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Perhaps I'm the only one noticing this, but I've seen several Questions and Answers around here that have been downvoted for no apparent reason. What's worse, is that no reason for the downvote is given - there's either no comments at all on the item, or there are no negative comments to address the downvote.

Is there any way for us to make leaving a comment mandatory for people who wish to downvote a Question or Answer? Alternately, is there any way for the community (Mods?) to see who is casting these downvotes and privately address abusers of this function?

I recognize the general definitions and uses of upvotes/downvotes. However, there's a noteworthy difference between the effects of the two in this environment.

To a person receiving an up-vote, it's confirmation that their question or answer is accurate and has value. This is something they presumably already believed, otherwise they would not have posted in the first place.

To someone receiving a down-vote, it suggests that their post is either erroneous or value-less. This being obviously contrary to the intent of the poster, I believe it's only reasonable and responsible that they be given a justification for the down-vote. That way, they can be led to research the errors in their post or learn to construct posts that have more value to the community.

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The anonymous nature of the voting process is extremely valuable and integral part of how the site works. As users, we have 30 votes a day to spend how we wish. There is no rule about what votes mean. In general, votes up mean that I find the answer well written or helpful, but I could vote a post up because it included waffles or dinosaurs. I could vote down because I'm having a bad day. By only having 30 votes, the impact that I can have on the general understanding of what a vote means is minimized.

Personally, I believe we have a pretty well agreed upon definition that upvote means useful or helpful post and downvote means incorrect or irrelevant posts.

The system is strong enough and large enough to withstand votes outside that definition.

There are checks and balances, though. Downvotes are rate limited after your 300th vote so you can't downvote more than 1/3 of the time (a 2:1 up to down ratio). There are also anti-irregularity scripts that run on a regular basis to find voting anomalies (such as sock puppets and revenge votes) and remove them. There is also the community that responds by upvoting good questions and answers, even if they receive the occasional unexplained down vote. Finally, if someone shows a pattern that negatively affects the community, they can and will be banned by the mods or the team. If someone is the target of explicit malicious behavior, mods or the team should be notified.


Blog posts regarding vote fraud and "revenge voting patterns":

Related conversations that have occurred on Meta Stack Overflow:

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    \$\begingroup\$ People don't vote enough as is. If we see more downvoting as a result of more voting than that would be fine with me. Also most of the downvoting I've seen usually seems linked to close votes. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 2 '10 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeremiah I'm not saying I've got a problem with downvotes at all. What I have a problem with, is downvotes that do not have an expressed reason behind them. \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's interesting that the regular voting process is anonymous by default, but close votes require that you are identified in the event the Question is closed. Anyone want to guess at that one, 'cause I'm lost? \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I downvote a question I will not get any notice for comments or solutions to that questions so in the newar future the probability to go back (or even find the question) and take back my downvote if the user has corrected his question is very low. I think we should start giving a notice to the user the same way as if he would have commented it. \$\endgroup\$ – ruedi Nov 27 '15 at 7:15
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No. We just have to toughen up. No one loves downvotes, but chilling the voting process by making voters open to public hassling is a huge spike in the heart of the democratic process. SE does not expose who voted how and considers it private for this reason. Even mods can't get access to that information, that's how sensitive it is.

I will note that recent sentiment on meta.SE seems to indicate that simply indicating you're downvoting in a comment isn't good or useful (a legit critique is, but discussing voting isn't a good use). Is it OK to indicate that I downvoted in a comment?

It's fine to encourage people to leave constructive criticism in the wake of a downvote, but that will never be enforced, here or SE-wide, as it's completely contrary to the site philosophy.

There are serial questionable vote detection tools mods have, but "I downvoted something and didn't comment" isn't a trigger criteria, it goes after large scale serial voting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1: This is too much of a blanket rejection for me. Although making comments mandatory isn't the way, we can do much more to encourage people to leave them. Certainly, leaving comments when we downvote is something we should be doing. \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Nov 1 '10 at 23:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ (Having downvoted it, I realised I was rather obliged to explain why.) \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Nov 1 '10 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am happy to encourage people to leave comments. Requiring them or having mods narc them out is not going to happen, and that is indeed a blanket rejection of that (which is specifically what the OP wants). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Nov 2 '10 at 0:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will note that I get random downvotes on my Q's and A's from people I'm sure are just downvoting me to be petty, and I don't like it either. It's not that I don't sympathize with the OP. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Nov 2 '10 at 0:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyone who's answered more than a couple questions has probably been hit with am unexplained close vote or two (or way more!). There isn't anything wrong with it, it is hard for most folks to openly express a negative opinion about another person in public. We need to make it as easy as possible. The rep difference (10 for upvotes, -2 for downvotes) means that a couple downvotes aren't going to matter in the end if you are creating decent questions and answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 2 '10 at 2:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatLudwig - But that's half the basis of my entire query in the first place. (See update to Question.) If someone's posted a Q or A, it's presumably because they believe it to at least be "decent" as you say. However, a down-vote would seem to indicate the contrary is true. Given a down-vote with no reasoning though, the person who posted the Q or A is left with no input by which to improve upon that post or future posts. In this way, un-commented down-votes are counter-productive to this environment. \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 2 '10 at 15:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Iszi: No, downvotes don't indicate that the OP was wrong. All the votes are a way of discovering an aggregate opinion of the quality of Q&As on an infinite scale. Individual votes are meaningless as far as the system is concerned—only the aggregate matters, because a list of ranked posts is what the system is designed to generate. Hence, allowing votes (up and down) is just a systematic means of luring people to help collectively rank things. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '10 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - I didn't say downvotes only meant the OP was wrong. I said "erroneus or value-less" in my (updated) question, and "not decent" in my comment above. That's a lot of territory to cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I'm not sure how requiring comments "makes voters open to public hassling". Perhaps, if through being identified in their comments, the voters are being hassled then maybe they themselves need to "toughen up" as you say or the community needs to be flushed of the individuals who "hassle" others simply over a matter of opinion. Also, what would you then have to say about the public identification of people who post "close" votes? \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how many times you want me to say "no," but "no." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Nov 4 '10 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Iszi: Just the possibility that people are held accountable for their voting has been long-since decisively documented to discourage voting at all. The cure would be deadlier than the disease. Anonymity is fundamental to the StackExchange system. If we were to require comments, we might as well abandon the site entirely and make its death quick and painless. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 4 '10 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "Long-since... documented" in which environments? It seems to me you're being hugely melodramatic. It's not as if we're voting on heads of state or society-altering legal issues, here. \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 5 '10 at 1:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Iszi. All of them? Whatever, I haven't been trying to convince, but to explain how it is. Even if the votes supported it here, tiny little RPG.SE will not force the entire SE family to require comments-with-downvotes when that has already been rejected by the designers. If you're not interested in the "why" and are still arguing "whether", that's what your votes are for. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '10 at 3:36
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Downvoting and giving useful critiques to a post are different things and shouldn't be linked. You can easily leave a critique of a post without downvoting it, and downvoting a post should not obligate a critique—apart from the chilling effect that imposes, we should not prevent people form exercising their downvotes if they can't cogently articulate a constructive criticism.

We want lots of votes, down and up, in order for the sorting process to work properly and bubble the best to the top. We don't want to throw anything in the way of that process operating smoothly.

Similarly, we want people to be helpful in comments. We don't want to unduly link giving constructive help with downvoting.

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Aside from the reasons about anonymity and similar topics raised by others, consider what this would mean for legitimately bad questions. The first person downvoting would add a comment. Then the second person downvoting would.. say what? Leave a comment that says "I agree with #1"? Then the next? The next?

It would lead a either people not voting because they don't want to comment or if they do vote, a ton of me-too comments spamming the comment list.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why the topic bump? \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Jul 6 '12 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no such thing as an "old topic" on a SE, answers should be added to even the oldest questions. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 7 '12 at 6:29
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(this is more of an answer to other answers; it's too long to be a comment)

It's true that forcing comments on down-votes or close votes kind of breaks the system.

It's also true that we don't vote enough here on rpg.stackexchange.

But voting isn't a serious threat to the survival of the site, while views per day and the ratio of 'avid' users to 'total users' is, (see our area 51 page) and down-voting/closing can be interpreted the wrong way and lead to users abandoning the site.

Comment-less down votes and close votes are OK for regular users but for new users I really think they're a no-no; we can't risk turning away users by giving them a bad first impression of the site/community. It's important to acknowledge that - even though StackOverflow can turn away users based on early impressions because it has sufficient throughput to recover without them - we can't turn away users because we won't recover: we have 15 more days of beta, low views per day, and those who were our biggest power users have drifted away: @Bryant hasn't been online since mid-October; @Stephano Borini is about in the same boat; @Numenetics hasn't been around since early October. (I don't meant to target or pick on these users.)

We need to avoid voting and closing behavior like there was on How can I get past the WotC Profile Setup Wizard. The question was asked by a (at the time) new user with 1 rep. It had something like 2 or 3 close votes, an answer to "Contact WotC customer service with help on this one" and and not a single comment. No one was trying to reach out and make sure that user understood that they were welcome in the community, it was just their question which was not in the right place. All it took were a few comments to make sure that new user became an active participant in the community. Maybe they would have either way, but without the comments the response to that question was "go somewhere else" (Wizards support) and "this doesn't belong here" (closed).

Again, this is normally fine, but we're kind of desperate for users and activity.

Why aren't more or us investing energy into that sort of welcoming community energy instead of fretting over voting trends?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We have as many days of beta as it takes. There is no expectation that our corporate overlords will pull the plug anytime soon. See ->blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/10/when-will-my-site-graduate In short, as long as the site is useful and a benefit to the community it will remain up. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 3 '10 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pat Ludwig - C'mon, that's not fair; I said nothing of "corporate overlords" and the deadline isn't the point either. The concerns I raise are Are we shrinking faster than we're growing? and Can we afford to not be more hospitable? Right now all the info/links/stats I've got is listed above, and it makes me feel concerned. If you have info/links/stats to prove those aren't valid concerns, awesome, and I look forward to hearing them, and you proving my concerns invalid... again ;) \$\endgroup\$ – LeguRi Nov 3 '10 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pat Ludwig - ... and if you feel something I said communicates this "corporate overlords" thing, please let me know exactly what it is, and I'll edit it out; that's not my point at all. \$\endgroup\$ – LeguRi Nov 3 '10 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LeguRi - #sigh - "corporate overlords" was meant tongue in cheek, I assure you and was not meant to refer directly to anything you said. My comment was directed towards "we can't turn away users because we won't recover". (Which was the only thing in your post that was bold when I commented. I believe that statement to be false, and I supplied the evidence which convinces me. You are free to draw your own conclusions of course! \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 3 '10 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem isn't downvoting. The problem is not enough voting period. People should vote, especially on questions. You look and either all our questions are useless or our core,a ctive users aren't voting. I tend to think the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 3 '10 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jerimiah - how do you rectify this stance with hostile comments like this -> rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/4123/… For reference, I upvoted about 6 questions including several of yours, along with that downvote. If you want more people to vote, you should try to respect their opinions when they don't agree with yours. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 3 '10 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @EveryoneElse - the above is why I do not comment on every downvote. Sometimes I just want to express my opinion succinctly and anonymously without feeling obligated to get into a long discussion over its appropriateness. If I wanted to do that I'd hang out a lot more on EnWorld and the WoTC boards. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 3 '10 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ We should be more hospitable, yes. But that is independent of the vote system. We need to let the voters vote their consciences and we need to swoop in an welcome new users better. If you see a down-voted question, leave a comment on how to improve the question even if you didn't downvote. Be the change you want to see in the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '10 at 23:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - agreed, I want nothing more than to get every actual person who uses the site up to 50 rep so they can comment freely. It's definitely a sliding scale as to whether I'd downvote somebody. After a couple hundred rep points they should be good to go. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 4 '10 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Something fun to watch if you're wondering how the site's doing with new users is the Total Reputation box on the weekly reputation league (stackexchange.com/leagues/week/rpg). Hovering over the 200+ line-item will give you the total number of people that have crossed over the 200 rep mark that week (i.e. new users who have stuck around). We get about 4-8 per week... Is that good? I'm not sure... I don't have a good sense of scale. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Nov 4 '10 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie There's one small problem with your suggestion for commenting on already-downvoted posts. Unless you're the person who originally downvoted it, you may or may not know why the post was downvoted in the first place. Further, you may not even agree that the question needs downvoting at all, so how could you possibly address something that someone else seems to have found problematic if you don't see it yourself? \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Iszi If there isn't an obvious problem with, or even possible improvement to, the question, then you can assume that it's the down-voter who is wrong. It's still a good opportunity to swoop in with a welcoming comment, though, since that will balance out the downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 4 '10 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'm not assuming the down-voter is wrong. I'm saying that, if they care enough to cast a negative vote then they should care enough to help rectify whatever behavior warranted the vote - and it is only they who can do that, since it is only they who know the true reason for their down-vote. \$\endgroup\$ – Iszi Nov 5 '10 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Iszi: I think you're assuming too much. If you read the links in yhw42's answer, you'll find a lot of reasons people might downvote that wouldn't warrant a comment. For example, voting something down to bump a better answer up doesn't necessarily mean there's a useful comment they could leave—they're just using their votes to change the totals to better suit their taste. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '10 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ "voting isn't a serious threat to the survival of the site" - it seems survival of the site is your primary motivation. If it is not fit for purpose why save it? If it is fit for purpose your other considerations will fall into place. One thing you absolutely must have is new users, so one your primary objectives MUST be acquisition followed by retention, long enough to have the chance to persuade them to stay long term. Don't drive new users away. Down voting with no reason does exactly this. My experience. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Oct 21 '15 at 14:01

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