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Encouraging people to explain down-votes

This entire process would be voluntary, the user wouldn't be forced to do anything. They could downvote the question or answer and be on their merry way

Let me preface all of this by saying I am aware that forcing users to leave comments after downvoting is widely unsupported, and deincentivizing downvoting any further is unsupported as well.

If the point of SO is to provide a high quality site for Q and A's, it would be nice if there was a way to notify the a downvoted user with some common reasons for why their answer is bad, similar to when you flag a question. When you downvote an answer (or question) it would bring up an option menu of the following options :

  1. Answer is wrong
  2. Answer is misleading (may be technically accurate, but will lead to readers making mistakes)
  3. Answer doesn't match the question (e.g. a C# answer to a question about Java)
  4. Answer doesn't really address the question, e.g. suggesting a completely different solution, even if the question specifies that there are good reasons why the current approach has to be followed
  5. Answer is by someone I don't like.
  6. Other

Examples are from Jon Skeet

The user who downvoted the answer or question could simply just not pick any of these options and leave the page, but it would be much easier than leaving a comment, it has a low barrier to entry, and it's quick and simple. Since people are lazy this would be a quick and easy way to say "your answer sucks, and here is a general reason why it does." There would be no threat of retaliation since there isn't anyone to retaliate against.

What are the pros and cons of this approach?

I searched and found only one reference (a comment) to a method like this.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by kiamlaluno, random Nov 10 '11 at 14:02

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's a very basic reason that this proposal and all it's derivatives are unpopular and shall remain ever so:

It forces the expert to explain to the neophyte why they are wrong

This is great on the surface. We have experts, giants in their fields like Jon Skeet and Eric Lippert giving feedback to students and newbies and overseas contractors who are in over their heads! Fantastic!

However, when you FORCE them to give an explanation, it wears quickly. Do you have any idea how many clueless people are on SO?

Hundreds of thousands.

How many really expert-level pros do we have?

Hundreds at best.

The ignorant masses (and I don't mean this as an insult) are pretty much inexhaustible. They will keep asking the same questions over and over again, and keep making the same wrong assumptions, and keep insisting that X is Y.

After a while you just downvote and hope someone else comments, or pile your downvote onto someone else's. We downvote because it is used in heuristics. If someone asks enough terrible questions pretty soon they can't ask any more. This is great!

If you force an explanation, several things could happen, none of them good:

  • Experts stop giving feedback at all.
  • People stop downvoting
  • Experts get less active in general.

All these things are bad bad bad bad bad bad bad for SO. SO relies on the pros. There's a never-ending supply of people to ask questions. There's a very limited supply of people to give really high quality answers to those questions.

Also, the current system works. Every day it seems we have someone else coming to meta to complain about not being able to ask questions, and if you look at their history this is a very good thing!

So, what you propose essentially makes the most valuable part of the system (the experts) do more work in order to provide minimal benefit to the site as a whole, and the only real benefit is to the people who are asking bad questions or giving bad answers.

You are saying

I really think that my time is more valuable than everyone else's. I shouldn't have to put forth any effort to figure out what is wrong with my question, it should be spoon-fed to me. I can't be bothered to check it out for myself and need people to explain it to me, even though their time is better spent answering good questions.


share|improve this answer
First, it would be optional and you could turn it off after 2000 rep or something like that. Second, I don't think that what you are saying. I had an answer that got several upvotes and it was the accepted answer, so I thought it was a good answer. But then another answer was chosen as the correct answer and then I was downvoted several times, and after reviewing my answer many times, I still don't know what was wrong with it. I thought the point of SO was to have a place for high quality question and answers, if I can revise my answer to make it better for the OP then I want to do that. – guanome Nov 8 '11 at 15:16
@guanome - sometimes that does happen. That is really the majority though. I do a lot of downvotes with no comments now. We have so many terrible questions that get posted, and normally someone else will comment what I think, and I'll just add a DV as well. Even if it's optional, it's still NOISE. It's extra clutter when all you want to do is click the down arrow and move on. – JNK Nov 8 '11 at 15:21
The biggest problem I have with stuff like this is it's a solution in search of a problem. Voting works PERFECTLY now. It's very clear what the community thinks of questions and answers on the whole. Is it abused? Yes! Look at the few questions I have asked on SO for examples. All my downvotes are revenge downvotes, but I didn't complain about. Stuff happens. Welcome to the internet. – JNK Nov 8 '11 at 15:23
Except for the last thing in the gray box, I agree. I must admit I had just the same thoughts as these you mention. I got what I deserved as well. I believe that a person is able to learn and overcome not only the technical impediments, but the social problems too. The dumb-asking here and there and being too-high in the clouds are temporary issues that one can overcome, if he/she realizes them at first. I believe such flagging would help people realize. The rest is up to them. – Ivaylo Slavov Nov 21 '11 at 16:57
Furthermore, this is a wiki Q&A system. So the contents of a question/answer can change for better, not only the "victim" of downvoting. At least this is the true meaning of reproaching to make someone do something the right way, right? – Ivaylo Slavov Nov 21 '11 at 17:08
@IvayloSlavov - I think I understand what you are saying but it's misguided. Yes, this is a community-maintained Q&A system. However, that doesn't mean I should "improve" your answer instead of downvoting. The sheer volume of posts makes this prohibitive. If an answer is "almost right" I may do this, but most of the time it's not even close. – JNK Nov 21 '11 at 18:00
What I meant was it will help a person improve his/her own question or answer. It is what actually matters because if people understand their mistakes, they have the ability to correct them, and that is improvement of these people too, not just the concrete matter they improved. We are not editors, I agree, we must be self conscious and correct ourselves rather than be corrected by others. – Ivaylo Slavov Nov 21 '11 at 18:23

I think that major part of those who will use this system are already posting short comment telling why they downvoted. Having it as comment is much better for the following reasons:

  1. The OP can reply directly to the person who downvoted.
  2. The downvoter will get notification when OP replies "thanks, I've edited the post" and can choose to undo the downvote.

By having it anonymously flagged the above upsides are lost and OP can't do much to have the downvotes removed.

The amount of people who are not posting comments but will use this new system is minor in my opinion, thus bottom line I don't think such thing is worth implementing.

(For the record, I didn't downvote your question :))

share|improve this answer
Having someone downvote the answer and having no idea why is a frustrating thing, if my answer is bad, I'd like to know why and try to fix it, or just delete it if it's way off base. Anonymously flagging it does lose the benefits you mentioned, but it also give people the freedom to tell the user why it's a bad answer without any recourse against them. If it is as easy as clicking the mouse one extra time, I don't see why someone wouldn't do it. – guanome Nov 8 '11 at 14:45
I know and agree, but that's not the point here. My point is that those who don't post comments now won't choose any reason either. Those who will are minor part. Of course I can't predict the future, that's just my own opinion based on my experience here and my own logic. (And I guess that's the reason for the negative votes on the question, as people don't believe it will work) – Shadow Wizard Nov 8 '11 at 14:56
You don't think people could click one more option after a downvote, I'm talking about being on the same question for 100ms longer. People are lazy. I know that if I could leave a reason without the possibility of retaliation, I would. I guess based on the -5 votes, that everyone else agrees with you. – guanome Nov 8 '11 at 15:00
I'm the wrong person to ask.. I usually leave comment when downvoting - but from what I see most don't do that, and won't choose a reason either. – Shadow Wizard Nov 8 '11 at 15:55
Lame. I'm done with all this complaining. – guanome Nov 8 '11 at 15:57
That wasn't anything against you, I just meant I wasn't going to complain about things that only affect me. – guanome Nov 8 '11 at 18:42
Sure, I understand.. actually I'm rather proud of you for not deleting this question in light of the downvotes. :) – Shadow Wizard Nov 9 '11 at 7:49
In all honesty I would have, but there were answers. :). – guanome Nov 9 '11 at 13:26
Oh, sorry to hear that. Anyway, don't let it deter you from using Meta in the future, nothing personal here. – Shadow Wizard Nov 9 '11 at 13:32
I think it's harder to use meta because the behavior is different. On SO if a question is poorly asked or not a question it gets downvotes, on meta it is all that as well, but also if the idea is unsupported you get downvotes too. I think once I realized that, it's easier to understand why the question had so many downvotes. – guanome Nov 9 '11 at 13:47

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