Consider the flow of events:

  • User A asks a question
  • User B answers it
  • I downvote the answer with a comment explaining the downvote

Now that they understand who downvoted their answer, they just go to one of my answers / questions and downvote it. To avoid this, I have the following options:

Downvote without an explanation - The answerer wouldn't come to know who downvoted their post and also wouldn't be able to know what's wrong with the answer. If nobody points out the mistake, it'll remain as it is. I'm not sure if this is a good thing. If answers contain incorrect information, it should be corrected (or deleted).

Ignore the downvote and move on - This is the easiest solution. One downvote is not an end of the world. I could simply ignore the (revenge-)downvote(s) I receive from the explanation and move on to the next question / answer.

I've already read similar posts on Meta and I understand that serial downvotes will be taken care of -- and that I can e-mail Stack Overflow team if the downvotes follow some sort of pattern.

What's the best way to handle this issue? Should I just stop explaining the reason, just downvote the post and move along? Or maybe I should leave a very polite comment explaining what's wrong with their answer. If so, how?

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    I'd say, explain what's wrong with the answer, but don't downvote it just yet. Give the OP sometime and see if they correct it. If they do, well and good, and if they do not, even after a considerable amount of time has passed, then go ahead and downvote it. Problem(pretty much) solved!
    – Rahul
    Nov 30, 2013 at 10:52
  • @R.J excellent idea, wherever did you find that? ;-) Nov 30, 2013 at 11:00
  • @R.J What if the OP doesn't bother to check the time of the comment / downvote? Or, say, another person sees my comment and downvotes the answer -- the OP might think I'm the downvoter. Nov 30, 2013 at 11:02
  • @RogerRowland - I had read it somewhere on meta myself. And that's what I've been doing since then(atleast most of the times) and hence, the same suggestion to the OP here.
    – Rahul
    Nov 30, 2013 at 11:05
  • 1
    @R.J lol that was my point, I wrote it in a comment to one of your questions! Nov 30, 2013 at 11:07
  • 1
    @AmalMurali - You can't help that. Voting it upto the individuals and if you really feel that either downvoting and commenting or just commenting is gonna back-fire, then I've to say that you might just have to move on to the next one. The community will handle that answer anyway. I personally would not advice for Downvotes without comments, because I hate them myself. Also, if the OP goes and starts serially downvoting you, then the serial voting serial will catch it and undo it for you. Otherwise, if you notice a pattern, you can raise a flag for moderation attention.
    – Rahul
    Nov 30, 2013 at 11:08
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    @RogerRowland - Ah! So it was you who gave me that suggestion. See, even though I don't remember it was you, I remember your good suggestions :) So do I get a cheese cake for this? ;)
    – Rahul
    Nov 30, 2013 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


Don't mention that you downvoted, just post a comment pointing out why the answer is wrong without mentioning downvotes at all. Of course the user can guess that it might have been you that downvoted, but you don't have to remind them. Don't attack the user or the answer as a whole (e.g. "this answer is terrible"), just point out the specific problem in a comment.

If the user starts to respond agressively, just flag the comments if appropriate and walk away, don't engage in a discussion under such circumstances and you'll avoid unnecessary trouble.

If a user retaliates with downvotes, let the automatic reversal script deal with it. This catches most revenge voting, and if a user is evading it you can flag for moderator attention and they'll deal with it. You might have to live with a very small amount of downvotes, it is almost impossible to prove bad intentions with only one or two votes, but you are pretty safe from any serious retaliation with downvotes.

In short, try to comment in a way that is unlikely to be perceived as an attack, and don't be afraid of retaliation by unreasonable users, there are ways to deal with them.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. "If a user retaliates with downvotes, let the automatic reversal script deal with it." -- I think the script will only catch those above a particular trigger limit. Nov 30, 2013 at 11:54
  • 1
    @AmalMurali Which means that what's left is cases with only a few downvotes; these can easily be disregarded because they are, by definition, just a few downvotes. The negative consequences are thus always none or very low, and not large, so it shouldn't be a significant deterrent. Revenge downvotes are also fairly rare. I downvote + comment on answers I find problematic several times a day that I'm active on. I suspect revenge downvotes only every few weeks. People who see it more are likely people who should focus on using a more constructive tone in their comments.
    – Servy
    Dec 30, 2013 at 19:04

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