Occasionally I get a downvote. Just a downvote. No comments, or other type of feedback whatsoever... and i think that it is frustrating. I mean, i like my points, i dont have many, so i cherish every-single-one.

So, i would like to pitch a idea i'm calling "WHY" (its not a acronym...).
The whole thing would work like this:

  • If you get a downvote (on a question, or answer) you would be able to call out why
  • the person who downvoted would receive a email/notification and be prompted to explain "why" of the downvote
  • in a given amount of time (something like 24h) this person would go back to the "downvoted" item and
  • either comment, explaning why of the downvote or
  • the points would be "returned" to the "poster" as if the downvote had never occured, BUT the "downvoter" would not get his points back!

I think this is viable and interesiting idea because it would drive feedback to new and old guys, and possibly increasing posts overall quality!

  • 7
    Requiring users to explain their downvotes has been proposed approximately a million times. It's not going to happen.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2014 at 20:30
  • 7
    I downvoted you because I like apple crumble.
    – JonK
    Sep 24, 2014 at 20:30
  • 7
    No one ever demands explanations for up votes...in truth I just throw random words on the page, it'd be nice if someone confirmed that they were up voting because they tried the answer and verified that it somehow actually worked.
    – Tim Stone
    Sep 24, 2014 at 20:41
  • Why a bird? Because its one leg is just as long. Sep 24, 2014 at 20:42
  • 3
    I downvoted you because I disagree with you and more importantly because the word NEW in your title could not be more wrong. Until you've read all the other suggestions on this matter, you are unlikely to understand why everyone is disagreeing with you so much. This idea is not new and no-one has ever come up with an idea that would actually work (since I can type whatever i like for a reason.) What's more, anything that might reduce downvotes is bad because downvotes are VITAL to help people know whether answers are good or not. Systems with upvotes only have lower quality than us. Sep 24, 2014 at 21:17
  • 1
    – user1228
    Sep 25, 2014 at 14:39

3 Answers 3


Refunding the cost of a downvote if you explain why you downvoted sounds like a good idea, until you realize that you can put any explanation you want in there.

I downvoted your post because I like turtles.

Game over. Play again?

  • ... or even any comment at all. The system can't tell. Sep 25, 2014 at 1:36

I think there's a great implied goal here:

Let new users who want to improve convey that they're open to constructive feedback.

If my only concern was implementation...

I'd suggest something less ambigious than "Why?" which can be read as, "Why the F did you downvote me?" (It's actually hard to come up with a question starting with "why" that sounds more like "how can I improve" than "defend your downvote". I think something like "How can I improve?" would better capture the spirit of what I think you're going for.

But there's a bigger problem: Downvotes are important.

  • For answers in particular, they're invaluable for ordering the best ones.
  • And they matter a lot in questions to signal quality. (Which will be increasingly important as we roll out new features to better highlight the most useful questions.)

I agree with you 100% that a best practice for downvoting is to share how the poster can improve.

But a system where down-voting implies you may be asked to defend your vote, will likely drive more bad outcomes than good, I fear:

  • Some people may just not down-vote at all, to avoid the hassle.
  • Or worse, they'll resent the challenge, and reply with mean or sarcastic explanations.

Again, I'd encourage down-voters to share constructive feedback, but a downvote without a comment (on a post that needs it - a wrong answer is a simple example) is way better than no downvote at all.

  • 2
    Also keep in mind that there are plenty of subject experts who are knowledgeable enough to understand that an answer is incorrect, but don't know how to or are unwilling to spend the effort to try to be as diplomatic as is necessary to actually comment as to the reason why. Most users respond to a comment explaining the reason for a downvote defensively, rather than by attempting to improve. Dealing with all of those people is very hard, and is a lot of work. Trying to hard to convince people to comment when downvoting could just end up causing a lot more comment fights.
    – Servy
    Sep 24, 2014 at 20:47
  • If you get a downvote (on a question, or answer) you would be able to call out why
  • the person who downvoted would receive a email/notification

Per my observations, system already works that way. I receive notifications whenever author of the post which I was first to vote down posts a comment. Fair enough?

  • Is this documented somewhere? I never saw such a notification, and with my rate of downvotes I ought to have seen it by now.
    – user259867
    Sep 30, 2014 at 3:08
  • @CareBear I couldn't find it documented. I was going to ask a question about this, but need to find evidence, which turned out difficult, because most of my downvotes go with comments, and I am notified per this feature
    – gnat
    Sep 30, 2014 at 3:57

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