People post a bad question, for any of the following reasons:

  • Not researched
  • Off topic
  • Poorly written/formatted
  • No sign of any attempt to solve problem
  • Classic help vampire question
  • etc

This gets downvoted and often without comments.

It's exhausting and tiring work to constantly coach newbies about how to improve their question, because most don't bother to update and oftentimes the only response you get back is "f you why u so mean" types of feedback.


Whenever a question from a user with less than 50 reputation receives a downvote, automatically generate a comment from the Community user which says:

Welcome to Stack Exchange! You might have noticed your question received a downvote. Voting here is anonymous, but you can find possible reasons for this here as well as suggestions for how to improve your post. You may also find it helpful to read the [FAQ] to better understand what types of questions are on/off topic.

Note the link to "here" can link there or to a more comprehensive "what does it mean when I got downvoted?" post. The [FAQ] link would be to the site on/off topic section.

Reason this resolves problem

If I downvote a question, I want to help users learn but I am not going to try to search for the diamond in the ruff constantly.

I don't think I'm alone in this.

Adding customized comments is a lot of work. There are a ton of crap questions posted on SE. Honestly, I don't care that I'm "supposed" to be willing to post personalized, "how to improve your post" comments. It's a pain to constantly put these on questions when the majority of the time they get ignored anyways.

Another problem is that if you do post a comment trying to help, you often get attacked by the asker and blamed for all the other downvotes. This is frustrating and not a positive reinforcement.

But I will upvote a comment that gets autogenerated as a "support" type of thing, because it is very easy and painless.

And, honestly, if someone gets a comment like that explaining how to improve their post and doesn't bother to update their post or request clarification I really, really, really don't care about their feelings being hurt.

  • Not gonna lie; this sounds to me like the noisiest suggestion I've ever read here. Jun 3, 2014 at 14:14
  • 8
    @Billy It would only be noisy where it's needed most.
    – user206222
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:16
  • If you are worried about a user getting feedback from a message like this you can always go ahead and post a comment yourself rather then rely on a generic message.
    – Joe W
    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:09
  • 13
    @JoeW did you even read my suggestion?
    – enderland
    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:09
  • 1
    Yes, and in it you stated you want to help users learn, however a generic message like the one you suggested will not really help a new user understand what they did wrong. If they have read through the FAQ's already and posted a bad question how will suggesting that they read the FAQ again help? What would be more helpful on the other hand is a quick comment to explain what is wrong with the current post that way they have a better chance of fixing it. And for those that didn't read the FAQ to begin with suggesting them to read it now probably wont help either.
    – Joe W
    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:13
  • 8
    @JoeW The whole point of the suggestion was to avoid adding custom comments for every bad question that gets downvoted. If you don't agree, then that's ok, but saying "you can add a custom comment" to this question is pointless
    – Lamak
    Jun 4, 2014 at 14:08
  • @Lamak I am just saying that adding a generic message when a question gets downvoted might provide the same amount of help to the person who posted the question as a downvote with no message. The message won't really describe which of the different reasons a question can (and should) be downvoted was the case for the OP. It comes down to if someone who is downvoting is concerned about providing feedback then they should post a message that describes the issues with the post in question and not just general post issues.
    – Joe W
    Jun 4, 2014 at 14:36
  • 5
    One of the most brilliant feature recommendations in a long time. Cheers. Jun 4, 2014 at 15:10
  • 3

2 Answers 2


Dropping a canned comment like this would be... Pretty noisy. Even if we made it as nice as possible, littering thousands of posts with generic "what to do if your post got downvoted" messages is problematic. We'd need to handle folks trying to reply to them (more noise...) and probably delete them after some period of time and/or if the post got upvoted.

The team discussed an alternate option though: sending folks an email when they get their first downvote on a question, explaining what that means and offering guidance. A few reasons this seemed potentially more work-able:

  • No on-site noise
  • Only gets sent once; if the message isn't changing, no reason to spam someone who either isn't listening or isn't helped by the generic guidance in the first place.
  • Trigger conditions can be a bit more nuanced: for example, we could do "first negatively-scored question" instead of "first down-vote", thus avoiding a weird message to someone whose first question got +13 / -1.

...That said, after some discussion we opted to not do this, at least not now. Here are the reasons I extracted from that discussion:

  1. Could easily come off as just rubbing salt in a wound.
  2. Quite a few downvoted questions already get specific guidance as to the reason for the vote in comments.
  3. General advice on how to structure a good question is readily found on-site, linked to from numerous places in the UI.

Ultimately, folks whose first few questions are downvoted aren't really lacking in opportunities to learn from that now - what we're not doing effectively is catching folks before they ask a question, guiding them as they compose it.

  • 3
    Instead of an email you could also do an inbox notification with a link to some new help center article or back to the post and pop-up some info page on top of it or something. If you wanted to do this some day.
    – Jason C
    May 17, 2017 at 20:09

A good idea, but you must be cautious with the implementation.

  • the community (site moderators) must be able to customize the messages or turn them off
  • the comment on a meta site should never suggest that something is wrong with the questions, instead, inform that voting on meta is meant to function in different way
  • since votes are shown only to the registered users with high reputation, comments generated on downvote would circumvent it, so better to trigger them when the question has negative score
  • 3
    Why should the mods be able to customize the message? Also, I don't think there's a problem with letting everyone know the post was downvoted. The only reason vote splits are only shown to users with more than 1K is that the query is (was?) expensive.
    – yannis
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:37
  • 2
    @Yannis because every site has specific rules. For example, "We expect you to make some reasearch and try possible solutions instead just writing about them" seems OK on SO, but if someone asks on Workplace, a co-worker is annoying them so much they want to throw them through the window? :D Every site has other specific "minimal requirements" for the question, depending on the topic specifics. Jun 3, 2014 at 14:44
  • 7
    I think it would be easier to have one generalized message, and push all site specific details (including details about Meta voting) in a help center article (the link under "here" in enderland's example message). That article should be editable by moderators, for the reasons you mention.
    – yannis
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:48
  • 7
    Voting on meta sites does take into account the quality of questions. People that continually state otherwise are only confusing new users that much more. Agreement or disagreement with a proposal can be one additional factor, used in addition to all of the other traditional factors for a small fraction of meta posts that are actually making proposals. Saying that votes on meta are entirely different is even more unhelpful than saying nothing.
    – Servy
    Jun 3, 2014 at 15:42
  • @Servy it takes into account, but downvote can mean 'disagree' as well. It's quite misleading for some new users. Jun 3, 2014 at 20:09
  • Łukasz, see the official Voting is different on meta in the help, that nowadays explicitly states: On posts tagged feature-request, voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself.
    – Arjan
    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:24
  • @Servy but voting on meta IS different. Maybe you frequent meta sites with more experienced users, but on the meta sites I've used, TONS of new users suggest something to fix a problem or ask a question, get downvoted, and then are hopelessly confused. So regardless as to whether experienced users find it clear new users obviously don't. Voting on meta basically is "I agree" vs "I disagree."
    – enderland
    Jun 5, 2014 at 13:37
  • 1
    @enderland But that's just the problem. New users come to meta make a suggestion that everyone has seen 100x before, it's not well thought out, it doesn't analyze the effects of the change well (or at all), it clearly show no research into previous discussions of the topic, etc. People like you think and claim that the downvotes are entirely because people disagree with the proposal but in reality that is usually not the case; agreement is just one factor in how people tend to vote. When people like you claim that it's only disagreement people don't fix the actual quality issues.
    – Servy
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:07
  • 1
    @Servy you must frequent different meta's than I have. My guess is you primarily are involved with SO and previously Meta.SO and not other sites. It might be true on established meta's like this and perhaps Stack Overflow meta (which used to be part of this) but what you are suggesting is absolutely NOT the case for meta's on newer/less frequented sites. But meh, so much of "meta.stackexchange" is "what works for Stack Overflow" and not "what makes sense for the dozens of other sites" that it's an uphill battle everytime.
    – enderland
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:43
  • 1
    Sites other than StackOverflow do exist and have different needs. Unfortunately it seems most regulars of StackOverflow tend to forget this detail and generalize their experience with SO to every other site (most of which have considerably different dynamics).
    – enderland
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:44
  • 1
    @enderland I highly doubt that every aspect of voting is entirely ignored other than whether the voter agrees or disagrees with a proposal, if for no other reason than there are tons of posts on meta sites that aren't making proposals in the first place. But even if you are correct, you're proposing a change that would dramatically harm meta.SO, by claiming that no meta sites incorporate question quality into votes.
    – Servy
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:59

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