Inspired by this question and at the risk of being downvoted to oblivion, I'd like to propose a feature request.

Can we automatically explain to people what downvotes mean on Meta?

I am getting tired of seeing people on Meta ask about why they were downvoted with no comment, whine and complain and boo hoo hoo. Votes on meta are different!

I understand, I was new to Meta once too...

Can we somehow show a link to the FAQ automatically when someone tries to ask why they were downvoted on Meta?

Here's some freehand circles to help you guys know how serious I am:

I'm Really Serious!

(Yes I am pretty well aware this will just be another question)

  • 14
    What the... serifs? DECLINE DECLINE DECLINE
    – Pops
    Oct 25, 2011 at 21:53
  • 1
    @PopularDemand FTFY Oct 25, 2011 at 21:57
  • 4
    maybe we should plug "siri" into our commenting system :)
    – waffles
    Oct 25, 2011 at 23:46
  • 3
    @waffles: "Siri, cornify this page." -everyone, all the time
    – Pops
    Oct 26, 2011 at 0:57
  • The issue is, we really don't know what down-votes mean, sir. If full Shakespearean words are often lost in translation, what of mere thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs? So no, don't lie about what the downvote means, you'll break their hearts. We need screening before the whole process, mental-hardiness screening. Oct 26, 2011 at 5:27
  • I am declining this, between my answer and Mark's I think there is enough coverage
    – waffles
    Oct 26, 2011 at 5:36
  • 1
    Well, could we at least change what the tooltip on the downvote-button says? "This question does not show any research effort" doesn't really seem to apply here. Apr 26, 2013 at 19:23
  • @KyleStrand good idea: Ask that as it's own question and link it here! Apr 27, 2013 at 12:53
  • 1
    Turns out it's already been asked, and it's been declined: meta.stackexchange.com/q/75049/218334 Apr 27, 2013 at 17:49

6 Answers 6


Why not just have the system autocomment on the question of any first time user that gets a downvote in Meta.

You have received a downvote. Fear not! Downvotes work differently on Meta. (link to faq)

This is what someone inevitably ends up commenting, anyway, so for any user that already knows what's going on, they can just ignore it.

(but I do like the text parsing approach, too, I just think this way would save a few lines of code)


Not a bad idea in spirit, but I'm wary of any request for another "determine what the author is trying to say by searching for a keyword or pattern" feature. My standard question: do you have a proposed algorithm, and if so, what does the data dump say about its effectiveness?

  • 2
    I'd also be curious if this problem extended outside of MSO, since the per-site metas lack reputation.
    – Tim Stone
    Oct 25, 2011 at 22:09
  • I agree @PopularDemand, I often downvote "determine what the author is trying to say by searching for a keyword or pattern" features. Let me think of an algorithm and get back to you. Oct 25, 2011 at 22:19
  • 1
    I few cursory queries seem to suggest that "why the downvote" is most popular, but even that only turned up 30 results.
    – John
    Oct 25, 2011 at 22:38
  • OK. I came up with a very basic algorithm Oct 25, 2011 at 23:15
  • Hm, I forgot that this was just a proposal for a gentle FAQ reminder and not a proposal for a comment blocker. I actually like Mark's answer more than my own, now.
    – Pops
    Oct 26, 2011 at 14:19

"Why the downvote?" can be legit.

True, it could be that people simply disagree with you, hence you are downvoted. But that is a pretty poor answer to the comment.

Why the downvote?

I downvoted you because the idea to build a frob factory would involve amending the widget collector, this would take many hours of work and result in a poor consistency for the crumpet maker and all future crumpets made.

  • 2
    I toot my trumpet to your crumpet! Wait, is crumpet PG-13? Oct 26, 2011 at 5:24

This is just unnecessary micro-optimization that is only going to serve to annoy people more than it'll help them.

It's somewhat of a nuisance to see the same comment over and over from people questioning why they're down-voted, but people don't like getting anonymous negative feedback, whether it's on meta or on a main site. This only attempts to solve the problem for one specific instance arbitrarily.

That is, I don't see why meta would have to be special cased just because its conventions for down-voting are different: people are free to vote however they please on main sites too, and people get confused about why people vote they way they do there as well. People can just as easily dismiss comments on main sites asking for reasons why someone down-voted with "down-voting means your answer/question was unclear, see the FAQ."

Automatic popups to link back to the FAQ doesn't answer the question the user has, as waffles mentions: even if the user knows that the down-vote means disagreement (or on a main site, lack of clarity or usefulness), they still want to know why someone thinks that and feels strongly enough to dock (gasp) two whole reputation points from the poster for it.

And so, even with the popup, they're still going to comment asking to know why someone down-voted.

  • 3
    You're probably right about this, especially the "even with the popup, they're still going to comment asking to know why someone down-voted" part. (Can you tell I had a bad day today? :-p) Oct 26, 2011 at 4:17

Extremely simple algorithm because I can't use regexes in Data Explorer and I'm supposed to be fixing a problem...

-- Enter Query Title
-- Enter Query Description

select text,LEN(text) as [Length],postid as [Post Link] from comments 
where (
    text like '%downvote%' or 
    text like '%down-vote%' or 
    text like '%down vote%'
) and (
    text like '%why%' or
    text like '%explain%' or
    text like '%reason%' or
    text like '%?'
) and LEN(text) < ​60​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

175 results. Seems like a good majority of them are hits. If nothing else this should allow others to have a good starting point for exploring better algorithms.

  • 1
    You may want to also filter by users. Almost half of these (80) are comments by people other than the owner of the post they are attached to, and most of those (but not all) are false positives. Oct 26, 2011 at 8:02

I don't really see the point of doing this. First of all, there are very few users on meta, compared to all the other sites. Second of all, if someone wants to be active on meta, they'll do it, despite the occasional downvote. And not everybody gets that pissed off about them, even if they're new here.

Why annoy them by just whacking them over the head with the FAQ every time something happens? Nobody reads it, anyway (partially true)?

  • Nobody reads it, yea I agree Oct 26, 2011 at 5:59

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