12
$\begingroup$

I fully expect this to be deleted in 10 seconds flat. That's OK.

I've noticed various people are downvoting perfectly fine questions for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Worse, they don't bother to say what exactly they find wrong with the question. They just downvote it for the hell of it.

These are not my questions, nor are they the questions of any one user. They are the questions of various users, they seem well posed, and they seem relevant to the space exploration stackexchange.

If you think a question is poor or inappropriate or irrelevant enough to take a downvote, can you do your part and explain what you think makes the question weak?

Blindly downvoting questions helps no one. Moderators, can you please encourage people not to do this?

$\endgroup$
10
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Which questions are you talking about? I haven't noticed much of that on Space.SE, maybe with exception of questions that are based on wrong premise, say, stemming from conspiracy theories. Even there they usually get an explanation what's wrong. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 2 at 19:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SF presumably, How much does the SpaceX Starship flex during the Flop maneuver?. The other recent one with negative votes is the weird one about neutrinos, and I don't think that one is really a fine question. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Apr 2 at 20:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime While the titular question on that one is fine, and the worries aren't baseless, the text is formulated like foregone conclusion, "Why don't they fix it like that", instead of seeking the answer "Is it actually the cause?". I'm not surprised someone short-tempered got trigger-happy on the down-arrow seeing this approach. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 2 at 20:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not a downvoter of that one, but it's not well written. The title question doesn't match the body question; the body question is in the class of "why doesn't SpaceX just..." with a weak/assumed premise, and so on. It's a fine post for Reddit's /r/spacex, but not for this SE. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Apr 2 at 20:13
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ As for the neutrinos, hover your cursor over the downvote arrow and read the tooltip. No research effort on the question, no research effort on the site to ask, and asking for a mountain of general reference information. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 2 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. Even the question that was not off-topic was not "fine". The title was not fine; it is implicitly asking for SpaceX proprietary data. Details on how much Starship flexes during the flop is SpaceX intellectual property. Amongst many other concerns, SpaceX is trying to balance structural integrity versus mass, which are competing interests. How SpaceX goes about finding that balance is their private concern (and to some extent, the FAA's concern, but they have nondisclosure agreements with SpaceX.) $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Apr 3 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, I upvoted this meta question. I'm not always the mean guy who downvotes everything. For example, I didn't downvote the question on flex. (I didn't upvote it, either.) People oftentimes don't know that they're asking a question that cannot be answered for bureaucratic (ITAR, EAR, NDA, ...) reasons. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Apr 3 at 15:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen SpaceX is being watched by hundreds of curious fans, who often manage to dig up all kinds of obscure data from public, and less public resources. You'll find Starship impact speed calculated by analyzing video frame by frame, accurate predictions of cause of explosion done basing on drone footage of debris, recently they tapped into the video stream from Starship, with view of the tank inside. I'd be quite unsurprised if this case someone ran the video of Starship descent through motion amplification and found the deflections. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 3 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. They would have a difficult time doing that. Motion amplification really only works on objects that are very still. If you tried to apply it to a motion-compensated plummeting rocket you would be swamped by motion-compensation artefacts. It might work for a static fire though. $\endgroup$ – DrMcCleod Apr 4 at 7:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Downvoting is the hobby of too many users on Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 8 at 22:55
5
$\begingroup$

Be aware that Stack Exchange themselves have specified that comments are not mandatory when voting (up or down) - yes, we all agree they could be helpful, but without any other comment, the downvote means what the tooltip says "This question does not show any research effort, is unclear or not useful" - which is pretty self explanatory.

And while you may find a question fine, someone else may not. And it is their right to vote as they please. The beauty of Stack Exchange is that the community consensus is what wins out.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Whilst I don't approve of downvotes without comment, there is a certain kind of vengeful poster who will decide to "punish" anyone they believe downvoted them (eg. they left a negative comment on a post that got a downvote at a similar time) and go and downvote them elsewhere. Some of these individuals are clever enough to evade the automatic systems that detect this sort of behaviour. It is only internet points, but the experience is still quite disheartening, and having to face repercussions for downvoting might just mean that people stop downvoting even rubbish posts, just to avoid drama. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Apr 2 at 20:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This, 1000x this >>> "And while you may find a question fine, someone else may not. And it is their right to vote as they please. The beauty of Stack Exchange is that the community consensus is what wins out." $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 2 at 20:10
4
$\begingroup$

Questioners are expected to do a minimal amount of homework before asking their questions. One aspect of that homework is to find the purpose of the element of the StackExchange network where the question is being asked, and whether the question they want to ask fits in that framework.

Another aspect of what is appropriate to ask is that questions should ideally ask for answers that are neither too short nor too long. A question for which the correct answer is a simple "yes" or "no" is not an appropriate question for any element of the StackExchange network. At the other extreme, a question that asks for a book to be written also is not an appropriate appropriate question for any element of the StackExchange network. Those of us who do answer questions are not paid to do so, and we are not going to write a book for free.

The question about neutrinos posits that "neutrinos are crucial to space exploration". No, they are not. The questioner was conflating "space exploration" and "astronomy". A tiny, tiny bit of homework by the questioner would have led the questioner to What topics can I ask about here?, which says that "Space Exploration is primarily about spacecraft, how to send them to space, and their functions there."

This question was anything but fine. It was off-topic and overly broad. To make matters worse, the question very explicitly broadened out from the initial premise and asked us to write a book, multiple books in fact. This was about as far from a fine question as could be. I'm surprised that it received as few downvotes as it did.


The question about Starship flex during the flop maneuver was definitely on-topic. This question however inadvertently ran into a pair of issues that are somewhat unique to this site, dual use technology and intellectual property.

Regarding dual use technology, the USA has the convoluted concepts of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and Foreign Trade Regulations (FTR). One key aspect of these regulations is that anything that can improve non-military launch vehicles can also improve military launch vehicles, and that includes launch capabilities of countries that are potential enemies of the US. Flex, along with the somewhat related concept of slosh, resulted in a number of launch mishaps in the early days of rocketry. Instructing foreign countries how to avoid those mishaps is not a good thing in the eyes of the Department of Defense or the Department of State.

Regarding intellectual property, every launch vehicle manufacturer with any credibility whatsoever will necessarily have done lots and lot of analyses regarding flex and slosh. (SpaceX definitely qualifies as a launch vehicle manufacturer with any credibility whatsoever. They have lots of cred.) While SpaceX sometimes views ITAR, EAR, and FTR as absolutely annoying nonsense, it has a different view regarding the intellectual property that it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. The question of interest asks for data that SpaceX would almost certainly deem to be essential intellectual property. Anyone who could answer this question would be fired, at a minimum. Being sued for every inch of their net worth is a possible outcome. There is no way that this question of interest will receive a definitive answer.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ David, this is not about a single question. It's also not about the question on neutrinos, which I agreed in my comment there should be on the physics SE. This is about many well-posed and relevant questions I've seen in the last two weeks that are consistently several votes in the negative when I first read them. If it's clear why the question is bad, fine. But if it's not clear, then explain when you downvote why the question is bad---to give the rest of the community the benefit of those questions if they are in fact good, and to help the OP ask better questions. $\endgroup$ – user39728 Apr 3 at 17:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user39728 I'm one of the mean people who downvote / vote to close questions that I view as overly naive (the questioner obviously didn't google one expletive-deleted thing or read the wikipedia article on the subject), that are off-topic for this site, that are too simple (e.g., a simple "yes" or "no" would suffice), or that are too complex (a book, sometimes multiple books, sometimes decades-worth of journal articles). I generally do leave a comment when I downvote. But sometimes I don't. For example, we occasionally get questions asked in bad faith such as blatant flat-earther questions. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Apr 3 at 17:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user39728 To make matters worse, there was a time in StackExchange's history where they strongly discouraged leaving negative comments. For a while, they even filtered out comments that said "-1", "minus 1", "minus one", or "downvoted". Our only option for a bad question (and yes, contrary to popular teaching that says there is no such a thing as a bad question, bad questions do exist) was to downvote and to not leave a comment regarding the downvote. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Apr 3 at 18:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But David, flat earth questions are clearly dumb questions and there can be little doubt what the downvote means. But for example, there was a question recently asking what if we placed a spacecraft where the sun's gravity is 1g so as to reproduce the gravity we feel on earth. Now, it turns out the idea was flawed, because the astronauts would be falling with the spacecraft about the sun and so they would still feel no gravity. The user didn't know that, but that is the sort of thing this SE exists to clarify. It's an honest bit of ignorance, and if you must downvote, please just explain why? $\endgroup$ – user39728 Apr 5 at 1:57
2
$\begingroup$

On one hand, there seems to be a fair number of new users recently asking questions. Many of them are poor quality for the usual reasons (off-topic, unclear, duplicate, etc.).

On the other hand, that's all the more of a reason to be nice and try to be helpful to these users! Help them to write better questions, instead of driving them away. Who knows, maybe they have some great questions waiting to be asked.


@user39728, meta is the correct place for this kind of question. You are concerned that it won't have any exposure here. However, meta questions can become "hot" (by upvotes and answers), and hot meta questions appear in a prominent location on all pages of the main site.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

If you think a question is poor or inappropriate or irrelevant enough to take a downvote, can you do your part and explain what you think makes the question weak?

This is a very good point! If and when possible we should "-1 because..." even if it's short. Ideally it should be something actionable so that the question author, especially if they are new to SE, will have some idea how to remedy the problem perceived by the down voter.

Blindly downvoting questions helps no one.

This sounds a lot like one (or more) of my early meta posts here; now I might use "reflexively" instead ;-)

I agree with @DrSheldon's answer so much that I've edited it and added italic and an exclamation mark.

On the other hand, that's all the more of a reason to be nice and try to be helpful to these users! Help them to write better questions, instead of driving them away. Who knows, maybe they have some great questions waiting to be asked.

I did that to highlight that we should strive to be nice and to be helpful; it's the best and quickest way to get new users up to speed on how Stack Exchange works, because it's different than other sites and takes some time to get used to. This difference is part of SE's "magic", a low-angst place that's still open to the internet.

As an example, I've made a substantial edit to How can I calculate the weight a aero-spacecraft occupant "feels" during sub-orbital but non-ballistic trajectories? and left the following comment:

Once in a while I'll make a big edit to a new user's question in order to 1) help reopen it, and 2) help them see how to ask a question that fits better with the site's style. I've added more "science words" and "space words" in order to help get the question reopened. I've also tried to be careful not to change the question enough that it impacts the answer(s) that have been already posted...

and after the edit I added an up-vote.

Why the repeated downvotes on fine questions?

Compared to many other SE sites, Space SE shows pretty good restraint on down-voting questions that need work. This is because we have some faith that the OP will respond to helpful comments or other community members may take an interest and improve the question, and we don't want to chase down the question later to reverse our down votes.

Here we actively help to improve questions, and so drive-by yet permanent downvoting is uncommon. It happens and that's absolutely part of how SE works.

...on fine questions? (my emphasis)

Which ones? It's always better if you add specific examples to your questions, both in the main site and in meta. Without specific examples answers may address votes on different questions than you may be thinking of. Presumably everyone's "fine question list" is different.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Compared to many other SE sites, Space SE shows pretty good restraint on down-voting questions that need work." In many ways, this site is more restrained than other SE sites. Some sites can be pretty nasty toward those who ask questions. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Apr 3 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon Stack Exchange reminds me of Earthship Ark from the old SciFi TV show The Starlost. Each episode the main characters would encounter another insulated community unaware of the great voyage they were all on together. The main meta SE site's analogy: "Occasionally, they are aided (or hindered) in their travels by the ship's frustrating and only partially functioning computer system interface, known as Mu Lambda 165 (portrayed by William Osler, who also provided the opening narration for each episode)" youtu.be/6VEaU4G_e7k $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 3 at 6:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Definitely agree with you on this - while I disagree with you on some styles of posts, your work on improving closed questions is incredibly positive! Much better than mine. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Apr 4 at 15:51

You must log in to answer this question.