I understand how downvotes should work on stack exchange in general, however I have some confusion with their use here. Namely, I don't like that we seem to constantly end up with questions that have 5-10 answers, and half of them have about the same number of upvotes even though they offer contradictory advice.

The reason this bothers me is that most of the questions we answer here don't really have black and white answers. Its not like a programming question where either the supplied answer works, or it doesn't. I feel like I should be able to downvote a question because I think it is bad advice, not simply because it is a terrible answer or formatted poorly.

I could see how this could end up with a lot of answers, none of which have very many total upvotes, but on the other hand it would make it much easier for an OP to see which answers the community strongly agrees upon.

I'm curious to see how everyone else feels about this. Personally, I'm in favor of a more liberal downvoting guideline here, but I will conform to how the community wishes to address this issue.

  • 2
    I also think it's worth pointing out that downvotes really aren't that bad on a person's score. We judge posts on a 1 to 1 scale where an equal number of upvotes and downvotes cancel each other out, but an upvote gives the author +10 points (+5 on questions) whereas a downvote only removes -2. Therefore, it's entirely possible that a highly controversial, negatively scored answer still awards its owner positive reputation. We should definitely take this into consideration when tweaking our voting guidelines and be sure to emphasize this point with new (and current) users.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 1:33
  • 1
    On meta, downvotes mean "I don't agree." If an answer on the main site is more in the nature of advice than a canonical answer, I would think the same metric applies--and therefore deserves a downvote if you vehemently disagree.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 16:44
  • Downvotes can definitely be used in that manner, @CodeGnome. I'll re-emphasize, as I think you said it best: Downvote if you "vehemently disagree". I'm personally not sure I'd downvote something I slightly disagree with or that takes a different approach than I would. However, anything harmful, low quality, or anything that doesn't explain to me personally why it's a good solution is definitely a downvote candidate in my book. Votes are yours to use as you see fit, and I encourage everyone to experiment with downvotes and maybe bring those experiences back to meta. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 17:03
  • Also, for cases where you're not sure, you could consider leaving a comment and challenge the answer. Then you could let the person's response or defense of the answer help you decide what to do.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 17:04

4 Answers 4


When it comes to questions where there are 5-10 answers, this is where it becomes really important for those answers to be supported by facts. If that's not possible, they should at least be supported by experiences that demonstrate how the answer was helpful in the past and how it could apply to the current situation.

When to Downvote:

In general, it may not be a good idea to downvote a well-written answer simply because you disagree with the philosophy, but I'd most certainly encourage downvotes on answers you disagree with that have no explanation as to why it's correct, or if you're fairly certain that the answer would be incorrect or actively harmful in the current context, explanation or not. See I totally disagree with an answer. Should I downvote? for some recent community input on this topic.

From a Top User, David Espina:

If it were my answer and it generated such a disagreement from an esteemed contributor--I mean that sincerely--I'd want to know and would be keenly interested in the counter argument or point of view. This site is about learning, not being right...at least it is for me!

Backing it Up:

In terms of backing up answers, there has been discussion on this topic in Should We Enforce a "Back It Up" Policy In Answers?:

Enforcing the back it up rule is something anyone in our community can do. Comment on answers that don't cite references and challenge them. Ask for references, evidence, or something to support the content included in the answer. If the answer cannot be backed up, use your downvotes as a tool to mark that answer as potentially incorrect. Upvote answers that do cite references and that do support the answer.

I want to emphasize that I don't think this is something moderators can handle alone. This requires full community support to successfully implement. As a moderator and a user on the site, I am by no means an expert in project management, so it's really in the hands of the people with specific domain knowledge to come out and challenge answers that may be harmful by using comments and/or downvotes.


This voting strategy is really just a guideline. Votes are anonymous, unless you decide to leave a comment, and everyone is free to use their votes how they see fit. However, just make sure you're voting on the content, not the people. Stack Exchange really frowns on the latter, and there are tools in place to detect serial voting, whether it be up or down voting. Other than that, your votes are yours to use as you see fit, and I'd be interested to hear more about what you and others in the community think.

  • Thanks, between this post and the link to the previous post I believe you have provided me with all the information I required! Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 21:25

Downvote Incorrect or Unconstructve Questions

Part if the problem with PMSE, especially when compared with sites such as SO, is that the topics are in some measure more subjective--and therefore, the answers will also be more subjective.

While a Perl or Ruby question may have several different (but equally effective) solutions, it generally won't generate 20 different answers because there aren't that many efficient ways to do something in a given programming language.

However, "How do I solve project management problem X?" leads to questions that involve:

  1. Judgments about people.
  2. Judgments about process.
  3. Judgments about choice of framework.
  4. Opinions about root cause analysis.
  5. Opinions about ideal team composition.
  6. Advice about how to solve the problem with framework tools.
  7. Advice about how to solve the problem with software tools.
  8. Advice about how to solve the problem with social or communication skills.

There are probably even more items that belong on the list above, but that's what I could come up with before my morning coffee. The point of the list is that there are so many factors that impact the art of project management that answers are intrinsically less amenable to proof than they are in the harder sciences.

One can prove that program X is faster than program Y, but I would venture to say that most PM answers are necessarily based more on anecdotal experience than scientific research. In fact, many of the books or articles that one might be tempted to use in an "appeal to authority" reference are themselves not rigorous scientific studies, but quite often case studies that attempt to promote a theory of project management through anecdotal evidence.

As a result, I think that you can should really only downvote answers that are factually wrong (e.g. "Scrum certification is sponsored by PMI.") or unconstructive (e.g. "If you fire all your developers, you will have a lower defect rate!").

In the end, I think we just need to accept that project management is a very soft science, much more vulnerable to Parkinson's Law of Triviality than one might wish, and will generally lead to competing viewpoints which may all contain facets of "truth."

  • 1
    I agree with your analysis that PM opinions are mostly made from anecdotal experience… and thus disagree with your advice that we should downvote only what is factually wrong (or idiotic). If we are to do this, we will be keeping the current statu quo that you don't really downvote what you disagree with, and will be in the exact same situation as we are now: I don't downvote but I add my own answer to voice my different concerns.
    – MattiSG
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 17:43
  • 1
    @MattiSG - The question for me is how much disagreement warrants a downvote? One possible approach is to consider whether or not I can defend my downvote if challenged in a comment. If it's something where I can reasonably say "this won't work because of X", then I'll downvote. But if I can't really back it up myself, I'm more hesitant. I think it's safe to say that everyone will use votes slightly different, and I'm interested to see how more downvoting affects our community in a positive, constructive manner.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 18:14
  • @jmort253 Definite agreement on the “can defend if challenged”. I'd be in favor of rephrasing “only downvote answers that are factually wrong” to something along the lines of “only downvote answers against which a factual counter-argument can be made” (which is in keeping with SE’s etiquette of justifying downvotes in comments).
    – MattiSG
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 19:16
  • @MattiSG - We're talking about this in chat right now, if you're interested.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 19:25
  • @MattiSG - I noticed that too. While voting is anonymous, this at least gets the person thinking about why he/she is really downvoting, and I also think it encourages the person to leave a comment, which is really helpful.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 19:30

Downvote Advice-Only Answers with Which You Vehemently Disagree

On meta, downvotes mean "I don't agree." If an answer on the main site is more in the nature of advice than a canonical answer, I would think the same metric applies--and therefore deserves a downvote if you vehemently disagree.

Any good answer will contain some level of advice, since the nature of the site encourages advisory answers, but if the answer is composed of advice without any attempt to provide a canonical answer then treat it as an opinion piece: downvote if you strongly disagree.

Answers that attempt to be canonical and/or factual, however, should definitely receive the benefit of the doubt unless they are demonstrably incorrect or unconstructive.

  • +1 - This makes sense and is very helpful!
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 17:08

Downvote summaries of other questions

…even if they add one or two lines of personal experience to express some preference for one or the other. In that case, add a comment asking for the poster to rather add comments under others' answers to express slight disagreement or, on the contrary, a personal experience that backs it up.

To phrase it as a “rule for answering” that could be used to determine whether a downvoted should be awarded or not:

An answer should be an atomic piece of knowledge that does not rely on other answers to be present alongside to be understood. Just like link-only answers are discouraged: what if some other poster deletes his answer?

This does not preclude references to other questions as a basis for developing a contrary view, or to show support for a different thesis the poster wants to express, but only like references in a bibliography, not like parts of the content.

  • +1 - I typically downvote answers that are incomplete, and I also leave a comment. If/when the post is fixed, I'll remove the downvote if the edit improved the post. Also, I like the part where every answer should stand on it's own.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 18:07

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