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This is a draft of a post I'm planning to make over on the main SO meta. Fleshing it out here and looking for feedback because, even though I've been here for over 3 years, being downvoted into oblivion wouldn't feel good.

I'm not really sure if there's any great way to handle things like this, but based on Adrian's suggestion I'm trying to split this out between the question (describing what I'm looking for) and answer(s) (persistent draft(s) for general formatting/content, and concrete suggestions that wouldn't fit well as a comment).

My plan here is to make this a spin on the "sandbox" on codegolf.stackexchange.com.

I'll accept the current revision of the draft to keep it pinned to the top of the answers, and major revisions will see a new "answer" that becomes accepted.

What I'm asking from you, the viewers at home/work

If there are minor corrections that should be made to grammar, sentence construction, or if you've found another meta question on SO that you think should be considered/addressed in the meta post I'll be making, make a comment on the currently accepted answer.

If there are major changes that you'd like to suggest (like a change in the tone of a section, a change to the feature request I'll end up making, a change in the general strategy/tack/approach used to present this idea to SO's meta, etc...), then please contribute a new answer instead of a comment. Also please include the version number of the current accepted answer in bold, at the top of your answer

  • Did someone drive-by-downvote this as some sort of oddball irony? – David Reed Jan 26 at 3:21
  • @DavidReed Not that I've seen, though it is harder to tell here in meta. That would be some delicious irony though. – Derek F Jan 26 at 3:43
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    It was at -1, which I did think was kind of funny, but I +1'ed because it wasn't that funny. – David Reed Jan 26 at 13:08
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    Yep it's at +1/-1. I think someone has decided to downvote every post in meta or something, because I've noticed some of my posts getting the same treatment. – Adrian Larson Jan 26 at 16:30
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    That said, the format here is still supposed to be question and answer. I think this post would be much more useful to the community if you split out what you are asking into the question, and lay out your answer below. Then if other people have other answers to add it will make more sense. – Adrian Larson Jan 26 at 16:31
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    SO user and other SE sites lurker here... since you mentioned this is going to be posted on Meta SO, it seemed you missed some discussions on welcoming tag, especially Can we make it more obvious to new users that downvotes on the main site are not insults and in fact can help them help themselves? – Andrew T. Jan 26 at 17:49
  • @AndrewT. Thanks for dropping by. Taking some extra time to read more through that welcoming tag, and will probably change my tack because of it. – Derek F Jan 28 at 21:15
  • @AdrianLarson Gotta love it when things straddle boundaries. I'm not sure if breaking this into a (short) question + long, iterated answer with other answers contributing would be much clearer (though it probably would be closer to the SO/SE format). Maybe I could accept my draft as an answer to pin it to the top to help out with that... Man, where's meta.salesforce.meta.stackexchange.com when you need it? – Derek F Jan 28 at 21:26
  • I mean, asking how to best do things on Meta is a totally appropriate topic for Meta. That said, I think it's pretty clear cut here. As written, it's pretty awkward for anyone else to post an answer here. Then again, I'm highly opinionated and far from always right. – Adrian Larson Jan 28 at 21:27
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    Heya, SF.SE :) Teeny note, if you're going to take this to meta, go to Meta Stack Exchange not Meta Stack Overflow. It definitely looks like a discussion, not a feature request right now, since you're talking about a general problem that you're looking to solve and want some help coming up with the right feature to ask for. It looks like you've done a lot of research, so hopefully you'll get upvoted but... sadly... that may not happen. There tends to be a general distrust of people trying to solve downvotes on MSE, that leads to ... downvotes. :/ This is a good discussion to have, though, so take heart. – Catija Jan 30 at 5:06
  • I like the idea, it can take years for this to be delivered. What If we see a post from new user downvoted, can we edit to improve quality and upvote it to make a first good impression. It should be for new user only. – Pranay Jaiswal Jan 31 at 14:28
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Draft V1

This started out as a discussion over in salesforce.meta.stackexchange (SFSE for short from here on), where I'm the most active.

The general idea

Downvoting, and its prominence on questions & answers, is a tool of the utmost import.

No matter how much you may think that being downvoted shouldn't make you feel bad or be taken personally, there are people who will feel bad or take it personally.

I feel that this is even more likely to be the case for new users.

Instead of discouraging people from downvoting new users (though I think I'll always exercise greater restraint with new users), what if there were a way to turn a downvote into an opportunity for more engagement?

Things like downvoting, voting to close, and voting to delete low-quality questions/answers are very fire & forget (or set it & forget it, if you have a fondness for a particular USA infomercial). Once you take that action, unless you bookmark the question or keep it open in a tab, chances are pretty slim that you'll ever come back to it.

How can we improve the outcomes of downvotes (with an emphasis on new users)?
The goals here are:

  • help ease new users into what's still an intimidating landscape
  • increase the net score for new users
  • overall increase the number of new users that become long-time contributors.

Possible implementations / Prior Research

  1. One of the most interesting ideas I came across in seeing whether or not there was already something to tackle this issue was the mentorship experiment. Based on what I've found in meta from the DAG team, this idea seems to have fallen by the wayside. I'm not sure if SFSE (or other SE sites) would have enough active, knowledgeable people to make this work well
  2. Push a notification to downvoters of a question when the author makes an edit
  3. Allow users to opt-in to receive notifications after certain actions (leaving a comment, voting to close, voting to delete, some combination thereof) when an edit, comment, or maybe both are made. Notifications could be triggered by author edits/comments.

From the research I did prior to posting this question... This appears to have been asked before in 2009 with a very positive receiption. It was declined back then, but as some of the more recent comments/answers have suggested, perhaps it's time to reconsider in the wake of https://stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/stack-overflow-isnt-very-welcoming-its-time-for-that-to-change/

Automatically removing downvotes is not a popular solution.

Tweaking the reopen system was previously suggested but, again, the proposition of automatically undoing downvotes is not popular.

Based on Letting receivers of downvotes ask why they got it, automatic, non opt-in notification is problematic. Maybe the problematic bit here is that this would have been based on what the OP wants to have done (with the implication that everyone would question downvotes) vs handing more control to the downvoters.

Mandating comments to accompany downvotes is a non-starter because it makes an already (comparatively) rare action harder to perform.

(link to some study I remember about how people feel bad about negative messages being sent, and how making the negative option more neutral led to more use of the negative option)

Possible outcomes and side effects

More opportunity for engagement

If people stop engaging on a post, the game is over.

Keeping people engaged can lead to more people becoming long-term contributors, which is important for the long-term health of a stack exchange network site.

Discover, and retain, more people who could become valuable contributors

There are people and posts that fall through the cracks. This could be a good way to address issues of "this post has potential, but needs some tweaking".

I don't know if there would be many other good options to address these posts and try to improve quality and encourage new users. Other options may be more work to implement, or be excessively obtrusive to the StackOverflow/StackExchange flow

Not only more engagement, but more timely engagement

The longer a question sits, the higher the chance that the response you've already gotten is the response you'll end up with.

All 3 of the suggested solutions would be able to address the issues closer to the time they arise (or to the time they could possibly be resolved).

This doesn't necessarily give an advantage to hit & run posting

The idea here is that this is only a shift of some of the responsibility of posting from the OP to the responder.

#1 and #2 require action from the OP (and my imagining of #3 would involve that as well), at which point things can be taken into the hands of an experienced contributor who better knows what the community is looking for (and if more work is needed still)

No action from OP = no notification to downvoters.

Downvoters could be overwhelmed with notifications, or punished for not taking action

An opt-in solution here, like #1 or #3, would mitigate this completely.
The mitigating factor for a solution like #2 would be (downvote frequency) * (edit frequency). There's probably a few queries that could be run to work out some hard numbers for how likely a downvoter would be to receive a notification, but my gut feeling here is that this probability is not likely to be high.

There are a lot of questions/answers that are completely unsalvageable, which would cause the SNR to tank

Yes, there are a lot of extremely low quality posts. Such posts wouldn't take much additional effort to ignore, certainly less effort than keeping a bookmark/tab and refreshing until you give up. The important thing to me here is that this would increase discoverability, and give people who are worth it another shot.

This could be gamed

Well, almost everything can be gamed... but what if we limited this to "new users" &/or to the Nth question/answer?

"New" users probably stand a lesser chance of knowing the system well enough to game it. Hell, it's common for me to need to tell some new users to edit their post instead of adding a comment multiple times before they actually get it.

Experienced users are very likely to know how to @mention in a comment.

What about upvotes on low-quality answers?

I'd argue that's a separate problem, and not one that this request is meant to address.

The point here is that downvoting discourages new users, more active users is a good thing, and how can we make downvoting less of a death kiss without making it harder to downvote?

  • I like #3, but I would have it as a list (like Unanswered), opt-in is per question, like favorites, and would be triggered by author edit, author comment after another comment, or when nothing happens on the post for some time (e.g. 24 hours). The opt-in should be available even if we don't vote/flag (e.g. question is salvageable, but we want to downvote tomorrow if not improved). – sfdcfox Feb 4 at 21:38

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