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Encouraging people to explain down-votes

Since I started using SO I've had a bunch of question downvoted, and every time it made sense. Either I was wrong or I didn't get the question right. In these cases I would improve my answer or just delete it (if another answer was already up and good enough). If the downvote was "weird", meaning that I was sure I was right, I always ended up talking using the comments to find out why.

Recently I noticed that I get downvoted for no obvious reason. Let's take this answer of mine. It's not the best answer ever, but I think I provided a valid answer to the question. Obviously the user that asked the question didn't do much research beforehand, so I didn't took that much time to figure out how I could help him... but still, I feel like the downvote is a bit harsh, especially since there was no explanation.

To defend my answer, my point is:

"What's the difference between X and Y?

X is this. Y is that. You can see that they are different in many ways"

Some answers I gave were more complicated, like a big explanation about an IE-related CSS bug, and it's a pain to spend 10 minutes on an answer, getting downvoted and not knowing why. Was I wrong? Then what did I do wrong? And if I'm not wrong... wtf?

It's not the first time that this happens, and this always happens with new users' questions... and there are a LOT of new users. In most cases I just removed my answer thinking "meh, whatever", but I was wondering what you thought about this.

  • How about more explanations about the downvotes to new users?

  • Do you still answer newcomers' questions (because I'm seriously thinking about stopping doing that, they don't give feedback on the answer provided, upvote or accept)?

  • Could there be a way to "poke" the person leaving a downvote? Let's say I downvote a question, the user downvoted leave a comment like "Why?". There is no way for me to know that he asked that unless I check all the question I downvoted...

Ouch, sorry for the long question.

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marked as duplicate by ChrisF, Troggy, random, XMLbog, GEOCHET Nov 9 '09 at 14:40

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.

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See my question here -meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… –  ChrisF Nov 8 '09 at 18:02
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Commenting with "why the downvote" and getting a flood of pity votes works well on the sister sites. Seen that happen far more often than I'd expect. –  Chealion Nov 9 '09 at 7:33
    
Can you please express uour opinion on marking question as duplicate at the following link: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/219750/… –  Revious Feb 5 at 19:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I personally think it's the height of rudeness and laziness to downvote something and not explain why. If someone else has explained why then there's no need to repeat yourself. Also if an answer is a troll, really lame, etc then you might be justified in saying nothing but if someone has put in an honest effort into an answer then I think they're owed an explanation.

Others of course disagree and SO believes in anonymous voting so you have three choices about what to do:

  • Ignore it;
  • Delete the answer. To be perfectly honest, if I answer something and only get a downvote for it I'll probably just delete it even if I know I'm right. This is even more likely now that equal vote answers are randomly sorted as you get more "me too" copycat answers; or
  • Work out what's wrong with it (and there might be nothing wrong with it) and fix it.

Also, it's advisable to limit the number of absolutes you utter as you're going to simply attract downvotes from people who don't like your answer irrespective of whether or not you're right or your answer answers the question. Note your assumptions, quality your statements, be clear when what you're stating is opinion and you're less likely to attract this kind of disagreement downvote.

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Although if someone has already explained their downvote, I usually just downvote the answer and upvote the comment explaining it. –  romkyns Nov 29 '09 at 13:36

I rarely explain down-votes anymore. Too many people take a down-vote + comment as some sort of a challenge to their honor, and react accordingly (badly).

If I see a correctable error in an answer, I'll either correct it myself, or leave a comment informing the author of what needs to be done. I'll only down-vote later if no corrections are made (or are reverted... believe it or not, that happens).

And if an answer appears valid but is actually completely wrong and/or potentially dangerous... Then I'll leave a comment to warn others, and down-vote as well.

But if an answer is just badly written, unnecessarily opinionated, or does a poor job of explaining the topic it covers, I'll just down-vote and move on. Drama-free feedback.

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down-voted for cowardice and lack of communication ;-). A down-vote is a pop on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper; you must explain or nothing can be learned. –  Steven A. Lowe Nov 8 '09 at 19:30
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I donno... I have a puppy; the newspaper thing works! ;-P Regardless, I'm perfectly happy to explain a down-vote to anyone interested in learning. And I'm perfectly happy to justify a vote here on Meta even if the author is not interested in learning. But I've come to consider long, angry discussions and straight-up flame wars to be exceedingly harmful when they appear on SO itself, and do what I can to avoid them. –  Shog9 Nov 8 '09 at 19:45
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A downvote without a comment is a source of ":(" for me. I don't like misleading people, so the thought that I may have gotten something inadvertently wrong, and nobody'll tell me what it is, is saddening. –  Phoshi Nov 8 '09 at 22:20
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@Phoshi: if your answer is provably correct, then you can ignore down-votes, though you may want to reflect on your style to see if there's room for improvement there. If someone has proof that your answer is incorrect, then they're doing a disservice to other readers by not commenting. But regardless, don't expect anyone to reveal their vote in their comments, and do your best to ignore it if someone does. –  Shog9 Nov 9 '09 at 0:55
    
So you're too timid to risk an adverse reaction so instead hide behind the veil on anonymity? Okkkkkay... If you don't feel strongly enough to comment (if there isn't already a comment that you agree with) on an post where someone has made an honest effort, then perhaps you shouldn't be downvoting it. –  cletus Nov 9 '09 at 1:26
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@cletus: well, that's obviously your creed. I actually see down-votes as a legitimate part of the site, and use them where I see fit. If I have something to say, I'll say it; if I think a post deserves a vote, I'll vote. But when I'm in the mood for an argument, I come here, or visit a real forum. Yes, my opinion on this has changed over time, as has the general attitude toward discussion on SO: it's pretty clear at this point that comments on SO aren't intended to ever become a full-fledged discussion medium, and I'm not going to beat my head against a wall trying to make it into one. –  Shog9 Nov 9 '09 at 1:48
    
Shog9: I'm quite disappointed with that comment, especially considering the previous community you assisted with (CodeProject, I have no idea if you are still active). I believe that the concern here is the misuse of the downvote, rather than correcting a factually incorrect statement. Also, I would suggest: How do you know that the person would or would not want to learn from the down vote? New comments do not appear [at least that I know of] as responses to items you downvoted without comment. It is safe to assume that I agree with cletus on this issue. –  monksy Nov 13 '09 at 21:08
    
@steven: FWIW, I was never a fan of the proposals for non-anonymous voting (or compulsory comments when voting) on CodeProject either. That said, CP did eventually implement mandatory comments for 1-votes on articles... But not until after a pre-screening system was implemented, allowing the site to weed out a good deal of noise prior to it being dumped on the site. Keep in mind, there are two completely separate systems on CP: much of my attitude toward Q&A on SO arose from my disgust with the cruft accumulating in the forums on CP, where voting is largely useless as a filtering tool. –  Shog9 Nov 13 '09 at 22:20
    
How would you distinguish between the answers that are deliberately wrong form the answers that contain a fixable error? Given that attitude of down voting unpopular, but true statements, are censored. (Based on the tag counts) All that takes is an unflattering statement about .NET. Yes this is a bit of a subjective situation, however it has happened to me. –  monksy Nov 13 '09 at 22:31
    
@steven: if I see an answer that I know is wrong and no one has posted the right answer, I'll comment explain why it's wrong and either fix it myself or post the correct solution separately (honestly, depends on which one is less effort). That said, expressing an unflattering opinion of .NET borders on "flame-bait" unless it's directly relevant to the question being answered... and you back it up with data. So, going back to my original answer: unless those conditions were satisfied, I might well down-vote it and move on without commenting rather than adding fuel to a platform flame-war. –  Shog9 Nov 13 '09 at 23:13

The easiest answer is simply, "Suck it up, princess."

EDIT: that is: some people are not going to like your answer, or will want more perfection in it than you are willing to devote the time for (e.g. recently I saw some downvotes go to an answer that had clear, concise and correct code, but did not check for error conditions). In those cases, sigh and move on, because you can't please everyone.

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downvoted for being unnecessarily rude. –  Steven A. Lowe Nov 8 '09 at 19:30
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Direct != rude. –  Ether Nov 8 '09 at 19:54
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Downvote because the answer was not helpful. –  Larry Nov 8 '09 at 23:46
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-1 "Suck it up, princess" –  waffles Nov 9 '09 at 1:48
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+1 "Suck it up, princess" –  luvieere Nov 9 '09 at 8:40
    
meh, I don't like your answer :D á_á –  adolf garlic Nov 9 '09 at 12:59
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As an example of the ridiculousness of the current scoring system, this answer has now yielded me 80 rep (10*10 + 10*-2)! o.O –  Ether Nov 9 '09 at 15:54
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I guess this even applies to explained downvotes. –  innaM Nov 9 '09 at 20:14
    
@Ether +100000 for your comments Joels gem yielded him this yielded joel like 400 points stackoverflow.com/questions/871405/… and its at -22 –  waffles Nov 9 '09 at 21:39

I must say that I rather enjoy treating the up/down vote mechanism as a different animal, than the possibilities the comment functionality provides.

They're the equivalent of a "oh yeah, good language/research/angle/whatnot", to a "well, yeah, but whatever...", or to use a more everyday term; the thumbs and the poke, well...if the poke was in the eye at least.

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