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I have been so annoyed recently by people who downvote my answers with no comments. Usually it falls into one of two categories

  • The asker is asking a question that is inherently impossible or counter to the purpose of the thing they are asking about, like how do I use jQuery to (insert any horrific hack JavaScript coding practice jQuery is supposed to free us from). The answerer responds with a reasoned description of why that might be misguided and offers an alternative approach. Asker doesn't like that and downvotes the answer.
  • A well meaning user posts a question, and Person A answers with a hastily written, insufficient, unreasoned, or maybe blatantly wrong answer. Person B sees this answer, comments on why it might be insufficient, and then answers with a proper, well-reasoned answer. Person A (presumably) sees this, gets angry, and downvotes Person B out of spite.

In both cases, of course, no helpful comment because all that would do is reveal how spiteful and/or vindictive the downvoting was.

I love Stack Overflow, but I am a busy person, so what little time I get to spend here, and what reputation I've earned, I've worked hard for, and I hope it adds to the value of the community at large ... but then someone comes along and chips away at my reputation out of spite, with no checks and balances?

If this goes on, what is my motivation for wanting to contribute to the community?

If I got downvoted with a reasonable comment, I would welcome that. That shows me something I may not have thought of, gives me an opportunity to improve my answer, and again add to the community.

Downvoting with no comment serves no purpose but to degrade the community.

I propose that downvotes with no comment not detract from the poster's reputation. And if that comment is something silly, and the comment gets flagged by someone else, the poster's reputation hit should be restored.

Thoughts?

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marked as duplicate by Peter Mortensen, kiamlaluno, Rosinante, Martijn Pieters, Robert Harvey Sep 2 '13 at 20:09

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.

    
Please see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… –  Shog9 Sep 21 '09 at 22:52
    
Certainly downvoting this without comment just because it complains about downvoting without comment (which seems to be the case) is immature, even childish. –  cletus Sep 21 '09 at 23:22
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+1: This just happened to me, and it is annoying. –  TrueWill Sep 22 '09 at 0:00
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an easy way is to allow the poster of the answer to see who downvoted, and call them out in public if he/she feels that an unfair downvote is given –  Chii Sep 22 '09 at 13:29
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-1 because that sucks. (Kidding.) Actually, I did downvote you, and here's why. I cannot see how you can be so sure of either of the scenarios you've claimed to see. Voting is anonymous until the voter calls attention to it him/herself. Unless there's a very, very clear pattern, what you say is all speculation. –  John Jun 7 '13 at 23:17
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@Chii that would make down voting dangerous, if you downvote someone then you can be pretty sure they'll downvote you, invalidates the whole system (have you ever wondered why everyone on ebay has such good feedback) –  Richard Tingle Jun 8 '13 at 10:09
    
OMG this has 1337 views! Nobody touch! –  scrblnrd3 Dec 31 '13 at 22:56
    
Can you please express uour opinion on marking question as duplicate at the following link: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/219750/… –  Revious Feb 5 at 19:51
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4 Answers

up vote 61 down vote accepted

My thoughts are this:

I wish people would stop taking everything personal and assume that all downvoting is a vindictive personal attack when 95% of the time it is not.

In the grand scheme of things, the amount of rep you lose from downvotes is absolutely paltry compared to the rep you gain from getting upvotes. We already have an overabundance of upvotes from people who vote up everything they see that looks good, while not willing to punish people with wrong/bad answers with downvotes. All this complaining about downvoting in general just adds to the apprehension of casting downvotes that the rep penalty you incur by casting one already creates.

Not every downvote requires a comment. I should not have to explain myself every time I want to mark someone for being wrong. I would much rather post my own correct answer or simply upvote someone else who has the correct answer. It shouldn't require an explanation to you or anyone else how I choose to vote, and the fact that voting is anonymous to begin with should be respected.

If someone doesn't want to give you a reason for why they downvoted you, then you should examine your post and see what it may have wrong with it compared to other posts. If you still believe that you are absolutely correct, then just deal with the two rep penalty. If you are so right, the upvotes will immediately cancel out any downvoting that comes along.

Edit: I should also note that if you think you are getting downvoted purely out of spite, then you ought to have good reason to believe that, including an idea already of who is the one downvoting you. If that is the case, get in contact with a moderator or team@stackoverflow.com and they can check the voting patterns out for you and if there IS a problem, they can deal with it. If they can't see a serious problem then, again, grow a thicker skin.

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Seems this is the prevailing opinion. Thank you for the suggestion of what to do when there is an obvious, SERIOUS problem with downvote abuse. –  David Boike Sep 21 '09 at 23:00
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David: It's worth noting that most comments on the nature of voting are by people who have lots of votes. It's a fairly biased way to accept opinions: of course people who are long term users feel happy with the way things are. You may as well query churchgoers on the validity of god. I think the real reason for the voting system is obvious, and serves it's purpose excellently, even if I think it's a bit unethical/boring. –  please delete me Sep 21 '09 at 23:10
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@silky Every 2/3 of your posts on Meta are whinges about the rep limit. Get over it. There are plenty of low rep users who have no problem with how it works. Just because you're not already on the first page after a month of using the site doesn't mean it's unethical. –  random Sep 22 '09 at 1:34
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I have to agree with @cletus here. I'm on SO to learn as much as I help out. If someone thinks my answer is wrong, I would like them to tell me about it. I don't care about the rep, I want to know why my answer isn't good enough for them so I can learn from it or at least defend my answer in some way! –  Andy E Feb 21 '10 at 16:28
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"Not every downvote requires a comment. I should not have to explain myself every time I want to mark someone for being wrong." You're certainly WRONG on that... who gave you ownership over right and wrong? If you know you're right and someone else is wrong, PROVE IT or keep quiet - we are on here to learn, not to attain enlightment from some higher force. –  Vector May 24 '11 at 2:24
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Some down-votes are knee-jerk reactions. The associated comments support this hypothesis. –  Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 19:18
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I think that rather than being vindictive, downvoting without a comment is simply unhelpful (mainly to the answerer in question). If you have taken the time to read a question, think about it, and then read the answers then surely you can take the time to write a quick sentence. I have read many answers on topics I'm not familiar with where a downvote has occurred with no comment, and I have no idea why it's a bad answer! This is a community site and everyone (99%) is here to learn. –  El Ronnoco Jan 20 '12 at 9:17
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I agree with @ElRonnoco. Downvoting should have a reason. You might look at an answer/question and never understand why it's worse than another answer/questions ranked highly. Theres also a middle ground solution where there would be a smart algorithm for identifying too many downvotes without any commenting and only then start asking you for a reason for the downvote. –  hitautodestruct Oct 17 '12 at 10:56
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"...why they downvoted you..." Just FWIW, I try to stay away from phrases like "downvoted you" (or "upvoted you"). I never vote on people, only on content. (There are a few people on SO I wouldn't mind upvoting, truth be told, but that's another whole thing.) This taking it personally (the "you" in "downvoted you") is the whole problem. –  T.J. Crowder Jun 26 '13 at 15:44
    
This answer would be perfect if it were edited as per @T.J.Crowder's comment. –  jmort253 Sep 2 '13 at 19:08
    
95% of the time it is not. based on what empirical research did you get that stat? –  PriceCheaperton Dec 30 '13 at 9:37
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In both cases, of course, no helpful comment because all that would do is reveal how spiteful and/or vindictive the downvoting was.

So why care? You've already talked yourself into believing you know who down-voted the answer and why they did so; why not just talk yourself into believing that it doesn't matter, and save yourself all this angst!

If this goes on, what is my motivation for wanting to contribute to the community?

What's your motivation if it doesn't go on? I sure hope it isn't up-votes; they're not worth much.

Downvoting with no comment serves no purpose but to degrade the community.

Down-voting, like up-voting, serves one primary purpose: it allows users to leave behind a mark, an indicator of what they found worthwhile and what they found worthless. Comments can help reinforce this, but are considerably less effective by design. Comments are primarily for the benefit of the author of the post they're attached to; votes are for the benefit of everyone.

I propose that downvotes with no comment not detract from the poster's reputation. And if that comment is something silly, and the comment gets flagged by someone else, the poster's reputation hit should be restored.

That sounds like a recipe for massive numbers of redundant comments, vote-wars as the thin-skinned users whose posts have been down-voted look for revenge against those that commented, a drastic reduction in down-voting, and even more rude, worthless posts.

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I disagree with TheTXI on this and I'll keep it short why: a downvote when there are no comments is like saying "that sucks". It's not about the rep.

Do you go to code reviews and say "it sucks"? Do you accept that from someone else? Or are you expected to justify your opinion?

If there already is a constructive comment then it's fair enough to effectively say "I agree" with subsequent downvotes.

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+1 - the idea of "programmers helping each other" works in multiple dimensions on SO. Answers don't merely help the asker - they also help each other. There should generally be some clue as to what is wrong with a downvoted post. It's a teachable moment, take advantage of it! –  Rex M Sep 21 '09 at 23:51
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+1 - If it's blatant that someone's off topic, maybe downvote without a comment. But if they're wrong, why not take a few seconds to explain that for the benefit of all readers? –  TrueWill Sep 22 '09 at 0:01
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Wrong. An answer can be technically correct but still add nothing. Duplicate answers, link-only / LMGTFY answers, answers to questions requesting code that cite a relevant API but go no further... There are plenty of "not helpful" answers that don't fit the "code review" analogy. –  Shog9 Sep 22 '09 at 0:18
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@Shog9 i would think those kinds of answers obviously don't apply to this discussion, since they're not even worth discussing at all –  Rex M Sep 22 '09 at 0:43
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+1 to what Rex said. I don't think people are complaining that "my unhelpful answer got downvoted with no comment" so please don't equivocate as such. –  cletus Sep 22 '09 at 0:44
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If they're not worth discussing, are they worth commenting on? The proposal was that comment-free down-votes don't count against reputation, and that the penalty of votes associated with a flagged comment are revoked. I took this answer as an argument in favor of that suggestion, but if you're merely commiserating with him over pointless down-votes, then i retract my -1. –  Shog9 Sep 22 '09 at 0:52
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@Shog9 I think everyone here agrees the proposed solution is a bad idea, but that accompanying a DV with a comment where it's not obviously superfluous is laudable. If we keep discussing those bits, maybe we'll come up with something that actually works. –  Rex M Sep 22 '09 at 2:02
    
@Rex: yeah, but i didn't see anyone arguing against useful comments here. TheTXI's third paragraph was arguing against superfluous comments, and so that's what i assumed cletus was disagreeing with. As for coming up with something that works... I don't see a lack of ubiquitous comments to be a problem in and of itself. Comments and voting are like peanut butter and ham - they go great together, but they're also just fine by themselves. –  Shog9 Sep 22 '09 at 4:48
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+1. I want to know what's wrong with my answer so I can learn, or even fix it. It's so annoying to have a -1 and be left scratching your head thinking, "so what's wrong with my answer then?". –  Andy E Feb 21 '10 at 16:30
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I agree that it is more than frustrating that you provide a correct answer, and see it quite immediately downvoted without any hint of why.

IMO the system would be improved if it encouraged reasoning. Currently there is small per cost to downvoting it general, it could be different for a naked downvote. The current amount would apply if either a comment was left or an existing one upped. Otherwise it would be more. Obviously with this info reflected in the blue box that now says please.

I think the part of upping existing comment was overlooked in the discussion, it mitigates adding redundant comments, and should not be a big burden for polite and sensible downvoting.

Without actual feedback how we expect posters to improve, really? If the post objectively sucked the honest author is not aware of that, is he?

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Two downvotes and no comments as to why. How ironic ... –  John Jun 7 '13 at 23:11
    
indeed :) though I heard here DW does not mean bad stuff just disagree –  Balog Pal Jun 8 '13 at 2:04
    
How is this answer worth so much less than the others? Geniunely baffled. It's at least as constructive and well-thought-out. Meh... perhaps we should form a secret order of Upvotinators, who scour the site for unfairly downvoted answers and upvote them, for great justice. I'll get to work on that; in the meantime, have one less -1. –  David John Welsh Jun 8 '13 at 2:33
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@DavidJohnWelsh Downvotes mean different things here on Meta - here they can signify disagreement with a viewpoint. There is an idea in the middle there for changes to the downvote system which seem to be proving unpopular. –  Rory Jun 8 '13 at 10:54
    
@Rory Yeah, I know downvotes are different here, I just sometimes don't think the sheer number of them is warranted by the content. As the first commenter says, in this case it seems particularly odd given the topic under discussion. Anyway, I'll concede the point in this case, since even Balog seems to accept it :) –  David John Welsh Jun 12 '13 at 13:58
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