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I don't know if people don't explain why they up or down vote because they don't care or because they don't want the person to know they voted on an answer (or question)... But, it might be nice to be able to leave a comment anonymously as to why it was voted. It could give us more insight as to people's thoughts on posts.

Really, I think this would come into play a lot more dealing with down votes more than up votes, but I could see it being beneficial in both situations.

See also:

an answer posted to Encouraging people to explain down-votes

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If people didn't give bad answers there would be no downvotes. Maybe to fix the problem we should only allow good answers! –  jjnguy Jul 17 '09 at 13:06
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@Justin the trouble is, most "bad" answers are due to ignorance and it would help its author a lot if he was not only to know that his answer was bad, but also why so he can learn something, too –  Tobias Kienzler Jun 22 '10 at 11:23
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@jjnguy: The problem isn't with downvotes. The problem is with unexplained downvotes. It's easy to sit in the cheap seats and moan "this sucks". But if someone is going to randomly penalize someone, they should stand behind their opinion. –  Joel Etherton Oct 6 '10 at 19:26
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@Joel, I don't feel unexplained downvotes are a problem at all. –  jjnguy Oct 6 '10 at 19:36
    
How you will know that answer is "good"? –  Evgeny Aug 12 '11 at 13:27
    
@jjnguy: I the bad thing of answer says. It can be edit! –  ahmadali shafiee Feb 14 '12 at 21:03
    
@jjnguy: some people downvote questions, not just answers, and how on earth does one allow only good answers? That's the point of voting. –  Tony_Henrich May 15 '12 at 20:45
    
@JoelEtherton - I don't need them to stand and show their name if they dont want to. But I would really like that the "this is wrong" downvote would be something more. No need to post a whole answer that spans 100 pages. Just a little comment "This is wrong why "/"this can cause problems if" etc. So that if there is a mistake someone may discover it before it create problems to other. –  SPArchaeologist Jan 23 '13 at 8:37
    
OR: You can lie and just say "I didn't downvote your answer, however, I think they are downvoting because of xyz." (If you don't like lying, you could post this first and then downvote.) Not that I have ever done that or anything.... =D [Smiles suspiciously] Just joking... I've never done that before. I guess it might be beneficial to just have a message with a link to "common reasons for downvoting" and have "incorrect spelling/grammar, not fit for our site" and so on. –  Annonomus Penguin Jul 31 '13 at 0:49
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Meh, people need to suck up downvotes. I'm sick of the increasing pattern of people taking them personally (in some cases, extremely so). Life is not all about positive feedback. You posted a bad or incorrect answer... suck it up! –  Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 18 at 10:59
    
I've opened a detailed feature-request regarding explanations for downvotes, please see Revisiting Optional Explanations for Downvotes (on Questions). –  Cupcake May 5 at 0:13
    
I think that this problem is even more obvious with downwoting questions withou comment, because it is even more confusing what does the downvote means. If you downvote Answer, the possible explanation is that it is bad/wrong Answer. But how the question can be bad? It can violate some rules of the site, but it is seldom obvious which one is it especially for newbies. Also it is very different if the uncomented downvote comes as first and only reaction to your question or if there is a myriad of comments/other votes/answers before that. It makes a huge difference for novice. –  gorn Aug 3 at 21:40
    
@Kevin What was the resolution here? –  FMShyanguya Aug 11 at 0:58
    
@JeffAtwood What is the reason for status declined? –  FMShyanguya Aug 11 at 2:20

8 Answers 8

up vote 29 down vote accepted
+50

Voting is meant to be anonymous. We -encourage- users to leave a comment (especially when downvoting) but do not force it upon anyone.

If you are nice enough to leave a comment on a downvote to explain yourself, there shouldn't be any reason for anonymity other than to protect yourself from revenge downvoting. I don't think this happens quite often enough to warrant anonymous comments (plus those can be definitely abused).

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Actually, there is a psychological reason to allow anon posting. By forcing a person to leave a comment with their name attached they have to admit they are causing someone else distress (as little as it might be, it is still there) and ultimately acts as a deterrent to tell why the down vote was cast. This doesn't prevent them from down voting as that is still anon, it just prevents them from explaining why. It's a lose/lose situation for the poster. –  Kevin Jul 17 '09 at 13:01
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@Kevin, while you are correct, I think that is a problem with the attitude that we should not be seeking to condone. Every person should be able to publicly stand by every downvote they've made. –  devinb Jul 17 '09 at 13:07
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But then why are down votes anonymous (I'm not saying you are wrong)? The current system still condones the behavior, but deters someone from explaining why. –  Kevin Jul 17 '09 at 13:09
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There are three reasons not to leave a downvote: shame/fear of reprisal, laziness, obviousness. We can't fix laziness, we don't need to fix obviousness, and if people are ashamed of their comments, then they probably shouldn't be commenting at all. –  devinb Jul 17 '09 at 13:23
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So what might be done about fear of reprisal? –  Dan Williams Jul 23 '10 at 16:02
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Anonymity is a complete cop-out. People who come to this site for answers aren't looking for reason in the crowd of the anonymous. I'd like to know that the source of an answer, or the source of disagreement for an answer, is at least reputable. Personally I think a person of integrity stands behind their opinion with their name. I'm sure if someone looked in the database, you wouldn't find a lot of anonymous downvotes from Jon Skeet. –  Joel Etherton Oct 6 '10 at 19:24
    
Not leaving a downvote because it costs me a precious 1 of my own reputation to take 2 off some palooka? –  CashCow Feb 18 '11 at 12:18
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A reason for down-voting could be selected from a list. This would allow the response to remain anonymous, as only aggregated totals could be displayed, there would be feedback, so that the OP could improve his or her future postings, and selecting from a reason list is already done for post flagging. –  Jim Fell Jun 24 '11 at 20:21
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The site (and thus the general public) benefits if the poster who gets downvoted knows why they got downvoted and has an opportunity to learn from the downvote feedback. I've been downvoted on answers where I get many positive votes and even get selected as the preferred answer and I have no idea why someone downvoted. That isn't useful to anyone. Leaving feedback should be encouraged (in the UI) whereas it is NOT encouraged at all now. You just click the down arrow and you're done. There's no UI at all connected to a downvote operation that encourages you to leave feedback. –  jfriend00 Nov 27 '11 at 20:34
    
Maybe an anonymous private message to the poster would help people underrstand way the got downvoted. –  Ian Ringrose Apr 22 '12 at 19:51
    
what if it was anonymouse to regular users, but moderators could see who wrote the comment? –  Ephraim Apr 23 '12 at 15:01
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I know this problem is being discussed for a while now and that the request has been declined before. Still, I get some random donwvotes on question that would help a lot if they were explained. Maybe try to brainstorm with the Stack Exchange team a bit about the possibilities of clarification/feedback a user could get after a downvote. –  KuramaYoko Feb 26 '13 at 16:33
    
@JoelEtherton How did you manage to count Jon Skeet's anonymous downvotes? –  Asad May 17 '13 at 1:59
    
@Asad: Read my comment again. No where did I claim to have counted his anonymous downvotes. Good job not reading correctly 2 and a half years later. –  Joel Etherton May 17 '13 at 2:57
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@Asad: Clearly you still can't read, so let me help you: "I'm sure if someone looked in the database, you wouldn't find a lot of anonymous downvotes from Jon Skeet." Notice the word "if" following the phrase "I'm sure". This clearly indicates a supposition and ready admission that I do not have said knowledge, yet firmly believe based on comments from him that the number would be near zero. Notice in that last sentence (since you can't read) the word "believe". Do not mistake this for the concept of "knowledge". They are not equivalent. –  Joel Etherton May 17 '13 at 3:02

This is all about feedback. If anyone posts a question or an answer that merits a downvote, it would be great to have some feedback as to why this was downvoted. As there is (justified) fear of retaliation, comments should be optionally anonymous. This way, the braver users can leave a comment with their name, while the rest of us can leave a comment without our name.

Also, consider standard, anonymous, downvote reasons. This would enable people to rapidly downvote and give feedback at the same time.

My 0,02€

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Agree with you. The main problem is that if the question has low traffic (which means 1-2 vote if lucky - good answers may get 3) a single downvote will often give the impression that the answer hide some issue. Maybe this is true, but if all we got is the vote... you will never know. –  SPArchaeologist Jan 23 '13 at 8:33

I suggested Provide (optional) anonymous reasoning field for down-votes which was closed as duplicate of this feature-request, but since I had a suggestion on how to give the option of an anonymous down-vote-comment I'm taking the liberty to copy-paste a bit:


Extending the "Please consider adding a comment..." reminder with a comment field bellow which allows to leave an anonymous comment reasoning the down-vote. This could help preventing revenge-down-votes and yet help the OP improving.

The field should be clarifying the optionality of this process, but as a motivation, half the down-vote-cost could be refunded as a reward. Or only half the down-vote loss for the OP is cast for unreasoned down-votes.

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2  
A downvote costs 1 reputation to cast! It's barely a penalty, and half of it is not only even less worth it, but also would involve retooling the whole system to support half-points. Likewise, halving the penalty to reputation in the absence of a reason is a similar logical disconnect to this earlier one. The penalty to reputation is because the user made a bad post, which is completely unrelated to whether the caster decided to explain the downvote (cont.) –  Grace Note Jun 22 '10 at 11:49
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We cast downvotes in order to mark bad posts, not users. Encouraging downvote behavior based on the reputation penalty to the user is entirely opposite that line of thought. If anything, that "motivation" makes the nicer folk less inclined to give reasons, and gives more reason for more malicious people to falsify their reasoning. –  Grace Note Jun 22 '10 at 11:53
    
@ccomet I guess you're right about the reward-part, your reasoning puts a "flag down-vote-comment as irregular"-system to my mind, resulting in way too much fuss about rep instead of good answers. That's why I said "could be refunded". So, what's your opinion concerning the optional comment field at least? –  Tobias Kienzler Jun 22 '10 at 12:03
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@Tobias Mechanically, I don't see an optional comment field helping too much. The majority of users who would care to use it are the same people who might explain their downvotes anyway (whether or not they explicitly state that they downvoted). There would be an increase in the number of explanations from users who are too shy to attribute their critiques, no matter how good-natured their statements may be. I can't comprehend why people want to be nameless saviors, so I only concern myself with the mechanical implications of this concept. –  Grace Note Jun 22 '10 at 12:12
    
@ccomet neither do I understand the shyness, but I certainly prefer anonymous (appropriate) comments on what's (not so obviously) wrong instead of a cricket chirping down-vote that will haunt me for the rest of my... say... three minutes... but anyway, even Jon Skeet wants to improve (see his comment here) –  Tobias Kienzler Jun 22 '10 at 12:25
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If I think I need to explain something, I have no qualms with attaching my name to it. That's it, quite plain and simple. There is nothing I would, or even could, say on any of the sites that I would not want attributed to my name. –  Grace Note Jun 22 '10 at 12:29
    
@ccomet if only everyone shared your point of view... but hey, the suggestion is about an optional comment, so if those kiddies have some useful critique and simply fear something like "the down-voted strikes back" (childish of both sites... who cares about rep anyway?), I prefer giving them the opportunity to "help" –  Tobias Kienzler Jun 22 '10 at 12:40
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@Tobias: Still need to break this mental association between voting and comments. Both can be used to provide feedback to an author, but neither are exclusively reserved for that purpose - and voting has a much more important function, that of communicating with other readers. Always consider that a down-vote may mean nothing more than, "I think this post is less useful than others" - a message which post-score is uniquely suited to communicate, and for which comments are almost entirely unsuitable. –  Shog9 Jun 22 '10 at 17:20
    
@Shog9 that's true, but still there should be at least one comment stating why the answer is bad if it is not so obvious –  Tobias Kienzler Jun 23 '10 at 9:50
    
@tobias: Well, yes, they can be useful. But again, that's a separate matter from voting. –  Shog9 Jun 23 '10 at 14:33
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I feel exactly as @Kevin has explained in a comment to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6521/… and given an option to explain my downvote anonymously I would use it. It is not that I am afraid of any revenge, I just do not want to be seen as the one doing "harm" to to posted (this is esp. when I have posted a competing answer). –  Suma Aug 12 '11 at 8:43
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@Suma: you only do harm by not downvoting when adequate. But if the reason for a downvote is not obvious it is also doing harm by not explaining to the OP what is wrong. Also sometimes asking first is better since it could be a misunderstanding / language barrier issue –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 12 '11 at 10:02
    
You can convince me (reason), but I doubt you will change how I feel (emotion). If I had an option to provide downvote comments anonymously, I would do it more often (and I do not see what harm would such option do). –  Suma Aug 12 '11 at 10:07
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@Suma: I think you're not alone with that opinion, which is exactly why I support this request. Hm, time for another bounty then –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 12 '11 at 11:33
    
@TobiasKienzler - That is my point. "This answer is bad" without any more word won't really help: nor the poster, that except of some evident case (that may require flagging) may not even understand what's wrong nor the viewer that may even don't know the vote was cast if the total is still positive. See my answer somewhere here. It is a little more direct that your, but know that I am totally in agree with you. –  SPArchaeologist Jan 23 '13 at 9:38

A lot of this has been covered in answers/comments to these questions:

Encouraging people to explain downvotes

http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2263/require-comments-on-downvotes

to name but two.

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It's very demotivating if your correct answer is downvoted by some lazy unconcerned passer-by, especially where you have spent about one hour with creating the working solution and without any reasoning!

Imo downvoter should be obliged to anonymously provide exact reason for his downvote, and so that such an explanation will be good feedback or good hint for the answerer/asker.

When the downvoter clicks on the downvote arrow, then a popup could raise, with a few selectable predefined downvote reasons, just like it's required when reviewing suggested edits, e.g.

Reason for the Downvote:
o "this answer is shoddy or useless (default)"
o "this answer is out of topic (unrelated with asked question)"
o "this answer is obscure"
o "this answer is incomplete (not works in all situations)"
o "link only answers are not good answers"
o "the explanation in this answer is wrong"
o  add your own anonymous coment: []
[Confirm the downvote]

Currently the popup message "Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved" is shown after downvoting, but it's naturally ignored by majority of downvoters, because it's not anonymous.

:: UPDATE ::

Or simpler alternative could be this: after downvoting there can be shown a simple popup:

"Please consider adding your commentary explaining the downvote:
 [ ...    ]
 <ADD ANONYMOUS COMMENT> <LEAVE IT UNCOMMENTED>
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the explanation in this answer is wrong –  Gilles Aug 17 '13 at 17:35
    
No, it's all about people laziness or comfort to click one more time. –  Stano Aug 17 '13 at 17:41
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Reason for down vote: this answer is obscure. –  Andrew Barber Aug 17 '13 at 17:48
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Our point: these comments are utterly worthless. –  Andrew Barber Aug 17 '13 at 17:50

Down voting without reason is worthless in many cases as the user may not understand what the problem is. Leaving a anonymous comment is beneficial to the SO community as it helps with the quality of questions in general.

Going further, perhaps a small floating UI control could be added, that would be required to be filled out by the down-voting user:

[ ] Not in Q&A format (1) *F*
[ ] Not applicable to this Q&A forum
[x] Unclear (3)
...
[ ] Other

How it would be used:

  1. Other would require an anonymous comment to be added, either to the comment list or to the UI control of the question in question. Maybe adding to the standard down-voting reasons would be allowed by users who have a rep above some value.
  2. Counters at the end of the standard reasons would indicate that other users agree.
  3. This control would be read-only to everyone except those who down-voted, and would not be visible at all if no down-vote had occurred.
  4. Those who don't down-vote would only see the applicable reasons that have been selected by others.
  5. Upon revisiting the page, the down-voter would only see the applicable reasons that have been selected by others along with checkboxes showing what that down-voter checked. A handle at the bottom of this list would allow that down-voter to see the rest of the possible reasons in the case they wanted to change their reason.
  6. Down-voting would not be applied until the down-voter checked off at least one box.
  7. Unchecking all of the boxes that the down-voter checked would remove the down-vote(s) by that down-voter.
  8. If more than one were checked, it could be that multiple down-votes could be applied.

One other thing could be that if there are users who disagree with the reason, it might be possible to flag it (what the *F* is trying to represent). If enough people flag it, it could remove the reason. No one would be able to see that it was flagged except for the flagger. It would not affect the down-voter's selection, but it would decrement the count to a minimum of 0. An N:1 flag:reason ratio would be used to decrement the count, where N is TBD.

Using this UI control or something similar would require only one additional click unless Other was used, in which case some additional typing would be required. No one would know who casted these down-votes. However, the feedback given to the questioner would immensely helpful (especially new ones).

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Voting is supposed to be anonymous, and that's how it should be.

That being said, when people downvote without commenting, it's my opinion that usually they're either downvoting obviously incorrect answers or trolling. The former people would not use an anonymous comment function, and the latter would abuse it.

Those who want to leave a meaningful explanation already do; I don't think there's any culture of fear on SO when it comes to revealing that you're a downvoter.

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If a downvote vote is so obvious, then I agree that no comment is needed. Problem is when we have one answer and 3 vote - 2 up and 1 down. You are left wondering "did the downvoter vote because he know some issue with the answer / should I use it?". –  SPArchaeologist Jan 23 '13 at 15:15
    
that said I agree. I am starting to feel that a anonymous down vote isn't the solution. Actually I am even wondering if I am the only one that see a problem here. –  SPArchaeologist Jan 23 '13 at 15:17

Leaving an "anonymous" comment is quite easy. Here's how:

  1. Down-vote a question which bothers you.
  2. Wait anywhere between 10 minutes and 7 days, then return to the question.
  3. Leave a comment saying "You seem to be getting down votes. This may be because __________"
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You seem to have gotten a downvote. But I won't tell you why until anywhere between 10 minutes and 7 days... or ever if I forget, which is more likely. –  Jan Dvorak Aug 12 at 2:46
    
Rather that hacking around the issue I think it would be more productive to encourage a complete separation of the different mechanisms in people's minds. Votes are for sorting answers, comments are for giving the author suggestions. Vote in order to signal readers on the relative value of posts, comment to help the author. The is no need to mention your vote or anything about voting patterns at all when commenting, just comment about the post. You can comment and/or vote in any order at any time and no correlation should be assumed. –  Caleb Aug 12 at 8:43

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