I post questions on this site which seems to annoy some people. I am sincerely trying my best to post quality research-level questions. For instance, this post, NP-complete problem with quasi-polynomial bound on the number of solutions , has received 15 upvotes and 3 downvotes. A top expert in the field, who answered it, stated it is very interesting question.

Can someone help in explaining the possible motivations for these three downvotes to improve my future posts?

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    $\begingroup$ I donno... When 5x as many people like what I write as dislike it, I usually call that a win. $\endgroup$
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if asking how to improve your particular posts is a good question for meta -- in this case it comes close to complaining about getting downvotes. I would follow the general advice of meta.cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/300/…. A good rule is to read the negative comments, which usually give a clue about the downvotes. But in general, people can downvote posts if they like, and it's hard to know their reasoning if they don't leave a comment. $\endgroup$
    – Lev Reyzin Mod
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 3:26
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    $\begingroup$ lets face it, votes are highly subjective, therefore unpredictable and not nec highly correlated with quality. one cant take individual questions too seriously (ones own or others). this has much more to do with se dynamics than theoretical cs. also note that by design the downvotes are invisible to all except those with significant rep, 1000. far worse has happened eg entire halfway decent posts get deleted. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ I am not one of the downvoters on that question, but I will take a stab at why there might be downvotes from things I've seen before with your questions. It seems to me (and maybe I am mixing things up) that you tend to say "natural problems" in a lot of your questions and then there are long debates afterwards in the comments trying to figure out what you meant by "natural" this time around. In the process your question is answered several times, with sometimes rather insightful problems that you after deem 'artificial'. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ As such, it might help if next time you say "natural problem" (or some such) in a question, you also give in the question an example of an artificial problem that answers your question but in a way that leaves you unsatisfied and right away explain why it leaves you unsatisfied. This would help avoid a repetitive discussion on what was meant by natural and also show others how carefully you've already thought about your question. Maybe this opinion from another SE will be of interest (point 4 doesn't really apply that often to cstheory). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ btw there seem not to be good summarized statistics available (here or across se) but anecdotally, not that many posts get more than 5 votes, even fewer over 10 votes. in fact over 10 vote questions are automatically tweeted by the site and show up on other popular aggregators (eg Narayanan). so yours cited is basically quite esteemed and the basic premise of your question is shaky—arguably the system worked in this case. also agreed with AK that the term "natural" is quite tricky in math/ TCS....(but nevertheless it has some place)... $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


I am also not a down-voter. IIRC the down-votes happened early on and probably after my comment, I guess some people felt that it is a trivial question and not suitable. If there hasn't been any down-votes after your clarification then I think you are probably reading too much into down-votes.

For you are looking for advice on how to avoid similar situation in future then I also second Artem. Natural is not a well-defined concept. It is sometimes useful to ask for natural objects but there should be a reason why you are looking for a natural object. Asking for natural object in every question is not a good thing. You should have a good reason why you want a natural object and not an artificial one. In other words, when you ask for a natural object it would help to explain why you are restricting the class of objects to natural ones. The clarification of the intention would also help people know what you are looking for.

Another thing is that if you are revising your questions too often based on the comments it can be a sign that you are not spending enough time to think and formulate your questions before posting them. Maybe you should try to spend more time thinking about the kind of answer you are looking for and trivial answers that people might think are answering your question but are not really, and then write the question in a way that people are not likely to interpret it in a way that you don't want to.


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