Note: this proposal is the similar to a low-voted response to Encouraging people to explain downvotes, added (by someone else) after the question was resolved.

The problem: downvotes without comments are annoying to responders, and ultimately do not provide any value to the poster or the SO community as a whole. Unless a response goes negative, there is no indication that the answer may be incorrect, and the responder does not learn why he/she is incorrect.

However, members of the SO community do not wish to fear retaliation for their downvotes, so do not want to be forced to provide a comment that explains their vote. Looking at other questions where this issue has been raised, it also appears that some people simply don't want to bother giving a reason for their downvote (although this attitude doesn't seem very community-oriented).

I propose that clicking the downvote arrow will require that the user enter a comment, then attaches that comment to the response/question without a username (or, if the DB schema requires a user, with a dummy username).

Yes, it's possible to game the system by typing "asdasdasdasdasd" (I think that's 15 characters). However, doing so will make clear to the downvoter that s/he is a borderline sociopath. More important, will signal to the responser -- and the community as a whole -- that the downvote was given without a lot of thought, and is therefore suspect.

  • And in case anyone is wondering, yes, this is due to a drive-by downvote: to a question that I answered 6 months ago, was the only answer, and which was accepted by the OP after multiple upvotes. I noted in the question that I was applying knowledge from one area to another, so it was quite possible that I was incorrect, and would have been happy to learn why. (interestingly, the same question received an upvote less than a week later, after months of inactivity).
    – kdgregory
    Nov 29, 2009 at 13:31
  • 3
    I wonder how many times people is gonna propose this... I only wonder...
    – juan
    Nov 29, 2009 at 14:22
  • 4
    @kdgregory: I hate to say it, but you have to be thicker-skinned. Yes, it'd be nice to know why people downvoted, but even in an anonymous comment people will just game it, and at the end of the day, voters should not have to justify their decisions one way or the other. Plus this is a dupe.
    – John Rudy
    Nov 29, 2009 at 14:44
  • Sure, it's annoying when someone down-votes me out of the blue with no explanation. OTOH, I don't particularly want forced explanations for down-votes... Nor do I wish to leave redundant comments when down-voting a post for reasons already well-described by another user. Is a minor annoyance worth encouraging noise on the site? I don't think so.
    – Shog9
    Nov 29, 2009 at 17:59

4 Answers 4


I would love... something.

Sometimes when I am dealing with something out of my league, but similar to what I have done before, I give an educated guess (and state that). If I get voted down because it does not work, I am happy to get voted down - and I will either edit or delete my answer.

However, I get very angry (even though I try not to!) when I see -2 on something that is correct or for what I see as no good reason. I always just think it is tactical or someone has a grudge against me... I would love for the person to have to write why they are doing it.

That being said, I don't really think that forcing anonymous comments will stop this as people will just write things like "<15 characters>"... The good people already write -1 along with a reason why - and I respect them for it.

  • 1
    and out of nowhere, I get a -1! I can only guess it is tactical... Nov 30, 2009 at 0:01

You could just show a message box instead, recommending that people justify the down vote.

This would be the same as reminding people to accept an answer when they do the first upvote of an answer on their question.

Since that functionality is already implemented in one place, it should be easy to implement here.


First, I don't think I should be required to justify my decisions to the world. Second, you can't force someone to type a meaninful comment, even if you force them to type a comment.

If I'm required to enter an anonymous comment I'll just type "this is an anonymous comment" or something.

  • 1
    It's not about forcing anyone to do something. It's a simple nudge. Useless comments are cleaned-up so it's okay to type in anything just because. At least you tried. Nov 3, 2011 at 19:20
  • This isn't about the answerers it's about helping the OPs improve their questions.
    – empty
    Oct 13, 2014 at 15:59

Require? Not a good idea.

Optional? Maybe! Very open to abuse, though, wheras the current system isn't, really. Worst that can happen is you get one or two revenge downvotes, any more and skynet SO will catch them.

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