We have seen a lot of discussion around explaining downvotes over the years, and not all were well received. We even got to a point that we now have a separate question about why these topics are ill received.
With the release of the articles feature on Stack Overflow Teams I saw an opportunity to raise this topic once again. But this time with a suggestion on how we could implement feedback on downvotes while remaining anonymous.
In the new articles feature there is a way to provide feedback to the post owner directly and privately. As was demonstrated by this screenshot I took from the blogpost:
With a few adaptions I think we could easily repurpose this into a feature to give feedback when downvoting. (I am explicitly NOT saying that this should be obligatory!)
How could we do that you ask?
make it so that the default user who sends the feedback is User -1, also known as Community♦. simply don't show your name to the post owner. As Catija pointed out in the comments, moderators need to be able to trace who provided the feedback in case anyone abuses the feature.
Optionally you could choose to have your name attached to the feedback you send.
Giving feedback in this way, without leaving a public comment, makes sure that you are not traceable as the poster of the feedback. Being traceable as a downvoter is currently the biggest downside of giving an explanation as why you downvote, as it opens you up to revenge downvoting.
So are we going to see this screen every time we downvote, making downvoting a two-click process?
I think that would be a really negative experience, as a lot of times you don't feel like leaving any feedback, especially here on Meta. On the other hand new users could really benefit from getting feedback on their first few posts. Hence I propose we make the feedback pop-up automatically when downvoting a post from a user with less then 100 reputation (the association bonus level). In this way we can, to a certain extent, remediate the unwelcoming feeling new users get when their posts are instantly downvoted without them knowing what is wrong with them. Of-course the dialog should come with a cancel button if you don't feel like leaving any feedback.
For posts from users with more then 100 reputation there should just be a button to open the dialog. It could be located right under the downvote arrow.
Will I need to type in the same reason every time I give feedback?
That would be a cumbersome thing to do, I suggest we take a couple of canned reasons. Perhaps we can simply repurpose some close reasons for this.
Together with a free-form text field this makes for a quick way to give meaningful feedback. Reading the answer by GhostCat and the comment from Catija I think it would be best to not implement a free-form text field, as this gives too much opportunity for abuse that is hard to catch.
With this anonymous way of providing feedback I think we can optimize the new-user experience without too much cost to veteran users.
As someone listed this question as a duplicate of the canonical question, that I referred above, I'll try to summarize how this is different from the arguments raised in the answer there.
- Downvotes are, first and foremost, a content rating system. Yes that is very true. The potential of this feature lies in the fact that feedback is anonymous, and thus easier to give.
- In the vast majority of cases, nothing needs to be clarified. If you feel that is the case just click the cancel button on the dialog. But with the downvote tooltip stating:
This question does not show any research effort, it is unclear or not useful
There is a lot of room for improvement. The message here is overly broad, and hidden in the tooltip. Who goes to downvote his own question to see this message? You don't want your mouse near that button on your own post. So wouldn't a message straight in your face be far superior in conveying the message?
Any requirement could be trivially circumvented Yes, I suggested to place a cancel button in the dialog, hardly possible to circumvent that when it is optional to use.
It may not feel that way to you at the moment, but downvoters are doing the site a service, and making voting more difficult would impede the site's most important quality-control tool. I couldn't agree more. My proposed feature would only create friction when voting on posts of users with <100 reputation. Minimizing the friction to where it is most needed, and where it has the greatest effect. Also such a dialog would be easy to circumvent with a userscript, or perhaps even a profile setting. In that way users that really don't want this don't have to have it in their faces, while the more casual users can provide the valuable feedback needed for new posters.
Scale. With canned reasons scale is not an issue here.
If downvoting is made more difficult, then upvoting would need to be made correspondingly more difficult. A dialog that opens after you downvote a post hardly makes it more difficult, even so when that dialog can easily be closed/cancelled.
Documentation on how to ask a good question is made easily available for those willing to read it. If everyone would read this we would have no poor questions, so obviously more people need this in their face.
**Leaving a comment accompanying a downvote can lead to negative consequences, like revenge downvoting and even off-site harassment. ** Hence the anonymous nature of this feature.
The other two arguments are other discussions I don't feel have a place here.