When you downvote a post, it's considered polite to leave a comment explaining why, but it's not required.

We often see comments from the original poster asking why a post was downvoted. (I've done it myself.) Often the response to such a comment is either silence, or "I didn't downvote, but ...".

How often do downvoters actually come back and explain their downvotes? I'm asking only about downvoters who don't initially leave comments. (If the answer is "never", it implies that comments asking for explanations of downvotes are useless, or nearly so.)

It may not be possible to answer this definitively.

(Part of my motivation for asking this question, assuming the answer is "seldom or never", was to have a place to point when responding to "Why the downvote?" comments. It took me a while to learn that complaining about downvotes isn't particularly useful.)

  • 3
    Of course this can't be answered without having vote data. Why would you want to know this? – slhck Feb 22 '13 at 16:07
  • 6
    "it implies that comments asking for explanations of downvotes are useless" .. well, they largely are and to some extent are noise. I can understand that some OP's are truly interested, but in my experience, more often than not it's not an attempt to start a constructive discussion. – Bart Feb 22 '13 at 16:10
  • @slhck: Two reasons: Sheer idle curiosity, and wondering whether there's any point to the "downvoter please explain" comments. I doubt that a definitive answer is possible, but there might be anecdotal evidence of comments like "I downvoted because ...". – Keith Thompson Feb 22 '13 at 16:12
  • Probably almost never, because once users downvote and move on, they typically don't look at the post again. But asking why something was downvoted can be beneficial, as other users who see the post may be able to identify why it was downvoted, and can supply a possible reason so you know what not to do next time. – Rachel Feb 22 '13 at 16:22
  • 3
    Answer downvotes are sometimes just like a genie that suddenly appears and farts in your face before disappearing into thin air; and you know that they will be back, you just don't know when. – Jack Feb 22 '13 at 16:26
  • @Jack - so that's who that guy was... – LittleBobbyTables - Au Revoir Feb 22 '13 at 16:30
  • 3
    Not an answer, but I used to explain downvotes, but when the revenge votes started to pile up I just thought meh... – PeeHaa Feb 22 '13 at 16:30
  • @LittleBobbyTables It's the only explanation :) – Jack Feb 22 '13 at 16:33
  • -1 blah blah blah – user159834 Feb 22 '13 at 16:53
  • Peraonal practice != answer: I often comment (on sites that don't discourage it), but if I didn't comment or up-vote an existing comment on the first pass, I'm unlikely to comment later. I do look at the post again if it crosses my path, in case the author fixed the problem and I should remove my downvote. – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '13 at 17:18
  • I downvote randomly, and never leave a comment. If the person asks for a reason in the comments, I never explain myself, I just laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh until tears leak from my eyes and my bladder slips a little. The feeling of power and vengeance I get from reckless downvoting makes me drunk with pleasure. My friends staged an intervention, but I downvoted them and left them sitting in my living room tearing at their hair and wondering why. I downvote because it makes me feel alive. You'll never take it from me. Never. – Chris Feb 22 '13 at 18:45
  • @PeeHaa Are revenge votes really that common? I hand hand out quite a few downvotes, and rarely get them. – CodesInChaos Feb 22 '13 at 22:42

We don't have access to the downvote data, but we do have access to the comment data.

Here's a SEDE query that

  • looks for a comment that has *Why*Downvote* or *downvoter care*
  • followed by a comment that has *I was *downvote* or *I downvote* or *I am *downvote* or -1 This is wrong*

There are currently 236 results. While it's not a precise picture, I suspect it's none the less an accurate one. People generally don't answer.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This doesn't account for 'I (was|am) the downvoter' or 'Downvoted because' or 'Downvoter care to comment?' or '-1 This is wrong' or any other variation of phrasing. Just sayin'. – MikeTheLiar Feb 22 '13 at 16:33
  • @mikeTheLiar I updated the query to include your variations. It went to 236. Still not a whole lot – Some Helpful Commenter Feb 22 '13 at 16:44
  • Why downvotez me! (couldn't resist) – Some Helpful Commenter Feb 22 '13 at 16:46
  • 4
    I can haz eksplanshun 4 why u dwnvtn? – MikeTheLiar Feb 22 '13 at 16:48
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter the sheer volume of ways your query can miss makes it completely useless – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Feb 22 '13 at 16:50
  • Also, though; other language could have been used in the reply, like a simple explanation without preamble. Or, someone who didn't down vote could have replied, without stating they didn't. There's no way to connect who actually down voted with who commented. – Andrew Barber Feb 22 '13 at 16:51
  • @mikeTheLiar No, but here's a cheezburger. – Andrew Barber Feb 22 '13 at 16:51
  • Erh ma gerd! Cherzbergerz! Mah fervert! .......Okay, I'll stop now. – MikeTheLiar Feb 22 '13 at 16:53
  • 1
    @SamIam the sheer volume of the ways your comment doesn't contribute anything makes it useless – Some Helpful Commenter Feb 22 '13 at 17:03
  • 1
    Aww, man; I always miss the good (bad) stuff! Hmm... actually no; that's not true. Not true at all. Not one bit. Nope. Not true... (Actually, now that I've posted this, turns out it's not true!) – Andrew Barber Feb 22 '13 at 17:28
  • A more concrete answer than I was expecting. Thanks. – Keith Thompson Feb 22 '13 at 18:18
  • Might want to change that query to remove the trailing "e" from "downvote" as it won't catch the likely candidate "downvoting". – JoshDM Feb 22 '13 at 20:49
  • Sometimes, the explanation comes very fast after the downvote happens (I usually do that), in which case you don't get anything from the query. – nhahtdh Feb 22 '13 at 22:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .