Cooking.Stackexchange may look at first glance like a discussion board, but it is structured differently. Its main principle is that the question and its answers should be useful not only to the asker, but also for everybody else who stumbles on it. To do this, we expect our content to have a very specific structure, different from what you might be accustomed to from other sites.
Our users and the moderators enforce this structure. The experience may be confusing at first, but don’t worry, we don’t expect you to come in knowing all the rules. The actions we take are not meant as a punishment, but as means to keep the content as we want it, and to help you gradually learn our norms.
Here is a list of what can happen to your posts, with explanations:
Your post was downvoted
If somebody downvotes your post, this means they did not find it useful.. Voting is done by the users and the voter can, but is not required, to tell you why the downvote. Random downvotes happen every now and then - you cannot expect that everybody agrees with everything you say. It is not a reason for concern if most votes you get are positive. If you get more downvotes than upvotes, you may want to look around and get a feel for the kind of posts our community likes.
The only permanent consequence of getting a downvote is that you lose 2 reputation points (an upvote gives you 10 reputation points, so you almost always come ahead anyway).
Your question was closed/placed on hold
We are selective about the kinds of question we accept. If people vote to close your question, this is not a judgment about your question being stupid or something else - it is just a sign that it does not fit our site. There are tons of good questions which we cannot answer, and don’t try to. The canned text in the closure notice has a link to our list of closing reasons, so you can learn what questions are accepted here. Also, the people who close the question (both moderators and high-reputation users can do it) frequently leave a comment pointing out what the problem was in each particular case.
Having a post closed or deleted is not held against you. Virtually all of our high reputation users, including the moderators, have had some of their posts closed or deleted. If it happens to you, we expect that you take a look at the rules which caused it, note what you could have done differently, and move on.
If you have a question you really want answered, but it gets closed, you have the option to come to chat with it. It won’t get the same exposure as on the main site, but it is likely that the regulars there will have an opinion on it. There are no rules against the types of question which can be discussed in chat, beyond a general requirement to be nice to others.
Your answer was deleted
This is similar to having a question closed. We are particular about the kind of post which we allow as an “answer”. If yours got deleted, it is likely that it was not really answering the question, but was an amusing tidbit (which might have made a good answer to a different question), a new question, or something else.
Deleted answers are not signs that your content was wrong, bad or stupid. They are more likely signs that you posted something in the wrong place. If you try to stick to the question as asked, your answers are likely to be accepted well.
Your question or answer was edited
This can have different causes, all with different meanings.
If somebody fixed your language, or added unit conversions, don’t worry at all. We know that language is not every cook’s strength. As long as your writing is intelligible, people don’t mind fixing grammar errors or typos.
Changing the title of a question or the tags you chose is also common. We care a lot about “how easy is it to others with the same problem to find your question and its answers”. Most new askers can’t come up with the best title on the first try, or find the best tags, so we help out a bit.
If somebody removed parts of your post and left an explanation how it hurts some of our rules, please take note of it. It means that your post contained valuable information (else it would have been deleted completely) but part of it veered into territory which is not good for the site (it doesn’t matter if it would have been good content in another situation). It is again an opportunity for you to take a look at the rules, and has no permanent consequences for you.
Sometimes, people see a question which would should be closed, but from your description they can find a similar question which we can take. In this case, they can prefer to edit your question, even though it changes its meaning, instead of casting a close vote. They will usually leave a comment explaining why this happens, and prompt you to work with them on a formulation which is still interesting to you but does not meet our close reasons. This is the main case when edits which make substantial changes to your original meaning are tolerated.
You were asked in a comment to change something about your post
If somebody left a comment suggesting that you change your post or add something to it, but nobody edited it, you did not break any rules. The person simply thinks that your post could be improved. Sometimes they even believe that you made a factual mistake, while you are convinced they are the one who is mistaken. It is up to you to decide whether you want to make any changes.
Ideally, the improvement suggestion is aligned with what our community values in a post, and changing it can lead to getting more upvotes. But it is not considered wrong to leave it as it is.
It may sometimes be difficult to distinguish between simple improvement suggestions and notices that you may have broken a rule. If it is a broken rule, the person who points it out will usually link to the relevant rule on Meta or the help center, and it is likely that a moderator will also come along to clean up the problematic part.
Your comments were deleted or moved to chat
Comments are disposable on our site. They are used to “grease” the process of writing good questions and answers, and canthe guideline is that they can be removed at any time without any reason other than general cleanup. It does not happen very frequently in practice, we leave most comments untouched, but when it does, it is not considered wrong. So, if a moderator removes your comments, don’t be surprised or offended. Of course, if the moderator also asks you to stop doing something specific in comments, we expect that you follow that suggestion. But in general, nobody cares much what happens to the comments, and if there was no warning, you did nothing wrong.
The moving of comments to a separate chat room is a sign that you are involved in a discussion that would sidetrack people who came to read the question and its answers. It’s not a bad thing per se, you are just asked to take it to a place (the chat room) where you can have your discussion undisturbed. It is not a sign that you hurt any rules. And if your discussion leads to new insights that would be a relevant part of your answer or question, we would be happy if you edit them in.
You got a moderator message, or were suspended
This is something that happens very rarely. At the time of this writing, the site has been around for 7 years, has over 30 000 users, and the number of users who have ever been suspended (except spammers) has a single digit. The typical process is: people come here, do what they are accustomed from other situation, happen to “bump” against a rule. Moderators or high-rep users explain the relevant rule, clean up any content (e.g. by closing the question), the user learns from the situation, and everything is fine. There is nothing wrong with that.
If a moderator sends a message (to your registered email account), optionally with a timed suspension, it means that the moderators find your behavior so disruptive that the site has to be protected from it. This usually happens for one of these three reasons:
- You intentionally abused the system in some way. For example, you could have created a second account which upvotes all the answers of the first one (“sock puppet”) or asked your best friend to do that with their account (“meat puppet”).
- You disagree with the rules and think rules shouldn’t apply to your posts. When others ask you to honor the rules, you argue against that, accuse the people who are trying to explain the rules of having a personal grudge against you, or in principle agree with the rules, but every time some of your content is changed because of them you argue that the rules were misinterpreted and your content should be left as it is1. Or you do not argue at all, but ignore any suggestions and keep posting whatever you want as if the rules do not exist.
- Some of your content is good, but some is excessive self-promotion without disclosure.
A short suspension is the last chance you will get to change your behavior. If you do not learn from it, our community prefers to lose your contribution, even if part of it is good content, than to have to constantly deal with drama and cleanup.
Your account was deleted outright after a handful of posts or only one post, without any warning
You are a spammer, or posted insults or nonsense without even attempting to address the question.
To sum it up: A learning process with a few wrong turns is normal, and nobody is resentful if you make a mistake now and then. You don’t have to apologize, or to stop posting, or to be afraid of lasting consequences. The people who point out what happened don’t think of you as stupid for not knowing the rules when you are new, do not enjoy causing you consternation, and do not do it on purpose to make you angry or wield power over you. The point is to gently tell you what is not done around here, case closed. If we knew a way to make it less of a unpleasant surprise to you, we would choose it (and it is almost always a surprise - if you knew that it is against the rules, you would not have done it in the first place). It does not feel nice to be on the receiving end, but we are not being mean, just pointing you in the right direction so you can learn what interaction is expected here.
What we ask is that you respect the ways of the community which made the site possible in the first place, even if you cannot understand why they exist or think the community would be better off without them.
1 This does not mean that you cannot complain. Mistakes happen, there are some differences in the ways different community members and moderators interpret the rules, and those interacting your post may overlook a good, less-destructive way to solve the problem. So you can take each case to Meta or to the team of StackExchange, the company which runs the site (the moderators are not employees of the company, they are unpaid elected volunteers from the community). What I mean is that, if you complain about a substantial proportion of the corrections of your content, and it is multiple people correcting you, the chance is that this is no mistake and you have misunderstood how the site works.