25

votes

[Meta] Do you ever review a user's profile before downvoting a question? Should you?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 14, 2012 at 3:44 PM

I recently read a question because it had such a high downvote score--I wanted to see what was so bad. It did get a few sincere answers, but it also received rather a lot of downvotes. Since the question asked about eating some foods so clearly violating the tenets of paleo, I believe readers considered the user a troll.

So I reviewed the user's other questions, and through this process, realized that at 18, the user was quite young--though not a child--and seemed to live at home, eating food provided by parents. The user was also apparently working very hard to get lean and in shape for military service.

I remember when I was 18. Granted we didn't have the internet back then, so learning about pretty much anything required a focused trip to the library. I was a smart kid, and curious, but also at 18 I was busy with senior year schoolwork, extra curricular activities, and a part-time job, and if I could have gone online and gotten quick answers to specific questions from a community like this, I'm sure I'd have tried. Also, at 18 one is perhaps most strongly (and recently) inculcated with nutrition messages based on USDA recommendations taught in school, without the benefit of much real-world experience to balance it, or time to research it for one's self. I know my own evolving understanding of nutrition and food are the product of many years of research, and unfortunately illness.

Reviewing the user's other questions revealed answers full of assumptions, jargon, terminology that we assume we all know. At 18 I probably didn't even know cows ate grass, nevermind the notion that it's pretty much all they should eat. Pastured? Aren't they all? Polyunsaturated/monounsaturated? Ghee or pastured butter? I knew what butter was, and that it was different from margarine....

I guess I was a bit troubled by all the downvoting, but also recognize that without any context, this seemingly obvious question from a user with a low reputation likely stands out as a troll. I rarely downvote at all, but this made me wonder how many times I carelessly answered questions with references that were jargonish at best and perhaps confusing or harmful at worst, because I didn't understand things about the user, or because of basic knowledge or experience I assumed the person had.

Do you review a user's profile/past questions before answering? How about before downvoting? It seems to me that doing so at least before downvoting might be sensible, just in case there are mitigating factors that might re-contextualize the question such that answering sincerely might really help someone.

4debe57f81d507bcb844f10b2ef38a83

(398)

on February 12, 2013
at 07:21 PM

Some people just have trouble absorbing information from what they read. If referring someone out for general information, it might be a good idea to include some video or audio based sites in the mix too. I'm a newcomer to Paleo, but I've been reading/studying/researching heavily in the broader "real food" and "local food" movements for about 3 years, so Sean Croxton's Underground Wellness comes to mind as an example.

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157

on May 20, 2012
at 10:26 PM

+1 Bree, you're always the friendly voice of reason. :-)

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 15, 2012
at 10:04 PM

One thing I can agree with you about is that downvoting should be accompanied by a note explaining why. Unfortunately, that didn't--and doesn't generally--happen. I think that's mostly because downvoters don't want to own up to it, so they do it anonymously, and the system is set up to facilitate that by not requiring a comment.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 15, 2012
at 10:00 PM

@MathGirl72: Fair enough. However, I still don't see the benefit to downvoting based on that. It reduces the likelihood of someone getting something useful out of the thread. Remember that not only the OP reads the responses--others arriving at PH for the first time may see and read that thread too and benefit from it. Besides, downvoting costs the downvoter reputation points as well. It seems to me downvoting is a losing proposition for all, except in a very few cases where someone is actually being rude or disrespectful, or truly trolling. Maybe he's acted ineptly, but he's no troll.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@Dave: I just ordered the book through inter library loan. I've never heard of it, but look forward to it!

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:45 PM

@Christopher: I also don't assume all people of any age have had the same opportunities, education, abilities, etc. However, if you look at the answers to his previous posts, he was given references to look at. He clearly has at least minimal computer skills (he found PH) and can post questions, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he can follow a link and do some reading.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:41 PM

@Korion: http://paleohacks.com/questions/119523/healthy-snacks-to-eat#axzz1uy91za7y

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 04:01 PM

Yeah, my upvote to downvote ratio is well over 100 to 1. (and +1 for "consistently being a dumbass")

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 04:00 PM

Downvoting is not inherently mean or disrespectful, but a part of how the site is designed. And your question was now whether to downvote or not, but whether the age of the person would affect a downvote. I still say no, for the reasons I stated above.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 03:57 PM

Well, it's there for any new account. Once you're logged in it goes away, but for any new user, it's very obvious. As for downvoting, it's part of the democratic process on the site. The number of upvotes or downvotes is one way for people to prioritize what questions they do or do not read. If a question really does not add to the discussion, and shows that the poster really did not make any attempt to understand what's going on, then I personally do not think it adds to the discussion, and might be deserving of a downvote, with a nice note as to why.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on May 15, 2012
at 01:48 PM

Wouldn't it be more useful to suggest he read Mark Sisson/Robb Wolf/Kurt Harris/Paul Jaminet and get edumacated rather than just downvoting and possibly alienating a paleo newbie? And have you ever read "Mathematics Made Difficult?" by Carl E. Linderholm (a favorite of mine)?

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on May 15, 2012
at 01:42 PM

Hey Nineteen. "No we got nothin' in common. No we can't talk at all..." - Steely Dan. I'll never forget my mother's best friend's daughter, who after her honeymoon, had to make her first ever dinner and called home to ask: "How do I make Jello?"

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on May 15, 2012
at 08:03 AM

Damn now I want to find the original question!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:43 AM

On second thoughts, they may have downvoted me just for a laugh. I don't mind, either way. :)

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:41 AM

hehe. Some coward, downvoted my answer but didn't have the guts to say why. Maybe they are scared that I would do something as pathetic as a revenge downvote on one of their posts? LOL

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:40 AM

hehe. Some coward, downvoted me but didn't have the guts to say why. Maybe they are scared that I would do something as pathetic as a revenge downvote on one of their posts? LOL

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:37 AM

LOL. Thanks Kelly. I shall sort something out, soon. :)

8fbbf720caae616b07d3a8a12e59093f

(56)

on May 15, 2012
at 06:02 AM

Soon she will be 18 -- made me think of that Stealy Dan song. Yes, I know, worthless comment bordering on non sequitur

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 15, 2012
at 03:16 AM

@Christopher: Good point. I had not considered that.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on May 15, 2012
at 02:52 AM

The 'we're better than you who don't know as much as us' attitude.

Medium avatar

(12379)

on May 15, 2012
at 12:17 AM

@air_hadoken - huh? what on earth does my answer have to do with Kurt Harris?

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:18 PM

@Kelly, first, my view of the PH page has no such banner, giant or small, only a "FAQ" link next to my name and the "log out" link. Second, if you've read the FAQ, then you know it says "...No question is too trivial or too 'newbie'." It also says "Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you'd want them to treat you. We're all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor."

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:07 PM

I don't find it so easy to assume all people of any age have had the same opportunities, education, abilities, etc. I guess I just don't understand responding to ignorance (I don't mean that as a pejorative) with a downvote instead of either providing good info, or simply ignoring it.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:01 PM

I think what stands out is that, if the question is lacking, you refer the person to information--instead of downvoting their question. That's the very heart of my question here. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 10:59 PM

@Kasra: I make room for the possibility that many 18 year olds don't have the preparation, background, or privilege as some of us who are considerably older & more experienced. I have a distant family member so inept at parenting her 17yo daughter doesn't have any idea how to identify fresh produce--I'm talking things like broccoli--never mind how to actually cook/eat it. I don't blame the girl. Soon she'll be 18, and instantly expected to be an adult. Not all 18 year olds are equally educated, & 18 is a lot closer to naive childhood than 30+ is to wisdom and expertise. People are different.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on May 14, 2012
at 10:47 PM

If the choice is between being downvoted by some anonymous user and getting verbally assaulted by KGH, I call upon the anonymous users to sharpen their clicking fingers.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on May 14, 2012
at 10:34 PM

I base my downvotes on the image in the profile: cute girl or guy with higher bf than mine = no downvote.

345c1755efe005edd162b770dc6fb821

(8767)

on May 14, 2012
at 08:09 PM

I upvoted you just so you will add something to your profile!! :)

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:44 PM

You're not giving enough credit to 18 year olds.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:10 PM

If this kid wants to go into the military, I think he'd better learn how to follow simple directions.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:09 PM

Well, if they ignore the giant "READ the FAQ!" banner at the top of the page, then I have very little sympathy.

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:04 PM

It may be old to actually read the FAQ but not old to know that they "ought" to read the FAQ.

1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

(6719)

on May 14, 2012
at 03:58 PM

Down votes are a badge of honor.

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11 Answers

best answer

13
Medium avatar

(12379)

on May 14, 2012
at 10:31 PM

I think there have been some really sour attitudes around ph lately. Especially towards new people. I don't like it at all. The poster in question is obviously new to this, and needs a gentle introduction to how things are done around here, maybe how to use the search function etc. But the negativity that has been shown to him is shameful and a waste of energy on the part of the negative members.

So Christopher to answer your question - I don't downvote questions, if I think the question is out of line I vote to close. I have downvoted a couple (I think 10) answers which is not too many since I've been around here for a while, and I only downvote offensive or abusive posts. I don't downvote when I disagree, usually I'll start a conversation in the comments, or just disagree to myself. I have very little time for negativity.

I hope that new people to PH and to 'paleo' aren't turned off by the 'we're better than you who don't know as much as us' attitude. Remember - we were all new here at one time.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on May 14, 2012
at 10:47 PM

If the choice is between being downvoted by some anonymous user and getting verbally assaulted by KGH, I call upon the anonymous users to sharpen their clicking fingers.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on May 15, 2012
at 02:52 AM

The 'we're better than you who don't know as much as us' attitude.

Medium avatar

(12379)

on May 15, 2012
at 12:17 AM

@air_hadoken - huh? what on earth does my answer have to do with Kurt Harris?

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157

on May 20, 2012
at 10:26 PM

+1 Bree, you're always the friendly voice of reason. :-)

9
61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:46 PM

I deal with a lot of 18-year-olds that are not interested in "looking things up," but would rather have someone else tell them the answer. The particular 18-year-old you are referencing is no different and you can tell by the questions he has asked. Yes, I read his profile and previously asked questions, which made me want to down vote his question a million times.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on May 15, 2012
at 08:03 AM

Damn now I want to find the original question!

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@Dave: I just ordered the book through inter library loan. I've never heard of it, but look forward to it!

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on May 15, 2012
at 01:48 PM

Wouldn't it be more useful to suggest he read Mark Sisson/Robb Wolf/Kurt Harris/Paul Jaminet and get edumacated rather than just downvoting and possibly alienating a paleo newbie? And have you ever read "Mathematics Made Difficult?" by Carl E. Linderholm (a favorite of mine)?

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:07 PM

I don't find it so easy to assume all people of any age have had the same opportunities, education, abilities, etc. I guess I just don't understand responding to ignorance (I don't mean that as a pejorative) with a downvote instead of either providing good info, or simply ignoring it.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:41 PM

@Korion: http://paleohacks.com/questions/119523/healthy-snacks-to-eat#axzz1uy91za7y

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 15, 2012
at 10:00 PM

@MathGirl72: Fair enough. However, I still don't see the benefit to downvoting based on that. It reduces the likelihood of someone getting something useful out of the thread. Remember that not only the OP reads the responses--others arriving at PH for the first time may see and read that thread too and benefit from it. Besides, downvoting costs the downvoter reputation points as well. It seems to me downvoting is a losing proposition for all, except in a very few cases where someone is actually being rude or disrespectful, or truly trolling. Maybe he's acted ineptly, but he's no troll.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:45 PM

@Christopher: I also don't assume all people of any age have had the same opportunities, education, abilities, etc. However, if you look at the answers to his previous posts, he was given references to look at. He clearly has at least minimal computer skills (he found PH) and can post questions, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he can follow a link and do some reading.

4debe57f81d507bcb844f10b2ef38a83

(398)

on February 12, 2013
at 07:21 PM

Some people just have trouble absorbing information from what they read. If referring someone out for general information, it might be a good idea to include some video or audio based sites in the mix too. I'm a newcomer to Paleo, but I've been reading/studying/researching heavily in the broader "real food" and "local food" movements for about 3 years, so Sean Croxton's Underground Wellness comes to mind as an example.

9
Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on May 14, 2012
at 03:54 PM

I don't typically downvote unless there is an egregious show of disdain for other people and a clear show of disrespect for the community.

With that being said, I think that, even for an 18 year old, there are plenty of resources to get an understanding of a particular nutritional path, including paleo... so if the question is particularly lacking in even the most basic conceptual understanding, I'll often refer the person to reading material that they can access for free (Like Mark's Daily Apple or other websites) to help them get a basic understanding of what we're talking about when we talk about paleo/primal/ancestral eating in enough depth to be able to at least know what IS and ISN'T on the program.

I am familiar with the question that you asked -- and the thing that bothered me was that the person seemed to go from question to question without absorbing the information from previous questions ("grains are not part of the paleo landscape", for example). Of course, in some of the responses, we, ourselves, became a bit confusing -- because grains aren't part of the paleo picture, but at least one respondent offered "rice cakes" as an option.

I think that it's pretty clear that this is a diverse community, and I think that sometimes we're FAR to hasty in making the decision that a relatively new poster here is a 'troll' if they're particularly new (or particularly intense). I think that, from my perspective, if I have something new to add to the responses, I'll give a response. If the person is clearly disrespectful of the community or a group of its members, I'll give a downvote -- but I don't always check the profile first... I tend to go more by the tone of that individual question. I don't always have the luxury of time to go "checking up" on the person before responding.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:01 PM

I think what stands out is that, if the question is lacking, you refer the person to information--instead of downvoting their question. That's the very heart of my question here. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

8
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on May 14, 2012
at 05:55 PM

I am totally against down-voting questions and I have never ever down-voted questions. I did down-vote some answers though.

I think that the custom of down-voting puts people in a situation where they are afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb those questions might be. Hey, it might look dumb to you, but to some people - they want to know the answer! Nothing wrong with that, is there?

As for checking users profile - I only check if I really like the answer/question/person behind the answer.

5
5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on May 15, 2012
at 06:03 AM

I'm only recently out of lurkerdom here, but on this forum--and any others that allow downvoting--I only do it when someone is being rude and disrespectful of fellow members. Be a jerk, I downvote. If they're clueless, ignorant, or just plain lazy I won't bother downvoting as long as they aren't being nasty. And I'm an avid upvoter of helpful, intelligent, compassionate comments.

I don't bother to check profiles unless someone is either consistently great or consistently a dumbass, though.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 04:01 PM

Yeah, my upvote to downvote ratio is well over 100 to 1. (and +1 for "consistently being a dumbass")

5
1296f5fecd084f101d7c5fbe013f07eb

(1213)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:05 PM

I definitely do. I saw a question get downvoted quite a bit for incomprehension despite the poster apologizing for non-native English. Sometimes even the questions don't get read thoroughly, forget the profile - though I will admit these problems are the exception and not the rule. I think most people here try to be fair and helpful.

4
782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

on May 14, 2012
at 05:40 PM

I've never down-voted anybody (yet) and would be very reluctant to do so. Unless the OP is so terribly obvoiously a troll, I think the purpose here is to educate not to denigrate. I certainly feel fortunate that I've found this site with so many, many dedicated and highly informed people here.

My experience with 18 year-old boys (two sons) is that they can be a little dense at times. Maybe some of the advice given will get through to him. Who knows, maybe he'll become educated enough to offer advice to newbies someday.

2
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 12, 2013
at 04:32 PM

Apparently some people do read profiles, I had somebody come through and downvote 4 questions I'd asked in the past in rapid fire.

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 14, 2012
at 05:03 PM

I get downvoted every now and again (Not that I actually care. lol). Maybe I should see about making my profile page more interesting if downvoters are going to be visiting?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:40 AM

hehe. Some coward, downvoted me but didn't have the guts to say why. Maybe they are scared that I would do something as pathetic as a revenge downvote on one of their posts? LOL

345c1755efe005edd162b770dc6fb821

(8767)

on May 14, 2012
at 08:09 PM

I upvoted you just so you will add something to your profile!! :)

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:41 AM

hehe. Some coward, downvoted my answer but didn't have the guts to say why. Maybe they are scared that I would do something as pathetic as a revenge downvote on one of their posts? LOL

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:37 AM

LOL. Thanks Kelly. I shall sort something out, soon. :)

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 15, 2012
at 07:43 AM

On second thoughts, they may have downvoted me just for a laugh. I don't mind, either way. :)

1
F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 14, 2012
at 03:47 PM

While I agree that sometimes people can be quick to judge troll or spam for certain questions (young or not native English speakers) 18 is certainly old enough to read the FAQ.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:10 PM

If this kid wants to go into the military, I think he'd better learn how to follow simple directions.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 14, 2012
at 11:18 PM

@Kelly, first, my view of the PH page has no such banner, giant or small, only a "FAQ" link next to my name and the "log out" link. Second, if you've read the FAQ, then you know it says "...No question is too trivial or too 'newbie'." It also says "Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you'd want them to treat you. We're all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor."

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 03:57 PM

Well, it's there for any new account. Once you're logged in it goes away, but for any new user, it's very obvious. As for downvoting, it's part of the democratic process on the site. The number of upvotes or downvotes is one way for people to prioritize what questions they do or do not read. If a question really does not add to the discussion, and shows that the poster really did not make any attempt to understand what's going on, then I personally do not think it adds to the discussion, and might be deserving of a downvote, with a nice note as to why.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on May 15, 2012
at 10:04 PM

One thing I can agree with you about is that downvoting should be accompanied by a note explaining why. Unfortunately, that didn't--and doesn't generally--happen. I think that's mostly because downvoters don't want to own up to it, so they do it anonymously, and the system is set up to facilitate that by not requiring a comment.

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:04 PM

It may be old to actually read the FAQ but not old to know that they "ought" to read the FAQ.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 14, 2012
at 04:09 PM

Well, if they ignore the giant "READ the FAQ!" banner at the top of the page, then I have very little sympathy.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on May 15, 2012
at 04:00 PM

Downvoting is not inherently mean or disrespectful, but a part of how the site is designed. And your question was now whether to downvote or not, but whether the age of the person would affect a downvote. I still say no, for the reasons I stated above.

0
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on February 12, 2013
at 04:45 PM

I rarely if ever downvote questions, regardless of possible troll or not.

For answers, I have got into the habit of checking profiles, 'cause sometimes the person is just green. If the answer lacks credibility because of this, I may just comment, and not downvote. If it's "dangerously" wrong -- completely erroneous and may make someone spend money or change behaviors for the worse -- I will probably downvote and comment.

I think downvotes without comments are the worst thing one can do on PH. I'm a very critical person, but I always attempt to be constructively critical.

Trolls and spammers are pretty easy to spot if you check their history. If unsure, just leave them alone. ;-)

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