At present, users wanting to be courteous leave comments after down-voting a response, but there is nothing that requires a user to do this.

I don't much care about the lose of rep. or the down-vote itself, but it doesn't give me much insight into how a question/response can be improved. Why is there nothing designed to require people to leave comments on down-votes to make their thoughts known and hold them to a level of courtesy?

  • 9
    Compared to other SE sites I belong to, I find that there are more unexplained down votes (and votes to close) here. The goal should be to help writers improve the questions and answers so that there is a better record of good questions and answers. Just voting down is not helpful. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 14:39
  • @BruceJames This comment relates only to VtC. Once a question is put on hold, a banner appears with some standard text about why it was closed. I'm often content to let the boilerplate do the talking, though I'd sometimes add some comments as well.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 5:59

4 Answers 4


This has been brought up before on the SE network. See the relevant meta discussion here.

In short, it is by design that downvotes and comments are not associated. The voting function is supposed to be anonymous; also, often there isn't something insightful for every downvoter to add in comments.

  • 1
    Thanks for the link. I searched on English.SE, but I didn't see anything that asked quite the same thing. Personally, I think that most down-votes have a reason (unless it is a case of vote retribution, for which I understand there is a script to catch irregular down-voting and delete it) and it should probably be known for users that would like to improve answers.
    – gbutters
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 16:49
  • 12
    @gbutters: voting is not meant primarily as a tool by which readers can give you feedback - their vote serves as input into the system for the purpose of ranking questions and answers, and as such is intended for communication with other readers. Comments are primarily intended for communicating with the author. They're two different media, with different audiences - assuming the person who votes (up or down) has something to say to you as the author is a mistake (much as you might wish otherwise).
    – Shog9
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 6:43
  • 2
    @Shog9: nice insight. I hadn't thought of it that way. I still have to think that when someone down-votes a post, whether to communicate with other readers or with the author, they have something on their mind about the author or question that they should share. I understand your point that voting is about ranking questions, but the person is ranking an author's work, and therefore has something to share with that person. But I digress, I don't mean to continue arguing a point that has clearly been thought out by the SE network.
    – gbutters
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 10:26
  • @Shog9: I think that questions and answers can often be improved so that they can merit higher ranking. It is better to have an improved questions and answers than to have bad ones and still be forced to reject duplicates that may come up from folks who didn't like the original discussion. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 14:43
  • 1
    @Bruce: and? There are all sorts of ways to encourage that - editing, posting a better answer, upvoting an existing answer that solves the problem, offering suggestions for improvements in a comment... Some folks are able to do some of these things, some folks are willing to do some of them...
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 15:52
  • A different comment may have already listed the reason
  • Some authors get pissy about criticism and most of us would rather not spend our days arguing with someone over opinions
  • There is no way to enforce someone to leave a relevant comment even if you tried to force them
  • As Kosmonaut's answer notes, downvoting is more interested in help other readers find the best material the fastest; leaving comments isn't required for this
  • You can always ask in chat if you are particularly worried about the community response to one of your posts
  • Some people downvote for really inane reasons and it would be pointless to discuss those reasons

I don't know if any body has noticed, but I think it is rare to non-existent for anyone to give an explanation for a downvote. My explanation:

  • you don't have to explain your upvotes, why do you have to go to the bother of doing it for downvotes?

  • downvotes are already pretty rare anyway (look at anybody's account). This means that they are really stigmatized by the voter for whatever reason (I take it as a given that it feels very hurtful by the recipient). An explanation is not anonymous and so much more easily retaliated, however reasonable the downvote and explanation might be.

So there is a large psychological cost to the explanation, only some to the actual vote. Forcing an explanation would result in few down votes altogether.

  • 6
    That is a good point about the upvotes, why do it for downvotes if you don't do it for upvotes. Maybe the key here is just not taking it too personally. Sometimes there aren't great reasons for downvotes. I also never considered the possibility of retaliation if your name is attached to downvoting.
    – gbutters
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 23:23

There is far too much downvoting without valid reasons. I'd advocate that:

  • Anyone downvoting should have to provide an explanation. That explanation should be published as an anonymous comment by the system, or provided anonymously to the person whose answer has been downvoted.
  • Ideally, high-reputation users should be able to review an anonymous list of downvotes (for other people's answers only) and associated reasons, and veto the downvote if no remotely valid reason has been specified.
  • Downvoting an answer should reduce your reputation by 20 points instead of just one or two, or perhaps by 1% of your points total instead of by a fixed number of points.
  • 3
    You're wasting your well-intentioned breath. Dozens of users have argued over anonymous downvoting. This is the StackExchange model, for better or worse.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 20:41
  • I can see an argument for keeping the downvotes anonymous, but this doesn't mean that no explanation can be given (it could be published anonymously), or that downvotes shouldn't more heavily penalise the voter (since experience suggests that people are not sufficiently deterred from unnecessary downvoting). But having said that, you're probably right. Thanks for the feedback!
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 20:50
  • 3
    -1 because I strongly disagree with making it mandatory. Encourage voters to leave comments, sure, but not force them to.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 20:57
  • Thanks for the input. It can't be that hard to type something brief out, though, can it? Perhaps some of the commoner reasons could be pre-selectable so that you could either select from a list of good reasons or select 'other' and then type in your reason. If the need to leave a comment deterred some downvotes, this would probably be a good thing. However, I'm advocating a new system of anonymised downvote reasons, not that the voters should be forced to identify themselves.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 21:12
  • (1) The review queues are too long already. Adding a new category of review will create, not solve, a problem. (And yes, I am not currently pulling my weight in review, for reasons I am not going to explain.) (2) You propose a very high penalty for downvoting, which is going to create another problem -- answers that deserve downvotes will be less likely to get them. As it is, the drive-by downvoter is a nuisance, but not a problem. Someone, not necessarily the downvoter, will often explain why the answer got a downvote. The system in this regard is not broken enough to fix.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 21:27
  • 2
    What you want has been requested since time immemorial (or, at least since before EL&U even existed). TPTB have repeatedly asserted that anonymous downvoting without a comment is a feature, not a bug.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 21:32
  • The voting system of SE is a laugh, as is the reputation system. Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 22:29
  • 4
    @Clare Can you propose some changes or an entirely different mechanism (even if it is no system at all) for voting?
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 3:23
  • The most recent example of a member asking for mandating downvote reasons was english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10476/… which was itself closed as a duplicate of this old question you answered today. So this topic has been well covered here on meta and some of those answers clearly indicate why it is not mandatory to explain your downvotes on Stack Exchange websites. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 18:55
  • @EnglishStudent, I searched for a relevant question so that I could add my thoughts to an existing question rather than posting a new question. I thought this was an appropriate one. I accept that there may be others. On reading the link you provided, I see with interest that you are a convert to the current system. Thanks for your comment.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:01
  • You are welcome, @rjpond. The summary in my own answer: "Stack Exchange depends on voting to distinguish the good questions and answers (...) so any rule change that would inhibit the volume of voting (as compelling voters to leave an explanation surely will) is bad for the system." Thus I was able to understand the long-established 'community wisdom' not to insist on explanation of downvotes. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:01
  • One could easily pilot the scheme and see whether it did indeed have such an effect. It seems doubtful, given how much some people on this site love to downvote. But perhaps in time I shall come to see the wisdom of such practices.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:06
  • 1
    If you demand explanation for downvotes then you MUST also demand explanations for upvotes. Otherwise the imbalance renders the whole site subject to ridicule.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 9:33
  • @Chenmunka: That's a valid point of view, but not self-evident: after all, there is already an imbalance between upvotes and downvotes (an upvote gives more reputation than a downvote takes away, and a downvote costs the voter, which an upvote doesn't). I merely think that the imbalance should be increased to further discourage people from wrongly downvoting. But please don't worry about it, it's clear that no one agrees with me, so there is no chance of any of this happening.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 18:14

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