Say a person has a spouse, they have children, and that person also has a boss at work.

At work, the boss gives them a look which that tells that person that perhaps the boss is displeased with him. The boss never verbalizes.

Same thing at home, the spouse at home gives them silent treatment and the person in turn gives a sharp look at his children and they feel the messed up but the parent hasn't verbalized.

In all of our interaction experiences we seek the verbalization, the articulation, the reason for that look or treatment.

In the hospitality industry as well, a guest when they leave feedback after their stay, can check say everything in the room not in working order to checking that and adding their toilet was running the whole night or their shower had inadequate pressure, etc. It is plain which type of feedback is more useful.

The question

The question is what makes the decision makers on StackExchange believe that feedback of downvotes with no comments is useful on StackExchange when that is at odds with everyday interactive experience? The users here are the same people out there, who appreciate feedback verbalized or articulated or with reason given.

cf. Incentivizing people to leave a comment with downvote by 1) assigning different values for w or w/o comments or 2) allowing anonymous comments [duplicate] and Need help understanding what is the official response to some feature requests.


The effect this has had on me

On ChristianityStackExchange, I have stopped asking questions. I wonder how many others eventually give up asking or answering questions.

That's the cost in the Cost-Benefit analysis for the decision makers to consider.

  • 3
    Funny you should mention the hospitality industry... There are folks like this posting questions too. – Shog9 Aug 11 '14 at 19:58
  • Did you, perhaps, look at the other multitude of questions with people complaining about downvotes without an accompanying comment? This has come up quite often. – Fish Below the Ice Aug 11 '14 at 20:01
  • Glad we are having a discussion. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:03
  • @FishBelowtheIce look at the other multitude of questions with people complaining about downvotes without an accompanying comment? This has come up quite often. Then your statement proves me right, people out there behave the same as people here. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:13
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    @FMShyanguya And way more people respond indicating that they feel that requiring downvotes when commenting would be a very, very bad idea, that it would cause way, way more problems than it would solve, and that downvotes without comments can be useful. The fact that there isn't unanimous support for downvotes without comments doesn't mean that requiring comments is a good idea. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:17
  • @Shog9 slight difference and I am hoping you do not misdirect my question. Mine is not complaining about receiving bad reviews. Mine is receiving no meaningful review either to the poster or to the future reader, who if dumb enough not to read the post for themselves, moves along because they have been conditioned by this site to move alone when they see a downvoted post. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:19
  • @Servy this post had 535 upvotes and this post 51 upvotes not counting the answers in favor. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:27
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    @FMShyanguya And that is very valuable. People looking for good answers shouldn't have to look through every single bad answer, they should be directed immediately to the very best answers, only looking elsewhere if they have some compelling reason to. People looking for questions to answer should be directed to quality interesting questions, not crap that they don't want to see, unless they make the decision to do so. The ability to not have to read everything on the site because the content is rated is hugely valuable. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:30
  • @FMShyanguya Yes, and that proposal is proposing something radically different from what you are referring to. You're asserting that downvotes without comments aren't useful at all, that post is asserting that downvotes with comments are better than downvotes without comments. Those are radically different statements. You also need to take dates into consideration. The site, the community, and our understanding of the effects of the site's features have all changed quite a lot over the years. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:32
  • @Servy Thank you and I appreciate you engaging with me and having the honesty to agree where we agree and to disagree respectfully. If you get a chance please look at my answers and questions on ChritianityExchange. I have really tried to contribute and make a difference. The downvotes are grating. The mods looked at it and to them there isn't any evidence of targeting but it sure is very annoying. PS I believe I used the words meaningful feedback like the spouse's silent treatment told you something now you have to figure out what they told you. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:35
  • @Servy Please click on the links in the question. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:41
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    @FMShyanguya Looking over your recent history I see a very large percentage of posts of yours that have downvotes having comments indicating problems that likely are the reason for downvoting. To those that didn't get comments, I couldn't possibly say whether or not those posts actually are particularly useful or not useful, as it's well out of my area of expertise. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:42
  • @Servy this should be clear. Please see comments. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 21:01
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    @FMShyanguya And it has a high score, which reflects the fact that the community feels that it is the best answer to that question. Clearly the system works. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 21:03
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    @FMShyanguya Votes are only meaningful in the aggregate. It's a crowd sourced statistic—no one vote is meaningful without the rest. 1 downvote on a post with 12 upvotes (as of this writing) is clearly not an indication of a problem with the post that requires other feedback. It's water under the bridge; the system is working as it should. The community has ranked the answers to that question according to relative perceived merit. That is a success story not an indication of a problem. If you add friction to the mechanism by which that happens the sorting would cease to be as meaningful. – Caleb Aug 12 '14 at 9:03

The primary goal of downvotes is not to inform the author about the quality of the post. That is a secondary goal.

The primary goal of downvotes is to inform all future readers of the post as to the quality of that post. People looking at questions on a question list can easily see what questions might be interesting and worth answering and which are not worth their time to look into. People looking for answers to their question can easily see which answers have been vetted by the community to be correct and quality answers to the question and which are not.

If someone wishes to provide feedback to the post author as to how to improve their posts the intended mechanism is to use comments. The primary purpose of comments is to assist the author of the post in improving it, often this is done by explaining what specific problems it might have.

These two types of feedback are orthogonal. Someone may want to provide feedback to other readers and not to the post author, or to the post author without providing feedback intended to future readers. If someone wants to do both, more power to them.

  • my question remains unanswered. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:00
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    @FMShyanguya I'm refuting the premise of your question. The people that are providing feedback to the post author are doing so through comments, not downvotes, and this medium has none of the problems that you've mentioned. The feature that wasn't designed to do what you want done, unsurprisingly, doesn't do what you want done, and the feature that was designed to do what you want done does exactly what you want, extremely effectively. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:03
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    @FMShyanguya If we pick out the question in the body of your post, rather than the title, "what makes the decision makers on StackExchange believe that feedback of downvotes with no comments is useful on StackEchange", I'd say that this answer answers that rather clearly. It's useful in that it provides feedback to everyone other than the author about the quality of the post. People searching for an answer don't need to know why an answer is bad, they just need to know which answers are good. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:05
  • In your everyday interaction, you or the people you know, if they are told this hotel is good, you or they choose it without knowing why it is good? – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:10
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    @FMShyanguya That information is absolutely useful. Do you want to read through a few thousand (or more) reviews of every hotel you could possibly stay at, evaluate what each person thought, how valid their opinion is, and try to aggregate all of that into some metric, or do you want to see an average numeric rating of several thousand reviews? Sure, the former would be great if everyone had an infinite amount of time to write/read reviews, sadly, humans are mortal, and time is valuable. It's far more valuable to simply see what the few highest rated hotels are, and ignore the rest. – Servy Aug 11 '14 at 20:13
  • Glad there is convergence. – FMS Aug 11 '14 at 20:16
  • This is roughly the same answer I provided over on C.SE in regard to this issue. @FMShyanguya I think this distinction between types and targets for feedback is an important part of the puzzle and in order to understand and effectively use the SE system you'll need to work through the various implications raised by this dichotomy. – Caleb Aug 12 '14 at 7:53
  • @Caleb I believe I am developing the picture. Thank you! – FMS Aug 13 '14 at 19:25

Using your point of view one could argue that not only should down-votes require some form of commenting, but up-votes as well. That is, why should down-votes necessarily be favoured for such required response and up-votes not? It is, however, impractical to require voting to always be accompanied by a comment, since it would make one of them moot.

Fundamentally voting should be anonymous, and requiring feedback removes this anonymity. Period.

  • everyday interaction should answer your question. A friendly welcoming visage e.g. with a smile usually do not require the person receiving them to want an explanation. Please note that all proposals e.g. suggesting anonymous vote + anonymous have been rejected. This is just unreasonable intransigence and illogical given known human behavior. – FMS Aug 12 '14 at 5:11
  • @FMShyanguya: StackExchange doesn't necessarily (have to) mimic real life. – Werner Aug 12 '14 at 5:18
  • And you are right only pointing out at least to me, what I perceive as an illogical position. Thank you for your very respectful dialogue. – FMS Aug 12 '14 at 5:39
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    @FMShyanguya The logic behind these positions has been well explained, in detail, hundreds of times. You are the one who has failed to provide compelling evidence that your proposal would be beneficial, making your unsupported proposal the illogical one. – Servy Aug 12 '14 at 13:53

You're under the wrong impression of what and how downvotes work. Using your analogies:

At work, the boss gives them a look which that tells that person that perhaps the boss is displeased with him. The boss never verbalizes.

The boss isn't giving you a dirty look. He's giving your work a dirty look. And by doing so, he's sending a message to anyone else who looks at your work that it is lacking. This is so that others can save time by not looking at your work, or use it as an example of what not to do.

the spouse at home gives them silent treatment

Obviously, if they're your spouse, they still love you. You've just done something to displease them. It's not a critique of you, but your actions.

This is the foundation upon which the entire StackExchange network is built. Content is king, and judgement is passed on the content. Not the person posting it.

What you're doing is go raging into your boss' office, demanding to know why he's been criticizing you without any feedback. He'll shut you down pretty quickly, though, as you're taking feedback about your work as feedback about you, personally.

I don't think I can stretch your analogies any further before they break down. Suffice it to say: votes are on content. Demanding feedback for said votes means less of them will happen, as quite often, people can't be bothered, and is a lost cause to demand such.

  • I see and understand your approach. You are wrong to assume that I am taking it personally. How do I fix my product ant work and my actions at home if my boss and my spouse never verbalize or articulate them? That's why at work there are performance evaluations. You also failed to answer the hospitality example I gave. – FMS Aug 13 '14 at 18:46
  • cf. this comment in this question FMShyanguya oh I'm not complaining about rep; that doesn't matter to me and, yes, there are upvotes. I just wanted to know if I'd, say, made a poor choice of terminology or something to cause upset. But yeah, I've been on Stack Exchange long enough to know that sometimes votes are just random. – Monica Cellio – FMS Aug 13 '14 at 18:51
  • What's more important than fixing your work is ensuring people understand it is bad. That comes first, before fixing it. Very often, leaving a reason incites the poster to argue or downvote the commenter. When you give someone who feels hurt a target, whether they should feel hurt or not, they lash out. The problem isn't in requiring comments. It's in educating new users that they are not being judged personally. – fbueckert Aug 13 '14 at 20:58
  • Points well made. Thank you. But even this Require a comment explaining the reason for the first downvote on a question is a no-go even when the comment sought is anonymous. – FMS Aug 13 '14 at 21:02
  • Because then all you get is comments like "aslkdfa;lkjdflasjdf". You still believe that downvotes mean something can be improved. Quite often, it could be downvoted because it's straight up wrong. Not everything can be improved, nor should be. Anything that puts a barrier in the way of downvoters is a bad idea, as it means less voting will happen, and that's more important. – fbueckert Aug 13 '14 at 21:05
  • Thanks. I am beginning to see the overall picture on this, the pros and cons on both sides. Obviously I do not presume to possess the answer. Thank you very much for the professional interchange. Just thought of something, perhaps a pop-up that encourages the poster not to get discouraged and points them to links to 'what is a good question'? – FMS Aug 13 '14 at 21:12

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