I've read the posts having to do with comments and down-votes on ANSWERS.

My concern has to do with anonymous down-voting on questions. A number of times I've seen questions from newbies downvoted because the question wasn't phrased in a totally obvious manner. In one case the downvote occurred after the OP had clarified the question. Yes, maybe the question was a little unclear, but it was an honest attempt by somebody struggling with new concepts to pose a real, meaningful question. It was most definitely NOT "send me teh codez".

What do you think about requiring that the down-voter possess a certain level of rep before being able to downvote questions without also leaving a coment? IMHO this would be the same level that gives you edit rights. Below that, a downvote requires a comment explaining why.

  • Uh oh! I don't see a comment to go with that downvote (it wasn't me btw). ;) Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:54
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    Perhaps it was you and you are lying... we'll never know, will we?
    – juan
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:56
  • 1
    I'll know... 5 months before it happens. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:59
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    – LukLed
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:00
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    How should I interpret the seven uncommented downvotes? I understand that people disagree with my suggestion, but how does that make it a question deserving downvotes? I was asking a simple question about solving a problem that impacts new users the most, possibly causing them to leave and never come back. I seem to recall a thread called "Can't we be nicer to newbies?". This is supposed to be a Bazaar, but from the looks of it it's turning into the Cathedral where if you don't toe the party line you get shot down.
    – Ex Umbris
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 23:01
  • I gave the first downvote. Sorry, just wanted to get Critic badge:)) When I saw your post, I just couldn't stop myself:)) As long as you don't edit your message, I can't take it back. But believe me, the rest -6 is not mine. On the other side, I already got badge for first upvote, so again sorry...
    – LukLed
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 23:56
  • @jhg: "How should I interpret the seven uncommented downvotes?" You should interpret them as "Hey, this guy wants to force people to leave comments when they downvote... wouldn't it be funny if I downvoted him without leaving a comment?" Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 0:16
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    (But also, on Meta a downvote on a suggestion often simply means "I disagree with this suggestion.") Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 0:27
  • @RichieHindle - That doesn't speak highly of the maturity level here...
    – Ex Umbris
    Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 1:14
  • @jhg: The FAQ's advice to "Bring your sense of humor" counts double on Meta. Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 9:11

4 Answers 4


Generally I'll comment or edit rather than downvote. I typically only downvote when something is actively wrong, not just badly worded or incomplete. I have two problems with your suggestion, though.

First, why should rep allow you to hide your identity when downvoting? If you are going to require a comment for a downvote it ought to apply to everyone. Second, before you require commenting for downvotes, you'll first have resolve the problem of retaliatory voting. On a couple of different occasions when I've downvoted and left a comment, I've seen a number of my questions/answers get downvoted within minutes. Until you get this one solved, I think most people will be reluctant to give up anonymity of votes.

Updated: I realize that there is some fraud protection, but it only catches egregious patterns. Some amount of downvoting would certainly bypass the filter.

  • I've never been a victim of retaliatory downvoting, but there is a nightly script to detect voting fraud like that. It shouldn't be a huge issue, at least not for too long. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:45
  • Does it detect one vote per sock puppet?
    – tvanfosson
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:48
  • I don't know if it detects sock puppets. I've never really known who was a sock puppet anyway. If people have millions of sock puppets I haven't seen them, and that's odd because they'd all need at least 100 rep for downvoting (and they'd need to maintain that 100 rep because they'd slowly lose it from downvoting). But I suppose the SO team should do this, even if they don't. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:10
  • +1 for the "typically only downvote when something is actively wrong."
    – Matt Davis
    Commented Dec 15, 2009 at 23:36


See why forcing comments will never work?

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    Yes, but even that would force the down-voter to reveal their identity. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:34
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    @keithjgrant - What good would that do? Enable people to go out and perform vigilante downvotes, costing them even more rep and getting undone up by the nightly fraud script? Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:38
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    You stole my answer
    – juan
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:47
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    Actually, if you only force the comment and don't somehow indicate it came from a downvote the perfect comment is "+1 Why would anyone downvote this?"
    – tvanfosson
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:26
  • @Changing my Meta Name - I'm not sure, but that seems to be part of what the original question was getting at. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:55
  • Another way to game forcing comments: Leave a disingenuous comment like, "Who the heck would even downvote THIS? It's an awesome answer!" I'll bet the majority of users would never associate that comment as the requisite downvote comment ...
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 21:40
  • I demand whoever downvoted this explain themselves
    – bananakata
    Commented Nov 19, 2009 at 19:41
  • It could work ... there is a mechanism for flagging commend unconstructive, so this can be used to filter out these nonsense comments.
    – gorn
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 21:33

This smells like a dupe -- but it does have a minor variation, so I'm keeping my close question trigger finger safely under control.

In addition to the reasons others have mentioned (like retaliatory downvotes -- and, BTW, Jon Skeet got a serial downvoter just today), there's another aspect to this. You ask:

What do you think about requiring that the down-voter possess a certain level of rep before being able to downvote questions without also leaving a coment?

You go on to suggest it should be the edit rights boundary. We already have a minimum rep before you can downvote at all; admittedly a low one (100 rep). Why should people with under 2,000 rep have to explain or even just reveal their votes, potentially subjecting them to retaliatory strikes? They have the right to their opinion, too. Under this scenario, if I downvote something on SU or SF, I have to explain myself. Why? Is my opinion inherently invalid because Arbitrary Numbering System says so?

We might disagree with it, but if you do, you have the power to right the wrong: Click the upvote button if you really think the downvoted post was right, correct and useful. (Or in the case of a question, useful, interesting or otherwise upvote worthy.)

However, please don't "sympathy" upvote, where you upvote the post just because it got a downvote. Upvotes outweight downvotes by (currently) a factor of 5 -- there's simply no reason to sympathy upvote. Ever. Upvote because you feel it truly deserves it, regardless of its current score.

Anyway, many of us on Meta would argue that there's not enough downvoting. You think I take every one of my downvotes personally? Lord, no; I'd be too busy crying over my arbitrary number to do anything worthwhile (on the sites or in my life)!

  • +1+1+1 "please don't sympathy upvote"
    – Troggy
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:37
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    All votes are ultimately sympathetic or suppressive. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:20

As annakata so succinctly pointed out, forcing anything never works. You know that 15 character limit on comments that SO enforces? How many comments have you seen like this:

Thanks //charlimit

If people want to explain themselves, they'll explain themselves. If people are being irrational, they won't explain themselves, and nothing you do can force them to.

  • I don't need to explain myself for example
    – juan
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 19:57
  • I think all downvotes realistically require an example. Someone posted the content and didn't understand why it was bad, therefore any downvote will seem unjustified. A downvote and a rational explanation of why it was given may very well convince a user of the error of their ways. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 20:08
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    @Ch-ch-ch-changes: I agree that often a comment on downvote is useful, but I would never want it to be required. I used to comment on downvotes, but now it's more rare. Oftentimes, someone else has already written the comment which explains why I downvoted. Why should I contribute to the noise?
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 21:44
  • @Cigars - I agree, but Juan said "I don't need to explain myself," not "my position has already been explained." One does not imply the other. I try to either comment or upvote another comment (sometimes both) whenever I downvote, but I'd never require this. Just say that it's almost always merited. Also, Bowie is awesome. Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 22:00
  • @Meta-meta: (I'm gonna keep doing that BTW) I wasn't 100% aware you were responding to @Juan; I was responding to you in a vacuum. A space oddity, as it were ... :) Sorry, that's getting bad. Anyway, yes, an explanation is often warranted, but I like it if someone else already did the dirty work. :)
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 22:24

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