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Encouraging people to explain down-votes

"Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Best of all — edit and improve the existing questions and answers!"

Edit: apologies, apparently pressing ENTER in the Tags field caused the post to be posted before I was finished.

Alright, my question about this "Be honest" item is, why is it not enforced that a down-vote requires a comment?

There have been questions I have answered - and I'm not one of the long time users - where I know for a fact that my answer was more concise and more to the point than those of others. Then I get a down-vote, but there is no clue for me as to what I did wrong.

Was I impolite? Did someone misunderstand a sentence? ... dozens of possibilities and no clue whatsoever. Asking in a comment to my answer will be pointless, too, because no one but other commenters will receive a notification about my comment. And it could have been some random person down-voting.

Thanks for reading. Now let's discuss :)

Edit 3: the topic seems to spark a heated discussion at least, even if that results in down-votes for me. I'd just like to include this link to "Encouraging people to explain down-votes" which jzd (see comment section) came up with. This one was not suggested when I wrote my question, but it fits exactly what I wanted to ask even though my choice of words was perhaps not as elaborate.

  • Oh great, here we go :) First down-vote and no justification. However, in this case I can imagine which justification it would be. I simply wasn't finished with the post and there is no extra step to preview because all is so nicely done in Web 2.0 style ;) (yes, I'd prefer the extra step before posting) – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:11
  • @jzd: I edited it in. For some reason it was posted before I actually intended it to be posted. Annoying for you but equally annoying for me. Sorry for the confusion. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:12
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    @Status, downvoting does not require a comment for many reasons, please refer to the many other duplicate questions on this topic. Also, I was your first down vote and I did leave you a comment. – jzd Mar 9 '11 at 13:13
  • @jzd: and I replied. Nevertheless, none of the suggested topics (when writing my question) actually treated the topic I'm up to (yes, i read through the questions, no only subject lines). So could you please provide some links? Thanks. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:20
  • Can you please express uour opinion on marking question as duplicate at the following link: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/219750/… – Revious Feb 5 '14 at 19:55

If you really care about enforcing integrity in voting, you should also be asking for explanation of upvotes. Some people upvote with good reason, some out of sympathy if they see a downvote, some because they didn't even read your post but think it must be good if it already has X upvotes, etc.

In the end, the anonymity of the voting system is what makes these sites useful. Always having to explain downvotes would destroy their anonymity and expose downvoters to potentially harsh criticism from those who disagree with the downvote. Not to mention that knowing that you have to explain it (even if an explanation already exists or is obvious) would further discourage people from downvoting.

The system right now is simple. Think a post is useful? Upvote. Think a post is unclear/not useful? Downvote. It doesn't need to be more than that.

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  • thanks. The anonymity aspect was one I didn't even see as such before. That changes the view on things a bit, of course. And yes, I see what you mean with the criticism about the down-vote, although I see it as ChrisF here that it deprives me of ways to improve, or even correct my own misunderstanding (let alone correct my answer). – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:39
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    @STATUS I think we have to distinguish between an answer/question that gets only downvoted vs posts that get a mix of up and down votes. If you have, say, 5 upvotes and 2 downvotes, do you still feel compelled to change what you said based on the feedback from 2 people when 5 others found your original content helpful? // Those inclined to comment will already say something with their downvote. Others, even if forced, will post garbage. Either way you won't get the feedback you're looking for from the latter crowd, but you'll run the risk of not getting feedback from the former crowd either. – Adam Lear Mar 9 '11 at 13:45
  • yes, the point about posting garbage was already made. Thanks for helping me to see the reasons :) ... personally I found the link jzd posted most useful and I am still reading in that topic. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:49

When you downvote a post, a popup comes up asking the downvoter to write a comment. What more do you want?!

Seriously, you can't enforce this sort of thing, or else you get people writing in asdf or the like as a comment, to delete it 2 seconds later. And even if you could, it's still a bad idea, because it gives downvoting much more friction than upvoting (above and beyond the current friction of rep loss for the downvoter).

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  • other things are also implied. And countering "asdf" would be as easy as introducing down-voting for comments. Oh wait ... I see :) ... never-ending recursion. No, but honestly I think that the situation would already be defused by a possibility to ask the person who down-voted. After all, I hope that just like up-voting there is always a reason for down-voting. Otherwise the whole reputation-based system would be a hoax. But without the chance to see my mistake (the one that led to the down-vote) how am I going to improve? – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:18
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    @STATUS: I'm saying the site already does encourage people to write comments for downvotes. Since you can't (and shouldn't) enforce it, a reminder for people to comment is the best you can do. – Chris Jester-Young Mar 9 '11 at 13:19
  • well, I don't think that you can't, because the current voting system is already used to encourage or punish behavior. But why shouldn't you? See, I wouldn't have asked the question if I wasn't convinced (at the moment) that it should be up for discussion to enforce it. But it's well possible that I simply lack some experience and the overall perspective that others here may already have. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:24
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    @STATUS: You can't enforce comments because if someone enters "asdf" and deletes it two seconds later, the comment isn't around any more for people to downvote or flag. And I would not support a system that required comments for downvotes without also requiring comments for upvotes, because that biases the system towards upvoting way too much (the rep loss for a downvote already slightly biases it, but I think it's a good bias in that instance). – Chris Jester-Young Mar 9 '11 at 13:27
  • I see. Good points indeed. I was almost tempted to delete my question, but since it is linking to the "better" question already, I decided not to (despite the down-votes). Thanks for your arguments. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:31

There are many times where a sufficient comment indicating why a downvote was placed already exists and it is often appropriate to just "up" the comment instead of posting extra comments.

I think this is quite useful because it shows consensus...not just one guys random opinion...

So enforcing a comment really doesn't allow that situation to occur

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  • up the comment that explains the down-vote if? Okay, guess that indeed I'm just not long enough on these sites here :) ... thanks. – 0xC0000022L Mar 9 '11 at 13:40

I think the most we can ask for is feature letting us send notification to anyone who downvoted where you can explain your point of view and ask nicely to clarify.

This will appear in their global Inbox.

Apart of that, I pretty much agree with things as they are right now.

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  • How would you do that? Downvotes are anonymous. – Chris Jester-Young Mar 9 '11 at 13:24
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    @Chris, but the system knows who downvoted, of course. – Arjan Mar 9 '11 at 13:35
  • Otherwise you could downvote many times... – davidsleeps Mar 9 '11 at 13:43
  • @Arjan: Of course. But I personally think it's invasive of privacy to enable the owner of a downvoted post to contact the downvoters, even if their identities are not revealed. – Chris Jester-Young Mar 10 '11 at 4:45
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    @Chris I agree this might be annoyance for some people, but can't see how it harm privacy. – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Mar 10 '11 at 8:26

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