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I have a question about the efficient use of downvotes. People are downvoting without any comments; such behaviour is not necessarily constructive, but I generally agree with the logic presented in earlier questions such as this one or this one. However, there are clear downsides for this as well.

  1. Without any comments at all, there is no way for the poster to know how to improve her/his post.
  2. Even in the case that the poster "guesses" what could be disliked, and significantly improves the post, there is no way to inform the people who downvoted. When there are comments, you can always respond to the comment and let the downvoter know about the improvement, but without that you can just hope that somehow they come back to the post and reread, which is not very likely.

Such behaviour discourages efforts to improve posts, particularly for the inexperienced people. In order to improve this situation, would it be possible to implement a feature to "ping" the downvoters in the event of significant updates? This would also discourage downvoting, perhaps better than assigning negative reputation.

Or alternatively, could be possible to implement a middle ground solution like this: When a downvote is cast, apply a negative reputation penalty only if NONE of the following is done:

  • Write a comment
  • Upvote an already existing comment
  • Agree to be pinged back

This way, if you are in a bad mood and downvote, you still get the reputation penalty; but if you spend the effort to give constructive feedback, you will not. Moreover, the posters will have a better incentive to improve their posts, as they have a chance to reach back to you and get you to reconsider your downvote and perhaps turn that into an upvote.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is quite an excellent example of the situation described in the question. (So it became a meta question already. :-)) Within 1 hour of its asking there are 4 downvotes, but absolutely nothing about why the question is bad. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 11:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be frank, this is the most commonly asked meta question across the Stack Exchange network, so many people are tired of seeing it, and it doesn't tend to get taken as seriously as questions which haven't been dealt with as often. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Nov 5 '17 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some of what's proposed in this post is discussed in this meta.SE post. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 5 '17 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ Votes on a feature request on meta are used as a signal of whether users want the thing being requested or think it's good/beneficial. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 5 '17 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for all those who actually commented and to @doppelspooker for an answer. Now I see why the question is being downvoted, but most of the downvotes are an evidence of the meta problem: I feel they are being used "incorrectly"; if the question has already been addressed wouldn't the correct response be to tag it as a duplicate? Otherwise from my own limited perspective, the question is well intentioned and reseached with rpg.se. IMHO the real reason why it SHOULD BE downvoted is that it is out of the scope of rpg.se. It is a not a question for the RPG experts, it is a meta.se question. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 12:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Now, should I flag this question as off-topic? And vote for it to be closed? Or should I just delete it? [I know the comments are not for extended discussions, but I do not want to write a new question asking whether a question like this that is meta, but not meta.rpg.se should be flagged as off-topic. :-)] \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feature requests that could affect the whole site can be left on per-site metas, so that's OK -- though they can also be posted on meta.se of course. We didn't close this as a duplicate because whilst some of its concerns have been addressed across our meta, it's not a duplicate of anything in particular. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 5 '17 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ I think there are two other things that bear mentioning: (1) given that voting is "easier" (certainly quicker) than commenting, we should expect that any post will receive more voters than commenters. Which means we should expect that most often votes come in earlier than comments. This post serves as a good example (IMO): four votes came in before anyone commented. This isn't exactly a feature of the Stack, but I don't think it's a bug, either. We want lots of votes, both up and down, on posts. We don't want lots of comments. So there will be uncommented votes. But even just... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 5 '17 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...leaving a comment on one's own post that says "I must be missing something, I can't see what's wrong, any downvoter mind explaining" goes a long way to getting that feedback: it signals you as a user who might actually pay attention to a comment a voter leaves, which goes a long way to validating the extra fifteen seconds someone might spend on your post. Which starts to get to (2): leaving comments on downvotes is often a thankless task, often leads to no particular improvement, and sometimes leads to very unpleasant situations. I know I, for one, have been much less eager to leave... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 5 '17 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... downvote comments since I experienced some ugliness. I downvote pretty liberally, I think: just shy of 7% of my post-votes are downvotes. It's only maybe one out of every fifteen or twenty downvotes where I feel like (a) I can articulate a constructive suggestion, (b) I have the time to check back on that post a few times during the day, (c) I have the energy to deal with any ugliness that may ensue. Bad reactions rarely happen, so maybe they're casting an outsized shadow, but when I'm hesitant I also trust that someone will likely come along soon to leave a helpful comment. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 5 '17 at 14:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ An upvote is a clear sign that you gain something from the post. But a downvote is not its reverse. It feels like one needs to be a little conservative when downvoting. Quoting from the rules: "Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect." You find a question like this not useful or uninteresting or boring, wouldn't it be nicer not to vote at all? How does this question fit? Just because the research was done in rpg meta, is it no-effort-expended? \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 It is indeed a feature for the reason you cited in the same comment. What is incentivized for, and what is desired, are votes and answers; comments are not incentivized except through a few badges that don't crop up until later in one's se career on any given site. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 8 '17 at 21:01
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The request to have a ping for @downvoters has been requested and declined by staff on Meta Stack Exchange because of the badness that would come from it, so I'll move past that part.

You may also be interested in reading: Why is an answer being downvoted without any comments?.


You've made this request on a premise that isn't reliably true: the premise that there's usually a helpful comment we can leave to improve a post.

One of the most common reasons for downvoting a post though is "I think this post is wrong / giving bad advice / incorrect / fundamentally something I disagree with." There's no useful comment we can leave there to suggest improvement when we feel that way. In this circumstance we prefer the voter does not leave a comment; actually expressing that they think the post is wrong reliably creates prolonged or heated arguments which moderators have to intervene in and delete an hour later.

People already very regularly leave comments when a post can be genuinely improved, so I'm satisfied that's happening enough. (Not 100% of the time, but enough.) Sometimes a post will look blank because these comments have already been acted upon and removed.

Many strongly downvoted posts go without comments, and most of the time, that's for the best.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think this post is wrong / giving bad advice / incorrect / fundamentally something I disagree with." - this might work most of time, but the times it doesn't work is highly discouraging to well-intentioned newcomers. This question surely made me feel that way; as the downvotes seemed not because of relevance, but because of more experienced people's being tired of it. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ I'm sorry to hear it didn't feel great, and trying to fix people not leaving comments all the time (and getting negative feedback for it) is a regular well-intentioned newbie trap. :( However, on the topic of comments on main, the alternative is users get into arguments all the time, and we don't want a culture of people bickering over everything -- playstyle wars happen regularly across the tabletop RPG community sphere and we want this to be a place where that doesn't happen. People leave comments when they have the time & energy to do so, and that's all we can really ask for. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 5 '17 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your overall arguments. I guess what is upsetting is being unable to see what deserves a downvote. Based on the above comments from many people (for which I am grateful), it appears that the question isn't sloppy, nor a duplicate, nor ill-intentioned. If you think it is not interesting, you would just leave it as is, no? When people ask basic 2e d&d questions, you just leave them, right? You don't downvote them. Others who care might answer. If it is really boring, the post will not get any upvotes and automatically fall into obscurity? What am I failing to see? \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ Meta operates differently sometimes, and feature requests are among those circumstances. The downvotes are often literally just "do not implement this feature"; it's not a judgement on how your question was written. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 5 '17 at 16:04
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Based on doppelspookers answer it seem like we don’t want to force comments on downvotes because we don’t want unhelpful arguments to ensue.

That being said, down voting without a reason leads to new users feeling unwelcome, and potentially leaving. This is an undesirable outcome.

If that’s the case, why can we request a 3rd option: standardised downvote reasons, specified by the moderators of the relevant se. Downvotes could then be disallowed if they don’t select a reason.

The way I’m imagining is that they would be similar to tags, which would show the number of downvotes that have been given for particular reasons, without identifying the particular users.

To avoid it polluting highly upvoted posts, there could be an option to hide these downvote reasons after a post has attracted a net of [insert number here] upvotes.

This would enable the poster to get valuable feedback, while also avoiding comment fights (because there would be no one specific for the poster to argue with).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This might be better as a [feature-request] on Meta Stack Exchange (“MSE”), the meta site for the whole SE network, which is monitored by the staff and developers. Since we volunteer mods don't have the power to alter the site's software to implement features like this, and since the [feature-request] tag on the negative-voted question above won't cause a developer to look down here in the answers for a different feature request, it has no chance of being implemented, even if it got a lot of votes. (That whole dynamic might even be why this has been downvoted?) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 20 '17 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you do submit a feature request on MSE, I recommend not comparing this requested feature to comments at all. Forced comments is an old and well-rejected idea that would kill such a proposal before anyone read further. Go with your comparison to tags instead — problem tags or improvement tags might be a novel enough idea that it gains attention and consideration. I would also suggest not tying it to disabling voting of any kind — a suggestion to disable free voting in any way is also likely to kill consideration of a feature, as it is a sacred feature of SE's fundamental design. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 20 '17 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Seven I imagine it's being downvoted for the same reason I downvoted before doing a double take and undoing my vote: this sounds like "force people to comment a reason with their downvote or they don't get to vote", which is exactly the rejected idea you refer to. Safe to say though this is an extremely mild example of how making that comparison to comments or restricting voting works out for a suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 21 '17 at 0:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ That’s fair. I’d not appreciated the impact of restricting the ability to downvote would have on a suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Nov 21 '17 at 1:33

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