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EDIT: Added my thoughts about "downvote as quality info"; removed the part about opinions (thank you Manishearth); explained better the proposal.

The question is already in title: do you think that down-voting is really useful for any Stack Echange community?

In my opinion down-voting misses its primary intention: does not educate the user. I think it's more useful for the user you would down-vote and for the entire community to explain what's wrong in the post with a comment.

(new) As pointed out by Yannis and Manishearth, downvotes are useful to signal bad posts, but you can do the same upvoting good posts. This is even more so for answers, since you can also vote to close them.

Down-voting is like giving a silent slap. Commenting is like admonishing. It's not fair that a questioner and an answerer must explain clearly what they write, while a down-voter can simply click a button. Personally I down-voted only two times, when the post was already commented by me or someone else as not good and the author had not changed it.

Yes, Stack Exchange sites will suggest that you should add a comment, but from my (little) experience people that leave a comment before down-voting are a minority. For example, a question of mine had a bad answer, and I commented it to explain why it is bad; in the meanwhile the answer was down-voted without any comment. After a while the answerer deleted it. I do not think that the down-vote was particularly useful. And if I can be completely honest, I'm a bit angered by the fact that the answerer can think the down-vote was casted by me :D

Furthermore down-voting is particularly misleading for sites like Meta Stack Overflow or Programmers or something, since I noticed that people on these sites tend to down-vote a post because they do not agree with it instead of because the post is badly written.

I think a more useful method would be to allow users to check a "Down-vote if not edited" box. If such a comment is left and the post is not edited after X minutes, a down-vote will be automatically cast. (changed) If the post is edited, the commenter will be informed and can down-vote if (s)he don't like the edit. In my humble opinion a system like this will conjugate the quickness of down-voting with the fairness of commenting.

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Meanwhile, upvoters everywhere are feeling left out. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 25 '13 at 8:49
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For far more information than you'll ever want on this topic see - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… –  ChrisF Jun 25 '13 at 8:56
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Downvoting's primary intention is not to educate the user. It's to signal to every future reader of the post that its somehow problematic. quality content > user. –  Yannis Jun 25 '13 at 8:57
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@Yannis: If this is the primary scope of down-voting, it missed it too, since the post can be edited and it could be a good post. Furthermore I let me say that the fact this question was heavily down-voted is the proof of what I said in the question itself ;) –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 9:09
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@LucasMalor Uh, yes, nobody disagrees that downvotes on meta are opinion based. –  Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 9:21
    
@Manishearth: do you mean that up/downvoting to express (dis)agreement is accepted on Meta? –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 10:05
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@LucasMalor That's exactly what voting on Meta is for. meta.stackoverflow.com/help/whats-meta –  Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 10:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Thing is, comments many a time don't encourage users to remove or fix bad posts. Downvotes do.

Besides that, here's a bit of my own experience: For a couple of days, I browsed through SO and downvoted+commented on every crap answer I could see, till I hit the vote cap. Some of these were deleted. Some were fixed. But a large majority of the users here got angry at me and went on to downvote my posts.

Even if a downvote is placed without a comment, the poster realizes that something is wrong, and may further scrutinize it.

And remember, downvotes help sort posts. Comments do not.

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You can sort posts closing bad answers and upvoting good ones. You said that downvotes encourages to fix bad post. I'm not very encouraged to fix this question, since no one that commented it has told me what's wrong. –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 10:02
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@LucasMalor Downvotes are different on meta. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your post. –  Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 10:08
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@LucasMalor No, because moderators do not judge correct from wrong. So no deletion of wrong answers. –  Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 10:09
    
Ok, this time I have not read the FAQs :P About bad answers I have done a mistake, I mean questions. –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 10:21
    
After a good sleep I realized than in your answer there is the weak point of my proposal: if commenting will be mandatory, you could know who downvoted your post and this is not a good idea if the poster is a vindictive chap. –  Lucas Malor Jun 26 '13 at 8:49
    
@LucasMalor exactly :) Downvoting is anonymous because people can get really vindictive on the Internet. –  Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 8:54

Stack Exchange's stated goal is (emphasis mine):

Stack Exchange is a growing network of individual communities, each dedicated to serving experts in a specific field. We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise.

This is not a school, an alternative to schools, a mentorship program, a help forum, a social network, or anything else that focuses on the individual. It's something else, something different. Education and learning is of course a very important aspect of Stack Exchange, however the primary focus is on the content. Voting, and almost every other available mechanism, is build with that intention in mind; useful content bubbles at the top, crap gets buried at the bottom.

Furthermore, the assumption that following a downvote with a comment is "nice" is terribly flawed. In the short time I've been moderating two of the more chatty sites of the network, Programmers and Politics, I've deleted hundreds, if not thousands, of rude comments (some of them mine ;). Trust me, commenting is not always the better option. Sometimes, it's the absolute worst.

As for your feature request:

Not a bad idea, but you are assuming the edit would be a good one. That's not always the case, and when it's not your feature wouldn't be particularly useful and perhaps even actively harmful. If I return to check the edit, and the post is now crappier and my downvote gone, I won't be particularly pleased.

Also, your feature requires me to leave a comment. That's something I'm not interested in doing every time.

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The edit can be not useful, but with the method I proposed you'll be informed and if you are not satisfied about the edit you can down-vote. Anyway thank you for "not a bad idea", it's something for a question that in theory is "a crap" :D Personally I prefer a rude comment instead of a down-vote, since I have something with which I can confront, and I'm convinced that if you educate the users you'll have better contents on your site. Thank you anyway for your feedback, it's always a pleasure to read your posts :) –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 9:52

Comments don't automatically help future visitors know what information is good or not. A system with only comments would have a high noise to signal ratio. It would, in short, be called a forum. There are enough of those on the internet already.

On the other hand vote directly help future visitors hone in on what they are looking for. SE QnA sites tend to have a high signal to noise ratio precisely because of the voting system.

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I think there's a misunderstood: I do not would that Stack Exchange site will remove the possibility to down-vote; see the last part of my qeustion and my comment to Manishearth's answer. –  Lucas Malor Jun 25 '13 at 10:12

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