I find this morning that I have had 6 downvotes on various questions, some quite old. Did I kick someone? Has someone decided to hate me all of a sudden?

  • 2
    I've added a meta question about downvoting Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 9:23
  • I think I know what happened here, some users were sharing questions/answers they didn't find fitting for the site in chat, a couple of your answers did come up there.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 15:18
  • 1
    Don't take it personally, it's a site very focused around scientific correctness. No one is attacking you.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


We had an extensive chat discussion yesterday in which several questions were posted as examples; it starts somewhere around here, but it's an immensely long discussion thread which continues throughout the day. This caused the questions to be viewed by a few core members of the site, and as such some posts got extra attention.

From what I recall it might be that a few of your answers were deemed to be incomplete since you didn't include any references. I also converted one answer to a comment, which might have been yours.

Definitely don't interpret it as a personal attack, it is not. Look at it as constructive (albeit a bit delayed) feedback where the community shows you which posts they feel should be improved. If you need any guidance in interpreting the down votes in case no comments were left behind, you can regularly find me and others in chat.


I can see how that would not be a pleasant experience.

I've gone through many of your answers. I imagine the main reason for the downvotes is that some of your answers lack references, lack empirical support, or resort to personal experience.

To take one of your answers as an example:

I realise this is anecdotal, but the answer to this does vary between people. My wife likes to have nothing to listen to while studying or concentrating. I like to have the TV on normally, or Chill Radio, whereas by youngest son has metal music on - not what most people would consider conducive the thought of any sort.

I understand that my wife finds that music or sounds are distracting - she needs to put effort into focussing. I, OTOH, find that the sounds help my focus, but eliminating other distractions - becasue I am in control of the sounds, they are not distracting. Youngest son enjoys the music, so for him it is just pleasant background to studying. Incidentally, my wife and I differ on having a tickign clock in the bedrooom too - she cannot stand it, whereas I fid it soothing and calming, and helps me get to sleep.

I am sure that I have seem studies that back up these sorts of differences, and that they are about differences in the way we think and process information. Cannot find anythig ATM though.

This is anecdotal evidence. If you were to remove or make very brief the anecdotal evidence and find some of the relevant studies that have been done and accurately summarise them, then I imagine such an answer would tend to receive upvotes.

I wasn't involved in the downvoting. However, some users are keen to ensure that the site maintains a certain degree of academic rigour, and that can be expressed as downvotes to answers.

  • Yes I do have more anecdotal evidence than some, and mark it as such. WHere I have the academic material to back it up, I will include it, but my area is HCI, which touches on CS, but is not core to it. A lot of HCI work is exploration of anecdotal ideas. The danger of insisting on academic rigour too much is that tose who are not specifically CS academics will not contribute, whereas I think the site can benefit from other disciplines insights too. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:33
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    I hope you continue to contribute to the site. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:38

I think I am the cause of the sudden burst of downvotes. It was not personal, and I apologize. I should have been more careful when posting examples in chat to make sure I only had one per user. I will be happy to remove my downvotes and encourage others to do the same when you edit your answers.

In chat we were discussing examples of questions of particular tone. I raised a few of your answers as examples of too many anecdotal answers. Although it is nice to relay your personal experience, that seldom answers a question. @JeromyAnglim already raised the issue in his answer.

The other issue I found several times in the answers, was a tendency to make comments or discussions instead of answering the specific question. For example:

There can be real isights from cross-disciplinary study, because the patterns of thinking and problem solving differs between differet disciplines. So an issue that someone cannot see an answer to might be very clear to someone from a different discipline, because they view problems in a different way. I am sure that some of the physicists who have made breakthroughs in the last 50 years have had insights from other disciplines, but I cannot find examples at the moment.

So, in your example, if an economist learns psychology, he can put his psychological approach to issues to use in his economics, and vv, meaning that he might be able to do well at both of them. A lot of "performance" at a discipline is about seeing things in different ways, and so seeing resolutions to issues.

This is an interesting comment, but that question is not about philosophy of science or how to practice science. The question is on cognitive science about the psychology of learning multiple disciplines. The specific question asks for facts, what the brain does, and if it depends on age. Your answer does not address any of those, beyound a very vague: "because the patterns of thinking ... differs between ... disciplines". Thus you are commenting on the question, not answering it. I realize that I should have flagged the answer instead, but that seems even more harsh, since it does not allow you a chance to improve it.

As for the timing. It was mostly an accident because of the discussion we were having in chat. As for why I personally cast a few downvotes (along side sharing the links) now as opposed to earlier, was because earlier it was not clear if you were an experienced user or not. On some specific answers I also commented early on and waited for you to improve the answer.

  • 2
    I think the problem isn't so much that personal experience doesn't answer questions, it's that it didn't answer these questions. There are certainly Good Subjective questions out there that call for expertise, but I haven't seen many on this site thus far.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 18:36
  • You see, I come from a computing and specifically HCI background, so I take note of the entire message, and it woudl appear that the message is "These insights are not appropriate to the site". In particular "your style is not right for here". And yes, I am exceptionally bad at following up and researching references, which is my bad. I forget by the time I can do this. For which I might expect early downvotes when the quesiton is active, not very late ones. Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 8:17
  • @SchroedingersCat as was said, timing was bad. We just happened to be discussing the quality of posts (as per the other meta questions) and stuff that's not "expert" material is certainly the focus lately
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 15:00

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