First, some background

I first joined Stack Overflow 4.5 years ago, and have been active on various sites, especially English and Bicycles.

On English, I have reviewed 690 Close Votes, 328 First Posts, 268 Low Quality Posts, 42 Late Answers, 64 Reopen Votes, and 48 Suggested Edits.

On Bicycles, I have reviewed 651 Close Votes, 1328 First Posts, 558 Low Quality Posts, 552 Late Answers, 390 Suggested Edits, and 41 Reopen Votes.

Across the various sites I've written over 570 posts.

The point I am making with this evidence is that I have a good grasp of how various sites work, that each one has it's own character, and I have contributed strongly to Stack Overflow community.

So, when I decided to join Italian, I was very careful to watch how the site works.

The Issue

I saw Naming a male pet Monkey posted some days ago. With my reviewing experience, my immediate thought was it will be closed. It's not clear, and the way it was written meant any answer was as good as any other, like a survey question.

But it wasn't closed. Answers started to accumulate. Ok, I think, on this site such a question is OK. So I wrote an answer. The OP lives in Texas, and has written in English, so my answer suggested a mixture of Italian and English. With my level of Italian (very beginner), I certainly did not expect to be able to answer any question.

My answer started getting down votes, without explanation. I have done that myself, to experienced members of a site when they are known to argue.

But as a new member, I expect better. I expect to be told what I'm doing wrong. When I stood up for myself, the response from @Denis

This does not answer the question. [snip]

Is simply factually incorrect. The question asks for a monkey name, and I gave one. So it's difficult to learn from his feedback.

Then the upvoted response from @DaG confuses personal opinion with why the downvote mechanism exists (see the [help] Vote Down page:

When should I vote down? Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect. ... Down-voting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

Notice that the recommended reasons for down voting do not include whether you think the post is useful to the OP, or useful to you personally. Indeed many good answers may be much more useful to other readers.

The OP can decide for themselves of an answer is useful.

So down voting should be a fairly abstract decision, as the quote above suggests. Going beyond those reasons makes it personal.

Concluding remarks and questions

I think this situation shows a poorly run site, with poor review practices. We know very well on other sites that low quality questions attract low quality answers, so early review, especially for new members, is vital to the character and quality of a site.

I checked out the Review pages and found an astonishingly low number of reviews. My questions are

  • Was the question reviewed, before I brought it to the attention of @Denis and @Dag?

  • Was my answer reviewed, since it was a first post? If it was reviewed then one would expect some feedback, and a welcome message as is frequently done on other sites.

  • Is it normal on this site to be so unwelcoming to new members?

  • Are these cultural differences? I notice @DaG is Italian, but @Denis does not disclose his origin (in his profile - as he points out in his answer below he links to such information). Of our moderators @Charo♦'s location is Spain, and @egreg♦'s location is Italy. I am Australian.

My principle goal here is to point out the unsatisfactory way this new member has been treated, and what I believe to be a weakness in the way this Stack is being run, so that these can be addressed. As I said in my comment, I think this is bullying behavior. It's very disappointing, and I expect better of a Stack Overflow site.

I have no concern about that particular answer. It is completely unimportant to my purpose for being here, and I can easily delete it.

I thank Denis for his answer and his willingness to engage, and up voted it because it is useful / helpful to see his explanation. I do however disagree with the way he uses down votes; as discussed above I think they should be used much more cautiously than this. In my view none of the quoted reasons apply; he disagrees, but maybe he can be persuaded :-)

  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @andy! I have always believed that we should completely avoid downvoting without carefully commenting to explain the reasons. I fear that this bad practice is lately proliferating in our site. For instance, I've recently received lots of downvotes (you can see that here) without any explanation. I don't know if the same thing is happening to other users.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 6:54
  • I've always believed that this is especially important with new users (see, for instance, italian.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1294/707).
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 6:55
  • Thankyou @Charo :-)
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:32
  • On the question to down vote or not, I try to avoid it as much as possible. But I find even on quite friendly sites it's not possible to avoid altogether. My rule of thumb is to try to keep down votes to 1% of my up votes. I feel it's usually better to up vote the other answers. On this site I haven't voted much yet while I'm learning ...
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:49
  • I agree with you. If we want the site to grow, we should be more understanding with new users. However, also on ELU I got some downvotes (with many upvotes) without explanation.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 3:00

4 Answers 4


I could have closed the question as off-topic soon after it appeared, but I think that waiting for other members' opinion is better.

If your reaction to a question is “it will be closed”, the best approach would be to not answer it and maybe leave a comment asking for clarification.

The question could be rephrased: instead of asking “How can I name my pet?” it could be “Why do some animal species names have single gender?” or any similar question regarding the language, rather than asking for opinion. It could be complemented with an example about the monkey pet, but the main part of the question should be about Italian.

  • When a Stack has a working member base then as a moderator I don't see it as your job to close questions. I have suggested on small evidence that this Stack isn't working properly, but only someone who has been here for several months can know with certainty. But if the members are not pulling their moderation weight then it does fall to you (plural). Yes, in future I'll know that such questions should at least be flagged. I fell into the trap on this one after waiting for closure.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:30
  • I should add - it will be some time before I can do any reviews, firstly because of a lack of Italian, secondly because of a lack of rep, and thirdly because my lack of Italian is so severe that I'm not at the stage of being able to ask serious questions. Any question that occurs to me is usually solved by looking up basic reference works.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:43
  • Sorry to keep adding ... with my rep I'm not able to see the review history, only the total number of each review type. I think it would be illuminating to know if and when members reviewed the question and my answer. It may be that the site just doesn't have the critical mass of involved members to take review work from you moderators.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:54
  • 1
    @andy256 The question has been reviewed by four people, after the initial vote for closing; one of the reviewers opted for “leave open”, the others voted for closing it.
    – egreg Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 12:28
  • Thanks for that.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 14:13

I am Italian, and I do not hide my origin: on my profile you can see a link to my website, which contains a complete CV.

That said, I downvoted the answer because I considered it a very low quality one, and I commented accordingly (although I might have written the comment somewhat hastily). Also I would like to point out that I commented right before downvoting, not "after you stood up for yourself".

Now, the question is not that good either (you'll notice I voted to close it), but at least I did not interpret it as "what's a good name for a monkey". My interpretation was of a more general kind, something like "how do you name animals for which the grammatical gender disagrees with the biological sex?"

I am afraid that it takes time (sometime days) for questions to be closed on this site. It is a consequence of the community not being very active.

I am sorry if that has been perceived as bullying, that was not my intention at all. However I stand by my opinion that your answer is not really helpful for the OP, which is all that a downvote represents.

Let me reiterate that, at least for me, you are absolutely welcome to this site, both as an asker and an answerer. I regret that your first experience was somewhat confrontational.

  • Thanks Denis. At the time I wrote this meta post I had only read your profile, and didn't want to make an assumption. Of course I cannot tell who cast which votes, I could only see the first anonymous down vote. As I wrote above the main reason for posting here is so that this kind of thing does not happen in future. Cycling is also a low traffic site, with closures also taking several days. The difference is that members who vote to close write an explanation of their reason, so that the OP can address the concern.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 21:27
  • But whether an answer is helpful to the OP is for them to assess, not you. See the help center that I quoted regarding how a down vote should be used. The approach taken in this case makes it personal, and ideally, voting should be a rather academic exercise.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 21:35
  • And finally, Denis, the bullying comment was not addressed to you. I appreciate you taking the time to write this answer. Thanks.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 21:39
  • 2
    @andy256 I don't think there's much more to say, but if downvotes are not for rating the usefulness/correctness of the answer, what are they for? Moreover could you clarify how DaG (or my) behaviour "makes it personal"? It seems very respectful of the poster (if not of the answer) to me (this is not a rethorical question, I'm trying to understand why you felt "bullied")
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 22:11
  • I will update my question to address these points. I'm currently reading recent meta posts that seem vaguely connected.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 22:21
  • I would like to add that closing a question implies the action of a moderator (at least in this site is always that way). And at present we are working with only two moderators. We used to be three moderators, but I don't know why at this moment we are only two. I think that usually it doesn't take so much time to close a question, but it can happen that at some days both moderators are specially busy. Remember that we are doing this as volunteers, but we have another job.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 7:07
  • @Denis: do you mean "for questions to be closed" instead of "for answers to be closed"?
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 7:10
  • @Charo Yes, sorry That's the danger of commenting in the evenings...
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:20

The issue appears to be, "It's neither English or Italian."

To a greater degree than most other SE language sites I've been on, many Italian SE members are "purists" regarding the language. Hence such an answer would not be well received here. This was particularly true because, as one of the native speakers pointed out, your answer inadvertently had negative connotations, kind of like selling the Chevy "Nova" in Spanish-speaking countries, where it means "no go."

Your suggestion wasn't good Italian, but you clearly "tried," both with regard to the question, and to stay on topic. My view is clearly a minority one for the Italian SE community however, and the community as a group decided that your answer wasn't "good enough" for the site.

I've done similar things on e.g. German SE with greater acceptance. Frankly, I would not give an answer like yours here. When you've been on as many SE sites as I have, you will find that site standards vary meaningfully. So your long experience on some sites doesn't always translate.

  • Thanks for the insight @Tom.
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 6:12

It is true that the question is asking which name to give to a monkey pet, but the site is about Italian language, not which word Italians would invent to give a name to a pet.

Saying that the answer is not answering the question is not exact. It's not much helpful for future users, who come to the site to learn more about Italian.

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