Case in point, Inspiring biographies of photographers, which asks:

Just asking, also for future reference:

Have you read any inspiring biographies on photographers? Which ones do you recommend?

Are there any photographers whose life is an inspiration to you?

... and links to an old, closed question Which photographer do you find inspirational? which never would have remained as-is were it to be asked now but were common on the site back in 2011 when we were just figuring out what worked and what didn't.

This question got two downvotes in a matter of minutes — faster than I could write a comment explaining why the question might not succeed and pointing to the help.

I know we can't dictate voting, but as a matter of site principle, should questions like this be downvoted, or should they just be flagged to close as too broad?

  • Thank you for raising the issue here - I was asking about the biographies. Myself, I am much in line with Michael Clark (below). Personally, I would not downvote anything that raises an interesting issue, even if it does not refer to photography itself. – user258532 Dec 17 '17 at 20:00

I think it would certainly help if we had an easier way to find and point others to any SE community guidelines regarding the appropriate reasons for downvoting a question.

I don't tend to downvote questions if they are off topic. I vote to close them as off topic. Of course that often requires writing an explanation as to why it is off topic which is then posted as a comment and so my anonymity is compromised. Everyone can see that I voted to close the question as "off topic because..."

It's much easier/lazier for someone to just downvote and move on without having to type a reason and give up anonymity.

In the case of gear questions asking for product recommendations, if there is a good related question here about "What should I consider when looking for something to do this..." I prefer to vote as a duplicate instead. At least by closing the question as a duplicate we give the OP some (hopefully) useful information. But again, that requires me to give up anonymity. I don't mind going on record when voting to close a question, but others apparently do.

I tend to downvote questions if they are:

  • Filled with incorrect information or assumptions.
  • So poorly written as to be indecipherable
  • Demonstrate total lack of effort on the part of the user asking the question.
  • Obvious spamming, astroturfing, or abusive behavior.

I've always assumed part of the downvoting was because there might be members who recognize that the question is off-topic or doesn't belong here, but don't have the 3k+ rep required to actually vote to close a question.

  • 2
    In that case, there is still an option to flag the question as off-topic. – mattdm Dec 18 '17 at 4:50
  • @mattdm, hmm. Maybe it's time to start dropping hints to that effect in comments. – inkista Dec 18 '17 at 9:07

I think in this case the downvotes mean "This doesn't belong here". The correct action for that thought would be to close. However, people are people, and it's simpler to just click the down arrow and move on.

I personally didn't downvote, but did vote to close as opinion based. I can see why someone might not take the trouble to make that distinction.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for how questions that shouldn't be here get treated.

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