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Similar to the new @user feature, I am interested in a feature wherein if I preface a comment to one of my own posts with "@Downvoters", a notification would be sent to all users that downvoted that post.

This is similar to this previous request.

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@Downvoter: Please explain! Thanks. –  Jason Jan 27 '10 at 0:13
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Downvotes on meta just indicate disagreement with the feature-request, unlike SO –  waiwai933 Jan 27 '10 at 2:33
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I didn't do anything –  jmfsg Feb 4 '10 at 20:06
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^ my nickname at that moment was "Downvoter" –  jmfsg Dec 16 '10 at 18:31
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@Juan: but it's actually funnier now that your nick has changed. –  ЯegDwight May 18 '11 at 11:34
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I think this would only get abused by users who don't 'get it' anyway and start to cry wolf, rather than reflect what might be wrong with their own post –  Ivo Flipse May 18 '11 at 11:59
    
@Ivo I think mostly "existing users" will be aware of this feature. (New users are still getting used to everything.) Maybe trigger this feature only if no one has left a comment so far? –  muntoo May 18 '11 at 16:16
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Some kind of notification when something you've voted on is changed may be a good idea, but putting it in the hands of someone who was downvoted sounds like trouble. –  codewaggle Jun 14 '12 at 4:27
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Can I have a @DidntReadTheFAQ ? –  Chris Gerken Dec 9 '12 at 21:15
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If downvoters wanted to discuss the matter, they would leave comments, answers, or attempt to correct the deficiencies. If they don't want to, there is no point in bothering them with notifications. –  Jonathan Seng Jun 19 '13 at 22:31
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7 Answers

I've thought more about this, and frankly... I don't like the idea of leaving a comment for down-voters at all, with or without notification. Down-voting isn't supposed to open a dialog - new users are encouraged to comment when down-voting, but it's not mandatory - and if they don't feel the need, that's just fine.

Furthermore, I've seen too many instances where a "Why the downvote?" comment poisons further discussion, turning comments into a debate over whether the vote was merited - this is noise, as comments are supposed to be relevant to the content of the post itself. In most cases - and especially when comments have already been posted prior to the request - I flag or delete these downvoter-addressed comments.

It's easy to feel frustrated, when you put substantial effort into a post only to see it down-voted without explanation. But this is an attitude that must be discouraged rather than justified. Remember: voting is primarily a means of communicating with other readers and with the system itself; comments should be reserved for providing auxiliary information, suggestions, and constructive criticism to the author. They're two separate mediums, and need to stay that way.

Now, if you notice your post being down-voted and honestly want advice on improving it - regardless of whether or not that advice comes from the same users who down-voted it - by all means, ask for suggestions! Just stay focused on the content, not the voting or other users:

Good

Can anyone suggest improvements or corrections to this?

Bad

@Downvoter, please leave a comment. Rawr!

Stupid anonymous down-voting cowards!

Why the downvotes???

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I don't think so. I think the extra prompt of the comment showing in their inbox will occasionally spur action. And if not, well, it still provides a communication channel. –  T.J. Crowder May 18 '11 at 11:27
    
@TJCrowder: actually, I've changed my mind on this. Please see my edit. –  Shog9 May 18 '11 at 15:49
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I think your old post was better. Many times, I've responded to a poster who asked why they got downvotes, even though I didn't downvote, with a suggestion that helped them fix or otherwise change their post for the better. –  NickC May 18 '11 at 16:00
    
@Renesis: and this feature would do nothing for that, since you didn't down-vote. I've edited again though to clarify: asking for suggestions for improvement is admirable - it's demanding an explanation from specific user(s) I see as harmful. –  Shog9 May 18 '11 at 16:10
    
I don't support this feature either - I just liked your original advice about leaving a comment (with no notification) asking for help. I strongly agree with your second edit. –  NickC May 18 '11 at 16:24
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I like your addition; Asking for comments on down votes tends not to be all that fruitful (even - or especially - if you get replies!), but if you are going to do so, do it in a way that will encourage people to respond constructively! +1 –  Andrew's a Unitato Jan 3 '12 at 18:54
    
"encouraged to comment when down-voting" IMO downvoters should somehow be more than encouraged to specify why. Either downvoter don't say a word, or he does and the quality of the material here improves. I think this site is great but I'd brainstorm how to achieve this to make this community more welcoming (especially for newcomers). Maybe downvoters would get additional points removed from reputation, *unless they mention why. It sounds pretty good to me.. hope it will become a reality one day. –  MasterMastic Feb 20 '13 at 23:34
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For me the best use case for this is @downvoter I believe I have improved the quality of my qeustion please have another look. An alternative is to notify somehow all the voters on a post(question or answer) when it is edited, but I believe the feature requested here is more reasonable. –  izomorphius Mar 27 '13 at 9:17
    
Then what is the point? If its poisonous to ask why and detracts from the question / answer, then they aren't helping to improve questions and answers. As such, downvotes should not exist as far as the question / answer are concerned. That means either remove them entirely, or remove them to a separate area such as a link to the question's meta discussion. "Now, if you notice your post being down-voted and honestly want advice on improving it . . . by all means, ask for suggestions!" This assumes people are NOT interested. How about assuming they are and telling them upfront? –  Jonathan Seng Jun 20 '13 at 2:00
    
Because in my experience, @Jonathan, that is often an incorrect assumption. But by all means, if you think someone would benefit from criticism, give it to them - just leave voting out of it. –  Shog9 Jun 20 '13 at 2:11
    
@Shog9 If we assume they aren't interested, then downvoting is a complete and total detriment to getting good questions and answers. They don't help improve them. Abolish them in favor of voting to close. That has value. And, bluntly, if people aren't interested in good questions and answers, stackoverflow should be terminated. –  Jonathan Seng Jun 20 '13 at 2:14
    
I think you're misunderstanding the purpose of voting, @Jonathan –  Shog9 Jun 20 '13 at 3:25
    
The purpose of voting is to manage visibility. From the about page, "Good answers are voted up and rise to the top." The converse is that bad is voted to the bottom to decrease visibility. When you vote something down without comment, you do not provide avenue to improve -- which is bad. Should the question or answer be improved to no longer warrant a down vote, failing to remove a down vote becomes a completely inappropriate distraction to the visibility. As such, the system fails. @Shog9 Please explain the misunderstanding. –  Jonathan Seng Jun 20 '13 at 4:34
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That is how it works now. And that is the problem: improving questions and answers is a "a very nice bonus." The goal of the stackoverflow is questions and answers. The question is whether they are supposed to be good or not. If the goal is good, then you don't want improvement as a bonus, you want it as a standard. –  Jonathan Seng Jun 20 '13 at 14:05
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You can't force someone to improve their post, @Jonathan. You can encourage them to - but often there's already a better post, and getting into it with someone who half-assed it vs. just de-ranking their halfassery so readers can focus on the good stuff is a much more productive use of your time. –  Shog9 Jan 19 at 23:23
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What if my username is Downvoter?

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The only case where this leads to ambiguity is if user Downvoter has commented on the post and user X where X != Downvoter has downvoted the post. Then a comment by the OP prefaced with "@Downvoter" is ambiguous between being a reply to the comment from Downvoter or a comment to the downvote from X. I don't see this being a hindrance. –  Jason Jan 27 '10 at 0:13
    
Oh, but it would be a hindrance for that poor user –  jmfsg Jan 27 '10 at 1:07
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@Juan Manuel: Look, there is nothing magical about the string "@Downvoter." It could be "@MagicalStringThatIsNotCurrentlyAUsernameAndIsForeverBlockedFromBeingAUserName.‌​" You could even append "AndNotifiesDownvotersOnTheCurrentPost" if you'd like. –  Jason Jan 27 '10 at 1:30
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Too long for a username, you got me there –  jmfsg Jan 27 '10 at 1:40
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If your username is Downvoter, change it - you have a weird username. –  John Saunders Jan 27 '10 at 4:46
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@Jason - I'd totally vote for this feature if users had to type that entire string in just to annoy the people who downvoted them. –  Adam Davis Feb 4 '10 at 20:31
    
@Pol, they could just copy and paste it, no fair –  jmfsg Feb 4 '10 at 20:33
    
@dow - ok, so we'll also need to add a bit of javascript so the typing would have to occur at a reasonable 'human' speed. Then it would at least limit automation to those who understand browser scripting... –  Adam Davis Feb 4 '10 at 20:47
    
that would work i guess... agreed! @pol –  jmfsg Feb 4 '10 at 20:51
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How many irrelevant comment notifications do you get in a day? –  BalusC Feb 4 '10 at 20:52
    
@Bal: not as much as Kyle Cronin♦ meta.stackoverflow.com/posts/28884/revisions –  perbert Feb 4 '10 at 22:10
    
Good thing your name isn't Downvoters... I think we dodged a bullet on this one! @Downvoters sounds better anyways. –  Senseful May 16 '10 at 3:30
    
@Adam Applying grease... –  muntoo May 18 '11 at 16:18
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I wouldn't mind too much, as long as the identities are still kept secret, as I see the use for good this could have.

But I see a much bigger problem for heavy downvoters (of which some argue there are not enough), who might be constantly anoyed by the notifications.

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I think the problem with heavy notifications can easily be handled by a user option "Ignore downvote notifications 'cause I'm a grouch!" –  Sam Jan 27 '10 at 5:38
    
@The Big Cheese, @Sam: I agree with Sam here. –  Jason Jan 27 '10 at 15:28
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@Sam: may be it should prompt you after checking with a pop up asking Are you a grouch? [Yes] [No] –  perbert Feb 4 '10 at 22:11
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as long as I get a checkbox for Always a grouch –  Sam Feb 5 '10 at 15:07
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I am interested in a feature...

How would this improve Stack Overflow questions and answers?

As far as I can tell, all it will do is provide a communication path for people to complain.

  • What good purpose does it serve
  • What do you expect the outcome to be (both positive and negative)
  • What evidence do you have that the purpose will be served, and the outcome will be more positive than negative

Personally, I believe people worry too much about downvotes. Yes, it would be nice to know why, but what would that accomplish, other than starting many arguments that won't actually result in a better question or answer?

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I'd upvote you if I hadn't given up voting on answers because of the electorate badge –  jmfsg Feb 4 '10 at 20:39
    
@Dow - I'd downvote you if I ever cast downvotes. ;-D –  Adam Davis Feb 4 '10 at 20:45
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I feel it would be more than a just complaining. If you've been downvoted, and you make edits to improve your post, then the downvote that applied to the previous, poor post shouldn't necessarily apply anymore - it would be good to provide a mechanism by which those who downvoted before could reevaluate the post to see if that vote is still warranted. –  corsiKa Aug 1 '11 at 18:08
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If downvotes cannot lead to better questions or answers, what good purpose do they serve to slashdot? From [/about], "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat." If it takes discussion to get a question or answer right, then we have a place for it. But, downvotes (without comment) are not constructive to getting answers. Rather the opposite, they lower interest both in improving the post and reading the post. That is counter to getting answers. –  Jonathan Seng Jun 20 '13 at 2:07
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Definitely in support of this. I keep having this same idea, and today I thought: I'll just check to see if someone's suggested it yet. And you had.

Other than the effort required to implement it, the only real downside is that downvoters have to deal with the notifications. I think if you downvote without comment, dealing with the odd "@downvoter" comment in your inbox is not a problem.

Also recommend "@closevoter" for people who've voted to close questions. Easily 95% of the time, people vote to close questions correctly and there's an obvious reason why. The other 5%, though, it'd be good to be able to ask them why.

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Tons of people downvote without comment - they upvote a comment that explains why they're downvoting, and that's perfectly reasonable. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious May 18 '11 at 11:32
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@Super Long: Agreed, that's totally reasonable. And I very rarely see plaintive "@downvoter" comments in that case, because the comment being upvoted has answered the question "why?". The case I see is more frequently the lone downvoter, no comment. That's when I see (and sometimes write) @downvoter comments. –  T.J. Crowder May 18 '11 at 11:34
    
@T.J. Crowder - Why? It's 2 rep. You're almost guaranteed to get it back, given how often people sympathy upvote. If there's some huge hole in your knowledge, the downvoter will probably be a more experienced user, and will tend to leave a comment explaining what you did wrong. It's not likely that one downvote on a decent answer indicates any error on your part, nor is @downvoter-ing likely to teach you anything. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious May 18 '11 at 11:40
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@Super Long: I'm not bothered by the rep (as you say, participate at all and you're going to totally wash out the odd downvote). I want to know what the issue is (and not just on my own questions/answers, but on other peoples' as well). Sometimes I've gotten a reply with the @downvoter comments, and sometimes it's been useful. Now if those people hadn't happened to come back, they wouldn't have seen it. I also think petty retaliatory downvoters (we all know it happens) should know that they may be able to remain anonymous, but they're going to hear from the person they're downvoting. –  T.J. Crowder May 18 '11 at 11:53
    
Willing to accept the first part, but disagree with the sentiment in: "I also think petty retaliatory downvoters (we all know it happens) should know that they may be able to remain anonymous, but they're going to hear from the person they're downvoting." I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but if someone's that petty, I doubt @downvoter comments will phase them. In fact, I fear that those same people, when downvoted, will put @downvoter comments to good (ab)use. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious May 18 '11 at 12:03
    
@Super Long: Could be. :-) I expect it varies by the individual. I'm not worried about them abusing the @downvoter thing, though. The people I'm talking about get told why they're being downvoted. :-) –  T.J. Crowder May 18 '11 at 12:12
    
@T.J. - That's true, but I still disagree. It seems (in my view) that very little will really change with the addition of @downvoter comments. There's a (rather small) potential for it to improve the system, and a(n equally small) potential for it to be abused. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious May 18 '11 at 12:16
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My emotional response is that I'd want this feature, but having thought about it and read the arguments, I'm against it.

A large part of the success of SO is the emotional investment that gets users hooked and comes from the game-like aspects of the site, such as votes and reputation. This can lead users to forget the real point of the site in their quest for increasing their feeling of peer approval (not necessarily rep), and in turn leads to emotional outbursts when they receive negative feedback. I suspect most "Downvoter, please explain" comments are of that emotional nature (I've certainly done it and nothing good has ever come of it), it's not generally helpful and shouldn't be encouraged.

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A downvote without a comment is not negative feedback. It's not feedback at all. It just says, "there's something about this answer that makes me want to downvote", but doesn't say what that was. –  John Saunders May 19 '11 at 17:44
    
@JohnSaunders: Were you making a semantic point about what constitutes "feedback"? I'd say that a downvote definitely qualifies. –  Tim Down Apr 28 at 22:57
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You are correct. I do not call a downvote with no comment "feedback". It doesn't help. –  John Saunders Apr 28 at 23:04
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I believe we really need this feature. Downvoting a question costs no reputation and I think users tend to loose track of those, yet the feature may be useful for answers too. For me the best usage of this feature should be @downvoter I believe I have improved the quality of my question, please have another look. I also think that @downvoter please explain why the downvote is a useful comment though most users tend to disagree.

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4  
Lotta noise... –  Shog9 Mar 27 '13 at 9:41
    
@Shog9 there will always be the option to flag the comment appropriately. Now the comments can generate almost as much noise. For me what matters is the positive effect this feature would have. –  izomorphius Mar 27 '13 at 9:42
    
Pay attention to how many of those posts had been edited, and how many are just authors complaining that someone downvoted. –  Shog9 Mar 27 '13 at 10:30
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-1: For supporting the feature. I really don't agree with Shog9 that comments about downvotes constitute noise. But I also don't want people to be able to ping my inbox just because I decided to add a downvote. A comment about a downvote is an invitation; pinging someone inbox because of a downvote is harassment. Downvoting without comment is a right; it means "this is crap and I don't care to explain why." You don't have the right to track me down and ask me why I did it. You can ask publicly, and maybe someone who cares can point out what's wrong. –  Nicol Bolas Mar 27 '13 at 11:44
    
@NicolBolas I disagree. Downvotes without comment is not always a right. Downvoter could err or see outdated post. Answer's author could miss something or completely don't understand how could he improve the answer and what's really wrong with it. Ability to receive (at)downvoter notifications should be configurable. That's really a great idea. I'm waiting for this feature for a long time, came here to suggest of support it, but it's still not there, alas. –  MANIAK_dobrii Jun 23 at 8:04
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