# Should we encourage downvoters to leave a comment for their downvote?

I am of the opinion that we should encourage downvoters to leave a comment as to why they downvoted. This is particularly important for questions as without a comment it is hard for the OP to figure out how to improve the question.

If we encourage the above practice as a community norm then we will achieve several objectives:

• Be nice to the OP so that they do not leave the site out of frustration.
• It increases the chances that the qn actually gets edited and improved.
• Keep the quality of questions high.

What do you think?

• I agree with Srikant – csgillespie Aug 18 '10 at 20:28
• Sounds like a good idea. Do you want to add something to the draft FAQ at meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/6/… – Rob Hyndman Aug 19 '10 at 0:57
• @Rob and @Srikant: I think adding that to FAQ is important – robin girard Aug 19 '10 at 7:20
• Sure. I will add to the faq. – svadali Aug 19 '10 at 13:20
• The entry to the faq here: meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/6/… – svadali Aug 19 '10 at 13:31
• I think it should be required, not just recommended. If a user can take 30 minutes to try and write a great question, then someone who would down-vote can take 30 seconds to write a decent comment. It should take at least as much effort to write a downvote as it does to make a tweet. – EngrStudent Dec 16 '16 at 16:26
• @EngrStudent Difficult to comment on your last point, because I don't use Twitter, but the issue is more usually people who spend 30 seconds writing a lousy question. I think they may deserve more than 0.5 second of my time, but not much more. If you can say that you always comment if and when you downvote, then I admire that but don't promise to emulate it. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 13:39
• @NickCox - I always spend at least 60 seconds on their content before a down-vote. I have spent hours on questions that were downvoted immediately after posting, and I could not get a reason why. The mind doesn't work efficiently on the 0.5 second timescale. – EngrStudent Jan 11 '17 at 13:45
• I was being a little flippant in downscaling with a 1/60 factor. But I am serious too: the trade-off on explaining versus not isn't easy in my view. I give so much time to this site but I won't give more because someone thinks I should explain every downvote. I naturally don't approve in abstraction your questions being downvoted without explanation; my concern is the other end of the spectrum. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 13:57

Yes. Encourage we should and encourage we do.

In fact, StackExchange encourages it automatically: see Encouraging people to explain downvotes Meta.SE post from 2009 that was status-completed in 2015. Users with rep below 2k get Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved popup when downvoting - but apparently only once, whenever they downvote for the first time.

There is a broad consensus among our high-rep users that leaving a comment when downvoting is a good thing:

Needless to say, like everyone else I would urge people to leave a comment when down-voting, almost always (@Scortchi)

If you can say that you always comment if and when you downvote, then I admire that [...] (@NickCox)

Downvotes are inherently negative. They create bad feelings. Use them when they can have the constructive effect of encouraging a poster to improve a particular post. This implies that most downvotes are wasted if they are not accompanied by an effective, actionable comment. (There are exceptions: some posts are so obviously poor that little needs to be said.) (@whuber)

There is no way we can technically force people to leave a comment, and there are compelling arguments that this would be a bad thing anyway. Sometimes posts are just too bad and life is too short to leave a comment. But one should aim at leaving a comment whenever there is any hope that the post might get improved, or whenever there is hope that the comment might at least be useful for future readers.

• This is a moderate statement that seems to capture a consensus well. I'd add as major advice that if someone else has already posted a detailed comment explaining what is wrong, and explaining a downvote it's sufficient to add your +1 to that comment as justifying your own downvote, unless you have something substantial to add. – Nick Cox Jan 12 '17 at 8:59
• @NickCox Indeed, this is a good point. – amoeba Jan 12 '17 at 9:53
• I am troubled by this advice. First I don't think we downvote enough. Take stackoverflow as a decent control in terms of attracting professionals, academics, and hobbyists alike. I feel stackoverflow downvotes far more often and without rationale. Explaining "why the downvote?" is hard to do without insulting the OP or getting enmity/criticism from others. Perhaps it's a second question for CV-meta, but according to SE, the purpose of voting is to democratically filter-up (and down) questions and answers which are interesting. – AdamO Mar 12 '18 at 20:10

Why not leaving comment first? Bad questions are often casted by 1-rep users who are more interested in answer than rep, so downvoting won't make them large difference. Also stubborn ones can be then punished with close, if the question is very bad.

• I agree with what you said. I guess order of priority is: 1. Leave comment without downvoting. 2. If downvoting leave a comment to explain downvote. – svadali Aug 18 '10 at 22:55
• I agree. I hope it can be implemented in the site's design. – Tal Galili Aug 21 '10 at 18:23

Agreed - so much agreed.

I have put a question about a problem that is taking me one year to solve it. I tried many times to do it by myself, because I don't like to shove it on others, so I did a lot of my own research, even posting partial questions here. Then someone just downvoted it without leaving any notice. So much for my own story, that brought me here.

So yes, in 2017 I am 100% for the idea to make explaining why-downvote mandatory. We cannot rely on courtesy of a downvoter and his/her willingness to kindly explain why he/she pressed the downvote button. Let's prevent the downvote button become the Like-button.

• The thread you're referring to is I think stats.stackexchange.com/questions/251386/… FWIW, I didn't downvote and I don't want to give an opinion on whether the downvote was deserved. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 11:49
• In making a much more extreme proposal that downvoting must be accompanied by a comment, I think you need to consider the following very different points. First, CV is just a part of SE and any change would need to be system-wide. Second, in many situations explaining why you downvote is superfluous because someone else has done it already. Third, a real consideration in many parts of SE (unfortunately here too) is that a signed comment leads to flak from the recipient. I've been subject to sustained abuse from people who didn't like my comments; usually moderators step in, but it's not nice. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 11:53
• Nothing in the above detracts from a standard view that, indeed, it's best if there is explanation of what's wrong about a question. But life is short! Sometimes detailed dissection of a lousy question from someone who just isn't trying to follow advice is a waste of my time too. (This doesn't apply to your question at all, but you're making a general case.) – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 11:56
• Understood. But - I'm angry not because you downvote me, I'm angry because the downvote make me thirsty of the critical-yet-constructive comments that will lead me to improving the question and then my own answer to my problem (I'm still waiting for a comment/answer). It took me 3 decades to get into this point in my mind where I'm able not to waste anyone time who is kind enough to give me a piece of advice. – Lil'Lobster Jan 11 '17 at 12:02
• I didn't downvote you and I'd thank you not to imply otherwise. It's incorrect that you have received no comments in that thread. Your question received some attention when posted (middle of December) and has got overlooked since then. That's unfortunate, and inevitably very disappointing for you, but CV is not a help line, as you should know. There is no mechanism whereby people are delegated to answer questions if they don't want to. You might be best advised to try rewriting it. The large chunk of code might not have helped, as we don't check code here. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 12:08
• I am downvoting this answer because its proposal is in my view impractical unconvincing. Note that on Meta a downvote should mean that you disagree with the proposal. – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 12:12
• :-) I get why some sensitive people may get you flak. I'm going to rewrite the question. Also, good to know who downvote my meta-answer :-) I'll rethink. – Lil'Lobster Jan 11 '17 at 12:19
• People who contribute repeated flak aren't really "sensitive": they usually display utter indifference to forum norms and specific arguments! – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 12:30
• I note that you've been a member for 2 1/2 years and answered 2 questions on CV. So, one way to work on the many neglected questions with no answers is to answer a few yourself! – Nick Cox Jan 11 '17 at 13:11
• Agree, it's true. I have my reasons about that (but it's no place to put them). Also, I don't know how I thought that it was you who downvoted. I am not able to change it :( – Lil'Lobster Jan 11 '17 at 13:31
• From a glass-half-full point of view, shouldn't learning that someone considers your question to show little research effort or to be unclear or not useful be better than receiving no feedback at all? (Needless to say, like everyone else I would urge people to leave a comment when down-voting, almost always.) – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jan 11 '17 at 14:07
• Yeah, better any hint than none.. under null hypothesis that it wasn't a hand just mistakenly slipping and clicking the downvote button :/ – Lil'Lobster Jan 11 '17 at 14:25
• :) Or pure malevolence perhaps - but in this case I think "unclear" would deserve serious consideration. Even in the regrettable absence of more specific guidance it's always useful to step back from the problem & think that you need to get it across to people who haven't been thinking about it for a year, explaining it clearly & precisely from the start & not assuming answerers will be able to fill in the gaps. Also, state the motivation explicitly - give people a reason to be interested in answering! – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jan 11 '17 at 14:44