I am a member of many SE sites, and I have limited mod powers on some of them. It seems as though every negative action taken by a mod (vote to close, etc.) must be justified. Why then can any random user^ unaccountably downvote any question or answer?

Encouraging people to explain downvotes

I think downvotes should be explained, and bad downvotes should themselves be downvoted into oblivion, or good ones upvoted to show consensus. Otherwise it's difficult or impossible for the OP to know what to improve unless someone also posts a comment, which is rare. Having a few defaults (such as with vote to close) gets around the problem of people just typing "dfkjjf" into a comment box.

That said, is downvoting the only negative unaccountable feature? If so, why?

^ with 125 reputation or more

  • 2
    Wait...you want to vote on votes?
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 4:02
  • You could call flagging "negative"... and that's mostly anonymous...
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 4:33
  • 1
    Why then can any random user anonymously downvote any question or answer? - Um... they can't. Only users with sufficient rep can vote on questions.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 4:34
  • 3
    I only downvote when I think it has a positive impact on a site so I would call it a predominantly positive anonymous feature.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:07
  • @PolyGeo Great! But what about all the other users who don't?
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:11
  • I think those other users are in the minority so I guess I'm challenging your premise that downvoting is a negative feature. I agree with it being anonymous.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 8:38
  • 1
    Only if you can vote on upvotes, too, so bad upvotes can be downvoted into oblivion.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 23:26

1 Answer 1


Voting is the only anonymous feature. Well, the only anonymous way of interacting with other users. There are limits to how much data is exposed for some other things, but rarely if ever is it truly private if it affects someone else.

But voting - up and down - is kept private.

Why? Because the social aspect of voting is secondary to the need to rate the posts themselves. People come and go; they post stuff, vote, read, chat, and leave. But the posts remain; chances are, you've benefited from questions and answers that were written by people long gone, perhaps no longer even still alive. And voting is the collaborative action that builds the scores which guide you to useful information, that separate the signal from the noise. Eventually it no longer matters who cast which vote, which twenty people voted up or which ten voted down... All that matters is that among those who stepped up to vote, more found the post useful than found it lacking, and the net total score is greater than the next post. In this context, the identities of the voters are themselves noise, a distraction from what matters.

...and there are also a ton of social reasons why voting needs to be private, ranging from voter intimidation and tit-for-tat voting, to the way folks react to anything negative that they can pin a name to. These are hardly limited to online Q&A sites though.

  • Hmm, I guess "anonymous" was the wrong word. I meant more like "without needing to justify/explain it". Downvoting has both attributes and I only have a problem with the last one. If downvoting reasons were applied they could be anonymised. I think having this feature would improve the quality of the site.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:10
  • You can't get blood from a turnip. Anyone who wants to leave an explanation can do so now. Also, there are more pressing issues...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:22
  • 1
    @CoolFool So... you really want to force people to give reasons for their DVs... which makes this entire question a ruse because it's really just a dupe of the question you've linked in this question. I don't think anyone wants to continue explaining that forcing users to explain DVs is not a good idea.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:29
  • @Catija Let's say I write an answer with 10 points. If it gets an upvote you can safely assume that the voter agrees with all 10 points. If it gets a downvote which point or points were considered bad? Maybe deleting just one of the points turns a bad answer into a good answer? But we'll never know because the none of the downvoters left a reason.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:32
  • @CoolFool Doesn't matter. And this isn't the place to discuss it because that's not, on the surface, what this question is about. If you want to discuss it, use one of the many existing questions.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 5:43
  • You didn't answer my question. It was about being accountable, not being anonymous.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 7:20
  • @CoolFool and the difference is... ? We can replace the word "anonymous" with "unaccountable" if you really insist on the wording but the answer is exactly the same. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 14:24
  • @ShadowWizard Really? Replace "anonymous" and "private" with "unaccountable", and "identities" with "accountability" and see if the answer reads the same, or even if it makes sense.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 14:33
  • I'm starting to lose confidence that this was a sincere question.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 19:09

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