Often people who receive down votes are uncertain why they are receiving them. This is in part because those giving the down votes do not wish to comment publicly for fear of revenge down voting (and the general social stigma of publicly saying "This sucks because" 1) and also because writing comments takes time. Therefore I propose2 radio buttons to select from a number of common reasons for down voting.

Related proposals

A related solution; anonymous comments on down voting also sets out to solve this problem, however that does not solve the effort issue and also introduces the risk that when comments are anonymous people may feel able to say anything

Mock up

On clicking the downvote the following would appear to allow you to select a reason for downvoting

enter image description here

On hovering over the score the OP of the question (and possibly everyone else) would see a bar chart of why people down voted.

Suggested options

On a question

  • Is confusing/unclear
  • Does not show research effort
  • Contains too much irrelevant information
  • I disagree with the idea(meta only)
  • Other / I'd rather not say

On an answer

  • This is wrong
  • This is unclear
  • This is technically correct but is dangerous or bad practice
  • I disagree(meta only)
  • Other / I'd rather not say

We don't tell people how to vote

Voting is entirely at the discretion of the voter and that is why I have included the Other / I'd rather not say option as a catch all for "the rest"

Why not have a free form "other"

Without having to be publically accountable for their comments (or reasons) people could get very nasty. It is for this reason that Other wouldn't ask for more information

Minimising clicks

Other would be selected by default so assuming you didn't want to give feedback this would only add 1 extra click

1 I’m sorry, I forgot this was the internet. There is no stigma to saying things suck
2 I say I'm proposing this, but I thought I had seen this before, I couldn't find it on search however so if so this idea needs a duplicate just for search terms

  • 2
    What happens if you press the "x" ? Nov 19, 2013 at 14:22
  • It has come up, but I don't think in a manner that suggested a complete implementation.
    – user50049
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:25
  • @ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd Now I'm torn with that. Either the down vote stays and it uses "other", or the down vote is cancelled (which would be consistent behaviour). But I’m not sure; any opinions on that would be appreciated Nov 19, 2013 at 14:25
  • 4
    "I disagree with the idea (Meta only)" ;) Nov 19, 2013 at 14:36
  • @AndrewBarber You see, now I'm not hurt and sad. Ok, my dreams lie broken on the floor but at least I know you liked the format Nov 19, 2013 at 14:38
  • Ewww. Dreams are really hard to clean up. Don't let those things soak into the subfloor, what ever you do! Nov 19, 2013 at 14:40
  • 1
    -1 for requiring additional click to downvote. Votes are essential part of this network so discouraging them too much is not good. It's pretty enough that downvoting answers costs own rep, no further limitations needed. I would +1 allowing feedback, but forcing it is -1 from me.
    – Mołot
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:52
  • @Mołot The allowing off a seperate buttom is nice, but I found that hard to fit into the existing user interface in a nice way. Nov 19, 2013 at 14:55
  • 2
    Bonus meta reason "Insufficient red hand drawn circles" Nov 19, 2013 at 14:56
  • 2
    @RichardTingle I agree it is a problem, but your solution simply appears to cost more than the benefit it brings (if it brings any, as pointed in answers below).
    – Mołot
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:57
  • @Mołot In all fairness I agree with a lot of what the answers have said (I may have upvoted one). The most important thing for me was to give the best possible argument for something someone else had suggested in annother question (after experiencing the problem themselves). I tried to suggest a proposal they could support and on not finding one offered to write one myself (not to say I'm against this idea, just that I can see both sides) Nov 19, 2013 at 15:02
  • @psubsee2003 Thank you! I knew there was a duplicate somewhere I just couldn't find the damm thing Nov 19, 2013 at 15:05
  • 1
    @RichardTingle I only remember it because I answered it once upon a time. I think it was my first ever answer on Meta Nov 19, 2013 at 15:05
  • 1
    @Servy That one on the other hand is a different solution to the same problem Nov 19, 2013 at 15:05
  • @RichardTingle There are a lot of very similar posts related to this. I picked one that's very close, the counter arguments against most of the very large number of "Encouraging people to explain downvotes" questions is very similar. This is nothing new.
    – Servy
    Nov 19, 2013 at 15:09

4 Answers 4


Okay, we all know that "I'd rather not say" is not for me, so here goes. The problem I have with this idea is that the feedback provided is not all that great. Perhaps something is really better than nothing, but I'm not sure it's all that much of a help.

Is confusing/unclear

I think it's not unclear or confusing. I wrote the question. What is confusing here? How is this unclear?

Contains too much irrelevant information

What is irrelevant here? I've tried to ask a well put, detailed question. Why are you downvoting me? How can I address this?

This is wrong

Wrong how? I think it's right

This is unclear

Unclear how?

Yes, you provide more information than if you'd have a downvote as it is now, but I wonder if this does not simply end up in an excuse to leave no real comments any more. Hey, we told you that 4 users think it's "confusing", now you go deal with that.

  • 6
    This guy sees the future... and the past too. Nov 19, 2013 at 14:36
  • 3
    +1 for the last sentence.
    – juergen d
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:41

So, some random musings about why I don't like this idea...

First, I am generally against anonymous comments. They separate people from accountability. We have enough trouble with people acting appropriately when they are accountable to what they are saying. This could make things worse - in exactly one of the situations where it can most easily go downhill fast.

I'm really ambivalent about the idea of pre-packaged comments to begin with. I think they are a 'necessary evil' with the close reasons. And maybe - maybe - they would be helpful in some rare cases of down votes.

But has anyone checked into any stats on how many new users even notice they've been down voted in the first place? How many people would actually end up being provoked by such an anonymous comment? I can see the cries, now; "You anonymous trolls are just down voting and giving me meaningless explanations!"

I think if people want to explain, they should do so. And they should do so kindly, as appropriate. I don't think any canned list of comments would really be helpful and, to repeat myself, I think making them anonymous would make things worse.


why make SO a kinder garden? If you get 1 down vote or 2 that could be someone who doesn't like you or disagrees or thinks your question/answer is poor. if you get 5 down votes that means there is something seriously wrong (against the rules etc) with your current question/answer which is usually followed with a hold specifying exactly what is wrong.

IMO I disagree with your idea and it would become really annoying selecting why I am down voting :/ specially excel and vba where almost 80% of the questions deserve a downvote

A down vote is a down vote and all you can do is live with it. If there is something seriously wrong your question gets closed / answer possibly reported to a moderator => further, it gets closed and you can see the reason why.

Also, if you're here for the first time and get properly down voted you may want to reconsider a few things; read the rules! how to ask/answer a question - we have plenty of help around just waiting to be seen. All the effort we have made to create the help centre can't just go to waste now.

  • 1
    It is something I see every day; users who are used to other kinds of internet sites who get frustrated at downvotes. Some stick around and eventually find out why, some just leave never to return - we're loosing people who could become good members of the community Nov 19, 2013 at 14:37
  • 2
    I dont see much potential in people who make no effort to start off with. If someone requests something from us and giving us grief for not helping them because we stick to the SO rules. <= that's exactly what I mean by kinder garden
    – user221081
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:38

There is already a feedback button and you can select way more options !
Let's not forget about it... :)

enter image description here

  • 1
    but sort of exposing your identity as voter if you leaving a comment
    – user221081
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:52
  • 1
    You don't have to specify "-1 because" you simple have to give a comment (feedback) on the question. The OP won't know you are responsible for a downvote but will understand that something is wrong with the question. Nov 19, 2013 at 14:55
  • 1
    @mehow I think that if we have something worth saying, we should be willing to put our name on it. I am personally much more likely to listen to criticism from someone not standing behind a wall of anonymity. Especially when I know they had a choice. That said, I am not sure I can up-vote this answer. But I'm not down voting it. Should there be a selection of comments for "meh"? ;) Nov 19, 2013 at 14:55
  • @AndrewBarber yes same here. Why are people so scared of their own opinion ? Nov 19, 2013 at 14:58
  • @AndrewBarber oh yeah I do agree with you and I sign my name for anything I say here on SO and Meta. Again, going back to my answer and excel and vba case - I am not paid to leave a comment explaining what is wrong with each question. If I feel the OP has made enough effort but something is unclear then I will leave a comment - but if I see no effort (that's the 80%) I simply downvote and move on.
    – user221081
    Nov 19, 2013 at 14:59
  • 3
    @ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd Oh, I am terrified of my opinions. But, that's a completely different topic. Nov 19, 2013 at 14:59
  • @mehow This brings me back to the point of why would I be bothered putting a comment on my downvote if they are so common on those questions about Vba and Excel ? Nov 19, 2013 at 15:00
  • @ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd exactly, so if I dont want to leave one I just downvote (which is a action of moderation - talking SO) and I dont want to be forced to leave a comment.
    – user221081
    Nov 19, 2013 at 15:02

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