I used to be very excited about Stack Overflow. I even started to make it a habit to routinely check for questions with certain tags to try to provide answers. And I did.

Then this happened:

Finding specific patterns in a list

In this question, I felt I had provided an answer exactly as the OP had requested it, where the other answers had not, and since this wasn't obvious, I took the time to point out the flaw or shortcoming of various answers. The end result was 4 downvotes and 0 explanations, of a perfectly valid answer which really was most faithful to what OP had asked.

Then this happened:

What is the quickest way to get a number with unique digits in python?

I provided a simple, concise, very efficient algorithm, completely from scratch and not depending on external libraries, that was faster than most other solutions posted (except one that just called an external library). I received 0 upvotes. The other answers, most of which were slow, and inefficient, and lazy, all received a number of upvotes (14, 7, 3, 0). The only difference is that the other answers had been posted by users of higher reputations, making them seem more "legit".

Today, this happened.

adb shell "operation not permitted" for every command

Two bad anonymous downvotes on a question on which I had taken every effort to make clear, detailed, concise, and so on. I have politely asked for an explanation, but none of the cowardly downvoters have cared.

Why is anonymous downvoting allowed, without a required, if anonymous, explanation? This can completely shatter the experience of new vulnerable users, possibly turning them away from the site as well as their potential contributions.

I have honestly mostly stopped looking for questions to answer, my reputation has stagnated, and I feel this can be the case for a lot of new users who do have a lot to contribute and are discouraged by the abuse of some of these features. I do not see it necessary to risk alienating them in this way during their vulnerable initial stages with SO.

Anonymous downvoting serves well the SO establishment, the users with already comfortably high reps who do not feel the pain of downvoting others. It also serves well the lazy who do not care to write even a short sentence on why they think the question/answer which they downvoted is bad or how it could be improved (which should be everyone's goal).

It also serves well cowards who downvote out of spite or retaliation.

Why is anonymous downvoting a feature in SO? In particular, the feature request here is to enforce a short, optionally anonymous explanation/comment required from the downvoter (something that doesn't have to take more than 2 seconds to type, maybe "misleading title", or "homework problem"). If you care enough to downvote the effort that someone else has put forth, then you can at least be bothered to give a short explanation of why. Such an explanation could be visible to only the downvoted user and to moderators, who could then use these to control the abuse of the feature.

Note: There is the argument that disclosing the identity of the downvoter could enable retaliative downvotes, but this is not necessary. Requiring a short, anonymous comment by the downvoter would keep his anonymity, as well as help the downvoted understand what he could do to improve. It would also deter unjustifiable (revengeful, spiteful) downvotes.

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    In Fact, upvote and downvote has not any good meaning, if you upvote its not mean that its correct, many upvote here done because of popularity. and also the downvote. I think there must be several reasons when clicking on these arrows! for example if I downvote then I will select an option for example: bad quality, or invalid answer. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 6:00
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    Thanks for providing an explanation for your downvote. This is a feature request, I just happened to draw examples from my own experience on SO to support the argument. Could you explain what is not appropriate about the question? – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 6:10
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    I'm sorry you've had this experience. Unfortunately, the SO/MSO culture is such that the ability to downvote without explanation is viewed as some kind of fundamental right. I think it stems from a belief that anyone who says something "wrong" deserves to be demeaned. I don't know if it will ever change, but I posted meta.stackexchange.com/a/195375/216381 in an attempt to help them understand the damage it causes. – Peter Alfvin Oct 1 '13 at 6:24
  • @CarlVeazey I am sorry that you interpreted it that way, but I actually do feel that this is important for new users for all the reasons I stated, I don't mean to make this about me. – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 6:36
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    I hope it is clear that I didn't come here to cry or beg for upvotes, I just happened to use my own examples to support the argument (just because naturally I remember well my own experiences). I think you @raina77ow are suggesting that I posted here with the secret intention of "getting some justice" or whatever, which is pretty unfair and I don't see from where you can claim that. – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 6:56
  • @user84207 Well, I believe meta is created for justice, in a sort. ) Anyway, I have nothing against (or pro, actually) your answers, but I don't understand how taking any action on them only because one sees them in this post is justifiable. – raina77ow Oct 1 '13 at 7:01
  • (...pointing out that if downvoters were forced to leave a comment, we would get something like that) – Doorknob Oct 1 '13 at 11:23
  • Can you please express uour opinion on marking question as duplicate at the following link: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/219750/… – Revious Feb 5 '14 at 19:56
  • I have posted perfectly legitimate questions, that have been well formed and I still get down votes. I suspect a lot of down votes are from weak and cowardly people who somehow feel powerful downvoting posts from the safety of Internet anonymity. I agree that it is ruining stackoverflow. – OtagoHarbour Aug 4 '18 at 15:24
  • @Doorknob (...) we would get something like that, and that would get flagged as spam and the downvote would be reversed. – WoJ Jul 27 '20 at 16:48

You're right that it sucks sometimes when people downvote you, but you'll find that if you keep posting good answers, the law of averages will work in your favor and you'll gain rep. The law of sowing and reaping will get them if they downvoted you unfairly.

I'm one of the most downvoted guys on Meta, but still made a bunch of rep.

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    Meta doesn't count. ) – raina77ow Oct 1 '13 at 6:38
  • @rain Take that back right now! – Bart Oct 1 '13 at 6:47
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    @raina77ow: it count, I can't downvote because my rep is below 125 :) – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 6:47
  • @raina How dare you devalue the unicorns and freehand red circles and waffles?!?! :P – Doorknob Oct 1 '13 at 11:27
  • Unfortunately for those of us without thousands of upvotes, downvotes and poorly received questions usually result in lasting question bans. Its one of the main reasons I don't ask questions anymore. I had two of my questions falsely marked as duplicates and was banned for a year :/ – zr0gravity7 Jul 2 at 13:36

Your suggestion to make comments mandatory for any downvoting will only lead to poorer - filler - comments, not better downvotes. Besides, many times the key reasons for downvoting will be given in the very first comment; what others will have to do, if comments are mandatory, is essentially repeat it - which is plain wrong by any reasons.

  • (I wasn't the one who downvoted your comment). The comments don't have to be visible to everyone, but they do encourage the downvoter to be able to articulate a reason for their downvote, which could help curb the abuse. – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 6:31
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    Sigh... you really overestimate the power of comments. Why do you think the one who gives a mindless downvote won't be able to give equally mindless - but sounding quite correct to them - comment? – raina77ow Oct 1 '13 at 6:33
  • If the comments are stupid and unjustifiable, moderators could eventually look at those patterns and take appropriate action. – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 6:34
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    Patterns are actually dealt with good enough. – raina77ow Oct 1 '13 at 6:35
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    @user84207: votes are entirely the voters decision. They need not explain them or even have a valid reason. That's by design! Asking for explanations would stifle the (sometimes needed) downvotes and reduce the overall quality of the site. You might not like it, but "hiding" bad answers is just as important here as highlighting good ones. – Joachim Sauer Oct 1 '13 at 6:46
  • It could be like when you flag to close a question. You can explain why, and SO decide how to handle it ("duplicate" will add a comment, while "off topic" no) – Mosh Feu Jan 16 '20 at 9:58

Your links one by one:

  1. First answer you linked is a code without explanation. It might work, but it's doing thing by rote, not by understanding. Valid reason for downvote. And question itself shows lack of own research, too.

  2. Before edit it was an answer to a performance question without any performance comparison in it, valid reason for downvote. And again, question was poor in the first place, asking for code without providing any.

  3. Last one looks like something better suited for superuser, it does not involve any code OP wrote by himself - should probably be flagged instead, or left alone but I can see how some might think it deserves downvote.

So, it's not really a problem with kicking noobs. It's the problem of people posting not perfect content, and marking that is what downvotes are meant to.

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    Even if those refutations of my examples were valid, consider from the perspective of the 'noob' the difference between: 1) A short explanation such as yours that could at least leave him with an idea of what he did wrong and how to fix it, ie, a constructive criticism which still lets the user feel embraced of the community, and 2) A silent, anonymous downvote, clearly the user has done something wrong, but he is given no recourse on where to start or what to improve. He is totally left to guess in the misery of the loss of his hard earned reputation, which can really discourage him and drive – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 7:29
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    @user84207 If noob refuses to read "how to ask" already provided, why to bother with more lecture? Up/downvotes are explained in the intro to this site. I have 2 or 3 heavily downvoted questions on Drupal Answers from my beginning there, not a half of a year and I'm 7k there. And if you insist to not downvote noobs, you are opening a pandora's box of voting based on user, not on content. You do not want that box opened, I assure you. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 7:32
  • him away from contributing too much further. Also, the standard for 'valid reason for downvote' that you present here just doesn't match at all with SO's recommendation, which I've read somewhere and can not find now. But I think basically, the recommendation states that downvotes should be reserved only for answers that are somehow dangerous or misleading and so on – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 7:33
  • from here: stackoverflow.com/help/privileges/vote-down "When should I vote down? Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect." – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 7:36
  • @user84207 this page says something a bit different: voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. - all what I described fits this definition pretty well, as far as I understand. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 7:37
  • Your comment was most likely flagged based on some of its content @user84207. And such requests would be taken seriously, as were your concerns based on some of the excellent answers you've received. (Even if some of them take an opposing view) But you have to take into account that this discussion has been had plenty of times already. – Bart Oct 1 '13 at 7:59
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    @user84207 the fact people think you are wrong here does not mean they are not addressing it or take it seriously. It's just that Stack is not a full democracy, and in the parts it is you are in a minority anyway. There are some highly upvoted posts about helping newcomers. And I'm not a moderator here, I can't simply go and delete comments :D Are you sure there was no insults like "do...ag" in it?.. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 8:01
  • Apparently, the word "d...bag" is too much for the perfect moderators of SO, to the point that the entire comment (for which the word was totally tangential) must be deleted without regard for the confusion that would ensue. Molot,the reason that I don't think these are taken seriously is not based on the honest answers provided here, but on the inconsistencies between what we all know is the typical SO's user rationale and standard for downvoting, for example, and the stated recommendation, which reveals this contradiction that is actually just – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 8:20
  • a rationalization of an abusive kind of power that no one is interested in checking – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 8:22
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    @user84207 I know downvoting hurts, but calling it "abusive kind of power" puzzles me. Nothing you provided as examples wasn't really a good post (except the one edited to be and highly upvoted at the end). Pushing not so good content down is a good deed, it serves everyone. It hurts the author of that post, but it also teaches to research before posting - and research rules of posting in the first place. Many people come here to meta for explanation like "why is this bad" and they are getting it. So if someone is willing to learn and contribute, he will and he will get a lot of help. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 8:25
  • There is little or no teaching value from an unexplained, anonymous downvote, as I have explained, it only leaves the user to guess by himself and to feel alienated. The abuse comes from the contradiction between the stated guidelines, and what we all know typical users actually consider as a standard. There are many conventions here which the community does a great job at enforcing, and the nuanced standard for downvoting is definitely not one of them. Also, pushing content which you believe is not so good, without providing an explanation, might not be as good as you claim – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 8:34
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    But if you do receive such comments, you will address them, right @user84207? – Bart Oct 1 '13 at 8:36
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    I've had a relatively overwhelming influx of comments recently, and I also have some things to do, you try to suggest in a snarky way a hypocrisy on my part, which doesn't really make much sense – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 8:38
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    @user84207 Nothing snarky there. I have just left you a comment I hope you'll address. – Bart Oct 1 '13 at 8:39
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    I was addressing Bart, and I can not to address every thread for which I have a pending comment at the same time. I am not asking for more comments, Molot, I am just addressing the things that need addressing in this thread. As I claimed, I fail to see how any of the examples qualify as downvote-suitable even with your latter standard. The point is here is that there is no real standard that anyone cares to enforce, and the supposed recommendation is there just to make people feel it is not such an arbitrary tool – user214459 Oct 1 '13 at 8:43

There is one wrong thinking for all users that get downvoted which is: We think that downvotes reflects our personality, I knew everyone wants to get upvoted, but in reality, downvotes on SO and META are not related to our real life, I also has same thinking when I failed in college and school.

My suggestion for voting: when you click on one of them, there should be manodatory options (reasons) to select for the vote, for example:

Click -> Upvote (select why?)

  • Good quality that helps other audiences
  • Other reasons (specify)

Click -> Down-vote (select why?)

  • off-topic
  • The question not provided any detail
  • OP not did any research before asking (easy questions)
  • etc (other reasons that or you can specify)

Currently these feature also implemented when closing the question, but there are many questions with downvotes and not closed also.

Finally, because there are millions of records, I think these rules might not change, some rules will remain constant.

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    The reasons provided now (useful / unuseful for answer, clear and showing research effort or not for question) are insufficient? Also, duplicating close reasons in downvote reasons seems useless to me. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 7:21
  • There are about closing the question not voting. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 7:22
  • Exactly. So vote to close question for being off-topic, no need to say the very same thing again when downvoting. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 7:23
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    Adding barriers to voting reduces the value of this site by reducing signaling on quality of questions and answers. Kind folks who leave comments may even leave less if they are forced to each time. A vote alone has value, a vote and a comment is only useful if the comment provides more overall value to future visitors than the loss in votes from people who don't want to jump through hoops. – jmac Oct 1 '13 at 7:23
  • when I posted this answer, immediately I saw one downvote haha I think they even not read it :) – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 7:23
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    @jmac: the design concept for this site is totally wrong, if even whole world agreed with this, I am one of the persons that stand against voting system for this site. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 7:27
  • @JasonOOO Some people can read more than 10 pages per minute, your post wasn't THAT long. And if you think the design of this site is all wrong, maybe it would be easier to move on to some place that suits you better? It works OK for so many of us here. – Mołot Oct 1 '13 at 7:28
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    @Jason, you are not suggesting we eliminate up/downvotes, simply to add an extra step to give them, which means you concede the value of the signal. Reducing the amount of votes means the quality of the voting signal will be decreased. How is the design concept wrong when you are still using the fundamentals that the current site does? – jmac Oct 1 '13 at 7:56
  • @jmac: reducing what? many questions closed with high votes because there were off-topic? most of the votes here not reflects real meanings that we expect. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 8:35
  • Reducing the amount of votes @Jason. Your 'proposal' does not solve the problem that you are now bringing up. You still would have votes, and I fail to see how adding a step will improve the voting behavior of people rather than just reduce the quantity of votes. – jmac Oct 1 '13 at 8:40
  • @jmac: ok then the people were lazy! if I upvote I want to mention also why that, and if not, I want to raise a flag on the post why that? then consider if three people voted on invalid answer the OP can improve or delete it, I am still agree with anonymouse system, but reasons for voting are better than current. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 8:43
  • @Jason, nobody is preventing you from providing a comment explaining your vote, or voting and flagging. People are downvoting your proposal because you are suggesting that others should be forced to do things your way without any explanation of how this will benefit future readers or the quality of the site in general. I am not a fan of jumping through hoops. Most people aren't. – jmac Oct 1 '13 at 8:45
  • @jmac: if I even write a novel here, I get downvoted, I like that in one side because I see that I am different person. I also provided enough detail, votes should be for a good reason, and specifically should be mentioned, do you remember your school? college? when you get low mark you asked teacher why? but if teacher provide some reason then you ask yourself then. – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 8:54
  • @Jason, the votes are not for the benefit of the person posting the answer, they are for the benefit of future readers of the answer. If you are getting downvotes, read How do I write a good answer? and improve it! As people read it over the following weeks/months/years, it will be upvoted if it provides value. You are expecting short-term feedback to you when the goal is to provide an answer to the question. – jmac Oct 1 '13 at 9:01
  • @jmac: not, currently I am not trusting any answer based on vote, but if the votes were done for a a reason, then I can trust them. see how popular questions upvotes, this fact has not any relation with quality :) – Jason OOO Oct 1 '13 at 9:04