When I look around the site, I sometimes see downvotes on the right answer. Occasionally, there are two answers that say pretty much the same thing, but one is voted up and the other is voted down. What's going on here?

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First off, there really isn't such a thing as "the right answer" since we welcome answers from all viewpoints. So the answer you think is right, might not be the answer that I think is right. Many of us care as much or more about the process of hermeneutics as we do about any particular conclusion about what a text means.

Second, we've asked what a vote means on the site and the truth is nobody can tell anyone how to vote. So those answers might have just run into some bad luck.

However, there are a few things we've noticed that are more likely to prompt people to downvote answers than to upvote them:

  • Really short answers because our answers tend to be long and detailed.

  • Poorly formatted answers because it's hard to tell what they are saying. (We have some suggestions, however.)

  • Answers that are copied from elsewhere because we are trying to improve on what you can find via a search engine.

  • Answers that simply assert without explaining because that short-circuits the process of understanding the text.

  • Evangelism within answers because we are religiously neutral and proselytizing can endanger that stance.

  • Tangents that don't help answer the question because we want our site to be a focused resource for future readers.

  • Controversial answers that claim with certainty to be correct because we want our site to encourage diversity.

  • Answers that neither argue from the text nor cite sources because we aspire to academic rigor.

To be completely clear, the above are not site rules or standards. The fact is, we don't all agree that these things are worthy of a downvote—in some cases, such answers might even get upvotes! Rather I'm making observations about what people say in the comments of answers with a downvote or two.

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Great list! I would add something about sources -- answer doesn't cite any and they're needed to support an important assertion, or (less common) answer cites poor sources. I'm used to seeing comments first for this, though, rather than people going straight to down-voting. –  Gone Quiet Feb 6 '13 at 2:14
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This was a very correct answer. Therefore - just for the extreme fun of it (-1). Cheers. You gotta laugh when reviewing the title of your question. –  Mike Feb 6 '13 at 13:32
    
tempted to downvote because "because we our site encourages diversity." just kidding. downvoting for formatting is a last resort for me. i usually comment. in fact, i rarely downvote for anything other than logic flaws unless the user refuses to correct/address the issues raised in comments. –  swasheck Feb 6 '13 at 17:17

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