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The alt-text of the downvote button gives 3 reason why a question should be downvoted:

  1. The question does not show any research effort.
  2. The question is unclear.
  3. The question is not useful.

The first two are pretty self-explanatory IMHO. If a question can easily be answered with one query on Google, then it doesn't show any research effort. If anyone asks a question with vague wording or ambiguous terms, then it's unclear what they're asking. The third isn't really straightforward to me.

I usually upvote a question which piqued my interest, thereby signaling I'd like to see someone post an answer. In that case the question is useful to me in some sense (if only to quench my curiosity). The reverse doesn't really work, i.e. if I don't find it interesting I ignore the question because I don't find it useful. I wouldn't downvote it merely because the topic doesn't have any utility from my perspective.

So in the context of Skeptics, when should a question be deemed "not useful" (i.e. to the point where it makes sense to downvote)?

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  • Is this partly in reference to a recent political question?
    – fredsbend Mod
    Mar 29 at 14:12
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    @fredsbend, you're absolutely right. That was indeed the kickstarter of this question. It kind of evolved from: (1) why is this question being downvoted? To (2) that's not a good reason to downvote! To (3) what is a good reason to downvote? And now I find myself here on meta. But at this point in time I am more interested in a general approach to "usefulness" than an analysis of said political question.
    – Jordy
    Mar 29 at 14:19
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    I'm sure we have some old posts talking about when someone should up or down vote, but these opinions change over time, so perhaps it's good to revisit them now.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Mar 29 at 15:05
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    Something to consider is that a vote of a user can easily change depending on what else is happening on the site. In one case a question might not attract downvotes and be considered un-useful but depending circumstances it might. An example of this would be after the 2020 presidential election when a flood of questions around election fraud started pouring in. As more of them started getting and they looked similar in nature the reaction to them started getting poorer and poorer. It wasn't that the quality changed but the reception of seeing so many of them did.
    – Joe W
    Mar 31 at 19:18
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I rarely downvote questions, but because I just downvoted Does the FileCoin network have a capacity of 2.6 Billion Gigabytes? and several other users have as well, I thought I would look into this.

As Oddthinking reiterated this year (2021), we discourage downvoting simply based merely on disagreement with the political or religious background of the person asking the question, making the claim, or giving the answer.

In 2020, the Trump voter fraud allegations were attracting downvotes, and this was also a matter of concern. Personally I have the "trump" tag hidden on this site because I find both anti-Trump and pro-Trump allegations to be often boring or irritating. However, these were certainly noteworthy claims in December 2020, and there were many people online either spreading the claims or requesting debunking. I agree that these should in fact be upvoted because this is precisely what the site was designed for.

The problem with the FileCoin question isn't that the claim is overly exaggerated or obnoxious. Rather, it is an unpromising claim to analyze, since it's about marketing literature for a product. A positive answer would serve as free advertising, and a negative answer would also draw attention to the product even through debunking it. This is not the same with Trump's claims -- it's often claimed on Twitter that "if you ignore him he'll go away", but this is not the case. Trump has a large supporter base which makes his claims notable.

I think a "useful" question must be about topics of Wikipedia-level relevance or historical interest, such that a well-written answer feels like it adds to general human knowledge.

Not sure I have worded this as best I could, but I hope this helps the discussion as there is no consensus answer yet.

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    The problem with the Trump questions is we don't need multiple questions asking to debunk the same things with slight variances.
    – Joe W
    Apr 6 at 14:59
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    "positive answer would serve as free advertising, and a negative answer would also draw attention to the product even through debunking it." Yes, basically anything you do on the internet is for others which constitutes free advertising and facilitates additional attention. The idea here is that the attention informs users regardless, and impartially. The attention is balanced by third-party verification or refutation from impartial sources. That's what we provide. Disclaimer: file-coin question is mine. Apr 7 at 4:56
  • Your comment appears to agree with my reasoning 100% and yet you downvoted me...
    – Avery
    Apr 7 at 11:16
  • I don't agree with your reasoning. Your reasoning has led you to downvote questions because they exist on the internet and that'll give them attention. My reasoning in using this site is to spread information pertinent to claims regardless of the greater effect or any additional attention it will bring. If I remove your (rather meritless) argument about attention this whole statement goes away "positive answer would serve as free advertising, and a negative answer would also draw attention to the product even through debunking it." and with it your entire argument. Apr 7 at 15:43
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    Oh, I see. I agree with you that "basically anything you do on the internet is for others which constitutes free advertising and facilitates additional attention", and I thought you were agreeing with me because we have different definitions of "informing users"
    – Avery
    Apr 7 at 16:57
  • @Avery I don't think we have a different definition of informing users. If a user comes skeptical of the claim by FileCoin (or, another corporation) and they leave with outside third-party impartial evidence and deduction as to whether or not that claim is true or false, they're informed. You just think that pursuit isn't worth it because it's done online and in public which provides publicity. But that seems to be true of all claims (true and false) on this site. Apr 7 at 18:08
  • "a "useful" question must be about topics of Wikipedia-level relevance or historical interest", I agree with the overall sentiment, but that is in itself a very vague criteria. To give an example: FileCoin does, in fact, have it's own Wiki-page. In your example, I would have shrugged and moved on, no upvoting, no downvoting.
    – Jordy
    Apr 8 at 8:22

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