I recently read a question because it had such a high downvote score--I wanted to see what was so bad. It did get a few sincere answers, but it also received rather a lot of downvotes. Since the question asked about eating some foods so clearly violating the tenets of paleo, I believe readers considered the user a troll.
So I reviewed the user's other questions, and through this process, realized that at 18, the user was quite young--though not a child--and seemed to live at home, eating food provided by parents. The user was also apparently working very hard to get lean and in shape for military service.
I remember when I was 18. Granted we didn't have the internet back then, so learning about pretty much anything required a focused trip to the library. I was a smart kid, and curious, but also at 18 I was busy with senior year schoolwork, extra curricular activities, and a part-time job, and if I could have gone online and gotten quick answers to specific questions from a community like this, I'm sure I'd have tried. Also, at 18 one is perhaps most strongly (and recently) inculcated with nutrition messages based on USDA recommendations taught in school, without the benefit of much real-world experience to balance it, or time to research it for one's self. I know my own evolving understanding of nutrition and food are the product of many years of research, and unfortunately illness.
Reviewing the user's other questions revealed answers full of assumptions, jargon, terminology that we assume we all know. At 18 I probably didn't even know cows ate grass, nevermind the notion that it's pretty much all they should eat. Pastured? Aren't they all? Polyunsaturated/monounsaturated? Ghee or pastured butter? I knew what butter was, and that it was different from margarine....
I guess I was a bit troubled by all the downvoting, but also recognize that without any context, this seemingly obvious question from a user with a low reputation likely stands out as a troll. I rarely downvote at all, but this made me wonder how many times I carelessly answered questions with references that were jargonish at best and perhaps confusing or harmful at worst, because I didn't understand things about the user, or because of basic knowledge or experience I assumed the person had.
Do you review a user's profile/past questions before answering? How about before downvoting? It seems to me that doing so at least before downvoting might be sensible, just in case there are mitigating factors that might re-contextualize the question such that answering sincerely might really help someone.
I think there have been some really sour attitudes around ph lately. Especially towards new people. I don't like it at all. The poster in question is obviously new to this, and needs a gentle introduction to how things are done around here, maybe how to use the search function etc. But the negativity that has been shown to him is shameful and a waste of energy on the part of the negative members.
So Christopher to answer your question - I don't downvote questions, if I think the question is out of line I vote to close. I have downvoted a couple (I think 10) answers which is not too many since I've been around here for a while, and I only downvote offensive or abusive posts. I don't downvote when I disagree, usually I'll start a conversation in the comments, or just disagree to myself. I have very little time for negativity.
I hope that new people to PH and to 'paleo' aren't turned off by the 'we're better than you who don't know as much as us' attitude. Remember - we were all new here at one time.
I don't typically downvote unless there is an egregious show of disdain for other people and a clear show of disrespect for the community.
With that being said, I think that, even for an 18 year old, there are plenty of resources to get an understanding of a particular nutritional path, including paleo... so if the question is particularly lacking in even the most basic conceptual understanding, I'll often refer the person to reading material that they can access for free (Like Mark's Daily Apple or other websites) to help them get a basic understanding of what we're talking about when we talk about paleo/primal/ancestral eating in enough depth to be able to at least know what IS and ISN'T on the program.
I am familiar with the question that you asked -- and the thing that bothered me was that the person seemed to go from question to question without absorbing the information from previous questions ("grains are not part of the paleo landscape", for example). Of course, in some of the responses, we, ourselves, became a bit confusing -- because grains aren't part of the paleo picture, but at least one respondent offered "rice cakes" as an option.
I think that it's pretty clear that this is a diverse community, and I think that sometimes we're FAR to hasty in making the decision that a relatively new poster here is a 'troll' if they're particularly new (or particularly intense). I think that, from my perspective, if I have something new to add to the responses, I'll give a response. If the person is clearly disrespectful of the community or a group of its members, I'll give a downvote -- but I don't always check the profile first... I tend to go more by the tone of that individual question. I don't always have the luxury of time to go "checking up" on the person before responding.
I deal with a lot of 18-year-olds that are not interested in "looking things up," but would rather have someone else tell them the answer. The particular 18-year-old you are referencing is no different and you can tell by the questions he has asked. Yes, I read his profile and previously asked questions, which made me want to down vote his question a million times.
I am totally against down-voting questions and I have never ever down-voted questions. I did down-vote some answers though.
I think that the custom of down-voting puts people in a situation where they are afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb those questions might be. Hey, it might look dumb to you, but to some people - they want to know the answer! Nothing wrong with that, is there?
As for checking users profile - I only check if I really like the answer/question/person behind the answer.
I definitely do. I saw a question get downvoted quite a bit for incomprehension despite the poster apologizing for non-native English. Sometimes even the questions don't get read thoroughly, forget the profile - though I will admit these problems are the exception and not the rule. I think most people here try to be fair and helpful.
I'm only recently out of lurkerdom here, but on this forum--and any others that allow downvoting--I only do it when someone is being rude and disrespectful of fellow members. Be a jerk, I downvote. If they're clueless, ignorant, or just plain lazy I won't bother downvoting as long as they aren't being nasty. And I'm an avid upvoter of helpful, intelligent, compassionate comments.
I don't bother to check profiles unless someone is either consistently great or consistently a dumbass, though.
I've never down-voted anybody (yet) and would be very reluctant to do so. Unless the OP is so terribly obvoiously a troll, I think the purpose here is to educate not to denigrate. I certainly feel fortunate that I've found this site with so many, many dedicated and highly informed people here.
My experience with 18 year-old boys (two sons) is that they can be a little dense at times. Maybe some of the advice given will get through to him. Who knows, maybe he'll become educated enough to offer advice to newbies someday.
I get downvoted every now and again (Not that I actually care. lol). Maybe I should see about making my profile page more interesting if downvoters are going to be visiting?