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Is it now discouraged to ask for reasons for downvotes as a comment?

A few hours ago, an answer of mine was downvoted, with no explanation. I left a comment that was along the lines of: would someone care to explain the downvote? Now I notice that my comment has been deleted (I suppose either automatically from flagging or by a moderator).

I thought my comment was reasonable—I don't think that my answer is wrong or unhelpful and would appreciate knowing what might be wrong with it. I don't particularly expect the downvoter to provide an explanation (he or she could have done so when voting), but someone else may see the same flaw(s) and provide some enlightenment. (This has, in fact, happened to me before and the explanation led me to improve my answer.)

Why was the comment deleted? Are such comments now considered unconstructive or something?

marked as duplicate by Josh Caswell, Bart, animuson, Bill the Lizard Jan 24 '13 at 19:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Wow. Never heard of (polite) comments asking for a downvote-reason being deleted, before. o.O – J. Steen Jan 24 '13 at 19:23
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    It depends on how you phrased it. But if it was purely inquisitive, I see no problem with it. (Other than it being somewhat unlikely to receive an answer) – Bart Jan 24 '13 at 19:23
  • I don't like it when other people ask, but you have to realize that people want an explanation of when their answer is downvoted every bit as much as you would want an explanation if your own posts are downvoted. – Sam I am Jan 24 '13 at 20:06

I don't see why it had to be deleted, provided it was put politely ; however, keep in mind that comments are second-class citizens, and mods have a lot of freedom when it comes to deleting them. It's actually part of their job description, and every mod will have a slightly different judgement on edge cases. Unless this is something proven to be happening systematically, I'd go on and shrug it off.

You could flag the question in question for mod attention and ask the mod what their reasoning was behind the deletion for future reference.


You have 67.2K rep, so you've been around a while, and you are still leaving comments like that? You should have seen this behavior before and not be surprised by it.

As for the comment - ask yourself - how many times do these comments actually get answered? Even when they turn up on good answers which someone has then down voted they seldom get answered. So there is no point leaving it, people are not required to supply a reason for a down vote, QED.

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    Well, "seldom get answered" is not the same as "never get answered"; I have the history to prove that, so I disagree that there is no point to the comment. Plus, I actually meant what I said--I am not so arrogant as to think that just because I see nothing wrong with my answer that there is nothing wrong with it. I'm not surprised (nor particularly irritated) by the no-comment downvote, but I am surprised at the deletion of the comment. – Ted Hopp Jan 24 '13 at 19:39

Comments have two sanctioned purposes:

  1. To clarify a post, and
  2. To ask for clarification about a post.

That's it. Any other use of comments subjects them to deletion at any time, without warning.

Since voting is anonymous, and users are allowed to use their votes any way they wish (except to commit voter fraud), asking for vote clarification (especially on a single downvote) is kinda pointless.

It might make more sense if you asked for a general clarification on a post that was getting multiple downvotes, and you really have no idea why you're getting downvoted. Usually on posts like that, someone will take a few moments to explain what you're doing wrong.

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    To my mind, the comment fell under your point #2 (albeit indirectly, by way of the downvote). It's interesting that the comment about the downvote was deleted but the comment about drinking beer was left alone. I suspect there's some ideological war going on here regarding comments about votes. – Ted Hopp Jan 24 '13 at 20:09
  • I thought I made that distinction clear; see my second to last paragraph. It's possible that "downvoter" is one of the words added to the insta-delete filter (comments containing such words can be deleted with a single community vote). – Robert Harvey Jan 24 '13 at 20:12
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    @TedHopp Keep in mind that mods usually review flagged content in isolation, they don't always go to the post itself and look at all neighboring comments to evaluate them. If there was another comment in that question that you feel should be deleted, you should flag it yourself and a mod will evaluate it. – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 20:17

If someone is going to explain their downvote, they're going to explain it regardless of whether or not there is a @downvoter Explain? comment.

If they're not planning on explaining it, then they're not going to comment regardless of whether or not there is a @downvoter Explain? comment.

So the comment means nothing.

I also see @downvoter Explain? comments posted immediately after a downvote. Often someone will downvote and then write up a comment, or someone else will notice the downvote and (or notice the problem that the downvoter did) and comment on it. It's also common enough for someone to mis-click, read a comment to an answer, or just think about it for a few seconds, and reverse the downvote. For all of these reasons, if you really feel that you need feedback on what problem(s) there may be with your post, at the very least, wait a few minutes before commenting to provide an opportunity for others to explain their actions.

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    You have a point. It's very rare to get an explanation from an "explain the downvote" comment, unless it is of the, "I didn't downvote, but" variety Once, I actually said, "I didn't downvote, but..." even though I did, because I didn't want to get into an argument. – Robert Harvey Jan 24 '13 at 19:46
  • I can't count the number of times I was in the process of typing out a comment that was explaining why I downvoted a post only to see "@downvoter explain" comments come up, hence the last paragraph. Many people seem to contribute it to the comment asking for an explanation, but often such comments would be posted regardless. – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 19:48
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    I can't believe that it's so rare that such comments deserve to be (semi?)automatically deleted. I have left explanations for other's downvotes, and I'm much more likely to do this if the down-votee asked for an explanation. I've also received explanations after asking. – Ted Hopp Jan 24 '13 at 19:57
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    A politely worded "@downvoter explain" style comment will often solicit a response from me, even if I am not the downvoter. I've been around SE long enough to understand the reasons people do downvote, and am often able to provide the person with an answer to their question, which will help them improve their post quality in the future. So while your answer may apply to the original downvoter, I don't think it is a full answer to the question, as it only applies to one person who may or may not see the comment. – Rachel Jan 24 '13 at 19:57
  • @Rachel & Ted, I find that in most situations people willing to explain the problem(s) with posts tend to do so even without "@downvoter explain" comments. The fact that they sometimes do so after such comments are there doesn't mean that it's the reason for the explanation. – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 19:59
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    @Servy I'd disagree. I would never take the time to explain every single downvote I see on SO - there's simply not enough time in the day. Also it'd probably be a waste of time, as many users already understand the system. The only time I bother to leave a comment explaining a downvote I didn't do is if the user asks. If they're willing to politely ask in order to understand the system better, I'm more than willing to help by explaining it to them. – Rachel Jan 24 '13 at 20:04
  • @Rachel 1) The percentage of "@downvoter" comments that are polite is rather small, so keep that in mind. 2) It's often easy to judge when an answer needs to be explained. For example, in most all cases the reason for a downvote can be seen by reading the upvoted answers that show the correct solution, whereas single answers that are downvoted tend to have more trouble determining the problem with the answer. – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 20:06

No, I don't think it's "bad form" to ask for the rationale behind a downvote with a comment providing the post is not that old

A new post gets much more attention than an old post, as it pops up on the "Active" question list to be evaluated by members of the community. A comment asking for an explanation shortly after it's been posted can often lead you to the reason why your answer is not deemed "useful" by the community (although sometimes the answer comes from a different user than the downvoter), and can lead to you fixing your answer.

But if the post is old, it is much more unlikely that it will get much attention, so such a comment is unlikely to get a response, and just becomes "noise" that future visitors seeking solutions will have to read through.

While I can see the rationale for deleting old comments asking about downvotes, I do not think new comments on new posts should get deleted so fast. (I think there was a proposal floating around meta somewhere to allow users to vote to delete something after X days, but I can't find it right now)

  • I agree. I occasionally receive a downvote for an old post, and I just shrug and move on (or, occasionally, decide to edit or delete the post). I wouldn't think of asking for an explanation. In this case, though, the post in question is now only 14 hours old. – Ted Hopp Jan 24 '13 at 20:02

I think it's valid to ask, but I wouldn't expect an answer.

The person could have down voted because they like the other guy's answer that much more. The other answerer (alex in your example) could have also cast a strategic down vote to help win the quorum, and then the accepted answer if he/she was playing for points. In either case I probably wouldn't want to explain my choice if it was my down vote.

It could also be a drive-by down voting, for which there is no rationale.

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    Since you freely admit that they wouldn't explain the downvote, what's the point of asking? You won't get a response. At the same time, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for downvoting and not replying to such @downvoter comments (i.e. you left the question and didn't come back) so you can't assume that just because there is no reply that the downvote is inappropriate. – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 19:40
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    @downvoter, please explain your rationale. – Alex Moore Jan 24 '13 at 19:46
  • I didn't downvote, but... random speculation is random. – Robert Harvey Jan 24 '13 at 19:49
  • If someone was downvoting for reasons you suggest, I understand not leaving a comment. But if the downvote was because there was something unhelpful about the answer itself, it's reasonable to ask what was wrong with it. I think that's all I was doing, and I still don't see why the comment was deleted. – Ted Hopp Jan 24 '13 at 19:51
  • @AlexMoore: Re: @downvoter Did you notice that the first comment under your answer was upvoted around about the same time that the downvote was cast? – Josh Caswell Jan 24 '13 at 19:53
  • @JoshCaswell I just assumed the @downvoter comment by Alex was just a joke, given the thread... – Servy Jan 24 '13 at 19:54
  • @Servy: I figured that was probably true too, but I took the opportunity to make a related point for any onlookers. – Josh Caswell Jan 24 '13 at 20:25
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    @Servy , it was a joke. I forgot to add my '<sarcasm>' tags though :p. At least we are being civil and meta about this all. – Alex Moore Jan 24 '13 at 21:19

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