A frequent argument brought up in support of voting anonymity is that it can lead to potential grudges. Certainly the review system is of the same nature.

I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that voting is anonymous and reviewing is not. Either both should be public--and this would be fine since public reviewing has been successful--or both should be anonymous--and I assume this would be the desired option since this community holds anonymity so dear.

One could say that voting rates the posts, the actual meat of the site, while reviewing is based on clarifying the purpose of the site and cleaning it up.

This answer makes the point that the community can trust that votes are a good measure of quality for the very reason that they do not know who cast them; the mentality that a high-ranking member may have supported something could blur the line between "science" and "politics/religion."

Reviewing, then, can be seen as a judgment of specific members rather than quality of edit/questions, which seems to fall precisely under the "politics/religion" umbrella--the review system is much more vulnerable to grudges due to this.

So let's discuss the differences and the implications of these disjointed anonymity policies.

2 Answers 2


Barring a few cases of voting fraud, it's not possible for a vote to be "wrong" or "inappropriate". People have the right to vote however they want based on what they personally believe to be useful or not useful.

That's not really true of reviews. While it's true that there can be some room for interpretation of the rules/guidelines and that certain conflicting actions can each be made in good faith, there are also a lot of review actions that are not debatable, and that are clearly appropriate or clearly inappropriate. Because it's possible to act "wrongly" it's important to have a level of accountability, and thus [most] review decisions are public, just like most moderation actions (editing, voting to close/reopen/delete/undelete) are public. It prevents people from abusing the system and allows users to hold them accountable if/when they do.

While that possibility of abuse does exist for voting, it's something that can be managed by the moderators. Information about how a person votes on posts also has a much higher potential for abuse than publicizing review actions. While I have seen users lash out because someone voted to close/delete their post, or because they rejected an edit, that happens much less often, and generally to a lesser degree, than when someone knows or suspects that another user has downvoted a post of theirs.

I'm quite confident that a lot of problems would be generated by making votes on posts public, to the point that a lot of people would stop voting on posts (or at least vote a lot less). It would also strongly discourage people from downvoting in particular, even if they feel strongly that a post is wrong, of very low quality, is unhelpful, etc, because of the (entirely justifiable) fear of retaliation. Having so much low quality and incorrect content out there without the negative votes will result in readers believing it is valuable content. At that point most of the value of the entire site has been lost.

I also don't see very much to gain from this. You seem to think that it just won't do much harm. Well, I can assure you it will do a lot. What benefits will there be to offset this? You haven't given a reason why we should do this, beyond that of consistency which, in and of itself, means very little.

  • People always bring up the hypotheticals of public voting being disastrous. I have yet to see it in action though. I truly think it would not be as destructive as people claim. A benefit of making it public and would be an improved sense of trust--since they are public, abuse isn't even possible. You know that people aren't downvoting for whatever hidden reason because when their name is publicized, they can't risk that. It builds an overall sense of real trust in the voting system. I think voting anonymity tears down the trust we have. And it's far easier to detect abuse when it's public.
    – Someone
    Jun 6, 2013 at 7:09
  • @Purmou It's actually quite easy to see examples in action. There are plenty of times where someone suspects that another user has downvoted a post of theirs and then they go around mass downvoting their posts, getting into non-constructive arguments, posting insults, etc. It's actually reasonably common. Yes, abuse would still be possible; in fact, it would most likely be even more common. It's extraordinary hard to prove that someone downvoted your post in retaliation instead of because they just think it's bad. Voting wars will likely be much more common, not less common.
    – Servy
    Jun 6, 2013 at 14:34
  • @Purmou The anonymous voting allows people to vote without fear of retaliation, making them that much more inclined to vote how they feel. In a system where votes are public and there's a very high probability of people revenge downvoting whenever you vote on a post means that people will just vote much, much less, and the system will suffer.
    – Servy
    Jun 6, 2013 at 14:36

First, to address the main point, anonymous contributions are [personally] okay with me. However, doing things like reviewing questions and answers - which are really the life force of Stack Exchange - should be reserved for users that are above a certain level of trust in the community.

Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of problems with the current way reviews are done now, even with well-trusted users just in it for the badge. However, I would feel very uncomfortable with allowing anonymous reviews for three reasons:

  1. No accountability. Your edits are temporal, and if you screw up enough to be removed from the system, you just hop on another computer and do it again. There's absolutely no way for the system to keep poor reviewers in check if they're anonymous.

  2. No familiarity with the site. Sure, a reviewer may be familiar with the question scope, as I feel most people should be when reviewing, but are they familiar with the way reviews are done on the site?

    Some people will make invalid edits that, in any other format, would be valid - changing code, removing deprecated or deleted API calls, that sort of thing - all while ignoring the misspellings of words and improper English syntax.

  3. No reward. Those of us that do reviews, and do them well, are more or less doing them because we want to. The badges are a nice perk, but those that continue editing/revising questions well into the thousands aren't really interested in the badge or e-bling. Anonymous users will have even less reason to participate, since their efforts aren't going to go noticed, and they won't have anything to show for revising hundreds of questions/answers.

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