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I've done a lot of First Question reviews since a got my 500 rep around the end of 2021. In the past few (plus or minus) weeks I have noticed a much higher than usual rate of anonymous downvotes on new questions from new users.

I am not talking only of things such as spam, or repeat questions from multiple logins; and I'm not even talking just about the "write a test class for me" type of 'question' or ones from unregistered users. I am talking about questions that maybe are answered elsewhere and can be found via a search, but seem to be legitimately posted questions from someone who is new to the SF platform and probably new to admin/development and really is clueless. Or maybe poorly worded questions from bad grammar English speakers or ESL folks (whose English is still better than the majority of us would do in their language).

And I do realize that I am still a relative newbie to SFSE, and that most of the "old timers" here are not the ones who are doing said downvoting, and that many of the people doing the downvoting will not likely read this; but I still feel that I need to say something publicly - especially since it seems that it has been a few years since it was brought up here in the Meta.

I know that there is not a rule, but I would like to kindly suggest and request that if you feel the need to downvote a newbie question that is not obviously spam or a recurring bad poster, that you please at least add a comment stating (civilly, please) why you downvoted.

Yes, I know that there is The Tour and Help Center that folks should read; and yes, I think that you should read the rules and get a feel of the culture of a place before you post. However, we all know not everybody does that, but I think we often forget that there are people who will do that if you ask them to.

There are some people who will actually take constructive criticism in your comment and either improve that question or their next one(s). And the ones who do that might surprise you (I've been pleasantly surprised before).

I won't rehash any more details, but please check out these meta questions, answers and comments - especially some of the higher-upvoted posts and comments from said "old timers":


Before you downvote, please remember that you were once a newbie to Salesforce and to SFSE (even if it was a long time ago); and please remember the Salesforce Ohana culture.

We are not Reddit or Stack Overflow.



So what is your personal routine or rule or principle that you follow for dealing with poor questions - especially from new users? Please share it as an answer.

I am interested in how everyone thinks about and responds to these, and having multiple ideas detailed in one place might give some of us a better way to approach them. (And possibly something to point folks to as a guideline, even if there is no rule.)

4 Answers 4

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tl;dr: I believe in the heart of the cards post.

The approach I take leans on previous experience that I've had in community management (side note: this is also part of why I haven't seeked a mod position here on SFSE). It's more than likely to reveal biases (unconscious or otherwise) I have, and it's hard to turn into a standardized procedure.

Outside of the spam/re-ask/do my work for me categories, I get some intuitive sense of what a new asker (or answerer) is like based on what they've written.

In other words:

  • There are people who just want a quick fix to their issue, and aren't interested in learning
  • There are people who will not make any attempt to address issues, no matter how much guidence they are given
  • The "long tail" of users either sign up and never post, or ask one question, maybe get an answer, and then leave
  • There are people who genuinely don't know something
  • There are people who genuinely want to learn
  • I believe it is possible to get a broad sense of which of these bucket(s) people fall into based on what they've written (and/or what they've left out)

One recent example where I did downvote the question (though I did write an answer for it first) was I have an error.Where am I going Wrong?The question is that all child cases should be closed then and only then parent can change status. This was a:

  • overlong title
  • code dump (poorly formatted, which I fixed)
  • with an error that was about as clear as errors on SFDC get

The impression that I got from this is that this user is unlikely to respond to a comment (though they did respond once in their second question, to limited effect), unlikely to read comments, and unlikely to be willing to spend time/effort improving their knowledge.

I believe that the type of comments we give to newcomers are really only useful for that particular newcomer (and the stalwart experienced contributors). So it turns into a question of "do I think this person is actually going to read and act on a comment?" I didn't think they would, so I didn't leave a comment.

I downvoted because I didn't see any attempt by the asker to try to research or make sense of the error. I get the feeling that this person is trying to use us as a "Mechanical Turk".

I am more lenient with newcomers, and I will often leave comments. If I get a strong feeling that a comment will be ignored by the asker, though, who would that comment benefit (is a comment performative, or does it have a tangible purpose)? In my mind, the vast majority of question views are from established contributors. Do newcomers look at other questions before asking their own? Some might (and the ones that do probably ask better questions and interact more with comments), but my gut feeling is that the majority will, at most, look for similar questions and probably avoid the downvoted ones and those without answers. That leads nicely into my next thought.

Downvotes are a signal. Both for us contributors, and for people searching for an answer. Poor questions should be downvoted (in moderation) so that other people can get an idea of whether or not it's likely to be worth a read (or if it should be answered).

So, in summary

  • Give new users the benefit of the doubt
  • Establish a boundary for answerable and unanswerable questions by providing firm yet warm comments
  • Try to get a feel for whether a user is open to effort/learning or not, based on how they wrote their question
  • Don't put a ton of effort into a comment if you think they will just ignore it
  • Reserve downvotes and close votes until someone has had a reasonable chance to address issues (except for the egregiously bad questions). My threshold is generally 24 hours
  • Most downvotes should be accompanied by a comment (or upvoting an existing comment)
  • There is a balance to be struck between being welcoming and not wasting your time
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Similar to the questions you linked, I have had these saved for quite a while and will copy & paste some templates from them when encouraging new users to either read our help center, improve their question, or just welcome them.

Everyone uses their votes differently - but, for me, I rarely use downvotes in general (2627 upvotes, 157 downvotes). For new users, it's even rarer unless it's complete spam or repeated questions from the same user. Reason being, I think it's too easy to give negative quick feedback which is not the ideal "first" experience to have on a new site. I'd rather just post the comment asking for clarification and helping them out & flag it for closure if it's missing reproduction, details, etc.

The flags have a larger delay in the feedback loop as it needs several users to do the same and gives them the chance to edit versus the downvote being immediately visible & having to be retracted afterwards by myself.

I enjoy seeing questions that show up in the "close" queue that were flagged appropriately initially (need details), but that were then clearly edited to include said details that can then be marked "leave opened".

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  • Sounds like you and I have the same approach and sentiments - I could have written this exact post. Scratch that: You wrote it better than I would have written it.
    – Moonpie
    Jun 22 at 14:40
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I have some comments saved that I have edited and tweaked over the past months. So my routine for a not-so-great first question is to not downvote, but just copy/paste one of those saved comments (possibly editing it slightly for a particular detail regarding the question or the poster). Most of my saved comments ask the poster to edit their post to add something that is missing. Then I go about my merry way.

If the poster adds a comment, I will go back and look, and possibly reply accordingly. Otherwise, unless I have some particular interest in the question that makes me look at it again, if they do not comment (and thus, I do not receive a notification), then every month or so - when the feeling comes upon me - I will go to my User > Activity > All Actions > Comments and find the questions where my "canned" comments still exist (which means the question has not been deleted).

Then if the question was improved and/or there was comment and/or answer activity, I will move on. If there was nothing, and the question has not been closed, I will likely flag it for closure or deletion.

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My number one rule with handling questions is to try and be helpful as possible. Here's a non-exhaustive list of rules that I try to adhere to.

Code Dumps

If the question title explains the problem, but the body is nothing but code, I will attempt to spot any obvious problems, comments in the code, etc. If I can make an educated guess, I'll put an answer that is an analysis of what I think will help, plus a comment suggesting they should fix their question to include more detail. If there's not enough to fix the problem, it'll usually just be a comment, not a downvote.

Off-Topic

If the question has nothing to do with a Salesforce product, I will try to refer them to an appropriate resource before I VTC the question. This may be Stack Overflow, Superuser, a vendor-specific forum, etc. I will generally not downvote the question unless it is clearly unsalvageable somehow. A VTC is more effective in this case. I might even upvote the question if it is well-structured but strictly out of bounds, even though I don't know if that'll do any good post-migration.

TIA, PII, Secrets, etc

If the question has any security concerns, like API keys, passwords, etc, I will edit to remove and comment letting them know that their data is possibly compromised. TIA and other "fluff" may also be removed. The comments will be generally less fluffy, and more direct in those cases.

Poor Formatting, Grammar

If the post is intelligible, but is very low quality, I will clean up any obvious grammar, code, links, etc that I can. I will leave a comment if I feel my edits may invalidate or otherwise change the context of the question. If the answer is related to a typo, however, I will leave it alone so that it is obvious why my answer makes sense. Sometimes it's helpful to be reminded that we need to check for case-sensitivity, spelling, etc when writing code.

Opinion-Based

If a question is about "what's the best X for Y", I will at least leave a comment suggesting the focus of the question is narrowed. If the question is a close-ended, but opinion-based question, I may leave an answer anyways before VTC as opinion-based, or I may leave a comment on how to narrow the question down to objective-based answers (or both). I would rather err on the side of "the user wants help" than "the user is a troll." It's pretty rare for me to VTC opinion-based, unless it is too open-ended to be anything else.

Do I Even Downvote?!

I have 129 downvotes spanning 9 years. I don't see it as a useful tool when I can instead do something more productive, like revisions, close votes, etc. I will say that I have definitely downvoted new users, as I don't discriminate, it's just that downvotes are a last resort for me. If I can fix the problem, I will prefer to do that instead of the alternative. Most people are grateful for the chance to have their problem solved, and that's my general philosophy here.

New Members?

Finally, new members are just like old members, but newer. I do provide a few extra links, but I don't generally treat them differently in a real sense. If their questions are good, I reward them with upvotes. If the question is generally salvageable, I provide feedback, same as I would for an older member. I do tend to downvote new members less, if I had to guess, but that's because I feel downvotes aren't productive. The carrot is better than the stick, especially if you want these new members to stick around.

What Deserves a Downvote?

Downvotes are generally reserved for things that are clearly wrong. Without doing any real fact-checking, I would guess that most of my downvotes are dedicated to questions and answers that are objectively wrong. I have less than 130 downvotes in 9 years, and most of those are probably related to misinformation in various answers. I allow the other mechanisms we have to do the appropriate work, such as close votes.

I have joined a number of networks over the years, and this is the only network where I have any significant points. I attribute that not only to the quality of my answers, but also generally that we embrace Ohana over Stack Overflow rules a general guideline.

We are not Reddit or Stack Overflow. Our mission statement isn't to be either of them. We are better than that. I want every new user to have the same experience I have had. A welcoming, inclusive space to share our enthusiasm over a totally awesome tech that grows with every release. We're not here to be Reddit or Stack Exchange. We're here to be helpful to the Ohana, and all of my choices on this network reflect that philosophy.

Just because we share a network with like 200+ other sites, doesn't mean we need to be like them. I said before, I'll say it again. We are mostly here because we espouse the spirit of Ohana. We're not here to be a specialized Stack Overflow, but instead, we're here because we want to help people. As long as we're free to be ourselves, we should strive to be the best facet of Salesforce that we can be.

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