When I post a question and it is downvoted below 0, it would be useful to receive a notification so that I could edit the question or add a comment. An option for email alerts would be even better.

Now, when it comes to notifications, it is valid to consider whether the cost of informing the user (attention is finite) is greater than the value gained from the notification. If a post goes below 0, then that is extremely relevant information, as it usually indicates that the user has to take action ASAP to prevent the question being closed. I think it is easily valuable enough to be worth informing the user.

Related Questions

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    This might be a good idea, but I think it would just make Hey why'd you downvote my post??! comments appear more often. And then I'd run out of comment flags more frequently, and there'd be a lot more noise on the site, and...chaos ensues. – Cody Gray Mar 17 '12 at 11:31
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    @CodyGray: Isn't the main point of downvoting to educate the user about what questions are or aren't considered acceptable? If we don't inform the user when the score becomes negative, then what's the point? – Casebash Mar 17 '12 at 11:33
  • We "inform" them by decrementing the vote counter on the question. That doesn't mean they have to receive an instant notification. And where would this notification be received? In the global inbox, which already has too much noise? Or an invasive top-bar banner? Beyond that, downvotes give the system data about frequently low-quality questions from users, which can contribute to a permanent ban on asking questions. – Cody Gray Mar 17 '12 at 11:36
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    @Casebash I would say the main point of voting is telling the community whether the question is worth dealing with or not. (Still, obviously, educating the user is an important part. But hey, I'd say askers can be expected to keep an eye on their questions. It's them who want something, right?) – Pekka Mar 17 '12 at 11:36
  • @CodyGray: Instant notifications are important because often the user may still be browsing the StackExchange network and the sooner they are notified, the quicker they can fix any issues. Once a question gets closed, it is a huge amount of effort to get it reopened, but barely any if the user is informed in time to make an edit. – Casebash Mar 17 '12 at 11:42
  • If the user is interested in his rep, he'll notice soon enough the decreasing number (especially after the recent changes). If he doesn't care, why would you need to remind him? – Damien Pirsy Mar 17 '12 at 11:56
  • @DamienPirsy: If the question is poorly written or off-topic (below 0), then the user should be aware of this ASAP so that they can fix it. It has nothing to do with rep – Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 23:45
  • @CodyGray: New proposal, when a person asks a question, why don't we block their IP from viewing the score? That way there'd be almost no "Why'd you downvote my post comments?" – Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 23:47
  • Yes, depending on the day I'd either support that or vainly attempt to hide my frustration at your absurd straw man. – Cody Gray Mar 19 '12 at 1:42
  • @CodyGray: Well, do you want users to know if they have been downvoted or not? – Casebash Mar 19 '12 at 12:30
  • @Casebash: nothing has ever stopped users from knowing if they've been down-voted, if they really want to know. The question here is: how far should we go to rub their faces in it? – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 16:14

There's a whole portion of the screen dedicated to showing you your current reputation, a drop-down that gives you a breakout of recent votes, and a ridiculously detailed history of every point you've ever gotten or lost available in your profile. When someone down-votes you, it shows up almost immediately in all three places... And you want a message on top of all that?

Oh, but you're talking about just the scenario where a post's score drops below zero.


If you wait until your answer is visibly worthless to the readers before you bother to improve it, you're probably waiting too long. Every down-vote is a reminder that you might want to review that post - maybe you've missed something obvious, maybe the asker has returned to clarify his question, or a better answer has been posted that makes yours look foolish in comparison... Or maybe it's nothing at all.

In the end, votes are primarily a means for readers to quickly communicate with other readers. If someone really wants to send you a message, they'll leave a comment. But if you want to eavesdrop a bit, the -2 hit is all the notification you need.

  • Yes, I do want a message on top of that. When a post goes below 0, I want to know right away before more downvotes start piling on. I don't want to have to memorise my reputation or visit the page again or otherwise have to constantly keep the question in the back of my mind. "If you wait until your answer is visibly worthless to the readers before you bother to improve it, you're probably waiting too long" - what if the question gets downvoted right away (say because you've been silly and asked the wrong thing)? – Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 23:26
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    Again, what's magical about <0 here? You might as well just ask for notification of the first down-vote on your question. Frankly, I'm not sure what a down-vote - in the absence of any comments or answers - is going to tell you; if you're conscientious enough to respond to that first down-vote, you should probably go the extra mile and just proof-read your question. – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 0:03
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    What about other sites? There's no global detailed rep page, is there? I roam the network a lot, as do many others. I can't possibly remember my rep on each site, and I don't care about it that much. But I do want to see my downvotes. And the site-dropdown doesn't help as it's site specific. Who's going to visit every site and open the dropdown? – Manishearth Mar 19 '12 at 7:20
  • @Shog9: No-one proof reads perfectly – Casebash Mar 19 '12 at 12:26
  • @Manishearth: the request isn't for a network-wide reputation though. Or global notification of down-votes. As for who would do this... Most folks spend the bulk of their time on relatively few sites. – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 14:28
  • @Casebash: so go back and proof it twice. Ask a friend to look at it. Again, without comments or answers, all you're really getting is a crude reminder to look for potential issues. – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 14:29
  • @Shog9 "the bulk of their time". Exactly. What about the rest of it? I spend the bulk of my time on physics.SE, but I do roam around the network as well. But if I answer a question on a site once, I usually don't visit that site again (unless I get comments), so I never notice downvotes. I'm not requesting a global rep page, I'm just saying that the absence of one nullifies your "whole portion of the screen/dropdown/etc" argument when applied to multiple sites. – Manishearth Mar 19 '12 at 15:15
  • @Shog9 regarding proof-reading, not all answers get downvoted because of bad proofreading. On science sites, we can have wrong concepts, etc. On SO, we can have performance issues. – Manishearth Mar 19 '12 at 15:17
  • @Manishearth: again, what's important here? That you get notified when someone down-votes you? That's not what's being requested. – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 15:40
  • Won't the same principle apply for negative scores? – Manishearth Mar 19 '12 at 15:44
  • @Manishearth - if you're seriously arguing for inbox notifications of every down-vote, then you could probably make a much stronger case... OTOH, that'd also be a lot more noise to throw at someone who isn't interested. If you're arguing for some sort of network-wide reputation display, that's an entirely different discussion. I'm still not convinced that fixating on down-votes is actually something we want to encourage - in any form. – Shog9 Mar 19 '12 at 16:12
  • @Shog9 I was thinking of an opt-in feature or something, though a network-wide rep display seems like a better idea. I'm not too passionate about it, so I'll just leave it I guess. – Manishearth Mar 19 '12 at 16:24
  • @Shog9 The -1 is magical here because you're more likely to get that when you first post, letting you know there's a problem. If you get 10 upvotes and then 11 people come by and downvote there's probably something else going on. I can agree with you that this is really a moot argument since a downvote won't tell the majority of users what they should be changing anyway so alerting them is not going to help them fix it. – o_O Aug 17 '12 at 16:49

Alternatively, if a notification for each post that goes below zero is deemed too much, then what about a one-time top bar notification on the first downvote? Just like a notification of a new badge, or new privileges.

Make it link to How to ask or How to answer, or to I've just been downvoted. How should I react?, and we might kill two birds with one stone: educate/help the new user, and hopefully avoid more complaints on Meta or in comments.

The user who reads the linked FAQ might still be too late to edit the downvoted post in time, but will have learned something, hopefully. Maybe even repeat it for, say, the 10th downvote? And if configuration allows for it: link to some Meta-specific FAQ for downvotes on Meta sites.

  • I like this idea, but I'd like the notifications as well – Casebash Mar 17 '12 at 23:35
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    Please don't add any more top-bar-notification-thingymajigs. – ben is uǝq backwards Mar 18 '12 at 21:19
  • @Arjan: If a user is getting spammed with posts going below 0 notifications, then there are much bigger issues to worry about – Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 23:40
  • IF this were to be implemented, I certainly hope it would be limited to SO. I'd hate to see that every time someone disagrees with me on Meta. – Adam Rackis Mar 19 '12 at 2:48
  • True, @Adam. To make clear that my post is mostly about the alternative (being a one-time notification on the first downvote, which would not happen for any of us as we already haven gotten that first downvote long ago), I've removed some noise from my answer. – Arjan Mar 19 '12 at 6:56
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    Actually...this wouldn't be a bad idea on Meta. We could just have it link to the FAQ about why downvotes are different on Meta. It wouldn't show every time, just the first time you received a downvote. And it would save me a lot of time from posting comments that link to the same FAQ. (cc @Adam) – Cody Gray Mar 19 '12 at 7:04

It is site policy to keep e-mail communication to a minimum and so that suggestion will not be implemented.

The most effective way to ask a question involves being actively involved in any discussions which arise. This means that you should ask the question at a time of day when you will be available to regularly visit the site to check your question. Remember that you only get a short window of opportunity to catch the attention of the experts. If you don't respond to questions then they will move on. Obviously that's not to say you won't get a good answer eventually, but if you want the best chance of a good question you need to actively participate.

So, if you are looking after your question as you should, you will naturally observe any downvotes. But if those downvotes are made without comment then you'll be none the wiser as to what the voter considered wrong with the question. If a comment was left explaining the vote, then you will be notified. A notification for the downvote would not help. I imagine that the devs considered that notifications for votes on questions would just be too overwhelming.

  • But why do I have to keep refreshing the question page? It should be enough to just visit any page on the StackExchange network. The reason why there are notifications for comments is that it is so much more convenient than having to remember to keep checking back – Casebash Mar 17 '12 at 12:17
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    This answer is true and helpful for SO and (I presume SF and SU). It is neither for Home Improvement, or Cooking, or any of the other lower-volume sites where it's quite normal to see only double digit views on a question that is 24 hours old and to see very few votes. That said, anyone who wants the user to know they have work to do should leave a comment telling them they have work to do. This question seems to be attracing downvotes because of xyz. If you edit it quickly you can prevent it being closed, and get better answers. That will appear in their global inbox for sure. – Kate Gregory Mar 18 '12 at 20:46
  • @KateGregory Well, I think it's fair to say that most of the design drivers for SE are the big three. I'm not casting judgement on whether or not that's right or wrong. – David Heffernan Mar 18 '12 at 20:48
  • @DavidHeffernan: "I imagine that the devs considered that notifications for votes on questions would just be too overwhelming." - we are talking about questions going below 0. If a user is getting overwhelmed by these notifications, then they have a serious issue! – Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 23:42

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