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.

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    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
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    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
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    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
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    @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
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    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
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    @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
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    FYI: we are implementing meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… – Jeff Atwood Jul 6 '09 at 9:06
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    A reason for down-voting could be selected from a list. This would allow the response to remain anonymous, as only aggregated totals could be displayed, there would be feedback, so that the OP could improve his or her future postings, and selecting from a reason list is already done for post flagging. – Jim Fell Jun 24 '11 at 20:23
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    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
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    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

32 Answers 32


I understand the argument that you shouldn't have to explain why you're downvoting an obviously horrible question or answer. It's not worth your time. Questions that make you wonder, "Where do I start?" really don't need comments like, "This stinks" (though I'd prefer, "This is not a good question.")

I'd suggest requiring a downvote comment if and only if the answer is accepted or has hit some upvote threshold. If it's uncontroversially bad, downvote away. But if someone ostensibly has seen merit, the question or answer is more likely to be of enough quality to deserve a quick comment.

"But what if people start leaving comments like this is bad?" I hear you. At least we get to learn more from the people who downvote and do take the site more seriously.

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    Why should someone possibly incorrectly upvoting a question or answer cause me to be forced to leave a comment? – user400654 Oct 3 '14 at 18:47
  • @KevinB Because a better solution in practice to ensure we're sharing the thinking behind nuanced downvoting (vs. Q/A's that are obviously bad, and don't need an explanation) is? I think you argued for me here -- you're only in this situation if someone's already "incorrectly" used the system. – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 18:56
  • Right. But "incorrectly" in this case is absolutely subjective. An answer that someone else finds useful may not be one that I find useful. – user400654 Oct 3 '14 at 18:57
  • Bingo. You're still arguing for this suggestion. Arguably well-upvoted, you ought to leave a comment why you disagree with the upvote -- have a conversation with now at least two members. Poorly upvoted, minor inconvenience for the downvoter, and the system's already been misused [so the inconvenience is rare[r]]. Not upvoted, you don't have to waste your time with a comment, which I thought was the reason "comments-with-downvotes" is controversial in the first place. – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 18:59
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    Why should i leave a comment? What could i possibly add that will help the answer, if i simply find it to be not useful? – user400654 Oct 3 '14 at 19:01
  • I'd like to see this preponderance of upvoted answers that you and most reasonable folks feel aren't useful in a way that can't be pointedly and helpfully explained in a few words. ;^) – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 19:02
  • @KevinB Changed suggestion -- if the answer is accepted (then the OP thought it was "right"; probably worth an explanation) or has hit an upvote threshold (idk, 5 on SO, say, though that could change over time, even). Should mitigate "incorrect upvote" pain a little. – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 19:12
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    Do upvoters of previously-downvoted posts also have to leave comments under this system? – jscs Oct 3 '14 at 19:13
  • No, I still think of upvotes as agreement. Your vote is that you'd've written (or don't mind repeating) the same thing as what's written, essentially. A downvote could be disagreement of any sort and is inherently ambiguous; an upvote reiterates/repeats what's already been said. "Hey guys, let's eat at Moe's." "Sounds good," doesn't really need explanation. "No," is a lot less useful and begs justifying the shift in momentum. "No, they got a C rating from the health dept." And, of course, there's nothing stopping a comment if your upvote needs it. – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 19:53
  • Although if the original downvoter left a comment, the now-possible conversation with the subsequent upvoter could be useful, right? – ruffin Oct 3 '14 at 19:55
  • @PeterMortensen: Pretty sure "iff" was intentional. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 31 '15 at 22:09
  • @NathanTuggy It was; you're absolutely on the money there. Going to undo that part of Peter's edit. Thx. – ruffin Aug 1 '15 at 2:35

I have few suggestions:

  1. Only mature people (those with high reputation) are allowed to down vote?

  2. Allowing the question asker to flag down votes which they feel are unjust(in cases where there are a low number of downvotes or the general consensus of the question is positive)

  3. Disabling down votes when a question is closed so as not to lose more reputation.

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    Be very careful about blindly associating "high reputation" with "mature". And even more careful about assuming they'll leave a comment. You get reputation by posting stuff that gets up-voted, not by letting yourself get dragged into discussions with every person who posts something lousy; that's not to say that some high-rep users don't also leave very good, constructive, helpful comments... But it's not required. – Shog9 Dec 1 '11 at 17:31
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    You know that downvoting is restricted only to those with a certain reputation? It's not a super high number, but I remember several weeks going by on one particular site wanting to downvote bad answers and being stuck at too low a rep. If you want to raise that number, post a feature request. – Kate Gregory Dec 1 '11 at 17:33
  • @Shog9: I agree, but then what do you suggest? – dragosrsupercool Dec 1 '11 at 17:34
  • @KateGregory: feature request? where? what? – dragosrsupercool Dec 1 '11 at 17:36
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    @dragosrsupercool to make a feature request, post a question (for example "should the rep required for downvoting be increased?") and add the feature-request tag. In the question (and this part is important) be clear and concise about why you want this change. So far your thoughts on anonymous downvoting have added little to the dozens of questions already asked, so you're going to need to "up your game" if you write such a question. People will vote the question up and down, and you wil see how Meta feels about your idea. – Kate Gregory Dec 1 '11 at 17:38
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    I suggest that people leave comments when they've something constructive to say - regardless of whether or not they also vote. Voting and commenting have two very different purposes. – Shog9 Dec 1 '11 at 18:08
  • I would recommend you cease posting your note asking not to be down voted. That's just begging to be down voted. – Andrew Barber Dec 1 '11 at 18:11
  • Reputation works differently on Meta – MozenRath Feb 10 '12 at 18:00

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