Perhaps I should begin this "question" with a few prefacing remarks.

As I had mentioned in my very first participation here "One Jewish Practice," I am Jewish and an atheist. In more recent times, I looked at various outlets that seemed pertinent to that theme. But none were satisfying.

At one point I heard the Dalai Lama, while extolling the virtues of religious tolerance in India, dump on Israel. Where is he getting his news feed?!

Then I saw a piece by Natanyahu stressing the importance of Jews in galus sustaining their Jewish identity. There is no shortage of self-hating Jews in America. And many other countries are engaged in a race to the bottom to outdo each other in being more antisemitic.

Shortly thereafter I and the rest of the world, Jewish and righteous Gentiles, where shocked and deeply saddened by the massacre in Pittsburg.

So I decided it was time to kum v'aseh.

I don't remember precisely how I came to Mi Yodeya, and asked my first question - a request for one Jewish practice that I could do and sustain it. I could have probably come up with my own answer(s): Shema, lamdis, ahvas yisrael, brochos, epsher Shabbos candles.

But there was something special about being encouraged by warm, welcoming participants.

However that question was also met with derision and various degrees of objection. Not being one to back down in things I consider worth fighting for in life in general, and with my particular purpose in mind, I persisted. At that point, not only for my own sake, but even more so in respect for those who also stood up in the face of protestations to provide valuable insight and encouragement.

Subsequently, in a more minor incident, I posted a request for sources for studying daily mishnah. I provided links to sources I had found on my own, both to show that I was not just dumping my question on the community and also to avert any effort to duplicate what I already found.

I immediately got a downvote and a comment that my question was opinion based. Not enthralled with going through another harangue, I deleted my question. yet again, I did reinstate it. And although that criticism was subsequently refuted, the comment was never modified or deleted.

Now again in my most recent question, Why is Masechta Kasubos called Shas Katan.

I immediately acknowledged that this question had been asked before yet that part I was interested in was not answered. In fact the original poster voiced the same sentiments.

I was immediately greeted with a downvote and a multiplicity of comments not only pointing out that the question was a duplicate, but linking the selfsame question that I had linked as if they had discovered some great chiddush.

It is as if they were protecting some inviolable sanctity. But I would suggest that if any of them knew the answer, they would have proffered it rather than waste my and their time arguing about the validity of my question.

Not even the validity of the question itself, but stam the mechanism by which it was asked.

Meantime, someone did go and answer the question and I'm happy to say, received due recognition.

Do you think that if the question had already been answered, he would have made the effort. And I would seriously doubt that that answer would have been forthcoming without my reopening the question (and maybe the attention drawn to it with the graffiti laced across my post). All the while in which we were going at it regarding the technicalities of my post.

Bottom line in this specific circumstance, is it more important to enhance learning or to adjudicate based on "company policy." How many times have you been stymied by customer service departments in that regard?

But there is a much more important issue at hand here. I perceive of this site as bringing (primarily) fellow Jews together. Jews of all kinds and levels of observance.

I feel there is a far too heavy hand with downvotes on postings that are evidently sincerely expressed. Are you to judge rather than nurture. What is accomplished with a downvote?

After and during my first experience, I received numerous comments welcoming me and encouraging me, despite the obstacles, to persist and participate here.

While I am quite put off at this point, I will say in concluding that contrary to my hopes, this site is just a microcosm of the world at large: some good and some that would benefit from improvement. I include myself in the latter.

In conclusion, although I am not observant, I wish you all a Gut Shabbos in the hopes that this endless post may encourage readers to be more kindly, less makpid on stuff that doesn't count so much, and treat others either as you would like to be treated and/or not as you would not like to be treated.

  • 7
    Thank you for bringing your concerns to meta. I'm sorry you've had a rough start here; that's not what we want! You mentioned negative comments; comments are especially likely to fly under the radar (there are so many), so if you see something problematic, please flag it (the flag control is to the left of the comment). Flagging, either a comment or a post, brings it to moderator attention. Otherwise we might not see it. Thanks for your help and your persistence. Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 16:23
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    Thanks for sharing, you are right, MY can feel hard and cold at the beginning. Some users tend to put "site mechanics" ahead of ahavat Israel. There is a way to keep the site on-scope while still helping others. I had the same experience (and wrote about it here see second point). The only answers I have are (1) apologies on behalf of my MY brothers and sisters for the cold welcome, (2) hopefully if you persist you will that the community is on average very warm, helpful and caring and (3) congrats on your journey!
    – mbloch
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 16:15
  • 1
    You definitely make good points. I have issues with the current MY system that mirror yours. I think about how some people say: "Capitalism has problems but it beats anything else that's been tried" I apply it to MY. If we had a simple "message board" then every idiot could make comments, endless mindless chats, and this would be a difficult to moderate free-for-all. The structure we have makes it so much better and different that it works. BUT, yes, this causes a loss on the "Ahavas Yisroel" side of things; and it certainly can be improved. Thanks for trying. :) Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 4:41
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    BTW if you want to have a live study partner from time to time or just want to email about a Jewish topic (our time permitting of course) feel free to introduce yourself to me at [email protected] Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 4:45
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    In my opinion, the site should be a place to help people while learning about Judasim; not a warzone. If people genuinely have a question regarding Judaism(whatever it may be), then let people ask/answer genuinely. If an answer/question is wrong or fake, downvote; if it's inaccurate but genuine, comment. If it's right, upvote. This way, users could use the site as a useful resource about topics in Judaism. It is a real turnoff when people attack posters just because of some usually small point. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 9:11
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    I see many people using this site as an outlet for community and asking questions about Judaism they're too intimidated to ask Rabbis. They feel more comfortable here...why jeopardize that by being too critical or scrutinizing? Good and important point that needs to be addressed to the community. I think it's up to the moderators to incorporate this culture into the system...Kudos to Monica Cellio and Isaac Moses for doing that...If it wasn't for them, I probably would have stopped using it. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 9:15
  • @DavidKenner Thanks for your kind offer. Best regards,
    – user18223
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 11:44
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    I'm active in several SE sites & have experienced the same behaviors. My very first question was on Worldbuilding & it got closed then reopened then answered with "duh this is so obvious, why would you even bother asking, they would just XYZ" (paraphrase) when this wasn't actually true. I've been downvoted for no apparent reason, seen low quality answers chosen as "best" when the questioner told me mine was terrific. Plus all the stuff you mention. Less so on MY but only cause I don't post here often. It's just the way of the internet. Stick around & post, & cultivate a really good eye roll.
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 18:03
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    @CynThanks for your kind encouragement. Similar to you, I spent the last seven years (shmita cycle) at the math SE. It's quit viscous there. But more understandably so in that in math purportedly subjectivity doesn't fly. (Unless you consider it's ok to add another axiom to the canonized ones to accommodate large cardinal numbers.) I did notice and upvoted your comment on meta catching what I too would consider an interloper. Forgive me for not explicitly mentioning it to you. Anyway we and many other like-minded do participate here and I'd like to think contribute in a positive way.
    – user18223
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 18:26
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    I've had the same experience here since the stack was in Beta. I usually just leave or deactivate an account and come back a few months later to try again. Sometimes the offensive people have moved on, sometimes not. Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


Here are a couple ideas I had to help:

Every venue has its "rules of the environment". For instance, it has become widely accepted in online communication, that ALL CAPS is sometimes considered "screaming" at someone and is rude behavior in general.

On MY, I propose that the downvote is a slap in the face for most people. New users especially, may experience a paralyzing feeling of having done something wrong or having been insulted for no reason.

Looking at the list of MY users and their respective rep point rankings, it seems that we have quite a few newer users that came, saw, were downvoted/mistreated and didn't bother participating; but left their accounts up just because it was too bothersome to delete the account.

1 There should be a "no downvote" policy on newer users. Say a rep immunity until they reach +250 points? (or whatever thresh-hold you think is realistic)

I mean under any and all circumstances.

If they are trolling or highly inappropriate, we can delete their posts.

If they are just bumbling around and need to get the hang of things, we should welcome, explain, and disagree in the comments section, so the person feels respected and engaged, even if criticized.

The fact that the post will show "0" is enough to tell everyone that it hasn't won any content awards. a "-1" isn't needed.

2 Gang Down-voting should be limited. I propose that the server or mechanism we have not let any post go below -2. If someone raises it to -1, then others may vote it back to -2 etc.

Certain questions that offend the hashkafah of some users have been known to receive -5 and up as if to trash the person completely.

This is especially disheartening to newer users when a gang of people slap their face one after the other.

3 Violations for "dupes" or "psak Halachah requests" do not need a downvote. Especially not a newer user. The system is already zealous on slapping them with a "HOLD" notice. That's more than enough.

Just some ideas, thoughts?

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    I disagree with (1) and (2) and agree with (3). 1/2: The decision to up- or down-vote or not is and should remain fundamentally a decision made by the individual voter based purely on whether that voter considers the post particularly "useful and clear," particularly "un-useful or unclear," or neither. That fundamental feedback mechanism helps valuable content get more notice than less valuable content and helps train authors to make their content more valuable. Mi Yodeya is here to create a repository of valuable Judaism content; breaking the model for doing that is not indicated.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 20:20
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    3: Please don't downvote posts for being duplicates. Duplicates can be valuable, especially if they restate the question in a distinct way that will make it easier to find. Consider up-voting duplicates that have this merit. I would generally argue against downvoting a post simply because it's a request for pesak, assuming it's well-stated. We have closure to handle that issue, and we can easily revoke the closure if the post is reformulated to request information instead of advice.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 20:25

I am sorry that you had a negative experience on Mi Yodeya, and I hope that your experience will only be positive going forward.

I don't think that Stack Exchange's values are contradictory to the value of ahavas yisrael. In fact, one of the fundamental values of Stack Exchange is to be nice to everyone. If there truly were derisive comments (I didn't notice any, but they may have been deleted without me seeing them) then they should be flagged and deleted. There are, in fact, two entire flag reasons dedicated to not nice comments:

Screenshot of flag reasons

I think the moderators are pretty good at deleting comments that have been flagged with either of the top two reasons.

Moving on from comments, I don't think that downvotes themselves are inherently mean or derisive. Votes exist as signals to the post's quality. Downvotes simply indicate that people found a given post to be low quality. They are not meant as an attack against the user, or as a way to insult the user in any form.

Personally, I rarely downvote questions. I certainly wouldn't downvote a question just for being a duplicate or for being off-topic. But downvotes are also a signal to the poster that something needs to be fixed with the post. So if a question has serious content issues or shows no effort at explaining itself, it might very possibly get downvoted. In such a situation, though, what is meant to happen is that the poster fix the question, and once it is fixed the downvotes may be removed.

I also don't think that closing questions is inherently mean or derisive. There are certain standards that we uphold and each one has a reason for it. These reasons are not even specific to Mi Yodeya; they are used across 170+ sites on the Stack Exchange network, and the system seems to work pretty well. If we would simply allow any question because the questioner wants to learn, it would eventually become impossible to maintain a site of high quality questions and answers — which in effect would prevent other people from learning, as it would be harder to get good answers to good questions.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to check out the Help Center where you can find some good information about the specific rules and why they exist. If you have any questions about a specific policy you can raise it in a Meta post, or visit Chat to have a discussion about it. Similarly, if you feel that any of the policies have been improperly applied in a specific case, you can bring up the issue in either of those fora. You can also flag a specific post for moderator attention to explain a specific issue with that post.

Of course, it is probably inevitable that there will be incorrectly applied policies at times, or rude comments. We try to deal with those as best as we can, but I don't think that the exceptions are indicative of a lack of ahavas yisrael inherent in Mi Yodeya, much the same as I wouldn't think that Judaism lacks ahavas yisrael if an individual Jew on the street was mean to me.

In your particular case, the close reasons that you have had to deal with are "Duplicate" and "Primarily Opinion-Based". The duplicate policy is that there should only be one open iteration of a given question. The policy applies even if the new question acknowledges the existence of a prior version of a question. This is simply a means of keeping order to the site. If there are multiple open versions of the same question, we risk redundant effort if someone sees one version of the question and answers it, only to later find that the same answer was already given on the other version of the question. Additionally, if the versions of the question receive different answers than anyone seeing only one version will not be getting the complete picture.

There are certain avenues that are recommended for someone who is not satisfied with the answers to an existing question. You can place a bounty on it, and include a custom text explaining what is lacking, you can leave comments on the post pointing out what is lacking, or you can bring it up as a discussion in Chat. Unfortunately, all of those options have reputation requirements, but they are all pretty low thresholds as privileges go. In your specific case there is an additional option because the question it is a duplicate of was a two part question. Since only one part of the question was addressed in the existing answer, the question can technically be edited to remove the secondary question and allow you to ask that as a separate question. However, until that is done, a new question will remain a duplicate.

As for the issue of a question being Primarily Opinion-Based, this is a very important standard. The purpose of Stack Exchange is to provide good answers to good questions. In order to cull a repository of good answers, we need to have some objective means of evaluating the answers. If a question does not supply enough information with which to apply objective principles then we have no way of determining whether an answer is anything more than the first thought that popped into the answerer's head.

Of course, the application of this can be somewhat subjective, which is why there was somewhat of a controversy surrounding your question. Some people felt that it met the standard of objectivity, while others did not. In such a case, again, the issues can be discussed in Meta or in Chat, and usually an amicable consensus can be reached. But the fact that people are discussing the validity of a question for this site should not be taken as anything personal.

Additionally, if a question is truly too opinion-based, all that means is that it is not a good fit for our objective question/answer platform. But you can certainly solicit people's opinions on Judaism related matters in an informal setting in Chat. For instance, if your question about One Jewish Practice is closed, you can come to Chat and ask for people's opinions on what the most meaningful practice, or most important practice, or favorite practice, is.

Even if there is nothing inherently wrong with the policies, it can still be somewhat jarring to have your questions closed or downvoted, or to receive critical comments, especially to new users. Hopefully, the policies and any actions taken with regard to them will be explained so that the user understands what the issues are, and that it is not a personal attack. I know that when I started participating here I had already been observing for over a year, so I was already pretty familiar with the way things worked before I ever submitted my first post. But for those users who are not so familiar with how things work, there is a tour and a Help Center (accessible under the question mark icon in the upper right corner), and old users often link to the most helpful bits in welcoming comments to new users.

In short, I would like to think that any negativity you may have experienced was unintentional, and that as you become more familiar with how the site works you will get used to the policies and the implementation thereof, and have a positive experience. Remember, even the top users get questions closed and get downvoted sometimes.

  • There was a somewhat rude comment on one of the questions including the snarky line "What's with people here, can't they read." But it was deleted by a mod within 10 minutes of being posted
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 16:45
  • @user18223 Ah, I did not realize that you had participated in other sites (it doesn't show on your profile).
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 1:29
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    Dear Alex - Glad you caught that. I've written and rewritten a response more times than I would like to think, but wanted to inform you as well as write an amicable comment. It's kind of freeing to show up without any personal history. I hope going forward you and I can develop a nice relationship as I have already with several other participants here. Best regards,
    – user18223
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 1:43
  • @user18223 Sure!
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 1:56

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