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Answers and questions allow both upvoting and downvoting - comments, however, only allow upvoting.

I think it would be useful to allow downvoting of comments for two reasons:

  • First, if you accidentally upvoted a comment you didn't intend to
  • Second, if you strongly believe that a comment is disparaging, misleading, incorrect or off topic
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Keep in mind, if you can downvote comments, they would have to implement an "edit comment" functionality to allow you to 'learn/rectify' the problem. –  devinb Jul 8 '09 at 17:04
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I agree. This is another useful feature that I think would benefit SO. I have actually deleted comments and them replaced them when I've realized that I made a misstatement or want to clarify what I meant. –  LBushkin Jul 8 '09 at 18:05
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I think comments should have downvoting, vote undo, editing, revisions, and community wiki. a.k.a answers –  deleted Oct 11 '09 at 23:24
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we do have "flag" for comments that are misleading, incorrect, etc; 'vote undoing' would be nice, however –  warren Oct 12 '09 at 8:49
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@warren: unfortunately also [status-declined], but meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1170/… –  fretje Jan 8 '10 at 11:34
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I would like to down vote the comment about the flag. It does not say "incorrect", the flag bubble help says "flag this comment as unconstructive, offensive or spam". The comment above is none of those it is just incorrect but I cannot express that without sidetracking the discussion about why his comment is wrong. –  stephenmm Jun 1 '11 at 19:59
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Please add this. There are some comments which bubble up higher than the ones that get less upvotes and this creates an imbalance. –  staticx Jul 19 '11 at 13:47
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I'm doing a lot of posting in the cryptography section, and especially in older posts there are a lot of completely misleading comments, and these include posts with upvotes (as many posters and voters are pretty clueless on the subject). Currently there is no way of telling people that a comment is wrong. I can comment myself, but the comment will only be shown if it has enough upvotes, which will never happen because the comment is never shown. –  owlstead Dec 29 '12 at 17:56
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Downvotes on comments = reputation loss could be an interesting avenue to explore if downvotes are ever implemented. Forces users who care about reputation to come back and delete bad comments and motivates against doing it again (can also trigger auto-delete, but I think user action to keep reputation is a good idea, otherwise there's little motivation). It would be for those comments that don't quite qualify for being flagged, but shouldn't be there. –  Dukeling Feb 25 '13 at 12:12
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Personally, the only features I'd like to see added to comments are downvotes, automatic ordering of comments based on votes, lack of editing timeout, and removal of comment timestamps. Why? Because I have too much time on my hands, and want to be able to alter the chronology and context of comment conversations for personal amusement. Upvotes can turn what was sarcasm into helpful comment, and what was helpful comment into sarcasm. The comments section would become a meritocratic kakistocracy in microcosm. Completely unhelpful, sure... But worth it. –  root Aug 13 '13 at 21:54
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Downvoting makes me feel bad, it damages my self-esteem. It's like a slap in the face and running away. Downvotes make me afraid to participate in discussions. I don't want downvotes on comments. –  Calmarius Sep 24 '13 at 21:52
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@Calmarius: if you are afraid of downvotes rather than being wrong in a technical discussion, that sounds weird to me. The end goal should be to have useful comments, not incorrect ones. I see even high-rep users commenting things that are not correct in areas beyond their league. Perhaps, the reputation count misleads them about their skills. This is sad, and I see it repetitive. I would like to have consequence for that. –  lpapp Jan 9 at 8:23
    
@LaszloPapp The problem is that downvotes are not helpful, not constructive. It's like masked strangers on the street saying "you suck" and run away. If somebody thinks I'm wrong, he should tell me why I'm wrong... The same applies for questions and answers. Those "People should explain downvotes" type questions come up often and rejected everyday with the reason that can be summarized in a sentence: "I'm too coward to give my name to my disagreement, but I demand an option to throw stones at you from hiding whenever I want, because it feels so good." Do we need this kind of behavior? –  Calmarius Jan 10 at 13:21
    
Vote undoing is already implemented. I upvoted one of the comments that was in favour of vote undoing and then, just to see what happens, clicked on the vote arrow again and was greeted with a dialogue box that asked if I really wanted to undo the vote (yes/no), so I clicked the Yes button, since I figure that there's no point upvoting a comment that asks for something that already exists. Like editing of comments, you probably only have a limited time to undo your upvote. –  RobH Jan 14 at 1:43
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@user flagging is broken as a means of public moderation of rude and borderline content. See make community comment moderation a more public process –  Pëkka Jan 19 at 20:05

26 Answers 26

If a comment is wrong, respond to it with another comment. That provides a lot more information than a downvote which could mean anything.

I completely agree with the "undo an accidental upvote" idea, but I don't see any much point in downvoting comments.

In terms of the value of upvoting comments: if a comment indicates that an answer is wrong, the upvotes on that comment indicate support for the reason given. They're almost like downvotes for the answer, IMO - just without rep getting involved.

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Hmmm... Maybe the same could be said for up-voting, then. "If a comment is right, don't have up-voting. Leave another comment." On the other hand, votes could be considered a quick notation of "I agree/I disagree". It takes away from the noise of conversations like, "I have [whatever] suggestion... I agree... I like it... Good idea... Me, too... Ditto... No good... You're wrong... You suck... Shut up!" 'Just another way of looking at it. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 8 '09 at 16:31
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There's an asymmetry between agreeing and disagreeing though: just saying "Me too" doesn't actually further the discussion. If you disagree, you have a different point of view, and therefore more information (your view). It's therefore a good idea to provide a comment when you disagree, but often that would just be redundant when you agree. –  Jon Skeet Jul 8 '09 at 16:59
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Upvoted comments are displayed first when there are too many comments to show at once. I would imagine sorting (or even hiding) downvoted comments could be a useful way of dealing with the signal to noise ratio of comments. I suspect people that have a strong disagreement with a statement of a comment are going to leave their own comment anyways. Downvoting comments could also be a useful means to track feedback on how people respond to a comment. Today the @user technique doesn't automatically notify you that someone made a remark about your comment (unless it's on your answer or question). –  LBushkin Jul 8 '09 at 18:03
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Hmm... notification of votes on comments would be potentially useful. I think the whole notification system needs careful consideration in general though. –  Jon Skeet Jul 8 '09 at 18:07
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If a comment is wrong, respond to it with another comment. That provides a lot more information than a downvote which could mean anything. But then the same would be said of the questions and answers as well; eg “if an answer is not good enough or complete, instead of voting on it, post another answer providing more information”. What makes the questions and answers different from comments? The problem is downvote-and-runners. Downvoting is useful and even necessary, so long as the voters problem is explained. –  Synetech Mar 23 '10 at 20:14
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@Synetech inc.: I'm not suggesting that someone shouldn't downvote - I think downvoting and commenting is entirely appropriate in many cases. And yes, I often do respond by writing another answer - but sometimes I don't know an answer which is right, I just know that the answer given is wrong. The difference between an answer and a comment is that an answer responds to a question; a comment responds to an answer (or potentially the question but in a non-answering way). –  Jon Skeet Mar 23 '10 at 20:48
    
The difference between an answer and a comment - I meant voting-wise. –  Synetech Mar 24 '10 at 18:07
    
@Synetech: In that case, it's even easier - the difference is that you can't downvote a comment. But seeing as downvoting comments hasn't been mentioned, I'm still not sure what your point is. –  Jon Skeet Mar 24 '10 at 18:37
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the difference is that you can't downvote a comment - I meant the reasoning for the difference. But seeing as downvoting comments hasn't been mentioned - ??? The title of this whole page is Should downvoting be allowed on comments? –  Synetech Mar 25 '10 at 18:11
    
@Synetech: Whoops, yes - I'd become too focused on the details of my answer and the comments here. –  Jon Skeet Mar 25 '10 at 21:45
    
@Jon: What’s the opposite of Ritalin? TV? –  Synetech Mar 26 '10 at 18:14
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There's no anonymity in commenting! –  Michael Goldshteyn Oct 19 '10 at 19:19
    
@Michael, sure there is, log out; I’ve seen plenty of 1-rep drive-by users. –  Synetech Feb 21 '11 at 14:23
    
Responding to a bad comment may add more information, but it does so at the cost of adding even more noise. Also, if the comment occurred many posts ago in a comment thread, the original and the response can't easily be connected by a reader. Presently, I sometimes refrain from responding to clearly incorrect comments because I fear the noise I'd add is more harmful leaving the comment be. If a comment is patently idiotic, downvoting it (if such a thing were possible) would signal "no, this is wrong" to future readers without creating noise, and sometimes more clearly than a reply would. –  Mark Amery Jan 12 at 23:12
    
Comments are meant so that there's no pressure of getting downvoted. Well not really that case but there are other reasons like asking for question clarification or if you have the same problem as them. That's why any rude comment will take a flag and it will count towards the helpful flags, good for a badge haha :) –  puretppc Jan 19 at 20:43

C'mon, people. The upvotes on comments mean approximately nothing. Let's have downvotes, too. The more dimensions of pointlessness this site adds, the sooner somebody dies from forgoing food and sleep while using it.

In other words, sure, why not? Plus, wasn't it Jeff himself who said that only having upvoting represents only half the potential information?

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I wasn't meaning to indicate that down-votes on comments were a bad idea, just that it had been covered before. I'll reword that part of my answer. –  ChrisF Jul 8 '09 at 16:16
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+1 especially for quoting jeff. I absolutely hate not being able to downvote. –  acidzombie24 Dec 30 '09 at 13:41
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Currently, there's no way to downvote comments that contain misleading or incorrect statements. –  Anderson Green May 31 '13 at 16:45
    
I want to also down vote comments that add no value. "I have that same problem" deserves a down vote. A correct comment that does pertain to the question deserves a down vote. Since an up vote does not affect rep then neither should a down vote. –  Blam Jun 13 at 16:50
    
I posted a question today. The only response I've got so far is a snarky and unhelpful comment along the lines of "Your approach is completely wrong. I think there's a much better way of doing it," but containing no useful information about what a better approach would be. Three people have upvoted it. I wish I could downvote it. –  Pete Bleackley Sep 5 at 18:23

I'd also suggest that by having downvotes on comments, you're adding symmetry to the system, that is, treating comments in a similar way as you are treating answers and questions. From a purely UI point of view, maintaining symmetry is a good thing to do; it reduces potential user confusion and increases ease of use.

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Absolutely. It's nearly shocking that the functionality isn't currently present, based on the fact that upvotes on comments are allowed. –  Christopher Horenstein Oct 20 '10 at 5:18
    
I, for one, was quite confused when I didn't see a downvote button for comments…at first, I actually thought it was just because of a reputation requirement! –  Blacklight Shining Oct 7 '12 at 11:22
    
Agree. This comment should get a down vote as it adds no value. If I agree then simply up vote the answer (which I did). –  Blam Jun 13 at 16:52

Originally, I thought everyone was right - we don't need to complicate it. But I changed my mind.

When the site first launched - 5 offensive tags would get a post removed. Over time, even a non-offensive post would garner some flags, and since they weren't reset - as t => infinity every post would be deleted. So a decay was added.

Comments now work the same way. Even a bad comment generates a few upvotes over time and users have no way to indicate no, this is a bad comment, it does not deserve upvotes. It may not be offensive, but it certainly doesn't contribute anything positive or funny.

So I think comment downvotes should be allowed in order to make comments more worthwhile. It will help filter the really good comments the way God intended while leaving the poor comments - the ones people disagree with - "below the fold".

Edit: I know this topic is old and crusty but I'm hoping the system works, and that by edits and additions I can raise more awareness.

This is another example of why we need comment downvoting, from the Moderator flagged comment screen: Comment Flagging Example

It is unreasonable to make the claim that these comments are "noise, offensive or spam". You may not agree with them, and whoever flagged them certainly didn't, but comments are flagged because we can't downvote them, and it adds a lot of noise to the Moderator screen, plus the necessity to go through and clear the flags.

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Is that supposed to be an image there? All I see is a blue square with a question mark… –  Blacklight Shining Oct 7 '12 at 11:23

+1 I agree.

I've come across lots of situations where I think the wrong comments are standing out. They don't warrant a flag but there's no way to change what shows up without voting everything else up. It doesn't really make sense. Upvotes and downvotes are used to determine relative ordering of answers. I don't see why that doesn't apply to comment filtering too.

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In Stackexchange podcast #3 Jeff says that a lot of the comment flags aren't justified.

Maybe people flag because they can't downvote?

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First, if you accidentally upvoted a comment you didn't intend to

I don't think you would need to downvote it - I think that there should be a similar click-to-undo feature like there is with up/downvotes on posts but downvotes wouldn't need to be there to cancel out an upvote

Second, if you strongly believe that a comment is misleading, incorrect or off topic

If it's serious enough then you should flag it

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Hmmm, I would never flag a comment that is incorrect or off-topic. (The tooltip states "flag this comment as offensive, spam, or hate speech", and I assume this implies some human intervention as well?) –  Arjan Jul 8 '09 at 16:38
    
Yes, I agree, that's what I meant by saying "if it's serious enough" - sorry, should probably have made that more clear. –  Alex Rozanski Jul 8 '09 at 17:17
    
And I agree that an undo-upvote would probably do, if only to re-enable that flag button after one accidentally clicked upvote while aiming to click the flag button... On the other hand: this won't happen often, if ever, and others will surely flag the same comment regardless of my accidental upvote. So it might not be worthwhile the efforts. –  Arjan Jul 8 '09 at 17:40
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+1 on this. I accidentally upvoted a comment on a question (easier to do than you think because the buttons don't appear until you hover) and there is no way to take it back. –  jamuraa Jul 24 '09 at 19:18
    
@Arjan van Bentem: Actually it says "flag this comment as noise, offensive, spam, or hate speech?" If its blatantly off-topic, flag it. –  perbert Aug 26 '09 at 13:19
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@jamuraa: I accidentaly upvoted your comment. :) –  perbert Aug 26 '09 at 13:19
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@voyager Yeah, given the rest of the site's UI, I've assumed a second click on the brighter up arrow would allow you to undo the upvote! And I've been using SO/MSO for 3 months! –  Mark Hurd May 19 '10 at 4:56

IMHO, comments provide a way to speak your mind freely; upvotes provide a way for other users to indicate their agreement without wasting space with a follow-up comment. But if you disagree, you really should post a follow-up comment...

If a comment really bothers you, you can flag it. Enough flags, and it'll be removed. This is more useful than down-voting, which would presumably leave a misleading or abusive comment visible.

There's some value in keeping wrong answers around; even unhelpful ones can and are improved. But comments are ephemeral; they can't be edited outside of a short grace period, and shouldn't be the sole repository for important information. If a comment is bad, then it should be removed - not down-ranked.

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I'm concerned about the most upvoted comments floating to the top, there's not really a way to disagree with an upvote other than not doing it –  jmfsg Jul 19 '09 at 0:54
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Post a comment that indicates why you disagree. Make a good argument, and your comment may well float to the top as well, augmenting or even replacing the one you respond to. –  Shog9 Jul 19 '09 at 0:55
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If you see a comment floating to the top that you don't agree with, post your own counter argument. Whether or not your comment gets voted up should show where other users stand on the issue. –  Ian Elliott Jul 19 '09 at 0:57
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That is a good argument, however, not everyone will take the time to write a good comment to accomplish that; I don't see why this couldn't get implemented though, you have downvotes on questions and answers in the end –  jmfsg Jul 19 '09 at 1:01
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I think the name itself is key to the... uh, key difference between comments and questions/answers: a comment is intended to provide commentary on a specific question or answer. Most comments don't really need to be voted on at all: their target audience is the author of the question or answer being commented on. Although it's possible to use comments for other purposes, or target them at other people (as i'm doing now...) the system does not make this easy... But it does recognize that, now and then, a comment may be useful to others: Up-voting provides a hint to the system in these cases –  Shog9 Jul 19 '09 at 1:10
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I disagree with leaving it to a flag. If someone posts a negative comment, you cannot always respond to that otherwise you might start a discussion which could escalate. Anyway, comments are not the discussion form of SO, they are a means of clarifying questions. By allowing downvotes, we would be allowing "these type of comments are not appreciated on SO". I don't have to get anyone's permission to downvote a question or answer, why should I need a mod's approval when flagging a comment? BTW, I am writing this after having a flagged negative comment rejected, hence the paragraph. –  demongolem Feb 1 '13 at 20:55
    
@demongolem: if someone posts a flame-bait comment, it shouldn't be down-voted it should be removed. Would you really feel better knowing that an inflamatory comment caught 30 down-votes and 29 up-votes? As you say, these aren't meant for discussion - bickering and arguing can just as well be removed entirely. –  Shog9 Feb 1 '13 at 21:16
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As far as I’m concerned, this was the right answer lo these many years ago, and remains just as much the right answer today as on that ancient day when first it was written. –  tchrist Jan 19 at 16:20
    
This approach has consistently failed to work for me as a tool against the unconstructive, borderline rude (but not quite rude enough to flag) commentary that is so prevalent on SO. I'm not going to get into a comment war with every jerk beating up a hapless newbie. I just want to vote (hence signalling to the newbee that the comment doesn't stand there uncontested) and be gone. Why should what is a constitutional right on questions and answers, be totally unthinkable for comments? –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 2:48
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Hahaha, I just saw we had the same conversation below a couple years ago. –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 2:55

Looking at the discussion, the opponents of the possibility to downvote comments rely mainly on the following arguments:

1) If you don´t like a comment, you can comment yourself and explain

While this is often certainly a good way to contribute to the discussion, it has often not quite the same power as downvoting a comment. Firstly, it may be that a lot of people have commented on a question/answer (and comments) so that your well-meant comment is not even recognized, even if you directly adress the commentator. Secondly, even if your comment is directly below the critized comment, it might be overread by many people only looking at the top comment. But if you can downvote a comment, this is immediately recognized and the quality of the comment will be checked by people.

2) You can flag a comment you don´t like

This feels a little like throwing a bomb on the dove that soiled your car. Isn´t flagging for offensive or spam comments? This can not be applied to a lot of comments which one would like to downvote nonetheless, though.

3) It is redundant

Then upvoting comments certainly is redundant, too, as it does not change reputation. (Yes, I know there is a hard-to-get badge for so and so many great comments, but this has nearly no meaning IMHO). I have the feeling that comments might be a bit underrated. They are often a valuable part of the discussion and sometimes even replace a full-fledged answer.

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When comments replace an answer, that is very bad. They can't be searched, can't be collaboratively-edited, and can disappear without a trace. If things of value flushed out in comment discussion don't get added to the post itself, there's a very real chance they'll do far less good than they otherwise could have. At their best, comments serve as sort of an "errata" section to answers; failing that, they're more or less disposable. –  Shog9 Mar 14 '12 at 21:06
    
I speak only from my own experience, I see a lot of comments helping the OP to get on the right track. You are probably right, it would be a better way to post answers. –  AGuyCalledGerald Mar 14 '12 at 21:14
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FWIW: you might like this answer on Gardening's meta where a moderator there outlines some of the guidance he's given to users who have trouble deciding when to answer and when to comment. –  Shog9 Mar 14 '12 at 21:17
    
@Shog in light of the Summer of Love discussion, has your position on this changed any? Being able to downvote a rude comment could be such a simple tool to improve the tone on the site, as nobody likes to be downvoted (except maybe Evan). As Gerald says, flagging often feels like throwing a bomb on the bird that soiled your car. –  Pëkka Aug 10 '12 at 12:20
    
@Shog FWIW, meta.stackexchange.com/a/142993/138112 –  Pëkka Aug 10 '12 at 16:08
    
@Pekka: eh... I'm not wild about it. Down-voting on answers can result in a negative score and a reputation drop - it's just enough of a sting to make folks care. Opinion-voting on content-free comments isn't likely to drive them off the page (you've been around Meta...) and attaching reputation to comment votes opens up a huge can of worms. –  Shog9 Aug 10 '12 at 16:16
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@Shog no, no rep loss. Just show a vote count on the comment. For everything egregious, you still have flagging. Voting would be to educate the "accidentally" rude people only, those who are productive but tend to be on the rough side occasionally - on the basis that people's threshold is much lower for downvoting something than to vote to destroy it. –  Pëkka Aug 10 '12 at 16:17
    
@Pekka: to expand on my second point, the last comment I deleted had a score of 16. It was a link. That didn't apply to the post. If everyone who up-voted the question, answered the question, up-voted the answers, and posted correctional comments had down-voted it... It would still have been the most up-voted comment on the post. Without rep loss, there's no visible indication to the author that he's been voted on. I suppose you could create a custom "you've been down-voted!" notification, but that's pretty awful (and could just as well be done for flags). –  Shog9 Aug 10 '12 at 16:20
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@Shog but that's an extreme case. The idea is that flags stay for the extreme cases. Votes would be there to say, "don't be such a jerk." –  Pëkka Aug 10 '12 at 16:29
    
@Pekka웃: except a down-vote doesn't say that. Well, I guess we could convert down-votes into inbox messages that read "don't be such a jerk" but then why not just cut to the chase and post... a comment reply. Perhaps one that conveyed the desire for less jerkish behavior in a less jerkish fashion. I donno... Kinda thinking it makes more sense to just expose comment flags to 10K users and accelerate the deletion of actual crap. –  Shog9 Feb 20 '13 at 5:39
    
@Shog I'd really like to see some way to tell the world, "that dickhead comment over there doesn't represent the general tone of this entire community". Either through public flags or comment downvotes. –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 2:57

The real question to me is "what does an up-vote on a comment really mean?"

I've always felt that it just implied somebody else was feeling it, and was giving you props... It really has nothing to do with reputation and ability to add witty comments doesn't imply you know how to code...

So with that said, I don't think this is necessary.

If it were to be implemented, then does a downvoted comment affect your rep? Does casting a downvote affect your rep? If you can get punished, should an upvoted comment give you rep?

Overall, I say no to this...

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So a downvote would indicate that you were feeling against it. –  Lance Roberts Sep 2 '09 at 17:31
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It means "I agree" with the sentiment expressed in the comment. It means "I second that." And it also means "I like that or it made me laugh." –  bobobobo Jan 22 '11 at 19:53

Sounds like a reasonable addition to me.

Comments were really designed to be a light-weight mechanism to communicate some ancillary information about the post. But I see the comment system on Stacks evolving out its 2nd-class status into a more robust part of the contribution process... for a few reasons:

  • Sometimes the comments posted are awesome and such a high-quality part of the question/answer process, that it simply needs to be recognized as a bigger contributor to the system.
  • Some topics simply call for more ingrained collaboration of people to help the process of formulating a more thorough answer.
  • And the business/social-hosting reasons I discuss here: Could Stack Sites Ever Seamlessly Incorporate More Collaboration/Discussion
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I really like that when an answer gets enough downvotes it gets lightened. That's a good deterrent against people giving annoying answers. I'd love to see the same system (downvoting a few times make the comment lightened out) as deterrent for borderline troll types. Flagging and deleting is too blunt an instrument.

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I'm against it for a reason that I believe hasn't been mentioned yet, but I also will present a compromise.

While the difference of up- and downvotes is a useful indicator for the quality of a post, the number of upvotes alone is also. That is simply because often people are strongly disagreeing with each other.

On top of that, a downvote is often given not because a post isn't useful or even inappropriate, but merely because people didn't like it. When emotions run high, it can even deteriorate into a mere tug-of-war between two mobs. Given that the term disparaging is already in the question this scenario is already in the room.

During controversies, seeing both votes is most useful, only positive votes second, and the difference is the least useful of all options.

In fact in such situations seeing the standard deviation could be a better indicator than the difference, an indicator I often use to gauge the potential value of literature or movies on Amazon or imdb.

For posts on SO, those arguments apply rarely, but even on SO controversies do frequently occur in comment sections, so in those cases displaying a difference only may be harmful.

YouTube, for example, has such a voting system and suffers from the phenomenon of voting mobs trying to vote an enemy into obscurity (I presume that the proposal is to keep having a comment's score influence its prominence as it does now).

Disqus, on the other hand - a discussion system often used on blogs - shows both up- and downvotes, and in the face of controversies, it so manages to allow all sides of an argument to live while still displaying interesting posts more prominently.

I understand that SO isn't a political blog, but there are still arguments, and people are as irrational when feeling attacked here as anywhere else. In that light I feel that such a proposal would increase bad blood.

A compromise could be to display the difference but use only the upvote count to determine how prominent the comment is placed (ie. wether it will be visible before one clicks show all comments). That would take a significant amount of incentive away for voting people down to silence them while still showing the average visitor sentiment.

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I think when enough people upvote an obnoxious answer other people may think this is true or a good idea. I see many of those and i really wish to express my disagreement. I would like comments with an up and down count so we can see how many ppl agree and disagree and not just get a average number ((agree count, disagree count) > (result = agress - disagree))

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I just want to be able to downvote the meta-comments. Flagging them as noise has not proven effective.

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All comments are meta. –  Lance Roberts Oct 21 '11 at 16:04
    
@LanceRoberts Does that make comments posted on a meta.* site meta-meta? –  Blacklight Shining Oct 7 '12 at 11:30

I believe you should be able to downvote comments, because the number next to a comment can often be taken as a poll on the popularity of the sentiment expressed, with no balancing, quick way to gauge the level of support for the opposite idea.

Take a practical example that I just ran into and caused me to look up comment downvoting here: I posted a question on another SE site that quickly received a comment about the long windedness of it. Within a few minutes, it had 2 upvotes already. In response, I posted an explanation that my actual question was obvious early on and that I was merely providing further details for those who wanted them.

Now for those taking just a quick glance at the responses, it looks like 2 people agreeing with the first comment and a bunch of my (long winded, heh) comments arguing against it. Other people actually have to take the time also to argue against it with their own comments (which is more time consuming than the effort invested by the upvoters), and even then, the original upvote count could give the false impression of a more popular support than might otherwise exist.

I'll play devil's advocate here though: If a valid counter argument exists, at least one person should take the time to respond with it in a new comment. Others can then quickly upvote this new comment and have its numeric tally stand against that of the original comment.

Oh boy. I might have just invalidated my own argument ;)

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Completely agree with Jon Skeet here. If a comment is rude, wrong, irrelevant, or any number of other things that may offend you, simply respond with another comment stating your discontent.

That's the functionality of a comment, to sustain a constructive conversation.

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On your first issue - this has already been covered in this question

To answer your second issue - down-voting comments might be a step too far, just post another comment pointing out the problem. Use the @user technique to identify which comment you're responding to. If it's really bad, flag it.

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Could you expand on the "@user technique"? –  devinb Jul 8 '09 at 17:17
    
The main flaw with the @user technique is that it's not something you can easily search for or be notified of. You actually have to visit all of your historic comments to see if someone responded to a particular comment. –  LBushkin Jul 8 '09 at 18:07
    
@devinb - this is the "@user technique" (as used on Twitter). By starting the comment with @user you're indicating that you're replying to that user. It does fail when either you or the original commentator is not the author of the post the comment is attached for the reason that @LBushkin mentions. –  ChrisF Jul 9 '09 at 9:14

Comments are used to quickly exchange short bits of information. I believe it was concluded that it wasn't necessary to use a full blown voting system on them, especially since comments that were voted up will float above the less useful ones in the previews.

Also votes on comments don't contribute to rep anyways, so downvoting on them would feel redundant. It should be clear if something in the comment is incorrect when other comments around it are voted up. Also as @Shog9 said, if there is something completely off about a comment you can flag it.

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Well, the ability to vote them up is what makes me think about why I can't vote them down –  jmfsg Jul 19 '09 at 0:53

I am concerned that allowing downvotes would contribute in a negative fashion to the introduction of new users to the site.

Many times, comments are the communication mechanism that is used to guide users to read the faq or guide the new user to post in a different way.

I think it is inevitable that new user's comments during this back-and-forth would be downvoted heavily at times, when it would be better to guide them in a neutral-or-positive fashion towards the faq.

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I think the opposite might be the case - comment downvotes could help with those abrasive, borderline rude comments that litter every newbee question on the site. –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 2:44

It's important to consider why a comment should be downvoted. Is it rude? There already is a "mark as unconstructive". Is it not that rude? Maybe it shouldn't be downvoted then.

Is it being downvoted for inaccurate information? Follow up comments can correct it, and then the real information should be added to an answer if the information is actually worth mentioning.

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A comment being rude, but not rude enough for flagging, is exactly the use case for a downvote. –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 2:43
    
The problem is, for every time I mark something as unconstructive because it is sure purely obviously rude and unhelpful, there are at least 15 people who upvoted it because they found it funny. Downvoting rude comments would be struggling against a tide. Unfortunately, the ones I marked as unconstructive don't get approved (possibly because of all the upvotes) –  Jamin Grey Jan 21 at 3:16
    
the threshold to downvoting a comment would be much, much lower than to flagging it. I'm sure that if the feature were available, we would find much different dynamics. –  Pëkka Jan 21 at 3:18

I think any good system has checks and balances in place so no single person or group of people wields too much control / influence.

To that end, SO has worked out a really good system when it comes to questions and answers. You can indicate whether you agree or disagree, ask followup questions, add personal comments, edit mistakes, and flag for moderator help when necessary (which hopefully isn't too often).

If we add downvoting to comments, then many people will desire to edit their comments for clarity, in the hopes of getting more upvotes / reversing downvotes (not everyone is a troll / spammer). Then voters will have to have the capability of changing their vote (currently, "undo"ing a vote only works for the first few minutes).

It seems like more and more flexibility will be needed in the commenting process, to the point that they are treated like answers. And then what if someone doesn't want to upvote / downvote a comment, but just wants to comment on the comment? Then in 5 years, we'll be revisiting what to do about the the second-level comments, which have turned completely snarky. It'll be turtles all the way down!

What if commenting is left mostly as-is, but in order to lighten the load on moderators, those with sub-10000 rep are given the ability to handle comment flags? Those with less rep are already trusted with the review queue on questions / answers, which are generally much more valuable than anything in the comments (generally - I know that sometimes there is very useful content in the comments).

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Just mentioning undoing a comment upvote has now been implemented, for immedate undoing anyway.

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Here is why I think down-voting comments could be a good idea.

I have just experienced a flame war in the comments section. A lot of answers here are arguing that a simply counter-comment is more useful than a down-vote. However, counter-comments can also lead to arguments over the two opposing views. By being allowed to down-vote, people could register their disagreement in a way that does not court argumentative discussion.

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the right way to handle "flame war in the comments section" is to flag it for attention of moderator (who typically will remove all the comments involved in that war) –  gnat Nov 15 at 17:15

I think it should be permissible, but with no rep change for the action (and make it undo-able always). The lack of rep change will help negate some of the fear of downvotes in that area.

In a slightly off-topic note: I also feel that the comments should be editable for more than the five minutes after posting it. It is easy enough to post them that it is easier to post another than to edit a current one within the five minutes, anyways.

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You can already flag why would you downvote. Comments aren't meant to mean anything(no rep). Upvoting is more for it showing up before the rest.

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The lack of comment downvotes is problematic because many comments retain their upvotes even if they are unpleasant or objectionable. –  Anderson Green Jan 13 at 23:08

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