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OK, I know this has been discussed before many, many times but I'd like to make a new suggestion.

Problem: drive-by downvoting - people downvote without explaining why. And when you downvote, legitimately, you lose rep, as does the questioner / answerer. This strikes me as being a lose / lose situation.

Previous solutions: e.g. here and here have required forcing comments.

Solution: How about this instead: keep the current system (downvoter loses rep) unless the downvoter adds a comment in which case no rep is lost. I think this is win/win. The downvoter can choose to enter comments but is encouraged to do so, which increases the feedback to the original questioner / answerer.

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except for the -2/-1 instead of -1/±0, I don't see the difference between this suggestion and your second example -- in particular, that one does not require forcing comments. –  balpha Sep 29 '10 at 11:27
    
@balpha - yes, it is similar. I was thrown by the closed as exact duplicate banner (which it wasn't). But I don't think the proposal as stated there is very clear, to be honest. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 11:41
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Holy Unicorns and Waffles, Batman! (random comment so I don't lose reputation). –  George Stocker Sep 29 '10 at 13:12
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@George - if this was implemented I would flag (see comment on Chris's answer). So that "objection" is easily overcome. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 15:16
    
@Mark Still pointless; see George's comment above –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 29 '10 at 15:37
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This variation has been part of the discussion on most of the previous rounds. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along! Move along! –  dmckee Sep 29 '10 at 16:26
    
@dmckee - I appreciate that this has been discussed before but there is a reason why it keeps being discussed i.e. that the current situation can be improved. This is a simple extra option which I think will help. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 17:15
    
@NullUserException - I don't understand, my comment was about George's response. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 17:15
    
@Mark I think his point is, you can leave a random comment that is not obviously random, but doesn't explain the downvote either. –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 29 '10 at 17:18
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@Mark Huh, what's stopping me from downvoting and then commenting "Why is this being downvoted?" Or even "Great answer!" –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 29 '10 at 17:30
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@Mark: You have not proposed a new option. The comment-or-cost variation has been brought up before. In addition to the links you provide there was extensive discussion related to Should the weight of downvotes be increased? which included this suggestion. –  dmckee Sep 29 '10 at 17:30
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Can't find or link to it anymore, but AFAIK this was actually one of the first suggestions thrown out on UserVoice way back when. It's an appealing suggestion - if you assume that folks will never ever be motivated to subvert the system. And yes, this keeps coming back up @Mark, but just because there are aspects of the current system that make some folks unhappy doesn't mean a change will necessarily be any better. –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 17:39
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@Mark: your whole suggestion is built around the assumption that you can force users who aren't behaving "properly" to do so by changing how they're rewarded. Obviously, folks can and do downvote and comment already. So you're hoping these "problem users" will do likewise with the proper rewards in place... But I suspect it's far more likely they'll continue to behave as they already do, with perhaps a bit of extra noise thrown out to recoup lost rep. Look around SO - do you really think people with something to say are holding back because the site doesn't reward them enough for speaking? –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 18:52
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I don't understand why we couldn't implement this. Either leave a comment when downvoting or upvote an existing comment. In fact, I don't understand the arguement against this. –  Some Free Mason Apr 16 at 14:26
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@BoltClock'saUnicorn It's not about rep, it's about the OP understanding why his question is bad. PLUS it also prohibits people from downvoting because they don't like the TYPE of question but instead downvote for a specific reason. See Christianity.SE for examples of questions that get downvoted because of the TYPE fo question vs quality of question. –  Some Free Mason Apr 16 at 16:19

3 Answers 3

It has been discussed multiple times, and I'm certain this is actually repeating things I have read from a resident sage. Probably in way too many words, though.

Downvotes and comments are completely separate entities. They are not, and should not, be associated! There are way too many holes that are present in this kind of solution, all of which ultimately do not reward explaining the downvote.

In a much more difficult example than what ChrisF provides, suppose someone downvotes and leaves a comment along the lines of "Why are people downvoting this answer?". You can stop complete gibberish, but you can't differentiate otherwise legitimate comments without betraying anonymity.

More problematic is the fact that this system will imply that the presence of a comment about the problems of a post indicates a downvote was cast by that user. We already have problems with this association being made, and revenge downvotes miscast to otherwise helpful and innocent bystanders.

To conclude, there's also a noise production. Sometimes downvoters don't comment because someone else addressed it already. You'll promote people to post "me too" and "Like @dood said, fix your post" comments, which should be flagged and deleted. And under your system, this means they don't get their reputation back, despite explicitly explaining why they downvoted.

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We can't equate comments and down-votes. Because comments don't equate to down-votes. Down-votes are not a tool that can be used to imply comments. As I have answered in comments-and-down-votes questions here so many times before... (oh, not that resident sage) –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 15:11
    
Thanks for the constructive answer. I have a few comments & questions: 1. "you can't differentiate otherwise legitimate comments without betraying anonymity" not sure what you mean here - the anonymity of downvoting? Perhaps downvoting should not be anonymous? That would solve the issue in your fourth paragraph. 2. Your last paragraph raises (for me) an interesting issue: should then people downvote if their reason for downvoting is already added? Perhaps someone could, after downvoting, then click on an existing reason? –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 15:30
    
Downvoting is a privilege one pays for and a responsibility that one takes. Garbage comments are cleaned up no matter what (eventually). –  Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 19:22
    
@Mark: there's a difference between saying, "We'll clean up the garbage" and saying that while adding "...so please, when you have some, always throw it on the ground so we know what you've been up to." The former is fine; the latter is... stupid. We don't need to spend more time picking up crap after folks who should know better just to prove to ourselves that they're alive. –  Shog9 Nov 3 '11 at 19:47
    
Fair enough but we can hand them a garbage bag instead of directing them to the bin across the room. Put a text box right there or a list of radio buttons. I don't want to look for a comment box. I'm not a fan of minimum entry lengths, either. –  Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 20:33

This strikes me as being a lose / lose situation.

It's not a lose-lose situation. Stackoverflow (the community) wins.

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@BalusC - No, it is lose / lose if: 1. people downvote without explaining why (how can you learn?) and 2. people DON'T downvote because they'll lose rep. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 15:18
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@Mark: the primary purpose of voting is to rate posts. If you want to instruct or correct, use comments. Currently, you can instruct or correct without rating, and you can rate without instructing - this is a very good arrangement, because instruction can be time-consuming and difficult, but the site depends on quick-and-easy rating in order to collect enough data to properly sort posts. Equate the two, and one or both uses suffer. –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 15:37
    
@Mark: don't you generalize "people" a bit too much? There are certainly users who downvote. –  BalusC Sep 29 '10 at 17:03
    
@BalusC - I don't understand your comment. Was it intended as humour? –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 17:08
    
@Mark: it was targeting on point 2 in your first comment. –  BalusC Sep 29 '10 at 17:09
    
@Shog9 - but my point was that the current system is still kept - you can still choose not to comment. But if you do you don't lose rep. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 17:12
    
@BalusC - sorry, still don't get it. My point is that people can do one of two things (not explain or not downvote) - both of which are not good. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 17:13
    
@Mark: there are other problems with encouraging commenting like that, most of which have been discussed to death (and then discussed again above). BalusC's point - which I support - is that comment-free rep-costing down-votes provide a valuable service to the site as a whole, encouraging motivated users to rate posts. Binding comments into this changes the whole dynamic. –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 17:28
    
@Shog9 - I agree that "comment-free rep-costing down-votes provide a valuable service" - but at what cost? Is it a more valuable service than not comment free? We don't know - we can't know, unless we try. Otherwise we are just guessing instead of producing objective data. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 18:10
    
@Mark: by that rationale, we should change how voting works every few weeks, so as to collect better data on which configuration works best. But, that would be chaos. The first question you should ask of any proposed change is, "What problem does it solve?" - in this case, I don't see a problem. –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 18:16
    
@Shog9 - I think that, by that rationale you try different things and see what works best. And you remain open to try new things (admittedly, within reason - which avoids chaos). As to the problem, I highlighted that in my question - drive by downvoting. No one learns from that (except perhaps fearing of challenging the status quo). –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 18:26
    
@Mark I fail to see how a system that doesn't actually change what happens to a drive-by downvoter is a solution to drive-by downvoting. –  Grace Note Sep 29 '10 at 18:37
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@Mark: we may have to just disagree on this, but again, I do not believe that "drive by" down-voting is a problem any more than "drive by" up- voting is a problem. If every vote on the site required a comment, the noise would be deafening, good comments buried under bad ones. But once you accept that quietly voting and moving on is acceptable in some situations, you're free to reflect on the situations where commenting actually makes sense... without dragging voting along for the ride. –  Shog9 Sep 29 '10 at 18:42
    
@Grace Note - it just tips the balance in favor of not drive-by downvoting. It won't eliminate the problem - just reduce it. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 18:47
    
@Shog9 - you may be right about agreeing to disagree. Your comment about comparing it to upvoting is a good one. But upvoting is always (I think) pleasantly received but downvoting is not - hence this request. And (I'm probably repeating myself) - you can still downvote and move on - that's not changed by my proposal. But, OK, fair enough, maybe it's time to get on with our real lives... :) –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 18:50

This idea has been discussed in answers to my question on Encouraging people to explain down-votes.

The basic problem is what is there to stop someone entering "afkhshsgklh" any other meaningless phrase as the comment?

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@ChrisF - I didn't see this specific idea discussed - maybe I didn't read far enough down the answers. But the solution is simple - those answers get flagged and, when they are removed, the downvoter still gets the rep hit. –  Wikis Sep 29 '10 at 11:27
    
@Mark - I've just double checked and I can't find it in my question either, but I know it has been discussed. –  ChrisF Sep 29 '10 at 11:30
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@ChrisF I thought we agreed on "I don't like your gravatar" and "-1 my cat's breath smells like cat food"? –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 29 '10 at 12:55
    
there is also the problem of "-1 for the same reason as ... mentioned", should that be indicated by an great-comment-vote? But that could basically mean anything –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 29 '10 at 12:56
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Flag the comments as abuse; and the user will be ding 100 points when 5 people do so. –  Lawrence Dol Sep 30 '10 at 0:32
    
@Software Actually, the comment flag threshold is based on the number of comment upvotes it gets. And unlike upvotes, flags age away. So circumstances can lead to such comments sticking around. –  Grace Note Sep 30 '10 at 12:36
    
The purpose is to provide constructive criticism. You can do that anyway in a comment. I think you should do but it might not necessarily be made a "requirement" –  CashCow Oct 7 at 10:55

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