$ Aug 6 at 0:50

There are two layers to this problem. The first layer is based on individual actions: is it OK for any single person to continually downvote posts?

The answer is that habitual downvoting is not against the rules, as has already been explained, so there is no real action to be taken here. However, I will agree that consistent downvoting is highly unconstructive, and that other people on this platform have contributed in a much more positive and meaningful way.

What can be done about this? The obvious answer is that votes are a collective response. Everybody is given one vote which they can use. If somebody downvotes it, that's fine. If the question is genuinely good, then it will garner more upvotes.

In a democratic election, you don't aim to win 100% of the votes. You aim to win more than 50% of the votes. The same thing is true here. If the question is "good enough" (as deemed by the community), then the net score will be positive.

The second layer of the problem is at the community level. What happens when on balance, the votes turn out negative?

Consistently seeing questions being downvoted indicates that there is a disconnect between the people asking questions and the people judging questions. It is not worrying that the community, on balance, downvotes questions they don't like. It is far more worrying that Chemistry, as a site, attracts so many questions which are deemed worthy of downvotes.

This has already been mentioned, but a huge part of the problem is the question of whom the site should be targeted towards. This is something which, in my opinion, cannot be easily reconciled. That's also why in the last moderator election I submitted a pointed question on this exact topic. However, I am afraid I don't have any ideas on what to do about this, if anything.

As for forcing downvotes to be accompanied by comments, I do not really want to repeat myself and others' words, but this will never happen. It is not because SE has never thought of your points. Your post doesn't bring any new arguments to the table, that have not already been argued many, many times before. On balance, the decision is that this will not happen. And from a 'local' perspective, there is no way we can enforce this on Chemistry, without the entire Stack Exchange network being changed in order to accommodate this.

  • $\begingroup$ You have stated the gist of the problem "consistent downvoting is highly unconstructive" and that is all I wanted to highlight. This "problem" is quite negligible in other groups such as Physics, Signal Processing, Math Overflow and even Math (which gets a lot of homework questions). It is obvious Chem.SE has this excessive problem. $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 2 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, that part is referring specifically to any single person's pattern of voting. This "problem" of yours probably goes beyond one single individual, though. To be honest, I don't consider the problem to be the downvotes themselves. That's quite a superficial way of looking at things. I consider it a far bigger problem that Chemistry attracts so many questions which are considered, by different members of the community (i.e. more than one person), to be worthy of downvotes. There is a disconnect somewhere. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Aug 3 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ Basically: if all you wanted is for me to agree with you that it's not constructive, then I agree, and we can all happily move on. But if you're interested in actual solutions... I think that there is rather more soul-searching required. See also my edit. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Aug 3 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is a sad thing that there are pretty low quality questions in chemistry (for which I won't comment on the poor quality of teachers worldwide). My annoyance is associated with the even "decent" questions receive down votes like the examples. I cannot quantify decency, for me it is something which a student can ask in a classroom. I showed some examples above. By reading all three "answers", it seems there is no decent solution of habitual down voters, and at least I know there is one persistent pest who keeps on doing that. $\endgroup$
    – M. Farooq
    Aug 3 at 1:11

Individual visitors are allowed to vote according to what they personally regard as desirable and helpful questions. There are at present no rules that argue that individuals should preferably up- rather than downvote, although past posts have suggested that upvoting (and voting generally) should be encouraged.

As already answered there are mechanisms that should catch downvoting which targets individuals rather than posts (content) through repeated downvoting. There are site algorithms meant to pick up biased voting (either for or against an individual). Moderators do not usually monitor cumulative downvoting. Moderators do not censor individual users unless their behavior breaks rules. Moderators might comment if the behavior of a user is deemed unfriendly (for instance by flags).

Regarding the purpose of votes, the site guidelines state that

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. The more that people vote on a post, the more certain future visitors can be of the quality of information contained within that post – not to mention that upvotes are a great way to thank the author of a good post for the time and effort put into writing it!

Beyond that, the site has stated rules regarding what are acceptable questions. For instance questions which are off-topic:

  • Do-my-homework questions: Homework questions are OK, but they must follow these guidelines. Please don't ask "do my homework for me" type questions – we only clear conceptual doubts in homework questions and will not do your work for you.
  • Pitches for your own personal theories or work: We deal with mainstream chemistry here. Anything that couldn't be published in a reputable journal is probably not appropriate at this site.
  • Computational questions: If your question is purely about numerical methods you are using in a simulation/etc, it is probably more appropriate at Computational Science.
  • Personal medical questions are off-topic. We cannot safely answer questions for your specific situation and you should always consult a doctor for medical advice.
  • Legal questions relating to chemical substances and techniques are off-topic. Laws can vary significantly by jurisdiction. You should consult a legal expert in your jurisdiction instead of a random person on the internet.

This is followed by the following statement:

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before.

Additional comments:

(1) Some new visitors don't know how to use the site. Other users are welcomed to comment in order to assist new users regarding how to use the site, in case the poster overlooked the help pages which includes a site tour.

(2) Homework questions are expected to reveal some effort to understand underlying concepts.

(3) If a question is a duplicate then according to the rules of the site it should be closed as a duplicate. Duplicate questions are frowned upon.

(4) Learning requires perseverance and the resources available to students these days boggles the mind. Internet search engines will generally help you find answers if you try hard enough. There are plenty of alternative sites where you can post basic questions. If you found this site you should be able to find the answer to your question or something closely related, provided it exists.

Finally, consider an analogy: if a group of students shows up at a seminar and starts asking extremely basic questions, what should the response be? This has nothing to do with a lack of empathy but rather is a question about who should be the target audience.


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