This is from my Flagging Summary:

[Me:] Where did my comment go? It was a factual explanation for the -1, and I did keep it strictly neutral in tone. – 7 hours ago

[Mod:] declined - Comments regarding upvotes/downvotes/acceptance rate are noise on the Stack Exchange network and are removed.

The comment in question:

-1 because this is a very inefficient and inappropriate way to simulate SpinWait(). The library offers much better solutions with 1 call. Like Sleep().

Now this is from a Q+A where the tone was getting a little nasty, so I don't mind the actual delete so much (though the very bad self-answer is still up).

But should I really take it from this (template?) response that the explanation of a downvote is noise and unwelcome?

  • Right, and was your comment the only comment that was deleted? – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:04
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    There was indeed another comment in response that devolved into name-calling; both were deleted. – mmyers Jun 29 '12 at 21:09
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    Sleep()... Really? – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:17
  • @RobertHarvey - Sleep(:-)? Yes, did you look at the alternative? – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:19
  • I still don't know which question we're talking about. :) – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:21
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    Ah, there it is. Well, that guy was already itching for a confrontation, based on the answer he posted. I removed the editorial content. You're right; if you're just trying to simulate work, Thread.Sleep() works quite nicely. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:27
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    Right, I wanted to avoid [specific question] here. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:34
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    @mmyers "both were deleted" - yes, but with a few hours in between. My comment was deleted on its own, not as part of a major cleanup. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:53
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    @ChrisF I think this one is quite distinct – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 23:12
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    Ok really?!?! This entire thing is because he added "-1" to the comment and didn't just leave it as a suggestion as to how to improve the answer?!?! That is noise! But a 5 page discussion on "why that is noise" is not? I personally will never stop telling people why I downvoted them. Because I get uber annoyed when people downvote me with no explanation as per why they think my answer is incorrect. (note: any name calling that followed should have been removed.. relevant comments such as the one outlined should not have been) – rlemon Jul 2 '12 at 21:23
  • @rlemon Why do you get annoyed? I understand in very small amount of cases but in majority you can just read the question you are "answering" more carefully, run the code in your answer and there's the explanation. I get furious when someone asks me to explain downvote when they either completely misunderstood the question or posted code that doesn't work and/or doesn't solve anything. – Esailija Jul 3 '12 at 8:56
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    @Esailija: twitter.com/jonskeet/status/220201648453193728 One of a million such out there. – sbi Jul 3 '12 at 17:19
  • On occasion I see a down-voted question or answer with a comment along the lines of, "I didn't downvote you, but [this is what's wrong with your post]". If anything, that's to avoid contention over the voting, but it's still a reference to the voting. Is that, too, considered noise? – Ben Lee Jul 5 '12 at 18:33

-1 this is incorrect

is essentially noise. Your downvote should already indicate this; if your downvote indicates anything other than "something here is incorrect or unhelpful", you're doing it wrong.

-1 this code contained live bobcat, would not compile again

is better, but honestly the comment should simply explain what's incorrect in an answer, not focus on the voting. I don't know what your comment was, but that's the guideline I'd follow. Don't include the "-1" and people will focus on the correctness of the post (which is good) not the score of their post (which is only the means to an end).

Posts regarding voting and acceptance rate are very contentious and focus on the wrong problem. In this case it sounds like your comment shouldn't have been deleted, but if in the future you don't even reference voting I think you'd be much safer.

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    But everybody is always complaining about 'downvotes w/o explanation'. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:08
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    @HenkHolterman: An idea which is consistently dismissed as unworkable, as the numerous declined feature requests forcing people to explain their downvotes attest. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:09
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    -1 This is incorrect – JNK Jun 29 '12 at 21:10
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    @RobertHarvey - I understand it shouldn't be compelled, but linking your criticism to a dv seems constructive. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:11
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    @HenkHolterman: Actually I would prefer if people did provide their explanation for the downvote, but without saying that they downvoted. As Ben says, it's about the post, not the vote. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:12
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    @HenkHolterman Personally speaking, I've never had someone ask "Why the downvote?" when I've left out the -1 and just purely given my critique of the post. – user154510 Jun 29 '12 at 21:14
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    I hate down-votes without an explanation. I'd rather have "you're a f***ing tool, because ____" than no comment at all. If someone posts a legitimate critique of the post, I don't really care if they're also the one who down-voted. I can take it in stride and improve the post, or I can live with it. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:15
  • @HenkHolterman more to the point, they should be wondering what's wrong with their post; the problem is without comments, downvotes are the only way to see that something is wrong. Giving them the comment solves this problem even if you don't admit to a downvote; maybe you're just correcting them and didn't downvote at all! Should it matter? Correct is correct. – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 21:16
  • @AaronBertrand I salute you, sir. The problem is all the users who take downvotes personally and react strongly; it's better to skirt around that problem as much as possible. Though I'm sure we'd all love to eliminate it directly, I don't see a way to do so. – user154510 Jun 29 '12 at 21:18
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    It is also conceivable (and maybe even preferable) to completely and intentionally separate the two. If someone asks "why the down-vote?" before you've actually added your constructive comment (because you have a constructive comment, right?), you can probably say something like "Perhaps it's because..." and then provide the reasons. This gives the OP who reacts quickly the criticism they need, without a target to inflict their fury. You can even be pro-active, and lie a little - "I wasn't the one who down-voted, but here are some reasons they might have..." This is a white lie IMHO. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:20
  • PS that doesn't mean that if you see me do that, that's what happened. I also make sure to do that when it wasn't me who down-voted, too. :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:20
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    @AaronBertrand as cathartic as it would be to know some guy downvoted because he hates your face, those comments aren't helpful to keep around (and really should be removed for rudeness if they are actually written to that effect) – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 21:21
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    BTW, as a side note, if we see "Why the downvote?" comments we usually delete those outright, as pretty much nothing good comes of it. – casperOne Jun 29 '12 at 21:22
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    I'm sitting next to the CEO of my company, trying desperately not to snort at contained a live bob cat. – Mike G Jul 2 '12 at 19:29
  • "-1 This is incorrect" can be useful; it identifies that the issue is not irrelevance, personal opinion, vagueness/unclarity, but incorrectness. And sometimes people have better things to do than to figure out which aspect of a statement is incorrect. If you get "-1 This is incorrect", be thankful for the (admittedly a bit vague) feedback, which is better than the more common "no feedback" that people often get, and check for complete accuracy. – TOOGAM Mar 13 '17 at 4:56

I think it highly depends on the comment:


  • -1, that cannot work because of xyz
  • -1, that's just a dirty hack/workaround and does not solve the actual issue of the OP


  • -1, this is bad/wrong
  • -1, learn some english!
  • -1, you have a funny nose
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    Although generally, we should refrain from the "+/-1" aspects of the comment, as they don't add anything to the question. The rest of the comment was valid, and I should have edited it in retrospect. – casperOne Jun 29 '12 at 21:02
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    Looking at your avatar, the last one comes from personal experience? – Daniel Fischer Jun 29 '12 at 21:02
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    -100, you insulted the allmighty octocat! – ThiefMaster Jun 29 '12 at 21:03
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    It all depends on the context. E.g. if someone maintains that C++ is descended from Eiffel, I would just downvote and explain "-1 this is incorrect". What more can be said? Recapitulate the history of programming languages? I react to this advocacy for for mechanical rules. It is insulting to the SO readership, since it implies that a fair percentage of them are unable to do think. – Alf P. Steinbach Jun 30 '12 at 0:40
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    Given that such an answer would be some pretty obvious trolling, I'd guess most moderators responding to it would skip your comment and go straight to deleting the post itself, @Alf. – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 5:08
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    Everyone knows C++ descended from PHP through the means of time travel which will be invented in 2015. – Pekka Jul 2 '12 at 20:28
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags That is not true: During 2016, I will go back in time, showing to Bjarne Stroustrup a snippet written in Objective-C. I can tell you because I am returning from my time travel, and I stopped on this year to tell myself the numbers to play on lottery. – kiamlaluno Jul 2 '12 at 21:55
  • -1, It'd be better without -1's – Leigh Bicknell Dec 5 '19 at 17:25

https://stackoverflow.com/privileges/comment describes the legitimate use cases for comments.

They are:

  • Requesting clarification from the author;
  • Leaving constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Adding relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

That's it. Notice that discussions about voting are not in the list.

Explaining the reason you are downvoting is perfectly fine, but it's not necessary to indicate that you downvoted. It's about the post, not about the votes. Stating that you downvoted them is contentious, and invites discussions that you don't really want or need to engage in.

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    I added a link, and I have to say I think this falls into the second case. – mmyers Jun 29 '12 at 21:14
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    Isn't the -1 prefix just shorthand for "I down-voted because..."? I realize that the rules state that shouldn't be there, but why? – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:21
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    @AaronBertrand Because tying your comment to a downvote opens you up to a contentious argument that could have been avoided. People don't like being downvoted; it stings. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:23
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    I guess it all depends on the target. If there is a single down-vote and I know it's tied to the constructive reason given, there shouldn't be any contention at all. Whereas if the comment just has constructive criticism, I may feel that the down-vote came from a different person, for a different reason... – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:24
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    Every time I've explained my downvote after an OP requested it, I wound up in an argument with them, so I don't do it anymore. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 21:25
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    I feel like we're talking in circles. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:30
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    We've argued more here than I've ever argued with anyone on SO, and I didn't even down-vote you or prefix a comment with "-1" :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:39
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    @RobertHarvey my only concern is that someone reading this thread may think, hey, a moderator down-votes without commenting, so I will too! It's not about force, it's about implying what is good and/or acceptable. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:59
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    Every time I've explained my downvote after an OP requested it, I wound up in an argument with them, so I don't do it anymore And this, folks, is precisely why voting is anonymous. – JimmyPena Jun 29 '12 at 23:42
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    @RobertHarvey: I hope you don't mind if I continue to admit that I'm the downvoter. Although I agree that one should not be required to explain downvoting, or to acknowledge that one has downvoted, it should be a matter of choice. I choose in most cases to say that I have downvoted, and why. I have rarely regretted this choice in my three years on these sites. – John Saunders Jun 30 '12 at 0:13
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    -1 because when i downvoted your above explanation of why downvote comments should be removed, i got a notification to please add a comment explaining how youranswer could be improved. i think you just want attention. – Alf P. Steinbach Jun 30 '12 at 0:26
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    This is bovine excrements. The whole web is full of high-rep users whining about anonymous downvoters on Stackoverflow. As Alf noted, at the beginning, when you downvote, you are asked to explain your downvote. And that's what I do: If I downvote, I either upvote an existing comment explaining the problem, or I add my own comment saying "-1, because...". I used to not to do that, and I got involved in arguments more often than I am now, because now, if it comes to name-calling, I either ignore or flag the comments for deletion. Being sneaky buys you nothing. – sbi Jun 30 '12 at 11:13
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    @sbi: I agree. Stack Overflow is being destroyed before our eyes. – John Dibling Jun 30 '12 at 15:28
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    Oh, the drama... – user102937 Jun 30 '12 at 21:46
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    I never put the "-1 because..." on any of my comments (AFAIK), I only explain what works or doesn't work on the post. But I HATE it when I happen to be the first to comment on a post that gets downvoted and the owner goes berserk on me because "I downvoted them". It's a lose-lose situation. – Jeff Mercado Jul 3 '12 at 0:50

It may have been a general clean-up of many of the comments against that post, especially if - as you say - the conversation was going downhill.

I've had some tangible comments deleted as part of such a sweep before. Overall, it's better, and I don't expect a mod to pick through every single comment in a heated follow-up discussion to try and pick out the salient parts. Just clean it up.

Hopefully the person who received the -1 had time to read your explanation, if it was constructive. If it wasn't constructive, well... remember that you may have felt it was constructive, but a mod reviewing it (or community members flagging it) may have felt differently.

Personally, I still explain down-votes, but as others suggested I have been trying to be better about prefacing it with a -1. It doesn't really matter if I'm the one leaving the comment and I'm the one down-voting it; the meat is that here is a suggestion to improve your post.

I think I'm a little more reluctant to leave out a +1 on a comment I have for an answer I generally agree with but have a suggestion to make it a little bit better. Just so that they know I felt their answer was helpful even if I am not just saying "right on" but also providing some constructive criticism.

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    The OP did read it, and basically told me to answer or stfu. Like I said, I don't need this one undeleted so badly. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 21:12
  • Well that's just a bad user, or maybe a good user having a bad day. I don't think that should dictate how you behave on SO in general, just like if someone down-votes you for a stupid reason and says so, you don't stop posting. This seems like an edge case, not the norm. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:13
  • Yeah, leaving the +1 isn't nearly so contentious. I've never seen anyone flipout "WTF Why you upvote my crappy post?" – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 21:31
  • @BenBrocka right but it highlights an inconsistency in the policy^H^H^H^H^H^H guidelines. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:33
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    I'm just trying to help solve the social problem. And worst-case I'd rather people err on making the body of their comments comments rather than prefixing the vote on all of them – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 21:37
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    Oh I agree, just stating that the wording "Comments regarding upvotes/downvotes" is better suited to one set of comments than another. Also aside from the simple +1 stuff are questions like "Why did you accept that answer rather than mine?" I point out when there is an obvious flaw in the accepted answer, both for the OP's benefit and for future readers. And I try to resist asking when a later, identical answer is chosen. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 21:52

My view is similar, but slightly more strict, than that of @ThiefMaster's answer:

Good/acceptable downvote-comments

  • -1: This approach cannot work because of XYZ.

  • -1: This answer is too verbose and encyclopedic, it should be slimmed down.

  • -1: It's not clear to me how this answer differs in essencefrom @SomeUser 's earlier answer.

Bad downvote-comments and why they're bad in italics

  • -1: While on the subject, this does not provide an actual answer to OP's specific question.
           This would be a reason to flag, not downvote
  • -1, that's just a dirty hack/workaround and does not solve the actual issue of the OP
           Too acrimonious / antagonistic
  • -1, this is bad/wrong
           No useful info in this comment
  • -1, learn some English!
           Commenter should at least give specific examples of poor grammar, and better yet - edit and correct it.
  • -1, you have a funny nose
           Oh yeah? Well you have funny ears!

Obviously I am missing part of the larger issue surrounding this specific case (name calling, ect) however the core of the question remains: Should comments that discuss voting be removed?

Short answer: No

Long(er) answer: NO with a butt!
If the comment merley mentions that the vote was + or - BUT also gives a reasoning to why the vote was cast I don't see this as being any different that just posting the advice and leaving it at that... except for the fact that (in my personal experience) if the user felt strongly enough to -1 AND comment why, they are willing to +1 after you have taken their advice and updated your question. I have had a few cases where this landed me +++rep and a check!

Now, if the comment is useless -1 this is wrong then I can understand why it is deleted... that is akin to deleting Yo, what up brotha type comments. They do not offer any substance and are clutter. However even the tiniest bit of information here would turn that bad comment into a helpful one (like in the case of the OP's comment).

Anyways, that is my two cents.

Disclaimer: I expect a comment+reasoning for ALL downvotes to this answer! No acceptions!

  • -1 That disclaimer is begging people to downvote you and then explain the downvote. I hope you accept that this is not an exception to that rule – Some Helpful Commenter Jul 2 '12 at 21:39
  • without a doubt! this is also the best part about meta. :) I will take my downvotes with a smile. – rlemon Jul 2 '12 at 23:03

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