# Encouraging people to explain downvotes

Note: If you're looking for a simple explanation as to why comments aren't required on downvotes, see Why isn't providing feedback mandatory on downvotes, and why are ideas suggesting such negatively received?.

I used to get "upset" (though that is too strong a term) when I got downvoted without comment. If my answer isn't good enough then I'd like to know why. Not only does it improve the answer for the OP but it improves my knowledge too.

Where the down-vote has been explained I've found it useful & it has improved my answer, or forced me to delete the answer if it was totally wrong.

So is there any way we can encourage people to leave a comment? Perhaps they don't lose rep if they explain their down-vote?

I must admit though that I haven't always explained my down-vote either so you could call me a hypocrite. I've also grown a thicker skin over the months of using SO (it seems to have come with the higher rep score ;-)), so I'm less bothered about this now.

• I enjoy being able to down-vote posts I don't care for without worrying about retaliation. And I really enjoy being able to leave honest comments without worrying that they'll be justifiably interpreted as evidence that I've down-voted. I would not like to see the two systems linked. – Shog9 Jun 28 '09 at 19:36
• I wouldn't necessarily want people to be forced to give reasons for down-votes - just encouraged. There are good reasons for this - yours for example. However, giving a reason could help improve the answer and it's that what SO is about? – ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 22:17
• The so-far-insurmountable problem is preventing users from just keyboard bashing "aassdgfd" if forced to type something. – bananakata Jun 30 '09 at 12:16
• @annakata - which is why people shouldn't be forced, but encouraged. There's the idea of selecting from a predefined list, but that might not cover all cases. There's also the idea that you get the rep back later (see Joel's answer). I do acknowledge that some people will go for the "afdf" or "because it's wrong" reason, but hopefully they'd be in the minority. – ChrisF Jun 30 '09 at 12:44
• Out of interest, do we have any idea what the level of retaliation actually is? It would be interesting to know whether this oft-expressed fear of retaliation is well-founded or not. (I genuinely have little idea.) – Jon Skeet Jul 3 '09 at 21:26
• @Jon: i'm not aware of any hard numbers. I suspect that the fear is greater than the actual occurrence - i've personally altered my commenting behavior primarily because of a few incidents that were later mitigated by the vote-pattern script; i just didn't like seeing questions i'd asked penalized for what i perceived as irrelevant reasons. Frankly, i doubt we can really know how much it would occur unless anonymous voting is completely disabled. See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1790/… – Shog9 Jul 3 '09 at 21:42
• FYI: we are implementing meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… – Jeff Atwood Jul 6 '09 at 9:06
• Personally, I think that we should have forced explanations of a down-vote, if that persons explanation isn't justified by the wider community then that person could be down-voted. This would also prevent anyone "taking revenge" on a poster that created the down-vote in the first place. – Brett Ryan Sep 13 '09 at 12:49
• I see some people just lack courtsey and also immature people love to harrass someone I put comments but I don't use downvote unless it's extremeyly harmful or bad answer. Probably every answer is quite near to what's asked. Reason for down vote must be compulsory or down vote should be removed. – Akash Kava Oct 19 '09 at 5:55
• I think SO should use the reputation system for encouraging comments on down-votes. This could be easilly implemented by increasing the cost of a down-vote if it does not have a comment. If you just "felt like it", then at least pay for it. If "you are just too lazy", then pay for it. – yms Apr 21 '11 at 16:57
• Have you guys noticed how many "force users to leave comments on downvotes" and "demand a anonymous comment from downvoting users" and "remove more points from downvoters" have been opened and closed as exactly duplicates of this question. Downvotes without comments annoy new users. I know that guys that have been contributing for a while want to be able to downvote without engaging in debates (that's why I suggest anonymous commentaries for downvoters). But It really hurts when you spend some charity time in here and some micro-celebrity with half of your experience games your answer. – Anthony Accioly May 10 '11 at 21:31
• Keeping it real. Every time the pattern "New user correct answer gets downvoted one time for no reason, 10k+ reputation user posts a similar answer one second latter and is automatically up voted by everyone" emerges, I feel something is wrong here. This is creating a barrier for new users. Questions are indexed by Google (and generally ranked pretty high), no user wants to have bad exposure over the internet for no reason. Yes, I get personally offended when It happens and no, I don't care if other users want to be lazy and downvote without comments. – Anthony Accioly May 10 '11 at 21:55
• 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 20:23
• A down vote without an explanation is completely useless. So, to address the problems with commenting: Require an explanation that is shown either anonymously with a high-reputation privilege required to see who posted it (to address abuse). Allow a privilege to cancel a down vote given with an invalid explanation, such as "asdf" (possibly the same that is required to see the poster). – Jonathan Seng Jan 23 '13 at 18:25
• Lots of newbie peoples questions gets downvoted just because they asked something maybe a little bit out of how its supposed to be. We all know that experience cames from trying. I think that forcing downvoters to argument their action is the right thing to do. – axierjhtjz Mar 5 '13 at 9:17

The comments are there for people who want to explain their downvotes.

The only thing I can think of is an AJAX <div> reminder for users when they cast downvotes:

Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved.

After the first downvote, we can't say we didn't remind them, and honestly that's as good as it gets. Forcing a comment will end in even worse results.

edit: this is now and live for users with reputation below 2000. It is shown on every downvote until you get to 2k.

• Consider retaining that prompt, even after the first downvote. In order to make up for the inconvenience of the reminder, consider adding the quick list of reasons, so they don't even have to type. Possibly add an "anonymous" checkbox, defaulting to checked. – John Saunders Jul 4 '09 at 12:50
• -1 p e o p l e are too lazy to leave comments... – waffles Jul 4 '09 at 13:03
• I never advocated forcing people to comment. Suggestions along the lines of comment and get the -1 rep back are what I had in mind (but perhaps not exactly that) – ChrisF Jul 4 '09 at 13:49
• I think that it should happen every time you down vote. Down votes don't happen that frequently, if I remember previous discussions correctly, and even the highest rep users can use a good proding (I know I'm lazy, but if I see a box asking me to do something, I'm more likely to do it) – Thomas Owens Jul 8 '09 at 14:15
• Shouldnt it be compulsory? Look at new users, some disrespectful people just like to downvote without even understanding anything, just because the answers differ, they downvote, there should be compulsory comments, because being it anonymous, no one really cares who did and for what purpose. – Akash Kava Sep 1 '09 at 15:40
• Give a few reputation points for downvote comments to encourage the comments. Also, allow the comments to be anonymous. I think downvotes can be more constructive when explained. It also gives the person who got downvoted a chance to defend themselves by replying to the downvote comment. – zooropa Nov 19 '09 at 13:05
• Except that the reminder doesn’t seem to work. I’ve seen far too many [useless] downvote-and-runs. – Synetech Mar 23 '10 at 20:16
• Shame a lot of the down votes are people with a hefty amount of reputation and feel they don't need to explain. – Jamie Keeling Apr 17 '10 at 18:59
• I don't think this goes far enough. As a new user of SO I'm finding that receiving a downvote with zero justification turns me off the site. I'll bet others have felt like that also. – Christopher Hunt Aug 31 '10 at 4:59
• @Jeff Atwood Reading a little about pointing systems, etc: Unexplained down-votes aren't in anyway constructive criticism.. it encourages down-votes "spammers". People are here for helping one another not just to play around. Those who are too lazy to give a reason for a down vote are either not series about helping others or just fooling around. That's specially more obvious in down-voting questions – Shady M. Najib Sep 10 '10 at 6:48
• @IAdapter if your English is too bad to ask and answer questions, then voting down people that do answer is unfair. Also, you do need a good (not great) English level to write code and comment it, otherwise your code is unreadable. – Danny Jun 22 '11 at 20:30
• I think we need something a bit more agressive. – Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 19:18
• If people don't like to leave comments then they should be forced to. People being "lazy" as waffles said is poor excuse, why pander to them? No comment no down vote. Jeff said forcing a comment would produce worse results, but what evidence do we have of that? I think it should be tried out then, if it doesn't work, change it back. – ubiquibacon Dec 1 '11 at 23:05
• I think the comment should be forced, no downvote without a comment, when someone upvotes, its clear, the solution is good, when someone downvotes, why? lots of spammers out there people. – Ali Bassam Feb 15 '13 at 17:48
• "Encouraging" behavior is baloney. The US government "encourages" it's citizens to develop healthier eating habits but most of us are still fat. Leaving a comment needs to be forced or come with a greater deduction of the down-voters points, or else the identity of the down-voter should be made public. If a user truly cares about the content of SO, then this should be no problem. If it is just someone who is being a bit of a troll, then they shouldn't be able to down-vote and run within a second. The behavior needs to be enforced, not encouraged. Just my opinion of course. – Matt Cashatt Dec 13 '13 at 15:31

It's more work, but when you vote it would be nice if it popped up a short optional comments field. You can't force anybody to leave a comment (you can't force them to leave a legitimate answer, either). But it would be nice to see for each question/answer a list like this:

+1 worked for me
+1
+1
+1 concise
+1 new perspective, even if it may be not correct/useful/reliable
+1 insightful
-1
-1 wrong
-1
-1 i hate python
-1 confusing
-1 wrong
-1


The more I use it, the more I think that Slashdot has the best discussion and moderation system out there. This is inspired by it, but in a Stack Overflowish way.

• this is the only way I can see getting past the problem of users who would simply add "glfgfgllf" if forced to do so. There's still room for abuse, but this would take out the just too lazy to explain votes. – bananakata Jun 30 '09 at 12:14
• So basically we want the Standard Bonehead Reply form, right? netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/94q4/vaxnotesreject.html – Jon Skeet Jul 3 '09 at 21:25
• "The more I use it, the more I think that slashdot has the best discussion.moderation system" ugh, I can't even read slashdot discussions due to the crazy threading and visual noise. different strokes, I guess. – Jeff Atwood Jul 6 '09 at 9:34
• @Jeff: /. sometimes really has a "Diamond in the rough" comment lying around. But its +5 limit is sometimes too limiting.. – Steve Schnepp Jul 20 '09 at 14:52
• Actually, Similar "bad behavior" in commenting exactly why you need it.. You'd know which down-voters are spammer, & who are really serious & won't to help you become better. Also, obviously off topic or too rude comments can be flagged as usual (I guess no one asked for comments for up-votes) – Shady M. Najib Sep 10 '10 at 6:56
• It would be better if this was required. Not not discourage downvotes you could keep the comment anonymous to all normal users, but have it show in the vote history for moderators. As I see now, people downvote for disagreeing with things rather than the right reasons. if a question is flagged and the reason is "me too", "you're an idiot" then those users should be penalized. if it is "duplicate" and then found that the question was not really a duplicate, those users should also be penalized. Now there is no accountability.... – Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 0:30
• +1 the optional comment box. Although I would prefer if a comment was mandatory for down votes. I don't understand people who says that they are afraid of revenge down voting, since the revenge voters would have to leave a comment too. Revenge down voting have never been allowed and simply report it to staff. – jgauffin Aug 15 '11 at 11:48
• @muntoo I don't think that's encouraging (to newbies, especially). – Mateen Ulhaq Dec 30 '11 at 20:20
• Anyone who leaves "glfglfgll" as a comment in order to downvote and avoid making a comment should obviously be penalized for posting spammy comments. – authentictech Jun 25 '13 at 18:51
• Anyone who leaves "glfglfgll" as a comment will have - name of idiot next to the comment, making anonymous downvoting a lot harder – mplungjan Sep 6 '13 at 11:15
• "-1 Your an idiot" Nobody likes to be called an idiot. However something like: "-1 Your Question/Answer showed lack of professionalism" Would be a lot better – Carl479 Apr 12 '14 at 10:38
• +1 for "I hate Python" ;) – user unknown May 15 '15 at 15:39
• A great idea because then voting would be a bit more streamlined and not completely arbitrary. While the help pages warn that feature requests can be downvoted to signal disgreement it also happens on discussions. In a way to a user -- especially one new to MSE -- that is quite frustrating, he has to guess the mainstream opinion and better have some reps before he voices those ideas. A categorical scale for voting would help all parties imo. There may also be a category other which might make a comment mandatory. – gwr Mar 17 '16 at 16:20
• @Carl479 Ironically, that -1 Your an idiot comment doesn't say You're. – FluorescentGreen5 May 8 '17 at 5:32
• glfglfgll... I can't tell if this is a serious answer, but none of those comments are constructive and they should not be posted as comments. – Bernhard Barker Nov 26 '17 at 1:27

Experience as a newbie, trying to gather 50 rep points in order to be able to comment:

Waited for a question to come in. Had an, imho, elegant answer. Got an upvote. Great. A couple of hours pass. A downvote. Huh?

I start doubting myself. I doublecheck my answer. It's still elegant. I elaborate on it and give a code example. Nothing changes.

After a primary frustrating experience of not being able to comment on someone else's response to a question, a secondary frustrating experience of being downvoted without any good reason. Jeez. Tough place to give answers.

First impression is this place is packed with egos and downvoting teenies.

• I have always thought that the reputation system is actually based on egos "by design" :) – yms Apr 21 '11 at 22:20
• You can always comment on you own answer. – NGLN Feb 3 '12 at 4:53
• @yms; Probably because of joel. millitary does not listen reason. just does what is ordered. – Siva Tumma Jan 18 '14 at 16:36
• I couldn't agree more with this answer. – deleteme1234567890 Mar 15 '14 at 17:34
• This is a perfect example of newbies being run off of SO by hi-rep members. This question (as you can see) has been deleted by the OP. The OP was a newbie with a rep of 1. The very first comment was First, learn how to write a good question left by a member with a rep of 135,539. (members names withheld) – Kuya Sep 4 '15 at 3:38
• @Kuya The link is dead. – goelakash Jan 26 '16 at 15:38
• @Kuya was this comment from the senior member justifiable? I've seen such horrendous questions asked that sometimes it feels like it's good if some people don't ask again. A little mean, I know. Did the senior member had a link to how-to-ask or mcve, etc.? If not, I guess there goes the validity of reputation: saying something is "bad" without explaing how to make it better is the same as asking a question whose title and body is in line with "it doesn't work". – TWiStErRob Feb 14 '16 at 15:25
• Exactly Domus, the system is corrupted. Not to mention that the advertising for this site is not honest in that you can only ask questions if the people who have more reputation than you allow it. Otherwise they can literally shut you down for any reason they like. – CAA14 Mar 11 '16 at 18:20
• meta.stackexchange.com/questions/295897/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/248218/… the trolls already run the system. My suggestion got downvoted right off the bat, obviously faster than a human could read and understand it, and then closed for "being a duplicate" of something only partially related. Obvious trolls in charge covering their behinds and censoring the opposition. – user1258361 May 11 '17 at 18:24
• fwiw I think that there are different "subcultures" of users even within one site such as StackOverflow. For example I've seen complaints about voting and asking behavior on SO by people who are mainly interested in Java. My experience had been mainly positive, and I was surprised by the complains, but I focus on other languages. – Mars Jun 28 '17 at 17:44
• 100% fact that the community on SO is overly toxic. Reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment where an ongoing power struggle between volunteer college students playing the random roles of prison officers/prisoners caused the experiment to be abandoned after six days. Give people a little bit of power (rep in this case) and they will give themselves the mantle of Gods. – Master Yoda Nov 28 '17 at 10:26
• The only ego in this example, is the one that gets downvoted and can't figure any explanation for a downvote other than people being egotistical. Indeed, everyone else is always wrong, the ego is always very right about their answer, and there is no possible other explanation. Everyone who disagrees with an ego are teenies, and the ego is necessarily not the teenie who can't manage being wrong. – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Aug 23 '18 at 21:24
• "this place is packed with egos and downvoting teenies" – Personal attacks like these are precisely the reason that voting is anonymous. I, like probably many users of this network, have been the victim of various forms of revenge and abuse in cases when I did leave a comment to explain my downvote. In fact, I have even been a victim of revenge and abuse when I just left a comment with tips how to improve the question without downvoting. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 28 '19 at 17:37

Kyle suggested I post on here as Shog9 and I were having a discussion in the comments of this closed question.

This is a somewhat non-answer, but I think it's worth posting anyway. For more on my voting patterns, see my blog entry.

Shog9 makes the entirely valid point that he doesn't owe anyone an explanation for a downvote. While I take that point, I generally try to argue in terms of "what does the world most good?"

If an answer is actually wrong or misleading in some way. I'd say it deserves a downvote. If no-one has stated why it's wrong/misleading (at least in terms of what you see as the problem with it) I think it's definitely helpful to leave a comment alongside the downvote. If someone else has already left an appropriate comment, then upvoting the comment is indication enough, IMO: the poster certainly has something to work on.

Now Shog9 also indicates that if he prefers post A to post B, he will sometimes vote up post A and vote down post B, even if post B isn't actually bad in itself: it's just not as good as post A. Personally, I don't think that's a useful reason for a downvote. If a post wouldn't deserve a downvote if it were the only answer, I don't think it deserves a downvote just because there's a better answer: the answer either has merit, or it doesn't. (I'll make an exception for blatant redundancy/plagiarism - that's a separate reason for downvoting.)

The trouble is, there's a tension here. I have absolutely no right to tell Shog9 how he should or shouldn't vote... but if everyone votes in roughly the same way, then the votes carry more information. Suppose someone decides that they like the direction "down" more than the direction "up" - so they decide to vote down all the posts they like. I think we can all agree that's not a helpful behaviour, but it's a personal choice. That's a very extreme example of course, rather than the distinctly grey area of real life, but I hope it's useful nonetheless.

Should we ask for guidance from on high as to how Jeff thinks we should be voting?

Should we decide amongst ourselves some guidelines for voting, and all try to stick to them even if they're against our personal preference? (Commenting could potentially be part of those guidelines.)

Should we all just keep doing our own thing, meaning that some people "overreact" to downvotes as they assume that receiving a downvote means the same thing it would if they themselves gave a downvote? (That set of people includes me. I get annoyed if I get a downvote with no comment, as I see it as an indication that something is wrong with my post, but with no clue as to how to improve it.)

Is this just a storm in a teacup? I know RichB believes so (or at least his comments on UserVoice have led me to think that) but for me it's about trying to improve the quality of my answers - and when I give a downvote, it's to improve the quality of someone else's answer, or to at least stop other people from believing something which is untrue.

• – Shog9 Jul 3 '09 at 22:19
• I vote this becomes its own question eg (why should downvotes be cast?) and perhaps both you and shog put your answers in there. – Jeff Atwood Jul 4 '09 at 11:37
• @Jeff: Righto - will do so tonight. – Jon Skeet Jul 4 '09 at 16:49
• Question created at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2451 – Jon Skeet Jul 4 '09 at 18:52
• The link to blog post doesn't seem to work anymore. Is this blog post the same? I've suggested edit @JonSkeet – TZHX Mar 4 '15 at 12:10
• I think that Shog9 is missing wisdom! Perhaps in a couple decade ? – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 14:55
• "Shog9 also indicates that if he prefers post A to post B, he will sometimes vote up post A and vote down post B, even if post B isn't actually bad in itself". That criterion is a bad idea. Many people are predisposed/influenced toward an answer (that is, prior to reading it) just by the answer's net score. Let an OP choose which answer he likes the best (which he does by Accepting one of them), and don't try to suppress others' (which is what happens because the answer is grayed out after just few downvotes) simply because you have your favorite one. Shame on Shog9. – Iñaki Viggers Jan 23 '19 at 20:56
• If the purpose of the site is to help the op find the “best” answer, then it would follow that leaving an explanation for the downvote would help further the discussion and help the op determine the “best” answer. I’ve had my answers downvoted today without explanation... just being vindictive does not help the op nor the SE site. – Lee Sam Mar 20 at 23:04

I think comments for downvotes should be anonymous for ever (as Jonathan Sampson and redsquare).

Then the downvoter does not have to live in fear of retaliation. And the downvoted will get the information to improve her/his answer.

• I see your comment beat me--where it really matters--by a couple of days. I have one in meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4924/… – Axeman Jul 14 '09 at 17:13
• I was active on a some popular Russian blog where all votes has been visible immediately. Is there any problem? – crea7or Jan 19 '14 at 3:24
• And the downvoted will get the information to improve her/his answer. How does -1 tell the user what is wrong with their post? – Cool Fool Jan 12 '16 at 7:28
• @CoolFool he said that users should be able to provide anonymous comments with their downvotes – FluorescentGreen5 May 8 '17 at 5:40
• I think downvotes require a reason. Theres nothing more frustrating than losing rep to someone who cant be bothered to tell you why they downvoted. Most of the time its because they posted their own answer and are playing the tactical game. – Master Yoda Nov 28 '17 at 10:29
• I know this is an old answer...but why do people fear retaliation when leaving a comment? is it because they are not providing polite criticism? – RichieV Aug 24 '20 at 21:44

A good way to combat the chase perpetrator to downvote would be to have a period of anonymity so that the user who answered or downvoted/commented would not be known until the dust has settled (seven days). This may also go some way to solve the voting for friends/famous people issue that is rife on Stack Overflow.

• I like the idea of a period of anonymity – Brian R. Bondy Jun 28 '09 at 13:42
• Why not remain completely anonymous...forever? – Sampson Jun 30 '09 at 12:59
• why not indeedy – redsquare Jun 30 '09 at 15:26
• i very much like this idea, users who downvoted should remain anonymous, but should provide a reason for the downvote. – Stan R. Jul 10 '09 at 17:28
• Am I missing something? Downvoting is already anonymous, provided you don't place a comment. You're also making it sound like downvoting is an inherently bad thing to do that requires a witness relocation program. Negative, yes. Bad, not necessarily. – spoulson Jul 20 '09 at 12:17
• Additionally, who's to say a commenter was responsible for a downvote. Someone could criticize the answer in a comment, and someone else could swoop in and downvote. – spoulson Jul 20 '09 at 12:18
• A downvote without explanation helps nobody in a Q&A environment – redsquare Jul 21 '09 at 8:39
• People who tend to retaliate will retaliate anyway – bobobobo Jul 21 '09 at 22:34
• This is good - although I think everyone should always be prepared to stand by their actions. – Christopher Hunt Aug 31 '10 at 5:02
• @redsquare it does help the Q&A environment. – Pekka Jan 1 '14 at 5:37
• @redsquare Stack Overflow sees more than 7,000 new questions every day and many of them are really bad. In light of those numbers, when the question is not salvageable and/or there is zero actual engagement from the asker, it is the right thing to downvote/closevote and walk away. And I say this as someone whose almost only activity these days is providing helpful comments – Pekka Jan 2 '14 at 14:55
• @redsquare but it helps the site. – Pekka Jan 2 '14 at 16:23
• @Pëkka the site is nothing without the author or reader...how can something be to the detriment of the reader and/or author but help the site? – redsquare Jan 2 '14 at 17:25
• – Pekka Jan 2 '14 at 17:46
• @redsquare I think the fact that there is a lot of moderation is the main reason why people still bother coming here and it hasn't turned into a Yahoo answers or askville.com. A couple of articles don't make a movement – Pekka Jan 3 '14 at 15:06

IMHO, it's neither desirable nor truly possible to enforce consistency in voting. Some people will upvote answers they like, answers they think are underrated (sympathy votes, etc), or merely answers by an author they feel deserves a reward for actions elsewhere. And downvote for a similarly wide variety of reasons. If comments are encouraged or enforced, we'll almost certainly see some change in behavior, but I'm not convinced it will be entirely... or even largely positive.

My primary rationale for this line of thinking is that some votes on SO are already not anonymous, and already require a reason to be given: close votes require both. I think this discrepancy can be justified by the much larger potential impact of voting to close a question vs. merely down-voting it, and the corresponding desire for such votes to be relatively rare. None the less, you don't have to look far to find... spirited discussion following the application of such votes. Indeed, I'd be surprised if the outcry over perceived-unjustified downvotes even comes close to matching that over perceived-unjustified close votes.

Downvotes, even when unjustified, are largely benign on SO: the site subtly discourages them via a small rep cost for the voter, and largely mitigates the rep damage for the author of down-voted posts by charging only 1/5 of the points granted by a corresponding upvote. If you're getting a single, stray downvote here and there, it might injure your pride, but won't actually have much of an impact on your standing among other users. (Serial down-voting is another issue, though partially addressed by existing scripts and heavily discussed in other posts here)

Going forward, I think it's more valuable to adjust the site to accommodate different voting patterns than to try adjusting each user's individual voting strategy. The latter is simply doomed to failure: no matter how much work we do to come up with workable guidelines, and how much evangelizing we might do trying to get users to use them, there'll always be new users who haven't bothered reading every FAQ and who'll still vote, or old users who just don't care.

One possible solution to the problem of confused users with hurt pride might be that found on Slashdot: anonymous, pre-defined "reasons" for the down-vote. A user seeing their answer voted "Inaccurate", "Dangerous", or "Misleading" should take a good hard look at their answer, while another seeing his answer voted "Overrated" might simply shrug it off.

• The answer part does indeed give a pretty good way forward in terms of disambiguating between the different kinds of downvotes. But please don't mistake "concern over accidentally providing misinformation" with "hurt pride" - they're very different, which is why such a disambiguation is useful. If I received a downvote of "overrated" I may well look at the other answers and delete my own if it wasn't adding anything, for example. – Jon Skeet Jul 3 '09 at 22:41
• Interesting... I hadn't even considered that strategy (though i do go through my low-rated answers periodically and delete the ones that don't add anything). But it's a good behavior, and encouraging it without resorting to comments that could be perceived as snarky would be nice! – Shog9 Jul 3 '09 at 23:00
• I vote this becomes its own question eg (why should downvotes be cast?) and perhaps both you and Jon put your answers in there. – Jeff Atwood Jul 4 '09 at 11:39
• +1 for putting predefined reason for downvote – Eero Aaltonen Sep 24 '12 at 8:03
• "but I see no reason to leave it > 1 if a better answer scores lower" Wait, you downvote answers not because they're wrong, per se, but to "help" them come after ones you feel are better? – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 13:19
• I vote on answers according to how helpful I see them, @ruffin. Plenty of "correct" answers that are not very helpful. More on that here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2451/… – Shog9 Oct 3 '14 at 15:57
• @Shog9 I don't see many arguing for downvote cat 5 at meta #2451. ;^) I'd rather [vote/not vote] each answer on its individual merit instead of trying to balance out the community's collective [mis]expression. Answers that "aren't quite as good as another" is a much lower bar than the, "This answer is not useful" that SO labels the down arrow. Interesting. – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 18:54
• Find one of the discussions here about folks posting a late, redundant or late, insightful answer to an old question, @ruffin - you'll see lots of arguments there... ;-) – Shog9 Oct 3 '14 at 19:41
• It's not by slapping children that you will learn them something. It's by taking time to explain. And yes, author are sometimes children, either if they are 40 or 50. They deserve some explanation otherwise they will repeat the same mistake over and over. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 15:02
• That's fine advice, @Eric, but if your kids are running out into traffic please realize that the time for explaining why this is a bad idea to them is either in the past or in the future; your first responsibility is to get them out of the way. Analogies aside, the reality of the situation is that a huge % of posts are the only post ever written on these sites by their respective authors; whether or not we're ever able to educate them, we still need to indicate the usefulness of their work to other readers. – Shog9 Sep 24 '15 at 18:21
• @Shog9, It's our responsibility, to all of us to educate. Each rights in life come with responsibilities. You have the right to vote down, you have the responsibility to explain or at least vote up somebody who already took time to comment. On another subject: Just to let you know, I asked a question yesterday that I just deleted instead of adding additional information and solution. When people with good intention are pissed off by vote down without any valid reason, they react not always nicely. I'm pissed off. Perhaps my question wasn't perfect, but I think it could have helped few peoples. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 18:52
• @Shog9. I think that being able to vote down without comments will serve the type of user that would probably do not deserve to be here. Serious peoples with proper intention and respectful of others will take time to answer properly and give a minimum of feedback. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 18:56
• You have responsibility for your actions and for your inaction, @Eric. If you're withholding a downvote you know is warranted because you can't educate the author, then you're abdicating your responsibility to others using the site. Being an educator is not as trivial as it sounds. – Shog9 Sep 24 '15 at 19:07

The other problem is that people use downvotes just for opinions they don't like, even if they answer the question. I've been downvoted a ton by Python fanboys because I dared to suggest using VB.NET as a RAD tool (instead of Python). Those kinds of downvotes are idiotic.

The real problem that you would solve by disallowing anonymous downvoting is tactical downvoting where people just downvote something to give their own answer better relative position.

• Is there much tactical downvoting? I'm guessing that the majority of people on stackoverflow are the sort of people who are more likely to vote competing answers up (although obviously, if you answer a question that already has answers, you probably have some kind of dislike to those others). – Tom Hawtin - tackline Jun 28 '09 at 13:59
• I think the system is designed to prevent these problems through numbers. A stupid down-vote should be drowned out by smart upvotes. But if you have an unpopular POV (VB.NET!) you're just screwed. – JPLemme Jun 28 '09 at 14:06
• @JPL: absolutely. I usually discover some question I've answered has a bounty on it because all of a sudden I'll get 2-3 downvotes on it and I'll wonder why (briefly). Also, I'll answer a question and there'll be 2-3 similar/identical answers yet not all of them will be downvoted. It's obvious tactical downvoting. – cletus Jun 28 '09 at 14:17
• I really try to avoid down-voting unless the answer is really wrong. I'd much rather leave a comment and let the answerer rework their answer based on that. – ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 14:18
• Well requiring a comment might make people think twice about down-voting and be really sure of themselves when they do. – ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 14:45
• @cletus: You mean people who answer questions with bounties will downvote other people's answers to make their own answer look better? That would be an interesting unintentional side-effect of bounties. – LKM Jun 28 '09 at 16:58
• @LKM: yes, thats what I mean. – cletus Jun 28 '09 at 20:09
• It should also be noted that not all downvoting other answers on questions you also answer is bad. Far from it. Some have requested that you shouldn't be able to answer a question and downvote other answers. Well-intentioned but misguided. Sometimes you answer a question BECAUSE the other answers are wrong. – cletus Jun 28 '09 at 20:10
• I wish I had access to the full SO DB, I know, for a fact, that tactical down-voting happens consistently on questions where people feel like their answer is as good as the rest of the answers and the max vote count is around 1-2. I combat this quite effectively, if I think my answer is good, I will tactically upvote another good answer, especially if I think my answer is better. – waffles Jul 4 '09 at 13:00
• Who can judge if a down vote is good or not. You will need a third person. That's not possible. Let him vote down but force him to comment. Perhaps he's wrong. Eventually, if he's too wrong it will be banned. But a mistake can occurs. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 14:59

One issue here is that somebody else then downvotes, and I'm pretty sure I've been held responsible for the downvote. Not that this is actually a problem, of course... I can take it ;-p

*=actually, if a new user (rep=1) posts a good question/answer, I often do a downvote-upvote, as that way they get +12 instead of +10 to welcome them to the site. I don't think that counts as gaming...

• LOL @ dv+uv. I've done that, but accidentally... – Shog9 Jul 3 '09 at 22:56
• I do the same. I feel that we should deal with people the same way we would like to be ourself or like they were our children. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 15:07

I have just noticed a comment on a post:

@downvoter: Care to explain your vote?

I think it would be nice if this worked. As I understand it, the information on who voted is stored, so perhaps the down voter could be notified and allowed to reply with the identity "downvoter", if he or she so desired.

This is a good idea, but you'd have to be careful with it. When I see people explain down votes in the comments they aren't always tactful. Maybe if you were prompted with a small menu of acceptable reasons to be down voting and then if you chose "other" you could type something more specific.

• I like the idea of a close-like list of downvote reasons, which could be anonymously summarised. – Peter Boughton Jun 28 '09 at 13:42
• A pre-determined list of reasons to pick from is not a good idea for this. Simply because: user cannot be specific enough to explain what precisely is wrong with the answer. If the reason for the downvote is a typo in the code, how do they point out the typo when all they have is a list of a few options to pick from? – Jerry Dodge Feb 5 '12 at 20:01
• @JerryDodge if the only problem is a typo, then why is it a down-vote? Just leave a comment, or suggest an edit, or both. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 9 '12 at 17:27
• I'm not agree. There is a voting system on comment. Let people free of saying what they want and if they abuse their freedom, they will be informed. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 15:04

I think the current message "You've voted this post down - please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved" is enough.

• That was added as a result of this question. – ChrisF Jul 15 '09 at 17:52
• That's not enough! – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 21:18

I suggest that you should be forced to leave a down vote answer and have an "up" arrow for the reason of the down vote. People can click it up and you will recieve +1 rep points for it. With a maximum of some number, let's say 5. You still lose your -1 when you press the down vote, but it would be gained back shortly if it is for a valid reason.

• I hate seeing questions that are 6+ months old suddenly get downvoted with no reason. :( – Kent Fredric Jun 28 '09 at 13:52
• If comments for downvotes are mandatory, then any retaliation downvotes will also have to be explained by the voter. I believe the fear of retaliation is exaggerated, and any retaliation problems are minor to the frustration with the current state of being downvoted without explanation. – cfi Jun 28 '13 at 9:46

I would suggest to force commenting ONLY when down-voting from 0 to -1. I think no answer deserves a negative quotation unless it's blatantly wrong or offensive, and then it also deserves at least an explanation!
Maybe best using a list of "pre-made reasons to down-vote" like suggested by @Oorang.

This would also encourage "up-voting all the other answers and leaving this one you think deserves the down-vote alone", which I think is better (IMHO).

• Why do I have to explain downvoting an inane answer that is obviously irrelevant to the question? I'll explain why an answer is incorrect when it at least appears to be an attempt. – David Thornley Jul 8 '09 at 14:15
• I am kind of supporting the idea. Either comment or upvote an existing comment which already explains your point. – CsBalazsHungary Mar 7 '14 at 8:46
• You should always comment. There is no reason to not comment a down vote. – Eric Ouellet Sep 24 '15 at 21:21
• @Eric There are lots of reasons to not comment. For one, votes, both up and down, are anonymous. Exposing who votes which way opens up people to revenge downvoting. For two, the votes themselves are more important than the comments. Always have been, always will be. Throwing a roadblock in the way for only downvoting means it won't happen as often, and downvotes are arguably the most important quality metric SE has. – fbueckert Sep 24 '15 at 22:09
• @fbueckert, Exposing who vote is not important at all. In fact it should never be visible. But a down vote without comment mean that anybody could do anything for any reason. There should be a system to flag up or down a down vote. People will be careful before down voting and they will when it is really required. The metric will become a lot more reliable than it is now. That would fix one of the most angering part of this web site. – Eric Ouellet Sep 25 '15 at 13:36
• @Eric What you're not understanding is that those votes are more important than any explanation. They themselves are a metric of a post's utility, and the entire metric SE is built on. Sometimes, people vote for specious reasons, but unless you're voting against the person, the vote is valid, no matter how much you disagree with it. – fbueckert Sep 25 '15 at 14:01
• @fbueckert, I understand what you mean the first time. But reading every line of this actual questions/answers/comments bring an evidence: being able to down vote without comment bring problems. Ex: A new question flagged improperly with a down vote is death before having proper attention. Anybody who will receive a down vote (without comment) before any up vote will complain here, and with good reason, and you cannot do anything about it. Either with the best intention in mind, they will receive a kick in the butt without any explanation. Would you mind I kick yours without explanation ;-) ? – Eric Ouellet Sep 25 '15 at 14:11
• Equating downvotes with personal intentions is a common misconception. They are not, and never have been, personal. They are judgements of post quality, not users. – fbueckert Sep 25 '15 at 14:32
• I had the same thought, but I would go as far as the first down-vote should be forced to comment (regardless of the current vote score). I'm ok with the comment being anonymous if people fear retaliation. The reason is that I think a down-vote always means that something can be improved. If not, then it should be a flag (like spam or irrelevant) instead of a down-vote, and a moderator can take action. – qwertzguy Jun 26 '18 at 16:08

Why are people so afraid of retaliation? Honestly I feel compulsory commenting for down-votes is the correct way to go. Here's why:

1. It will help improve the answer, or get the answerer to delete it. Which is better for all those people who have to read the answer.
2. It will identify whether or not the problem is with the downvoter (misinformed) or answer (not useful).
3. Keyboard chasing can be countered by those keyboard bashed comments "sdaasd" being downvoted or flagged, quickly stopping people from doing that.
4. It will provide confidence and security in the downvoter. Without posting a comment for fear of retaliation it is like throwing a rock at someone then running away. If you beleive the person is wrong, then you should have enough "guts" and believe in your own opinion enough to express it and inform people on why your belief is better. Running away in my opinion serves no benefit.
• Why must you vote at all? If I can demonstrate the answer is wrong, the poster will update it with or without being downvoted. – Kobi Sep 1 '10 at 12:43
• (-1) compulsory comment. – devinb Sep 1 '10 at 13:24
• Really, it just helps the person improve his answer. – bobobobo Sep 2 '10 at 13:28
• @bobobobo Bull. I'm not one to get annoyed easily but with the lack of netiquette the only thing I want to "improve" is deleting my account. – James P. Sep 1 '16 at 5:28
• But whatever I'm posting is like posting in these intellectual circles, I don't know that makes sense or not!? – David Tang Jan 13 '17 at 7:25
• It will provide confidence and security in the downvoter. Without posting a comment for fear of retaliation it is like throwing a rock at someone then running away. If you beleive the person is wrong, then you should have enough "guts" and believe in your own opinion enough to express it and inform people on why your belief is better. Running away in my opinion serves no benefit. Perfect agree – Unitato says Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '17 at 14:28

As per other questions, there's an additional complexity here.

A posts a response with a mistake.

A fixes the mistake.

--- all inside the 5 minute window ---

Now B can't remove the downvote.

When people comment on downvotes, I always use it as an opportunity to learn up on the subject as my knowledge was obviously lacking in some way. I'll never retaliate by downvoting them, even if their comment was something along the lines of "That's wrong jackass".

If you have a problem with people retaliating against you, either there is something wrong in the way you are interacting with people or you are interacting with the wrong people.

After downvotes with no comments, my next biggest issue with voting is sympathy voting. Voting should be done on the worth of the question/answer alone. Not to correct some perceived injustice.

I am sorry, but I have to say again: It is so frustrating getting a downvote without any explanation.

You can not learn from it, you can not fix the problem, so what is the point?

This is from the A Theory of Moderation:

Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning. This is important so that community members can learn the norms of the community and the moderation policies.

Well, most of us are not moderators, but I think we can see that downvoting without explaining does not help users to -

learn the norms of the community

I like SOF because it is not made for lazy people. You have to work to benefit this platform. You have to write good answers to get your reputation points. You have to edit other users' answers to make this place better, etc. So why are people getting lazy when it comes to downvoting?

I have a new suggestion -

If you don't have the time to explain set a pending downvote, this vote will be visible, but it will not have any effect on the reputation of the asker. If any other user will downvote with an explanation then the other pending downvotes will take effect. After one explanation had been set, users will be able to downvote with out any explanation. (Though it will be nice if they could upvote the note that the explains the downvote).

Yes, I know this issue was discussed a thousand times if not more. I just don't understand what is the point of downvote with no explanation, at least one explanation for the first downvote.

If you don't have the time or the patience to explain your downvote, don't do that. It is that simple.

• +1, I am focusing on your last paragraph :) – Seremonia Oct 14 '12 at 13:53
• How would i specify which of my comments is related to the downvote if i posted the comment first? would i have to decide that i want to downvote before commenting, or otherwise be unable to downvote in such a way that affects rep? – user400654 Aug 11 '15 at 22:19
• Then there's the problem of what happens when comments get deleted? do the votes get invalidated? – user400654 Aug 11 '15 at 22:29
• meta.stackexchange.com/questions/295897/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/248218/… nothing's going to change because the trolls run the entire crooked, rigged, and corrupt system, we should all delete/burn our accounts here and build our own forums. Stack Exchange is turning into neo-Communist rule where the "establishment" finds any lame pretext to censor you if you disagree with them. – user1258361 May 11 '17 at 18:29

• Down vote with no comment (costs -2 to the down voter)
• Down vote with an explanation (costs -1 to the down voter)
• I think that was already suggested. However, of itself it doesn't stop people typing garbage as the comment. – ChrisF Apr 13 '11 at 15:54
• And it would probably make people downvote less, given the doubled cost? And we need downvotes too, like on questions! – Arjan Apr 13 '11 at 15:58
• I could always leave a comment saying I agree with you, and then just downvote your answer. You'd never suspect. By the way, do you know whether I just downvoted your answer? :-) – George Stocker Apr 13 '11 at 16:07
• Four comments ... now. The plot thickens.... – phwd Apr 13 '11 at 17:02
• The down vote could be tied to its comment or the comment could carry a badge of some kind to show "this comment was tied to a down vote". This would address George's comment. The proposed cost is still minor, or the user could provide a comment to save points, I think this addresses Arjan's comment. On StackOverflow I have an answer with 60 upvotes, and I've been quite proud of it ;-). Today, it got its first down vote and I have no clue why. I guess the point here is it really doesn't matter and you have to take these things with a Macro perspective and don't event think about the micro. – Michael Levy Apr 13 '11 at 17:47
• @Michael Levy I completely agree with your proposal, I even added it myself as a comment to another answer before I saw yours. It seems we have many fans to "lazy down voting" around here. Lazy down voting discourages newcomers to continue participating, and SO can have newcomers of all levels of programming skills. A down voting without a comment is disrespectful, it is like someone punishes you without not even telling you why you are being punished. I believe some people are underestimating the negative impact this issue will have on SO at a long term. – yms Apr 21 '11 at 22:37
• Upvoting an existing comment should be enough as well. – CodesInChaos Nov 29 '13 at 10:36
• Imho explained downvotes should have a complete refund (so 0 for the downvoter). – Calmarius Jun 22 '15 at 15:28
• I'd take it a step further. -5 for DV with no comment. -3 for DV with anonymous selection from a preset list. -1 for DV with comment. Both the anon and comments have a symbol next to them indicating it's from a DV. DV comments cannot be upvoted like regular comments. The non-anon comment shows the username as it normally would. When additional people DV, they can select an existing anon or user comment, and that comment number is incremented. For non-anon comments, the additional usernames appear next to the username of the original DV comment. Cont... – TTT May 24 '16 at 19:02
• To counter fake (non-anon) DV comments ("asdfasdf"), they can be flagged and removed, resulting in a further cost to the user. – TTT May 24 '16 at 19:07

Requiring, or even strongly encouraging, comments for downvotes is incompatible with the Be Nice policy (of yore) and the Code of Conduct.

The flaw in demanding comments is that people are considering the happy case: a post has one flaw that can be adequately described in a short comment, and the poster will respond to that feedback, editing their post to transform it from a bad post into a good post.

Sadly, it seems the vast majority of downvotes cast on SO are not cast in that kind of situation. Most are cast on unsalvageable questions posted by people who can not or will not edit them to make them good questions. The questions are crap, posted by the lazy and entitled who have rudely made no effort to understand the kind of site SO is or to read the instructions or advice already presented to them. Clearly telling them the reason for a downvote is very difficult without saying something "rude" or "not nice". It can be done, but is so difficult most will fail. It requires more effort than the poster put into their post, in many cases.

Demanding comments for downvote would, ironically, make the site less nice, less welcoming.

It seems to me that this site has become more about downvoters than the knowledge itself.

The three most common reasons to "why we should not force comment on downvote" is:

1. Let's protect the downvoter from "revenge downvoting"
2. Let's protect the downvoter from meaningless argument
3. It would pollute Stack Overflow information

How does the downvote help with knowledge?

• A user seeking for answer "knows" that a question that has fewer votes than the another one is incorrect, or not so good. But the user doesn't know if someone downvoted the question (let's says it has 0 votes), or it was never voted. User also doesn't know why it is not good, if it was downvoted. It can give impression that this answer is maybe correct. Downvote didn't add any value to knowledge.

• An answer was downvoted and has -2 votes. A user seeking for answer "knows" that this is not a correct answer, but user doesn't know why. Clearly other "knownledgeable users" know that this is not the correct answer, but they didn't care to explain why and share their knowledge. Downvote didn't add any value to knowledge.

• A question has been downvoted. A user that asked question would like to improve its question, but doesn't understand where the problem is. Clearly the user will probably make the same mistake in the future when asking a new question and will be a possible candidate to new downvotes. Punishing a student just because student doesn't understand something is not a good learning practice. A downvote didn't add any value to knowledge.

• A question has been downvoted just because an answerer didn't like the opinion of questioner about its answer, and decides to downvote the question. The downvote didn't add any value to knowledge.

What is the purpose of a downvote? If it is to clearly distinguish the correct answer from the incorrect ones, then just vote for the correct answer.

If its purpose is to mark the answer as incorrect, then anyone not knowledgeable in topic will not know why is it incorrect, and needs to blindly accept the fact that someone thinks it's incorrect.

And to come back to three most common reasons to "why we should not force comment on downvote" is:

1. Let's protect downvoter from "revenge downvoting"

There are mechanism that can prevent this, the fact itself that downvote must be followed with explanation is a solid mechanism.

1. Let's protect downvoter from meaningless argument

The downvoter should not even need to come to meaningless argument. An explanation for the downvote has been posted - this means other users can downvote/upvote it. It is not a rear case that arguments that follow some topic/article contained more knowledge than the topic itself. Mechanisms can exist to prevent user from downvoting in some time frame, that has lots of negative feedback on their downvotes.

1. It would pollute Stack Overflow information

Any information that is constructive is good. If you think that a question/answer is not a perfect candidate for downvoting, then don't downvote it. Remember, it's not about power to downvote, it's about knowledge.

• You're misunderstanding. Folks are encouraged - repeatedly - to provide constructive criticism, whether that's in the form of a comment on an incorrect answer, or an entire answer that points out the problems with the previous approach and suggests a better one. What's discouraged is forcing people to write something when they don't want to, and linking criticisms to votes. There are plenty of people who critique without voting, and the voting system depends on having many more voters than critics - both are necessary, but linking them together is not. – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 5:33
• As you can see, someone now downvoted my "answer", without any explanation why. Is it that they don't like my opinion, or they strongly disagree? If later, what do they they disagree with, I do not know. If it was you who downvoted, then I don't see any real fast against my opinion. What exactly is encouraging people to provide contructive criticism? Mostly what I have seen its black and white: people that mostly do so, and people that mostly don't. You just explaned how voting system works, and I am telling you it can be better. Can you name some benefits from downvoting without explanation? – Goran Jun 30 '12 at 11:10
• As a matter of fact, you post is a better candidate to downvote that mine, since I have given some facts that I think are relevant in proving that voting system can be better. You, however, didn't put any explanation why I am wrong, you just explained how voting system works. If I am to criticize something, my obligation is to understand how does it work. This is a perfect example how one canbe downvoted just becose someone doesn't like his/her opinion, without telling him/her what it wrong with it. – Goran Jun 30 '12 at 11:13
• You've wasted two comments complaining about being down-voted rather than responding to anything I said. This is indeed a perfect example... of how fixating on votes makes comments less useful. – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 16:40
• I am not complaining about me being downvoted, I am complaining about it being useless, since it didn't reveal why, and "why" should be its sole purpose. As for your last comment, it only speaks about yourself, not me. I was the one that said that you didn't comment on my answer, and that you never said why is it not correct, what am I misunderstanding, you were just focused on giving your statement. If your intention is to explain me that I misunderstand how (down)voting works, then you don't need to, as I have said, I know how it works, I am just giving my opinion that it can be improved. – Goran Jun 30 '12 at 16:59
• Also, I have responded on your asnwer, I asked: "What exactly is encouraging people to provide contructive criticism?", and for the 2nd part, where you explained me how voting works, I also commented on that. If you like to criticize someone, and go into debate, please read better what is written. If you, however, do not want to accept other peoples opionon, nor want to comment on them, why do you then go into debate? To force your opinion on others? Similar to downvoting, you can say what you mean, without even bothering to explain why. :) – Goran Jun 30 '12 at 17:02
• No, the primary purpose of votes - up and down - is to rank the answer among others, indicating to future readers that there's a problem. As for what's encouraging folks to provide constructive criticism? Their own desire to help others learn. That's why I'm continuing to reply to you, and that's really the only possible good motivation for doing so. – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 17:04
• Only the statistics could show that there is no correlation between downvoting and constructive critisicm on SO, but this can be done only by people on SO. IF they wanted to do so, they would by now, but it seems that SO stuff are not so eager to improve this feature, if possible. My guess is that its less than 10%, which beats the purpose of downvoting. Ranking the answers can be done with upvoting only, that should be clear to everyone, so ranking itself can not be the reason why downvoting exists. Anyway, if you find that this talk is pointless, non-helpfull, you are free to retire from it – Goran Jun 30 '12 at 17:33
• I'm really not sure what you're arguing against here, but I can tell you without a doubt that down-votes are intended primarily to help rank posts, communication with the author a distant second at best. There's a wealth of documentation dating back years to attest to this, including quite a bit in this question if you care to read it. But you should probably start here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/03/… – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 17:55
• +1, If the primary purpose of votes - up and down - is to rank the answer among others, indicating to future readers that there's a problem THEN IT indicating to future readers that there's a problem which an ambiguous (unsure, because there is no reasonable objection, there is no clearness, or perhaps it's not a problem at all). But with reasonable objection ... it will make our understanding closer to reasonable judgement, whether we deal with problem or may be not. It gives efficient correction, because in the future it will put our focus closer to the wrong part of an answer clearly. – Seremonia Oct 14 '12 at 6:35
• My answer related to this discussion meta.stackexchange.com/a/151339/199349 – Seremonia Oct 14 '12 at 7:24
• @Seremonia add another +1. As you said, votes are used for ranking question and answers. When you vote you aren't expressing you morning mood, nor you are venting your anger by handing rep loss to random peoples - you are providing a service for future visitor that will be able to evaluate a solution validity by looking at your vote. If you don't explain the reasoning for a not-evident vote, your vote has no meaning, and then it is better to not vote at all. As many said, it isn't even sure that anyone will recognize that you have voted if you don't leave a reason. – SPArcheon Mar 20 '13 at 11:06
• Ranked based on the combined evaluations of all voters, @SPArchaeologist. – Shog9 Mar 20 '13 at 15:28
• Why would you assume that all voters evaluate the same things, @SPArchaeologist? Or that all of us want them to evaluate the same things? This was the first discussion to spin off from this thread three+ years ago when it was started: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2451/… – Shog9 Mar 20 '13 at 15:51
• I'm usually in The Tavern - drop in anytime, @SPArchaeologist. – Shog9 Mar 20 '13 at 16:11

As a minimum, I'd like to see an option to delete my own answers when they've been downvoted. This has only happened once, but I'm puzzled as to why, but would like to self-censor and delete an answer no one likes.

I'd like to see another option for downvoting - downvote based on another comment. e.g. This means if a comment explains a downvote, someone else can 'agree and downvote'; this provides more insight into the problem for the poster, without requiring duplicate comments.

I'd also like a 'right to reply' on downvotes - maybe a feature to allow posters to communicate with downvoters via a mod - if the reason isn't clear, but a downvoter cares enough to downvote, they should also care enough to explain themselves.

• You can delete your own answers if they're been downvoted, so long as they are not accepted, to address your first point. The second point can be accomplished by downvoting the post and then upvoting the comment. – Grace Note Apr 15 '11 at 21:02
• @Grace though, correct me if I'm wrong, it doesn't make your rep loss go away – Daniel DiPaolo Apr 15 '11 at 21:13
• @Daniel - it does if you do a recalculation - stackoverflow.com/reputation – ChrisF Apr 15 '11 at 21:33

I agree with the option to allow Anon voting, however what about modifying the penalty for downvoting?

Allow anonymous downvoting, but at a -3 or -4 reputation, but downvoting with an attached comment keeps the current -2 downvote, for instance.

This does not prevent "asdf" or similar nonsense comments, but leaving those kinds of useless comments allows them to be flagged as unhelpful. This in itself could lead to a retaliatory behaviour, but I think that the flagging would bring appropriate (negative) attention to those individuals.

(I apologize if this has essentially stated before. I want to help.)

• @Juan Manuel, here's where I could flag you. Thank you. (funny, though) – gWaldo Sep 3 '10 at 15:54

From The Suicide of Socrates: On a day in 399 BC the philosopher Socrates stood before a jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians accused of "refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state" and of "corrupting the youth."...Socrates was 70 years old and familiar to most Athenians. His anti-democratic views had turned many in the city against him. He was sentenced by the Athenian jury of 500 to death.

Talk about dying to prove a point, Socrates had to die to prove that democracy was flawed. Downvoting is democratic. That does not mean that downvoting is, as a phenomenon, appropriate, and in that I agree with Socrates; democracy is not always appropriate, in particular, when the democratic opinion is evil, like for a lynch mob, or getting an answer here downvoted 150 times. So what to do about it?

Now for sure, a lack of democracy is not an improvement upon democracy, so any substitute for downvoting would have to indeed be an improvement, and Socrates views and the actions of his students were not innocuous. The crucial distinction here is that there is a difference between democracy and jurisprudence, and Athenian democracy would not be regarded as a proper forum for a trial by peers in a modern setting. For example, in a modern trial by peers, a defense team can object to jurors incapable of deciding an issue on the merits, and if a trial by a judge is elected, that judge knows the law very very well, he would be the equivalent of a superuser, or moderator on this site.

Democratic downvoting has nothing in common with jurisprudence, even with a judge making a decision, the defense is allowed to present arguments, and for downvoting, the recipient has no proper recourse, may not know what he is being charged with; sloppiness, incomprehensibility, an unusual opinion that no one likes and so forth.

So why do we have unchallenged downvoting on this site; why does the accused have no recourse in the usual sense of jurisprudence? My answer to this is what could be called "programmer's funk." Sitting in our dark caves clicking on keys, we are very like those interpreting shadows in Socrates' cave; we are not enlightened, and are condemned to repeating several thousand years of evolution of thought because we just didn't consider what is already well known.

Consider, for example, that the one can rebut an expert review of a scientific article during the scientific review process. What that allows for, that is not available on this site, is the ability to present maverick or controversial opinions; opinions which may truly advance science by their novelty and overtly unexpected appropriateness. Downvoting discards anything not boringly conventional, that is, without appeal, argument or the application of reason.

So, rather that reinventing the wheel, I would suggest that the incorporation of elements of jurisprudence into downvoting would be appropriate to alleviate the "programmer's funk" on this site. For example, and hardly the only one possible, would be a new ability to challenge a downvote. Now in many cases, a downvote is just and earned, but it is not those cases that are problematic. I leave it to the reader to consider which elements of jurisprudence would be appropriate to include, it does not have to be complicated, just better.

BTW, this site is not completely without recourse for downvoting, one can, for example, post on meta and ask for a second opinion. However, that, if used extensively, would clutter meta with historical arguments the likes of which would be of little interest for readers of already resolved issues.

• This is a wall of text I can't follow. – Luuklag Sep 15 '20 at 8:59
• @Carl, a couple points: 1) Scale, who is going to review downvotes? We don't have enough moderators. The key concept in jurisprudence is someone with high standing does the review. We barely have enough volunteers to handle closures. It can't be the person who made the vote. 2) Why should downvote be appeallable but not upvotes? To balance this out we should allow people to challenge upvotes. Maybe the outcome from a review would be to reset the vote count to zero, regardless of positive or negative. – user1937198 Sep 15 '20 at 13:17
• tldr democracy is flawed when a majority with an opinion you disagree with is allowed influence, fortunately (unfortunately?) in this case downvoters are a tiny minority. – user400654 Sep 15 '20 at 14:07
• @user1937198 Scale, like I said, "programmer's funk" is a failure of imagination. 1) One could require, for example, that downvoting be restricted to those who can be trusted to do so by increasing the reputation level at which one obtains that privilege. Such would result in fewer incorrect assessments, and fewer abuses, and better quality review. Note that I am not suggesting that should be done; I am only signaling that it could be easily done and would result in less clutter and hostility.. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 2:47
• @user1937198 Con't It would simplify encoding, speed up execution, and reduce overhead. 2) What would be gained by appealing upvoting? For example, Barack Obama got the Nobel prize for getting elected and for not being Bush. Are you suggesting that the Nobel committee should reconsider giving a prize that is clearly within their jurisdiction to give just because someone doesn't think it is meritorious? I think not because that would lead to hostility were none is warranted. Torts (wrongs) need correction and rewards are not torts. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 2:56
• @user400654 Downvoting as mob activity illustrates the flaw in democracy; that of making decisions where no moral basis for doing so exists. It is illustrated on this site as soon as anything that questions the sacred downvote cow. Note the downvotes for this post. That is also why it took a very long time to establish jurisprudence, some people cherish the opportunity of being nasty. Yes, they are few, but they come out in droves as soon as they smell blood. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 3:06
• I mean, that’s just because you disagree with said decisions. ;) – user400654 Sep 16 '20 at 6:44
• @user400654 The question is not who says what but rather who is correct. Just because a disagreement arises between a minority and a majority does not mean that minority rights are erased, that is, except on this site, where negative opinions go unchallenged. That is my J'accuse. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 6:53
• the minority's opinion isn't erased just because a downvote (or 10) happened. The vote is still there. Other people are still free to cast their own upvotes or downvotes, and/or express concern for the question's handling via meta. – user400654 Sep 16 '20 at 14:14
• @Carl If having a question that shouldn't be downvoted is a problem, what about the cases of answers that are incorrect, have significant flaws, or the problem space has moved on and there is now a better way to solve the problem? In some ways these are more significant problems as they tend to effect more people coming back to a question than the original questioner. An overly scoring post can be as much of a wrong as one that is negatively scoring. – user1937198 Sep 16 '20 at 16:31
• And if you restrict downvoting, what becomes the preferred way of signaling quality on the homepage? If you restrict downvoting you move the scale problem to how do we scale quality filtering. – user1937198 Sep 16 '20 at 16:35
• @user1937198 I agree with you. However, the question here is downvoting, and if the quality of downvoting is improved to limit tactical downvoting, conformist knee-jerk downvoting, turf protection downvoting and dozens of other inappropriate behaviors, then the penalty for receiving a downvote could be increased, which in itself would be of benefit when applied to highly popular but totally incorrect answers. I am not interested in restricting downvoting except in those cases where it is totally inappropriate, which at the current time, is a disconcerting percentage of cases. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 18:00
• Do you have evidence that those are more common? 30,000-40,000 posts get downvoted a month. ~10k of which were posts currently at zero score, and ~20k were posts that have negative score. Any restriction on downvoting could have significant impact on that. And downvoting is a powerful tool. – user1937198 Sep 16 '20 at 18:36
• @user1937198 Why, yes there is evidence that it is problematic, and we can discuss that if you wish. First, however, you should understand that you have asked a chicken and egg type question. How can you ascertain with certainty which downvotes fall into which categories without adjudicating those downvotes? So yes, I have evidence, but so what? That evidence is not as complete as it should be, because downvoting has insufficient quality assurance at present. Consider this, downvoting posts on this site frequently are massively downvoted and good intentions are erased all too frequently. – Carl Sep 16 '20 at 19:15
• The most common post score by far is zero. With 10 times as many posts have zero score as minus one, and 10,000 posts in the sites history still have -8 or lower. Admittidly this excludes deleted posts so is somewhat biased, but a -1 alone is 100 times more common than -8 or lower. – user1937198 Sep 16 '20 at 22:36

If a user posts a question that is poor quality or is in some other way a good candidate to be flagged in some manner, I think it would improve the overall long-term quality of the site to require that the person down voting or flagging include a comment so rather than figuratively slapping and walking away, you slap educate and walk way. The 'now you know.. so don't make the same mistake twice' idea.

In some cases, a user new to the site, or I suppose just an ignorant person such as myself, may not be aware of why their question was down voted or flagged. To them, perhaps the question seems completely valid atleast in their eyes. By posting a comment as to why it is in fact not to par and thus being moderated they are educated and less likely to make the same mistake twice. Obviously they'd know this if they were to read the guidelines of the site, but if there is to be community moderation then there too should be community education.

If nothing more it doesn't hurt and only helps to promote the guidelines. If writing a brief explanation as to why is too much of a bother for the moderator, needn't be more than a single sentence or a few words, then I'd question the moderators overall attentiveness and motivation in the first place..

In general, the ideal goal of moderation should be to improve the long-term quality of the site, not solely as a means of punish the poster. If you think that just slapping a down vote on someone for posting a question will get them to go away and quit degrading the quality of the site.. well I'd argue that it's more likely they'll just setup a new account and continue degrading the quality of the site in their blissful state of ignorance or disregard. There's little we can do for those who disregard but at least we can attempt to educate the ignorant.

• If I left a comment on every down vote worthy post I saw, I would 1) have no time for anything else here 2) be neglecting things where I can better help 3) expose myself to even more grief and backlash and unfortunately 4) not end up helping nearly as much as you seem to think. – Andrew Barber Aug 9 '14 at 4:36
• moderators overall attentiveness and motivation in the first place, no one here is getting paid, it's free help that people are asking for, it's their responsability to learn how to ask. Thus shall grant them upvotes and, much more important, answers. – brasofilo Aug 9 '14 at 5:34
• Whats downvoting somebody achieve if they don't know why? No one is getting paid but if you can't do something well, you shouldn't do it at all. I hope that if I downvote something, the person knows why, else they don't improve. – davidcondrey Aug 9 '14 at 6:51
• @dcc Hopefully, most people would be mature enough to do something like this when down voted. – Andrew Barber Aug 11 '14 at 15:15
• @dcc what it achieves is it tells other users "perhaps you shouldn't trust this answer" (things are different on meta). That is an important signpost which should not be tossed aside in the hope that those who post bad content will learn from a downvote and a comment than from only a downvote (setting aside the issue that you can't enforce the content of the comment to be any kind of helpful or even non-gibberish.) – Kate Gregory Oct 3 '14 at 15:25

Aggregating ideas previously floated on this question and elsewhere:

• Voting from 0 to -1 is really the only time a comment should be nearly mandatory (very highly encouraged)
• Encouragement comments without discouraging down-votes from 0 to -1 can be provided via increased rep lost in this context (-3 for no comment), and deceasing the rep lost (usually -2) for a downvote with comment.
• Commenting can be made easier by anonymously up-voting a pre-existing comment, or choosing one of several canned comments already available in the community review process.

Another idea - down-vote dialog similar to flag/close question dialog...

Down voting because:

• inaccurate
• incorrect
• does not answer actual question
• does not help (this won't actually -1, only leave entry)
• offensive (also no actual -1)

All options will require text input (or perhaps will require text if you don't want a double fine), down-votes will be collapsed under categorized e.g. inaccurate (5), incorrect (1), if you expand you can see first 10 text inputs.

Identities of down voters will not be revealed.

Comments will remain unaffected by change.

Bonus implementation - vote downs with garbage text can be flagged to be cancelled (with no explanation).

• I think this is in the right direction and Stackoverflow should beta that. – Deian Oct 6 '18 at 15:10
• @Deian apparently the downvoters here do not agree (and won't explain why). Maybe if my suggestion was implemented we would know why :-) – Danny Oct 7 '18 at 10:24
• Fine, I’ll explain my downvote. This is a bad idea in several ways, and includes several errors. Many of the categories suggested are explicitly reasons to delete or flag a post, which is not what downvoting is supposed to be used for. Those would discourage correct delete votes and flags. The remaining categories all mean the same thing: the post is not useful, or is wrong. Downvoting already means that, so this suggestion, with the errors removed, is not useful. Finally, making some downvotes not actually count as downvotes will encourage voters to misreport the category. -1 post not useful. – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '19 at 20:25

A textual response or an accompanying upvote to an existing comment should be required on downvotes.

If you cannot state your objection, I often will think you don't understand why you disagree. Drive-by downvotes damage the question or answer, and if you don't have the knowledge to explain why you disagree, or if you aren't willing to put your name on it, maybe you shouldn't do it.

Not stating your objection because of fear of retribution I think to be cowardice. You cannot be scared someone will unjustly downvote your other content and so withhold your gem of a right answer from the world. To do so is cowardly. You should require users to state their objection so the post can be improved, or the disagreement answered.

Requiring a comment has a way of enforcing that blind downvote retribution cannot happen anyway, because you would be required to sign each one

To encourage people to explain downvotes, I think it would be humorous and maybe even helpful to offer a new badge called "Information Hoarder". Whenever a user has tallied 3 downvotes with no explanation, the user earns the badge.

• Badges are supposed to encourage the behaviour you want. This suggestion does the exact opposite. People will down-vote without commenting just to get the badge. – ChrisF Feb 1 '13 at 22:51
• Really? I have downvoted 769 times on SO (excluding deleted posts).... what difference will this badge have made to me? – ben is uǝq backwards Feb 1 '13 at 22:52
• This would lead to a new Robo-Reviewer-Gate. Though it'd be called... Downvote-Badge-Gate. Or something. I should go to bed. – J. Steen Feb 1 '13 at 22:54
• @ChrisF - Then what is the "Tumbleweed" badge for? "Asked a question with no votes, no answers, no comments, and low views for a week." Does this "encourage the behaviour you want"? – mg1075 Feb 1 '13 at 23:00
• @mg1075 - It's a consolation prize. The only one. It's designed to say "you may have asked a poor question this time, but here's a badge to keep you going. Try again" – ChrisF Feb 1 '13 at 23:02
• @ChrisF - Seems rather contradictory. To me, that badge says, "Congratulations, you've just asked a poor question. Here's a badge to prove it; have a great day!" – mg1075 Feb 1 '13 at 23:09

I have seen a lot of good answers voted down for no apparent reason (both mine and others). I suspect that many times vote downs are due to lack of background required to understand the answer, however, in most cases voters don't bother to explain why they are voting down, hence they do not give the answerer an opportunity to further explain.

To rectify this, I'd like to suggest splitting the voting down to two types:

• Vote down with accountability - requires voter to add an anonymous comment starting with "-1" and explaining why he/she is voting down. Can be performed by users with 125 reputation and costs 1 reputation point (same as vote downs are now).

• Classic vote down - increase required reputation (e.g. 1000 instead of 125) to vote down without accountability and increase cost to reputation (2 instead of 1) and perhaps even require voter to have answered a few questions with vote ups himself/herself (e.g. require Teacher badge).

Also, perhaps block other answerers from down voting and down voters from submitting to other answers to questions without un-down-voting (this can be done automatically when answer is submitted). - Prevent people from trying to make their answer look better in this way.

Edit: I know this is similar to a few other answers (it combines parts of them and adds a bit more).

• Invested 1 rep into a downvote which does not cost you anything as this is CW, just to say I disagree. – Arjan May 10 '11 at 23:35
• blocking other answerers from downvoting assumes all downvoting is done for no other reason than to hurt the answerer. If someone asks what is 1+1, I will answer 2 and I will also downvote the answer that says 3. This is a service to the site and the internet, even if the author of "3" ends up feeling bad from it. – Kate Gregory Dec 1 '11 at 18:02
• Nevertheless, people should be encouraged to explain why they are downvoting. Especially since there are many cases where correct answers are downvoted. – Danny Dec 1 '11 at 18:30