I have read through other questions/answers related to the downvote system and I must say, I feel this system needs revising. Sometimes a downvote is meant with good intentions.

Before I go any further, I would like to preface this suggestion a little bit. I personally try to suggest revisions or pose a question to the author in cases that might warrant a downvote. This gives the author a chance to either revise or defend their post; thus it gives both the author and myself an opportunity to learn something new. Overall, though, I try not to downvote authors unless their question/answer is completely absurd/unrelated; however, even in these situations, I still try to provide the author some feedback, tell them why I downvoted them, and wait to hear back from them. I believe it is only fair that the author knows my thoughts and can hear my reasoning if I am going to downvote them. This is what leads me to my suggestion.

I believe the downvote system should be revised in the following ways:

  • Downvotes should cost slightly more reputation. (Maybe 5 reputation points to cast a downvote.)
  • If you have downvoted a post, but you leave a comment on it, the cost of the downvote should be refunded.
  • If you have downvoted a post and you did not leave a comment on it, you should not be refunded the cost of the downvote.

To exemplify this, let's I have 100 reputation points. If I go and downvote a post without providing feedback (a comment), my reputation should drop to 95 points. However, if I provide feedback to explain why I downvoted that post, my reputation should be reinstated to 100 points.

This proposal has two main positive benefits to the Stack Exchange community: by offering users the option to explain their downvote without losing reputation, users will be more inclined to offer feedback/advice; and by increasing the cost of a downvote, users are less likely to downvote for reasons such as, "I don't like you," and, "I don't like your post, but I don't care to explain why." Thus this revision would promote educated and healthy comments which could help the author, the voter, and readers; all of this while still preventing downvote abuse.

On the topic of educated and healthy comments, I would love to hear yours.

Update: The following two prior suggestions are strongly related to this suggestion:

Thank you to hichris123 for bringing them to my attention in the comments.

  • A perfect example would be the downvote this suggestion just received. I would love to hear that voter's thoughts and opinions about this suggestion; why she/he does not believe it is a good idea; and what she/he might possibly recommend as a better idea (if anything).
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 1:57
  • 3
    People may be downvoting because of many similar ideas, such as Encouraging people to explain downvotes, Should the weight of downvotes be increased?, etc.
    – hichris123
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:03
  • @hichris123, thank you for those relevant links. They don't quite cover the exact suggestion I have proposed, but they are similar. If nothing else, this suggestion could be viewed as a combination of those two previously proposed ideas. If you do not mind, I am going to update my post to include them.
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:12
  • 6
    I don't like your post, but I don't care to explain why
    – PeterJ
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:13
  • 8
    You'll probably mostly end up with "Comment to get my 5 rep back" Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:29
  • @murgatroid99, I very well might, but I do not believe users should be penalized for casting an honest downvote, no matter how minute the penalty is as long as they are willing to explain themselves.
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:32
  • @bluet, thank you for the link to that possible duplicate. As for links shared by hichris123, I do not feel like either of those links fully cover what I am trying to convey in this suggestion. However, all links which have been shared in the comments are similar to this suggestion (some more so than others).
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 3:15
  • 1
    I downvoted because...
    – user273376
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 7:37
  • 1
    Any barriers thrown in the way of an activity will naturally hamper that activity. Voting would be skewed in an upwards direction unless this same barrier was applied to upvotes as well. In which case, voting in general would just happen less. So, I'm afraid I most certainly do not support this request.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 15:42

2 Answers 2



As has been mentioned before, when other people have raised this sort of idea, you're going to get...

  1. Nonsense comments
  2. For people who don't post nonsense, you'll get a lot of repeated comments. (How many ways can someone leave a comment on your question here of "-1 No, we have had suggestions like this before and we don't like them"?)
  3. People not downvoting

The last is most troubling, as it will leave "broken windows" lying around. The other two will just add noise, weakening Stack Exchange's strong signal-to-noise ratio.

Yes, it can be frustrating to receive a downvote for no apparent reason. And, good on you for desiring feedback in order to improve. Forcing people to leave "justifications" for their downvotes, whether as a mandatory action or with their precious internet points, just won't work here.

  • I agree that case 2 could occur and case 1 might occur as well (though those would likely be flagged as spam). As for number 3, I disagree on that. I believe it could encourage honest downvoting because users need not fear losing reputation as long as they provide constructive criticism.
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:48
  • So, you're going to make me justify every downvote on a poorly researched, barely coherent, piece of junk post I come across? No thanks. I don't think Stack Overflow would have gotten very far if that had been the scenario from the beginning.
    – ale
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 2:53
  • With this suggested revision, nobody would have to justify a downvote. It would merely be an option (just like it is now), but there would be incentive to explain oneself.
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 3:06

Nothing - nothing - will ever make folks happy with downvotes. Not explanations, not more expensive votes, not elaborate systems to retract unexplained votes nor meta-voting systems to validate them.

No one likes being told they're wrong. It's a little bit easier to swallow when you can pin the blame on someone else, explain away the sting by telling yourself - and everyone else - that the person saying you're wrong is wrong... But it's still gonna sting a bit.

The truth is, most downvotes are explained. Not necessarily blatantly - savvy voters know better than to lead their explanations with "I AM DOWNVOTING YOU", and not everyone who explains why something is wrong is voting - but by and large, the information is available.

What's not available is a way for votees to assuage their hurt feelings. Except by taking on the difficult task of reflecting on their own work and making corrections. And there'll always, always be plenty of folks unwilling to do that.

  • This is true and it's quite a discouraging fact that many people refuse to see to take the time to reflect on their work and make corrections. The point is not to lessen the sting of being downvoted, though. The point is to encourage collaboration and to encourage people to share reasons as to why the answer/question is wrong. By encouraging voters to explain the reason for their distaste, it can help the author better understand what to reflect on, what to correct, and what they can improve on in the future.
    – Spencer D
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 3:01

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