I don't know if people don't explain why they up or down vote because they don't care or because they don't want the person to know they voted on an answer (or question)... But, it might be nice to be able to leave a comment anonymously as to why it was voted. It could give us more insight as to people's thoughts on posts.

Really, I think this would come into play a lot more dealing with down votes more than up votes, but I could see it being beneficial in both situations.

See also an answer posted to encourage people to explain down-votes

  • 25
    If people didn't give bad answers there would be no downvotes. Maybe to fix the problem we should only allow good answers!
    – jjnguy
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:06
  • 18
    @Justin the trouble is, most "bad" answers are due to ignorance and it would help its author a lot if he was not only to know that his answer was bad, but also why so he can learn something, too Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 11:23
  • 25
    @jjnguy: The problem isn't with downvotes. The problem is with unexplained downvotes. It's easy to sit in the cheap seats and moan "this sucks". But if someone is going to randomly penalize someone, they should stand behind their opinion. Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 19:26
  • 11
    @Joel, I don't feel unexplained downvotes are a problem at all.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 19:36
  • How you will know that answer is "good"?
    – Ievgen
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 13:27
  • @jjnguy: I the bad thing of answer says. It can be edit! Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 21:03
  • 1
    @jjnguy: some people downvote questions, not just answers, and how on earth does one allow only good answers? That's the point of voting. Commented May 15, 2012 at 20:45
  • 1
    @JoelEtherton - I don't need them to stand and show their name if they dont want to. But I would really like that the "this is wrong" downvote would be something more. No need to post a whole answer that spans 100 pages. Just a little comment "This is wrong why "/"this can cause problems if" etc. So that if there is a mistake someone may discover it before it create problems to other.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 8:37
  • 1
    OR: You can lie and just say "I didn't downvote your answer, however, I think they are downvoting because of xyz." (If you don't like lying, you could post this first and then downvote.) Not that I have ever done that or anything.... =D [Smiles suspiciously] Just joking... I've never done that before. I guess it might be beneficial to just have a message with a link to "common reasons for downvoting" and have "incorrect spelling/grammar, not fit for our site" and so on. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 0:49
  • 5
    Meh, people need to suck up downvotes. I'm sick of the increasing pattern of people taking them personally (in some cases, extremely so). Life is not all about positive feedback. You posted a bad or incorrect answer... suck it up! Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 10:59
  • I've opened a detailed feature-request regarding explanations for downvotes, please see Revisiting Optional Explanations for Downvotes (on Questions).
    – user163250
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 0:13
  • 1
    I think that this problem is even more obvious with downwoting questions withou comment, because it is even more confusing what does the downvote means. If you downvote Answer, the possible explanation is that it is bad/wrong Answer. But how the question can be bad? It can violate some rules of the site, but it is seldom obvious which one is it especially for newbies. Also it is very different if the uncomented downvote comes as first and only reaction to your question or if there is a myriad of comments/other votes/answers before that. It makes a huge difference for novice.
    – gorn
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 21:40
  • @Kevin What was the resolution here?
    – FMS
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 0:58
  • 2
    @JeffAtwood What is the reason for status declined?
    – FMS
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 2:20
  • 5
    Wow, if you think abusive comments are a problem now, imagine what'll happen when they're not even signed. You'd at least want moderators to be able to see who left them. Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 14:27

8 Answers 8


Voting is meant to be anonymous. We -encourage- users to leave a comment (especially when downvoting) but do not force it upon anyone.

If you are nice enough to leave a comment on a downvote to explain yourself, there shouldn't be any reason for anonymity other than to protect yourself from revenge downvoting. I don't think this happens quite often enough to warrant anonymous comments (plus those can be definitely abused).

  • 37
    Actually, there is a psychological reason to allow anon posting. By forcing a person to leave a comment with their name attached they have to admit they are causing someone else distress (as little as it might be, it is still there) and ultimately acts as a deterrent to tell why the down vote was cast. This doesn't prevent them from down voting as that is still anon, it just prevents them from explaining why. It's a lose/lose situation for the poster. Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:01
  • 8
    @Kevin, while you are correct, I think that is a problem with the attitude that we should not be seeking to condone. Every person should be able to publicly stand by every downvote they've made.
    – devinb
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:07
  • 16
    But then why are down votes anonymous (I'm not saying you are wrong)? The current system still condones the behavior, but deters someone from explaining why. Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:09
  • 5
    There are three reasons not to leave a downvote: shame/fear of reprisal, laziness, obviousness. We can't fix laziness, we don't need to fix obviousness, and if people are ashamed of their comments, then they probably shouldn't be commenting at all.
    – devinb
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:23
  • 3
    So what might be done about fear of reprisal? Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 16:02
  • 6
    Anonymity is a complete cop-out. People who come to this site for answers aren't looking for reason in the crowd of the anonymous. I'd like to know that the source of an answer, or the source of disagreement for an answer, is at least reputable. Personally I think a person of integrity stands behind their opinion with their name. I'm sure if someone looked in the database, you wouldn't find a lot of anonymous downvotes from Jon Skeet. Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 19:24
  • Not leaving a downvote because it costs me a precious 1 of my own reputation to take 2 off some palooka?
    – CashCow
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 12:18
  • 12
    A reason for down-voting could be selected from a list. This would allow the response to remain anonymous, as only aggregated totals could be displayed, there would be feedback, so that the OP could improve his or her future postings, and selecting from a reason list is already done for post flagging.
    – Jim Fell
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 20:21
  • 18
    The site (and thus the general public) benefits if the poster who gets downvoted knows why they got downvoted and has an opportunity to learn from the downvote feedback. I've been downvoted on answers where I get many positive votes and even get selected as the preferred answer and I have no idea why someone downvoted. That isn't useful to anyone. Leaving feedback should be encouraged (in the UI) whereas it is NOT encouraged at all now. You just click the down arrow and you're done. There's no UI at all connected to a downvote operation that encourages you to leave feedback.
    – jfriend00
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 20:34
  • Maybe an anonymous private message to the poster would help people underrstand way the got downvoted. Commented Apr 22, 2012 at 19:51
  • what if it was anonymouse to regular users, but moderators could see who wrote the comment?
    – Ephraim
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 15:01
  • 3
    I know this problem is being discussed for a while now and that the request has been declined before. Still, I get some random donwvotes on question that would help a lot if they were explained. Maybe try to brainstorm with the Stack Exchange team a bit about the possibilities of clarification/feedback a user could get after a downvote.
    – gibertoni
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:33
  • I think allowing--even-requiring--anonymous comments on downvotes is important if we want to be welcoming community commited to improving our questions and answers. A downvote with no comment tells the OP nothing. A flag tells the OP more. Because it requires a reason of some sort.
    – empty
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 16:02
  • 1
    The other day I downvoted/close requested a question. I gave the user a comment why I did that. As a consequence, I saw 4 downvotes on questions of mine within minutes. The system didn't detect them as serial voting, and after flagging them, my flag is deemed "helpful" ... but the downvotes are still there. Great. I would very much prefer to give comments anonymously. In that sense: reverse downvotes do happen. And for the victim they are absolute motivation killers.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 6:58
  • Sending a private message to the poster might benefit the poster (if we even trust that comment to be constructive and accurate), but it does not help thousands of future researchers who will read the post. While learning a topic where I have no experience, if I read an answer that looks correct, but is negatively scored, I am left feeling the post is not trustworthy -- but I have no idea why it is wrong/bad. Commented Jun 3, 2023 at 12:19

This is all about feedback. If anyone posts a question or an answer that merits a downvote, it would be great to have some feedback as to why this was downvoted. As there is (justified) fear of retaliation, comments should be optionally anonymous. This way, the braver users can leave a comment with their name, while the rest of us can leave a comment without our name.

Also, consider standard, anonymous, downvote reasons. This would enable people to rapidly downvote and give feedback at the same time.

My 0,02€

  • 2
    Agree with you. The main problem is that if the question has low traffic (which means 1-2 vote if lucky - good answers may get 3) a single downvote will often give the impression that the answer hide some issue. Maybe this is true, but if all we got is the vote... you will never know.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 8:33

I suggested Provide (optional) anonymous reasoning field for down-votes which was closed as duplicate of this feature-request, but since I had a suggestion on how to give the option of an anonymous down-vote-comment I'm taking the liberty to copy-paste a bit:

Extending the "Please consider adding a comment..." reminder with a comment field bellow which allows to leave an anonymous comment reasoning the down-vote. This could help preventing revenge-down-votes and yet help the OP improving.

The field should be clarifying the optionality of this process, but as a motivation, half the down-vote-cost could be refunded as a reward. Or only half the down-vote loss for the OP is cast for unreasoned down-votes.

  • 4
    A downvote costs 1 reputation to cast! It's barely a penalty, and half of it is not only even less worth it, but also would involve retooling the whole system to support half-points. Likewise, halving the penalty to reputation in the absence of a reason is a similar logical disconnect to this earlier one. The penalty to reputation is because the user made a bad post, which is completely unrelated to whether the caster decided to explain the downvote (cont.)
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 11:49
  • 3
    We cast downvotes in order to mark bad posts, not users. Encouraging downvote behavior based on the reputation penalty to the user is entirely opposite that line of thought. If anything, that "motivation" makes the nicer folk less inclined to give reasons, and gives more reason for more malicious people to falsify their reasoning.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 11:53
  • @ccomet I guess you're right about the reward-part, your reasoning puts a "flag down-vote-comment as irregular"-system to my mind, resulting in way too much fuss about rep instead of good answers. That's why I said "could be refunded". So, what's your opinion concerning the optional comment field at least? Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 12:03
  • 1
    @Tobias Mechanically, I don't see an optional comment field helping too much. The majority of users who would care to use it are the same people who might explain their downvotes anyway (whether or not they explicitly state that they downvoted). There would be an increase in the number of explanations from users who are too shy to attribute their critiques, no matter how good-natured their statements may be. I can't comprehend why people want to be nameless saviors, so I only concern myself with the mechanical implications of this concept.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 12:12
  • 1
    @ccomet neither do I understand the shyness, but I certainly prefer anonymous (appropriate) comments on what's (not so obviously) wrong instead of a cricket chirping down-vote that will haunt me for the rest of my... say... three minutes... but anyway, even Jon Skeet wants to improve (see his comment here) Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 12:25
  • 1
    If I think I need to explain something, I have no qualms with attaching my name to it. That's it, quite plain and simple. There is nothing I would, or even could, say on any of the sites that I would not want attributed to my name.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 12:29
  • 1
    @ccomet if only everyone shared your point of view... but hey, the suggestion is about an optional comment, so if those kiddies have some useful critique and simply fear something like "the down-voted strikes back" (childish of both sites... who cares about rep anyway?), I prefer giving them the opportunity to "help" Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 12:40
  • 3
    @Tobias: Still need to break this mental association between voting and comments. Both can be used to provide feedback to an author, but neither are exclusively reserved for that purpose - and voting has a much more important function, that of communicating with other readers. Always consider that a down-vote may mean nothing more than, "I think this post is less useful than others" - a message which post-score is uniquely suited to communicate, and for which comments are almost entirely unsuitable.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 17:20
  • 1
    @Shog9 that's true, but still there should be at least one comment stating why the answer is bad if it is not so obvious Commented Jun 23, 2010 at 9:50
  • @tobias: Well, yes, they can be useful. But again, that's a separate matter from voting.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 23, 2010 at 14:33
  • 1
    I feel exactly as @Kevin has explained in a comment to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6521/… and given an option to explain my downvote anonymously I would use it. It is not that I am afraid of any revenge, I just do not want to be seen as the one doing "harm" to to posted (this is esp. when I have posted a competing answer).
    – Suma
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 8:43
  • 4
    @Suma: you only do harm by not downvoting when adequate. But if the reason for a downvote is not obvious it is also doing harm by not explaining to the OP what is wrong. Also sometimes asking first is better since it could be a misunderstanding / language barrier issue Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 10:02
  • You can convince me (reason), but I doubt you will change how I feel (emotion). If I had an option to provide downvote comments anonymously, I would do it more often (and I do not see what harm would such option do).
    – Suma
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 10:07
  • 1
    @Suma: I think you're not alone with that opinion, which is exactly why I support this request. Hm, time for another bounty then Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 11:33
  • @TobiasKienzler - That is my point. "This answer is bad" without any more word won't really help: nor the poster, that except of some evident case (that may require flagging) may not even understand what's wrong nor the viewer that may even don't know the vote was cast if the total is still positive. See my answer somewhere here. It is a little more direct that your, but know that I am totally in agree with you.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 9:38

A lot of this has been covered in answers/comments to these questions:

Encouraging people to explain downvotes

https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2263/require-comments-on-downvotes (10K only)

to name but two.


I absolutely agree - it would be of enormous value to allow for anonymous commenting.

Of course, the system should be designed to avoid mis-use, for example:

  • it should be restricted, for example to downvote actions
  • it should be a rather "high ranking" privilege (something in the 3K level for example)
  • misuse should be a "true felony" - meaning when your anonymous comment gets flagged, and a moderator agrees to the "misuse", the consequences should be significant

I have been the victim of revenge downvoting more than once, and sometimes that really gets to your motivation. And in cases where the culprit wasn't stupid enough to trigger the system to discover his actions, then you as the victim have to wait for a moderator to work your flag, to then wait for the community to restore your reputation. So this can keep you busy for days.

And obviously: revenge downvoting becomes much harder when the comment explaining the downvote is anonymous. And yes, good explanations can be extremely helpful for the person who gets downvoted!


Down voting without reason is worthless in many cases as the user may not understand what the problem is. Leaving a anonymous comment is beneficial to the SO community as it helps with the quality of questions in general.

Going further, perhaps a small floating UI control could be added, that would be required to be filled out by the down-voting user:

[ ] Not in Q&A format (1) *F*
[ ] Not applicable to this Q&A forum
[x] Unclear (3)
[ ] Other

How it would be used:

  1. Other would require an anonymous comment to be added, either to the comment list or to the UI control of the question in question. Maybe adding to the standard down-voting reasons would be allowed by users who have a rep above some value.
  2. Counters at the end of the standard reasons would indicate that other users agree.
  3. This control would be read-only to everyone except those who down-voted, and would not be visible at all if no down-vote had occurred.
  4. Those who don't down-vote would only see the applicable reasons that have been selected by others.
  5. Upon revisiting the page, the down-voter would only see the applicable reasons that have been selected by others along with checkboxes showing what that down-voter checked. A handle at the bottom of this list would allow that down-voter to see the rest of the possible reasons in the case they wanted to change their reason.
  6. Down-voting would not be applied until the down-voter checked off at least one box.
  7. Unchecking all of the boxes that the down-voter checked would remove the down-vote(s) by that down-voter.
  8. If more than one were checked, it could be that multiple down-votes could be applied.

One other thing could be that if there are users who disagree with the reason, it might be possible to flag it (what the *F* is trying to represent). If enough people flag it, it could remove the reason. No one would be able to see that it was flagged except for the flagger. It would not affect the down-voter's selection, but it would decrement the count to a minimum of 0. An N:1 flag:reason ratio would be used to decrement the count, where N is TBD.

Using this UI control or something similar would require only one additional click unless Other was used, in which case some additional typing would be required. No one would know who casted these down-votes. However, the feedback given to the questioner would immensely helpful (especially new ones).


Voting is supposed to be anonymous, and that's how it should be.

That being said, when people downvote without commenting, it's my opinion that usually they're either downvoting obviously incorrect answers or trolling. The former people would not use an anonymous comment function, and the latter would abuse it.

Those who want to leave a meaningful explanation already do; I don't think there's any culture of fear on SO when it comes to revealing that you're a downvoter.

  • If a downvote vote is so obvious, then I agree that no comment is needed. Problem is when we have one answer and 3 vote - 2 up and 1 down. You are left wondering "did the downvoter vote because he know some issue with the answer / should I use it?".
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 15:15
  • that said I agree. I am starting to feel that a anonymous down vote isn't the solution. Actually I am even wondering if I am the only one that see a problem here.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 15:17

Leaving an "anonymous" comment is quite easy. Here's how:

  1. Down-vote a question which bothers you.
  2. Wait anywhere between 10 minutes and 7 days, then return to the question.
  3. Leave a comment saying "You seem to be getting down votes. This may be because ______________"
  • 4
    You seem to have gotten a downvote. But I won't tell you why until anywhere between 10 minutes and 7 days... or ever if I forget, which is more likely. Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 2:46
  • 2
    Rather that hacking around the issue I think it would be more productive to encourage a complete separation of the different mechanisms in people's minds. Votes are for sorting answers, comments are for giving the author suggestions. Vote in order to signal readers on the relative value of posts, comment to help the author. The is no need to mention your vote or anything about voting patterns at all when commenting, just comment about the post. You can comment and/or vote in any order at any time and no correlation should be assumed.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 8:43
  • 1
    @Caleb Sorry, but that only works when there is reasonable activity on a question. I only commented on a question the other day, and I saw 4 downvotes on my content a few minutes later. Now I have to first wait for a moderator to find time "yep, this is a problem", to then wait for the community to undo the downvotes.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 8:42

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