I use "trolls" here for lack of a better term. In the few instances where I've seen this type of behavior, it seems to come from an honestly sincere place, not the typical trolly motivation, though the behavior is very similar. (Let me emphasize this point: the entire purpose to my asking this question is to give such people the benefit of the doubt, presume good faith and all, presume that they’re not trolls. I only use this term because I don’t have a better one which gets the same point across without the negative connotation.)

What I'm describing is exchanges in which:

  1. Answerer posts answer with extremely controversial content, sometimes heretical but not necessarily.
  2. Another user (in the above examples, me) posts question asking on the answer.
  3. Answerer basically tells off user, saying that his opinion is invalid. Does not usually defend opinion, and if he does, it takes just one or two further questions before answerer tells off user.
  4. Answerer shuts down all further discussion, or else teases additional discussion with the intent of driving it in circles and not making any progress in fleshing out the answer at all.

The first time I stumbled across such a post, I was directed to the usual troll policy: downvote, disengage, flag. In instances since my policy has always been to assume good faith and prod at the answer until it's clear they're not interested, then downvote, disengage, flag (or now that I have the rep, vote to delete where applicable).

Personally I feel that this is the correct approach, but does the community agree that we should be treating these posts as regular trolls? On the other hand, it's not our job to delete as wrong, and maybe these shouldn't be treated as trolls, but rather uninformed and therefore just downvoted but not deleted?


1 Answer 1


I would say to treat it as you would any other post. If someone posts bad content — whether incorrect, unsubstantiated, or any other flaw — you can downvote it.

You are never required to justify your downvotes. It’s certainly nice if you can leave comments when you downvote that can help the poster improve the post, but that is a bonus. Your downvote is primarily there to signify that there is something problematic with the post.

Once you start commenting it can sometimes be difficult to extricate yourself from interminable debates that seem to lead to nowhere. If that is something you want to avoid you can disengage at any time, or even not engage in the first place. There is a reason why despite a dozen requests a month on the main Meta site to require comments when downvoting, the feature has never been implemented.

Keep in mind, however, that just as a downvoter has no obligation to engage an answerer, an answerer has no obligation to engage a downvoter or commenter. It’s certainly nice when users accept constructive criticism and edit their posts, but it is not strictly necessary.

If you have already downvoted an answer and pointed out issues with it, you have done your due diligence. At that point you can let the score stand for itself. If there is a particular instance where the score does not reflect the negative quality of the answer, you can feel free to link it in Chat for others to evaluate, as long as you don’t do it in a way that looks like targeted downvoting.

In short, for all posts that you see you should engage as much as you feel comfortable, and then let the facts speak for themselves. Short of deleting the post (which we don’t do unless it is rude, spam, or not an attempt to answer the question) there isn’t really anything else to do. You can only hope that future readers will see a negative score and relate to the post accordingly, and that someone who repeatedly posts negative content will eventually get the message the downvotes on the posts relay.

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