I believe I can objectively demonstrate that, at least in my experience, Japanese Language provides a much more negative experience than many, if not all, other Stack Exchange sites.

I belong to 33 different Stack Exchange sites, of which I've participated in asking at least some questions or giving answers on about 28 of them over the last 4 years. After Japanese Language, some of my most active sites are AskUbuntu, Stack Overflow, Android Enthusiasts, and English Language & Usage.

On AskUbuntu, I've asked 157 questions, and given 26 answers, and received 2 downvotes. (My reputation on AskUbuntu stays low because I give away a lot of bounties. Also, I have one "unaccept" - I don't know what that is). On Stack Overflow, I've asked 128 questions, and given 13 answers. 4 downvotes. Android Enthusiasts, 59 questions, 17 answers, 1 downvote. English Language & Usage, 13 Questions, 6 answers, 0 downvotes.

Now, compare that to Japanese Language, where I've got 171 questions, 90 answers, and 34 downvotes. 9 of those are in the last few months, as it appears the negativity is increasing.

You might say that my downvotes are higher here simply as a function of being more active here. But, if we take the amount of input I've given (questions + answers), and take the downvotes as a percentage, we see that Japanese Language is still five to ten times higher than anywhere else. For AskUbuntu the percentage of downvotes to input is 1%. Stack Overflow - 2%, Android Enthusiasts - 1%, English Language & Usage - 0%. For Japanese Language, it's 13%.

The nature of the downvoting is also very different here. For example, the only question of mine to get downvoted on Science Fiction & Fantasy received 3 downvotes and was closed. There was a lot of immediate commentary and discussion, so I knew exactly what was wrong with the question. In that circumstance, I don't mind having a question downvoted or closed, because I know what's going on. I'm only human, I make mistakes.

But on Japanese Language, the downvotes come spread out over time, for questions that have been asked ages ago, with no explanation. Here on Japanese Language, negativity falls like snow, gently, constantly, building up over time.

In fact, this is why I bring this up now. I've not been that active on Japanese Language for a while, but I still use other Stack Exchange sites, and it feels not uncommon to see in my inbox of reputation changes something like this (taken today):

Last seven days downvotes

These are questions I've asked years ago, and someone is downvoting them now. This never happens with other sites. Quite the opposite - with other Stack Exchange sites, the only time I've had a reputation change on a question months or years after the fact was when it was upvoted.

No explanations are offered, of course. And while I might be able to see controversy in some of my input, the downvoting is often outright inexplicable. I just can't imagine any logic that could justify why a question like this one is not right for this site. It's a straightforward grammar question, with a straightforward answer. On other Stack Exchange sites, far more egregious questions or answers simply get ignored.

Perhaps it's just one person going around sprinkling downvotes everywhere. Perhaps it's just happening to me. Perhaps it's many people. Whatever the case, though, the moderators should be doing more to foster a less negative environment. No one person should be left to rampantly downvote, no one person should be targeted, no Stack Exchange community as a whole should be given a platform for pervasive and unexplained negative feedback.

Anyway, this is why I don't use Japanese Language as much as I used to, even though I'm still very active on the Stack Exchange network over all. Japanese Language is, as I believe I've shown, demonstrably more negative than other Stack Exchange networks, and for that reason, something isn't working here. Which is a shame, because it could be a much better resource.

I hope maybe something can be done to make the experience here more in line with the other Stack Exchange sites, and I leave it to the moderators and community to work out what that might be, or even if they want to address it. In the meantime, I sincerely (no, really) wish good luck to all of you with your Japanese study, and thanks to those who have provided help and support.

  • I agree, though I'm not sure this is exclusive to JLU. I definitely find that people downvote very liberally not just here, but also on other language sites (ELL being a major offender as well). (Also, a side note: an "unaccept" is when your answer was accepted, then the OP changes their mind and accepts another.)
    – Cat
    May 8, 2015 at 2:40
  • @Questioner, Maybe someone dislikes you for whatever reason. All it takes is 1 person to give you 33 downvotes.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 16, 2015 at 21:05
  • 3
    @Pacerier, I agree that is a distinct possibility. If it is, the moderators should be able to detect a pattern of personal vindictiveness and take action to correct it.
    – Questioner
    Jun 17, 2015 at 3:57
  • @Questioner, The mods have actually stated (on the parent SE) that they can't. If all the votes are done on one day, yes its obvious and they will undo it. But if the votes are carefully spreaded (e.g. one in 2 weeks), they can't undo it because it is thus considered a real genuine downvote.
    – Pacerier
    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:45
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    @Pacerier, everything you are saying is plausible, but the net result is still the same, which is that I have an unjustifiably negative experience on this site that I don't have on other sites. If it can happen to me, it can happen to other users. Maybe the moderators can't do anything about it with their current tools, but that doesn't mean there isn't a problem.
    – Questioner
    Jul 9, 2015 at 7:40
  • 2
    Adding to Eric's impression, I think linguistics.se is way too negative, and I'm a linguist. Jul 7, 2017 at 12:55
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    I'm closing this question, because the events that led to the posting of this question are over three years ago. If someone wishes to start a new discussion about this, please do so via the Ask Question button.
    – Earthliŋ Mod
    Apr 13, 2018 at 7:51

3 Answers 3


Here is some arbitrarily-chosen data because I was bored:

In aggregate, Japanese.SE is solidly middle-of-the-pack when it comes to downvotes cast: we have a upvote-to-downvote ratio of 24.7 (on posts other than community wikis), which gives us the 88th-highest ratio out of 136 SE sites. Our "peer" sites - the other language sites, excluding ELU (11.9) and ELL (18.4), which are kind of special - have ratios of 28.3 (Spanish), 27.9 (Italian), 27.7 (French), 24.3 (German), 20.2 (Chinese), and 17.4 (Russian).

We do have more downvotes on answers than questions - by a factor of 1.7, which is the 28th-highest ratio on SE.

The amount of "late" downvotes on this site is not abnormal relative to other SE sites: 55% of our downvotes come in at least a day after the post is made (well, sort of - vote times are erased in SEDE, so we lose some granularity here); 21% come in at least 2 weeks after the post is made; and 18% come in at least 60 days after the post is made. By all three of these measures, Japanese.SE lies between the first and third quartiles among all SE sites.

The total number of downvotes cast by users with less than 500 reputation (a reasonable cutoff for "lurker", I would say) is 439 (and this includes 235 Community-owned downvotes), compared to 3786 cast by users with 500 or more reputation. There does not appear to be an epidemic of lurker-downvoting. Indeed, only two users with less than 500 reputation have cast 10 or more downvotes.

It so happens, Questioner, that you have received more upvotes on your questions than any other user on the site (1193). Concomitant with this, I don't think it's terribly unusual that you have received the third-most downvotes on your questions (38) - all that means is that you ask questions that are frequently viewed and voted on and your questions are of "median quality", whatever that means. This doesn't say anything about whether Japanese.SE is negative or not, but I think that the query I linked does suggest that there isn't any targeting going on (of you or of anyone else).

  • 2
    Thank you for these numbers, but I'm not sure I agree with your conclusions. Sure, the aggregate experience is not the same as mine, but that doesn't mean my situation is therefore not revealing of any issues. To explain by example, the vast majority of people on the road will not encounter drunk drivers. That does not mean there is no case to try and work to prevent drunk driving, with rules that apply to everyone, just because the problem only affects a small minority. I experience a negativity unusual on SE. Most others here might not, but I think there is still evidence of something wrong.
    – Questioner
    Mar 18, 2015 at 4:57

We try to do everything we can to foster a positive and friendly environment here. We strictly police content based on the rules, and on the whole I think most of us try to be as welcoming as possible. That said, not every user shares the same philosophy of how the site should be run, and the liberal use of downvotes is, while potentially upsetting, completely acceptable as long as it's not carried out in violation of SE policy. Anonymous downvoting without any kind of comment is not a violation of rules, although it is certainly a violation of proper etiquette.

Now, we can conjecture as to why JLSE might be the target of more downvoting than other places. First, Japanese is a notoriously difficult language, and many of us as learners post answers based on flawed intuition which may lead to slight errors in our interpretations and explanations. New learners especially, eager to help out others, might post answers that echo something they heard in their Japanese classes or that they picked up somewhere but that misses the mark in terms of nuance and accuracy. It's hard to get good at Japanese, and even harder to be able to be able to explain its intricacies and nuances in any level of detail without being a native speaker. As such, a lot of answers are just wrong on some level, and this, according to the severity of the transgression and the temperament of the reader, may necessitate a downvote. Especially the few native speakers we have here might be more sensitive to this sort of thing and be quicker to downvote.

As for the downvoting of questions, I can't say for sure. I feel like the downvoting of answers is much more prevalent. It's entirely possible that someone is going through old questions and just doesn't like them. If you believe there is a suspicious pattern of downvoting on normal, acceptable questions, it may be worth bringing up with the moderators and administration. It is, though, however unfortunate, someone's prerogative to downvote as they choose, and we can only decry it as rude.

I agree that there is a general air of negativity here and I have for a long time. I've spoken against it and I believe that we should try to be as friendly as possible to all users and offer explanations for downvotes at all times. But doing so is not against the rules, and I don't think anyone really wants to suggest that we require a reason for all downvotes.

Our userbase is not very large, and unless there are lurkers going around and downvoting things, I don't think that the activity is spread across many users. You can check for yourself and see who has the most concerning downvote:upvote ratios.

In the meantime, however, our only recourse is to create as positive and welcoming an environment as possible while reporting all violations that we see and hope that others follow suit.

  • 4
    Can you give a specific example of what moderators do to proactively "foster a positive and friendly environment"? I'm not asking to be confrontational, I am sincerely curious to know what shape that would take.
    – Questioner
    Mar 18, 2015 at 4:58
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    Positive and constructive feedback would be a good start, especially to encourage new users (with low rep) or at least give them benefit of the doubt. The number of people considering to end involvement in the community altogether is concerning. Remember: more answers to choose from means better answers.
    – Tom Kelly
    Jun 11, 2018 at 15:57

Noting that senshin mentions language sites, I think I'd lay the blame for the higher incidence of negative votes on the "grammar nazi" concept.

It's easy to think you know a lot about grammar and vocabulary, and it's easy to think what you know takes priority over what other people know. This is especially true when it's your mother tongue.

I see a similar negativity on comp.lang.(whatever) newsgroups. Some people are making their livings by their understanding of rules, and they might feel threatened if someone suggests that there are other rules that could be brought into play. Or they may feel that it is their duty to protect the "standard", without being willing to recognize the necessary multiplicity of standards.

The fact that negative opinions are, by nature, more likely to be wrong seems to escape many of the people who believe their understanding is more correct than other people's.

But, really, downvotes (as a feedback mechanism) are a necessary part of the structure of SE sites, so we shouldn't get too worried by them, if we are willing to participate in SE sites.

If we notice someone else getting what seems to be an unnecessary downvote, we could join in the discussion and see if we can find a reason why that would help the people participating.

Or perhaps just spend a positive vote balancing things out, if that seems to be a good idea. (And I see a good bit of balancing votes here, as well, so far.)

Of course, I'm a newbie here, so I may be a bit off-base. :)

  • 1
    I think you have a point here. I receive far more negative feedback on answers than other sites (even those I have less expertise in) often with no explanation for why. Although AFAIK there are not many Japanese natives on this site. Could we not support a more supportive community that gives advice or edits to improve answers an upvotes alternatives unless there is something critically misleading about a particular answer? Of course, some of us try to set an example here but negativity unfortunately can be more visible (especially for newcomers).
    – Tom Kelly
    Jun 11, 2018 at 15:42

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