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Preamble: I know that 'give a reason when downvoting' is a very common request, and I assure you that I have read these posts and the discussions in them and my request is very different. This isn't about encouraging people to comment and is more about gathering metrics.

I'd like to see a feature whereby people who are downvoted get some better feedback on why they were downvoted, especially given that people rarely leave comments in practice.

So my suggestion is that when user clicks on the downvote, they are prompted to pick from a short list (No more than 5) of common reasons. It would be a popup that replaces the existing "Please consider adding a comment" box.

The user receiving the downvote would see how many people downvoted them for each reason, but not who did it. It would significantly address the issue of people being too lazy to comment or not wanting to comment (for fear of retaliation or any other reason) while helping to ensure the user gets useful feedback.

Perhaps the downvote could also be weighted based on whether or not a reason is picked.

For questions the list might look something like:

  • Not a question
  • Not relevant to the subject area
  • Trivial question with no research effort
  • Poorly asked question
  • Other

And for answers, this might be:

  • Nonconstructive or not an answer
  • Incorrect or dangerous answer
  • Poor explanation
  • Doesn't answer the original question
  • Other
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+1 anonymous optional feedback won't harm anyone, but will help the newbies get used to the site quicker. We are usually annoyed with a pop-up box when DVing anyways. But I don't like your "Perhaps" part, there is no chance DVs weight more/less in any case –  ajax333221 Aug 24 '12 at 21:46
Your list for questions seems to largely be reasons to vote to close, not to down-vote (though the lines can be pretty blurry I suppose). But when such questions are voted for closure, the OP is getting that feedback already. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 24 '12 at 21:58
How about we do the same for upvotes? –  Yannis Aug 24 '12 at 22:08
This is the first feedback-when-downvoting idea I actually like. If implemented, this might spare Meta from a lot of whining. –  Dennis Aug 24 '12 at 22:39
Good idea and sorely needed. –  skinnyTOD Aug 25 '12 at 4:26
Possible duplicate - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… –  ChrisF Nov 9 '12 at 17:14
@ChrisF Definitely not a duplicate. That question is asking what we can do to encourage feedback when downvoting, and this one is for a specific feature request to provide some pre-set options when downvoting to provide valuable feedback to the poster about why their question was downvoted. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 17:23
@Rachel - having canned reasons was one of the suggestions in that question/answer and was rejected at the time. All that would happen is that people would pick the first one in the list (if they were forced to pick one) or not bother anyway. –  ChrisF Nov 9 '12 at 17:25
@ChrisF Yes, but many more other users would use it correctly. Also, see the current top answer, which specifically mentions not making the option required. You would only select an option if you actually want to provide the user with feedback, which I think is what most users are trying to do when they downvote –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 17:27
This is a really good idea especially for new users. –  puretppc Nov 25 '13 at 1:17
@ChrisF I'd make the feedback optional. When the box opens, the downvote is already counted (maybe with a default "no reason given" reason). –  Johannes Kuhn Jan 6 at 16:47
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8 Answers 8

I think this could be a constructive feature. It solves the problem of leaving feedback on downvoted material without actually forcing the downvoter to expose himself/herself. However, there are a few suggestions I have to make this successful and continue to encourage normal voting patterns:

1 - Don't force downvoters to pick a reason:

Don't force a downvoter to pick a reason. Instead of a popup, expose the options in an element off to the side, but find a way to make it clear that action is not required, sort of like how the green checkboxes are there for the op, but he or she does not feel like he/she absolutely must click something to move through the workflow.

2 - Use constructive feedback phrasing

The example phrases you cite are pretty curt and abrupt. Use some more constructive and positive phrases instead. Most of the messages on the site have a positive tone to them, and that's by design. For instance, the Not Constructive close reason is overall pretty positive:

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.

This sounds much better than:

Poorly asked question

People learn better when they aren't angry or upset. Since the goal is to teach people how to better use the site, it's important that the language used help encourage people to learn and adapt, not leave angry and embittered.

3 - Feedback visible only to poster

This information should only be available to the person who posted. To discourage downvoters to select the same reasons as other users, downvote reasons for previous downvotes will not be visible to other users. This is purely a feedback mechanism for the person who posted.

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+1 yes exactly what I was trying to say only much better stated.. optional to the voter and constructive to the OP are the operative points, and I love #3. The main point of the idea is training the askers on how to ask better (and answerable) questions. I think to reinforces the items in the FAQ without making it an obstacle for asking questions. –  psubsee2003 Aug 25 '12 at 6:19
At first glance I was concerned about #1, not requiring users select a reason, but when I actually thought about it that's actually a great point to make. It avoids having users select an invalid option just to bypass the popup, and in my experience, most users downvote to leave feedback, and I doubt they'll pass up the opportunity to leave more detailed feedback if given the option. Totally agree with all parts of your answer, and wish I could upvote it more than once :) –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 17:54
@rachel that's interesting, I wish I could downvote it more than once. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 15 '12 at 9:21
But humor aside, Stack Exchange is a system of verifiable fact and science, based on public artifacts and public actions. When you find yourself advocating private notifications, it's a good sign that you've wandered far afield from the mission. Users who are unable to deal with any kind of public criticism will not be helped by this; they are in the wrong place. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 15 '12 at 9:26
@JeffAtwood I'm mostly thinking of votes on Questions, not Answers. Right now question downvotes, particularly for new users, are simple negativity as they are frequently for some reason not related to the downvote tooltip (low quality, unreadable, off-topic, too broad, not constructive, etc). If we provide them some feedback about why their question got downvoted, it turns the downvote into constructive criticism that they can learn from for next time. –  Rachel Nov 15 '12 at 18:06
@JeffAtwood When you find yourself advocating private notifications, it's a good sign that you've wandered far afield from the mission Science doesn't require everyone involved to know everything about the experiment. When an experiment involves human subjects, blinded studies are the most useful for exactly the reason the poster mentioned; people tend to go with what they perceive as the majority rationale over taking the time to examine their personal justification, and there is definite value in denying people that crutch. –  Parthian Shot May 30 at 13:28
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I've got a few issues with this that keep me from supporting the idea. Right now, we've got two ends of a spectrum; the first being a down vote with no comment, and the other with a comment, or this:

{no comment}----------------------------------------------------------{comment}

If we add the most common reasons for down voting for selection, what we get as far as actionable feedback for the question author is generally going to fall somewhere around here:

{no comment}----------------------------------------------------------{comment}

Or, marginally more specific than a simple anonymous down vote. What we can't explain easily with 'canned' feedback is how or where it relates to the given post. That means, we're still doing this in most cases:

That's how it feels, basically.

In some cases this might cause someone to re-read their post, or preferably read their post out loud in order to figure out what these crazy people might be talking about, but canned responses completely lack the empathy needed to stop someone from shutting down in the face of criticism, however constructive.

Yes, there are provisions in the proposal for people to leave custom feedback, but stop and think about this for a second. This feedback is going to be anonymous and we have a hard enough time keeping people civil in comments when they know their identity is going to be associated with what they've typed.

I agree that it's a bit of a problem for new users, especially when some of our sites serve as possible entry points to much larger communities (Ubuntu, Blender, Tridion, Expression Engine, Etc). However, I don't think this is the way to solve it - I don't see it being very effective, and I fear that it would create even more moderation overhead.

Better 'just in time' help for new users might be the solution but we have to face a very harsh reality - some people are just very lazy and won't take advantage of it. Others are asking their questions to the very best of their written English abilities, and this sort of canned feedback wouldn't be very helpful for either group.

Note, I'm not declining this - I'm just stating why I think it's not going to work very well.

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+1 for dragons ref –  Oded Nov 27 '13 at 14:01
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Canonical reasons don't always work. They may be useful for indicating to moderators why you're flagging, but moderators are familiar with the site and know all the rules. Users asking questions, especially new users, won't have any clue what any of these reasons mean. Even providing descriptions for each one may not be helpful. Every question is unique and every question needs customized attention to explain why their question is poor quality. This is especially true for answers. Just telling someone "that solution is dangerous" doesn't help them. Why is it dangerous?

This would be annoying to downvoters. Not every user wants or needs to provide feedback for why they're downvoting. Why should users have to waste their time to perform a couple extra clicks? If someone else has already commented the same thing, why should I need to sit there and select why I'm downvoting? Most downvoters aren't actually afraid to comment so they can remain anonymous, they just don't want to.

What would this ultimately solve? Most of your reasons sound like reason you'd vote to close or flag the post. A bunch of vague reasons being provided anonymously to the OP doesn't help them understand what's wrong with their post. We're far better off leaving real comments for them explaining what's wrong, and all we can do is encourage downvoters to leave those comments. I actually foresee a reverse effect. Users won't want to provide feedback, so they'll stop downvoting. This can only cause bad answers to remain visible with no score and opens up the potential that someone who agrees with that bad answer to upvote it since, after all, upvoting wouldn't require any feedback.

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I don't agree that it would be annoying to most users. Most users probably have a canonical reason they are downvoting and a simple way to provide constructive (if canned) feedback would lessen the whathaveyoutried and GITFM type comments. –  skinnyTOD Aug 25 '12 at 4:25
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Bad. Bad. Bad. Idea. If for no other reason than the hundreds (if not thousands) of resulting complaints on Meta:

User downvoted my post and I don't think it's fair. Can you reverse it? They said it "wasn't a complete answer", but it solved the OP's problem.

And of course, let's not forget the flags that will result from a change like this.

100 times, No.

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-1 I think it's a horrible idea to reject a way to turn downvotes from simple negativity into constructive criticism that teaches users about what they did wrong just because of the complaints you might get. To address your concerns, a vote is something a user does based on their opinion, and you have no control over it. Nobody should expect moderators to reverse votes just because "I got downvoted for the wrong reason". Also, you already get a ton of "why was I downvoted" or "can we require feedback when downvoting" posts as it is. You will be eliminating a large portion of those questions. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 17:45
@Rachel "Nobody expects moderators to reverse votes just because...". You're new here, aren't you. There are lots of flags that a user wants us to do something even though there's no reason to (or flags that are really just petty picks against another user). The last thing we need is more of them. A downvote already has a hover that explains what its for; there's no reason to add to that. –  George Stocker Nov 9 '12 at 19:37
Hi @GeorgeStocker, does this already happen with downvotes where users leave comments? I can't say I've seen an instance recently where someone asked on meta for their downvote to be reversed. With that said, I don't see the same flags you do, so I can't really say whether or not users flag answers when comments are left in conjunction with a downvote.... –  jmort253 Nov 10 '12 at 2:33
@jmort253 Here's an example from very recently: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/155358/… Yes, it happens. It's not the most common thing that happens, but it's not super-rare either. –  George Stocker Nov 12 '12 at 15:28
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I am not normally a heavy MSO participant, but this is something I feel strongly enough about, that I wanted to add my 2 cents.

For people who ask 1 or 2 (or 3) bad questions, never upvote, and never answer questions, they won't pay attention to any feedback (and tend to be users we are not targeting), but I think the lack of any constructive feedback can be a turn off to potential valuable users. I know before I started asking questions, I spent time on the site reading answers and questions, trying to find what I was looking for, but I know most people are not as thorough as I am.

I think you can even make the pop-up downvote response optional (either just a click through or a dismiss button), but just a short list of ideas on what is wrong that can be given to the OP, and allow a simple way to give anonymous feedback as to how they can become a better user. Maybe even make the popup only show up for downvotes to questions when the OP has a feedback rating less than 10.

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I think is a very good idea.

I have been roaming around, and it is clear that there is a lot of people that doesn't give a reason for downvoting.

For instance in this question:


Why would you say it was downvoted? Maybe it was an inapropiate question? I, for instance, being a fairly new user, would like to understand why it was downvoted.

Also, the other day I opened a question, and it was downvoted without reason. I asked and there was no real reason to downvote (apparently) (Question: Question DownVoted, what are the consequences? Related question in meta: Question DownVoted, what are the consequences? )

Maybe if the person was forced to think a second for a reason to downvote, with a simple list of reasons, no forcing to comment. They would not downvote when it is not really granted and the user that wrote the question or answer being downvoted could at least have a hint of what he did wrong.

I think it would have major benefits:

  • The new users would be educated quickier in the proper way to use the site. (One of the education beneffits is: that users with interest in it will be able to know better when to downvote and that way will be more effective when going through the forum to downvote other not useful posts)

  • It would reduce any posible abuse of the downvoting feature.

  • Sometimes people downvotes because it "feels" wrong, having to give a reason would force them to think better.

Besides, since the question has to follow guidelines, it should be posible to give a set of possible reasons.

Regarding the statement about people complaining because of this. There is always going to be people that complain, whether they have a reason or not. But this would benefit all those other people that are new, and/or really want to learn.

If it annoys you to have to give a reason, maybe you don't really have a good reason to downvote. When you downvote it should be very clear why you are doing so. Downvoting it is not about sensoring out of feelings, it is about filtering information due to good reasons. Right now the downvote without a comment it is as useful as saying "I don't like it". Which is not really a good reason.

But if a person already gave a reason, I think others can agree with that, so maybe just the first downvote should be "forced" to give the reason. And for the rest of downvotes, the same reason can be suggested.

In the other hand, people can be wrong, so if you just downvote, there is no way to know if there is really something wrong, or there is an actual issue. Because you just don't know what that person was thinking.

This is a community and everyone is supposed to work as a moderator, downvoting without a reason, it is not a responsible way to moderate.

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+1 for "If it annoys you to have to give a reason, maybe you don't really have a good reason to downvote." –  Mysticial Mar 19 '13 at 19:13
I just can not understand why, if a person can take the time to downvote something, would it be so hard to pick (just one more click if it was a checkboxlist) from a list of reasons? To downvote, to do it properly, you have to read the question, so it should be easy to be able to give a reason. I mean how much additional time can it take? People talks about the downvoting, like it should be super quick. But should it? –  Dzyann Mar 19 '13 at 20:43
You seem to make the assumption that lots of people downvote without ever having a reason. This is generally a poor assumption based on my experiences. Just because they don't share their reason publicly doesn't mean they don't have one, even if you don't see it. So the whole idea here would be that it would help the post author get feedback on why they're downvoted, but it certainly wouldn't stop people from downvoting without a reason if they already are, and it's not a rampant problem as it stands. –  Servy Mar 22 '13 at 17:28
Well I am saying if they have a reason, why not share it? And why not make it easier for them to share it? Instead of having to type they could select from a list or type. Sometimes I look at a post and I am not sure why it was downvoted. So next post I see with similar characteristics I am not sure if I should downvote or not. –  Dzyann Mar 22 '13 at 17:36
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I don't think so man.

Downvote means an amorphous combination of all the reasons you listed (Nonconstructive or not an answer, Incorrect or dangerous answer, Poor explanation, Doesn't answer the original question, Other).

If you can put your disagreement it into words, you can leave a comment.

Adding an explicit list would serve to just clutter the UI.

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I can agree with this, but only if there is a default action that is very close to the current flow. I don't want to make the downvoting process much harder than at present. At least, not all at once.

For instance, clicking the downvote button could display the dialog with the five choices, but the first choice should be "no comment". Either clicking "Ok" or pressing "Enter" or pressing ESCAPE or clicking the "Close" button should leave a "no comment" downvote.

And the dialog may also want to suggest that they consider leaving a comment instead.

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