This has been in discussion in chat on and off since I first joined up. Random downvotes and upvotes are things that happen. No need to sweat it. It happens, move on.

We've had this discussion before.

I ran into this today:

Stand up against malicious pointless downvoting. Comment people, or dont bother pressing the arrow. — Ender

Note that I'm not trying to single Ender out here; this isn't the first I've seen, just the latest comment that I've noticed.

Voting in this manner is a fundamental shift in the quality of the site. You're no longer voting on the post quality, but on actions taken on the post. Upvoting or downvoting to counteract someone else's vote isn't what Arqade and the entire SE network is about.

As for requiring comments, I agree that they're good to have, but are not necessary. Requiring comments (or worse, upvoting because someone downvoted and did not comment) counteracts the entire reasoning behind anonymous voting.

There are several reasons comments are not required:

  1. It gives the poster a target. If they don't agree with it, revenge downvoting is a very real possibility.
  2. New users rarely read the FAQ. It's not a requirement by any stretch, but everyone gets tired at some point of re-iterating the same thing over and over. It's a way of keeping sane. Downvote if it doesn't meet your level of quality, and keep on going.
  3. There are several orders of magnitude more users of the site than there are active members to keep it clean. If every downvote required a comment, either site quality would drop like a rock, or we'd get, "asdklfjdsiofuasdf" on every downvoted question or answer.

This is something that comes up a lot on Meta.SO. Comments are nice, and if you have the energy to help a user fix their question or answer, fantastic. But upvotes and downvotes are anonymous by design. There is no requirement to post a comment, and by voting on anything but the post quality, it's breaking the entire purpose of Arqade.

The canonical post for Meta.SO: Encouraging people to explain downvotes.

The first line from the answer: The comments are there for people who want to explain their downvotes.

That sums it up nicely.

Screenshot of the conversation. Names have been removed.

Just recently, we got a comment that encapsulates exactly why comments are not, and will never be required:

no need to attempt to rewrite history, you most certainly did NOT say that you did not want a solution "through stats/cheating". You said nothing at all about stats, and you said nothing at all about console commands. But you'd better be downvoting the other two answers since neither of them automate the process either, and you wouldn't want to be an elitist hypocrite pr1ck, would you?

Naming removed and non-linked to (hopefully) anonymize the poster.

This is what happens sometimes when someone tries to explain their reason for a downvote, and the poster refuses to accept their reasoning. Granted, it's an edge case, but it highlights the possibilities inherent with being constructive. Sometimes, it's just not worth it.

  • Very very well said. May 21, 2013 at 2:30
  • 4
    I would like to point out from the get-go that I was in no way promoting upvoting solely for the reason to counter a percieved malicious downvote. I agree that would break how the site works. I simply feel that downvoting a question that isn't obviously bad in any way, without leaving a comment why, isn't teaching anybody anything. I am currently very busy moving back from germany to the states, but as soon as I'm stable, I plan on posting an answer to this with my full detailed opinion.
    – Ender
    May 21, 2013 at 8:20
  • 17
    @Ender Who said that downvotes have to teach? They are a way for the community to help sort content by what they think is useful or not useful. I think people need to stop taking it so personally when they get a downvote.
    – bwarner
    May 21, 2013 at 11:28
  • 6
    @bwarner the 'game' of the website implies that it wants to help people learn to ask productive questions and give productive answers to said questions. It teaches people to communicate better by principle even if that isn't or wasn't ever its primary purpose.
    – Ender
    May 21, 2013 at 18:31
  • 1
    @Ender That's one nice side-effect, but not the purpose. The purpose is to sort content, and indicate users whose contributions are consistently quality. By implication, voting therefore is also for making consistently-bad contributors to improve or go away. We're not a halfway house for wayward internetters, but if they learn and improve, that's bonus. But the point is to limit the damage they do. May 23, 2013 at 14:47
  • 3
    I think comments alongside downvotes are necessary unless you're fine alienating new users. Which for the most part this community seems perfectly content with under the guise of "maintaining high quality". As for the concept that we shouldn't be voting to counter-act others, where is the evidence for that? And if that's actually the case, why isn't the score simply hidden?
    – Decency
    May 27, 2013 at 19:12
  • @wipqozn Missed at least two names in that scrubbed screenshot, comments #4 & #7. Jul 17, 2013 at 18:27
  • @SevenSidedDie Thanks for catching that.
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Jul 17, 2013 at 18:38
  • @Wipqozn No problem. And good addition! That conversation is a very good example. Jul 17, 2013 at 20:42
  • 2
    badp's name is still in the picture.
    – Timtech
    Aug 21, 2013 at 11:15

4 Answers 4


As I explained in my answer here, blindly upvoting/downvoting is bad. In fact, here is a simple visual guide to help you know if you are voting correctly:

enter image description here

Pretty easy checklist, right? If you are voting based on anything other than the content of the question, you're doing it wrong.

But wait! There's more!

The areas in green also indicate areas which you can improve upon! If at all possible, instead of downvoting, please consider editing the question to make it better. Yes, sometimes the question is unsalvageable, but many times all it needs is a gentle massage.

If you can't tell how to improve the question, consider leaving a comment, but as you said this is in no way required.

  • 24
    Eeeehh, I'd put the tag in the red box. But, since you've given me tacit permission, I'm off to blanket down vote all team-fortress-2 questions. Anonymously. May 21, 2013 at 0:20
  • 8
    @LessPop_MoreFizz I included the tag because mistagging a question can make it unclear. We downvote unclear questions.
    – user9983
    May 21, 2013 at 0:22
  • 9
    Dunno about the post score. At some point, you do have to wonder if this answer is really worth a -8 or a 52 score and if it really does need another bump either way. That question, for example, is rather famous but hardly worthy of a score of 212 if you asked me. I honestly doubt we have 212 users on the site who play Nethack to begin with.
    – badp
    May 21, 2013 at 9:14
  • 27
    @badp Theoretically, though, your votes should be independent of others'. The real question should not be "does this answer deserve to be at -8?" It should be "does this answer deserve a -1 from me?" May 21, 2013 at 16:07
  • 1
    @murgatroid99 agreed, this is very much at the core of the problem I think.
    – user27134
    May 21, 2013 at 22:48
  • 6
    @murgatroid99 In theory I totally agree. In practice I think few of even the most seasoned users ask a question, get -8, and look at it as 8 isolated reviews. It looks and feels a lot more like a coordinated action of folks ganging up.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 2:29
  • @badp I agree. It's probably another whole discussion, but its a fact that while good questions tend to get upvotes, and bad questions tend to get downvotes, the relative amount they get is fairly inconsistent, yet as humans we want to compare them.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 2:38
  • @EBongo It doesn't matter if people do that. It's still wrong.
    – user9983
    May 23, 2013 at 3:14
  • 2
    @OrigamiRobot So why do we compare reputation numbers to arbitrary goalposts, or even each other? The site does this all over the place and things breaks down when you "hit a goldmine." Sure, the reputation cap is a bandaid, but it doesn't fix the distortion.
    – badp
    May 23, 2013 at 6:38
  • What, you mean to say I can't improve upon their reputation?
    – user39434
    Aug 6, 2013 at 16:32
  • @Emrakul Only if you are doing so to reward good content.
    – user9983
    Aug 6, 2013 at 16:35
  • Sarcasm :P (bananas bananas)
    – user39434
    Aug 6, 2013 at 16:36

The premise is mistaken: this is not a shift in the quality of the site. People have always voted based on their own personal, irrational reasons. The sentiment is noble, but never fear: the system has always suffered this abuse, and yet it has continued to work.

See the variety of reasons for voting that people express in these MSO answers:

… and lots others I couldn't find with an easy search.

That said, I entirely agree that downvotes don't obligate a comment. I don't think it's a fight worth fighting though: so long as the site doesn't require downvotes to have a comment (which it never will), the majority will continue to happily ignore other users who insist downvotes need comments.


Well, I have been corrected and\or shown that my opinion isn't apparently shared by the majority, but I'll put it here anyway.

I dislike the idea of anonymous downvoting (here-after ANDV). I hear your explanations, and agree they make sense, and even agree the concept of ANDV works well within the sites scope of organizing its content. I just don't like it. I feel we could do more, and be more, by reducing how much of our voting is anonymous. If everyone in a community is anonymous, it isn't much of a community, and we have a strong community. I really don't see any reason to make it any weaker, and I feel ANDV does. It doesn't teach very well, and downvoting SHOULD teach in my opinion. I personally am always trying to learn to do better, and I'm sure many other users are as well. ANDV directly hinders this mission.

I would also like to mention that I was somehow misunderstood at first, and this entire post was created on the premise of that misunderstanding. I do not in any way support sympathy upvote or downvotes, and agree that would break the site. My original comment mentioned by fbueckert was simply speaking out against anonymous downvotes, and had nothing to do with sympathy upvotes or downvotes.

  • 16
    Anonymous downvoting is integral to the mission, not harmful. SE harnesses stats and human nature to attempt to maximise quality; it is well documented that non-anoymous voting strongly inhibits voting at all. If voting weren't anonymous, SE wouldn't exist. However, we have another layer: humans are different. Some like to help, and leave educational comments. Some like to edit. Some like to flag. Some like to answer. Some like to ask. We don't all have to do those things for them to get done. Just a few people commenting is helpful. Everyone needing to comment downvotes wouln't be. May 27, 2013 at 3:21
  • "I hear your explanations, and agree they make sense, and even agree the concept of ANDV works well within the sites scope of organizing its content. I just don't like it." Unfortunately not liking something doesn't justify trying to change it. @SevenSidedDie agreed.
    – user47129
    May 27, 2013 at 5:43
  • 3
    @SevenSidedDie well said. And to you Scootaloo Not liking something definitly justifies trying to change it, why else would anyone want to change anything? Women didn't have rights, they DIDNT LIKE THAT, so they changed it. You DONT LIKE the program on television, so you change the channel, ect, ect.
    – Ender
    May 27, 2013 at 11:34


Downvotes send a negative message, and a negative message without an explanation in many cases damages our ability to recruit quality new users. Downvoting is a necessary community tool to react truly bad content. Proactively preventing future bad content by educating new users with comments is an under-used approach which is often a better investment in the long run.

Because it's not just one...

I think a lot of folks trivialize the affect of downvotes, because "what's the problem with one downvote". In fact, I think there is no problem with one. The problem is that one downvote often attracts more. Humans are negative creatures, and particularly on this site I think some folks revel in piling onto to an already heavily downvoted question - especially if that user has the nerve to ask in Meta or chat about why the question was downvoted. For someone with thousands of rep, 5 or 10 downvotes are trivial. For new users though, it basically says "go away". We got together and decided we don't want you here.

To your points

It gives the poster a target.

For what? Downvotes? What's the big deal with... but anyway. There is a built in Stack system to reverse serial revenge downvotes, so unless you have really little rep there isn't much affect one person can have (good or bad). If you are going to post in Meta and talk in chat on this site, your identity and stance on topics is known. You can't hide from the internet, unless you just want to silently vote and do nothing else on the site. Also, I don't think it is necessary to explain your downvote so much as it is necessary to engage the asker and suggest improvements.

...everyone gets tired at some point of re-iterating the same thing over and over. It's a way of keeping sane.

I really don't understand this line of reasoning. If you are getting tired of editing or voting on questions - take a break. Educating askers on the rules of the site, and making improvements to questions, is everyone's responsibility. Giving "blind" negative feedback to a user doesn't really streamline the process either - given that Meta/Chat debates, or more bad questions from the user often ensue.

There are several orders of magnitude more users of the site than there are active members to keep it clean.

I don't buy this either. I've seen very active users come and go, and I myself participate more or less at different times. I've never seen that make any difference in the amount of "spam comments" or similar phenomena that result from insufficient community moderation. If the total loss of an active editor doesn't make a ripple, why would the delays associated with explaining our policies to users? Moreover, if you ever want to recruit new reviewers, you need to be recruiting good users who understand our policies, and why they exist.

A few other points

  • Unless a question is insanely stupid or offensive it does not need more than 1 or 2 downvotes (ie -2 total score) IMHO. When you pile on to such a question you are sending a message, and you should consider carefully whether that is the message you want to send.
  • A question with zero or one upvote (ie +1 total score), is not obscuring other "better" content in pretty much any of the site filtered views. If you see a terrible question that is +10, that's worth downvoting, and even campaigning against with like minded users. However, that is an extremely rare case. As such, if you can't be bothered to write a comment to improve a question, you can save yourself the left mouse RSS and just avoid voting all together. The net effect is similar, without the negative feedback to the asker.
  • Downvoting, like close voting, does not intrinsically help users understand what they are doing wrong. Again, if you feel the user is malicious or obstinate, go for it. If you think they just don't understand our policies, be a positive ambassador of the site and reach out to them, even if you decide to downvote.
  • We are always in need of quality new users. New users bring new ideas, new game knowledge, and new manpower. Unexplained negative feedback, especially in large doses, is a perfect way to scare off new users.
  • 12
    I disagree with every single one of your points. The voting system is in place to sort quality. If a user wants to take them personally and leave, there's nothing we can do about it. There's the fundamental disconnect between our stances, I believe. Votes aren't personal, but you are portraying them as such. Comments are optional by design. Taking a break from commenting doesn't mean you should take a break from voting.
    – Frank
    May 22, 2013 at 13:42
  • 1
    @Sconibulus Actually, it needs -4 to disappear off the front page.
    – Frank
    May 22, 2013 at 13:56
  • 9
    "If you see a terrible question that is +10, that's worth downvoting, and even campaigning against with like minded users." That is the exact opposite of how the system is supposed to work.
    – user9983
    May 22, 2013 at 14:26
  • 3
    @Sconibulus (and fbueckert) I wasn't aware of the 4 vote threshold, but I'm not sure it makes a difference in this case. Things that need to move off the main page would fall into the category of "stupid" or "offensive" like I mentioned. The point of that bullet is "do you want to treat someone who writes something stupid/offensive exactly the same as someone who just doesn't understand our rules". I would say, no.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 0:10
  • 2
    @OrigamiRobot It's a very rare case, regardless. I'm imagining a case where a question that is very bad gets upvotes because it is funny. I debated even mentioning it, but I was trying to emphasize that in a majority of cases you don't need to "pile on" to a question with multiple downvotes just to vote your conscience.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 0:15
  • 1
    How are we supposed to differentiate between posts that need to be killed with fire and posts that are sort of bad if they are all just -2?
    – kotekzot
    May 23, 2013 at 5:10
  • 3
    @kotekzot No that's exactly my point. There are posts that need to be killed with fire. If it is stupid or offensive by all means flame away. This question is stupid - 13 downvotes warranted. This question is from a new user, and from personal experience I think it is a good question with poor detail. It has 8 downvotes. That is what I'm talking about - flaming was totally unnecessary.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 12:39
  • 4
    And that's the thing; we're not flaming. It's incredibly poor quality, and shows absolutely no effort. Those votes aren't because it's a new user. It's because the question is crap. I'd do the same if someone with 10K rep posted something similar, but by that point people know better.
    – Frank
    May 23, 2013 at 12:53
  • 5
    I mean, seriously. Look at the original revision. Whether you decide it deserves a downvote or not is up to you. I figured it did, so I downvoted it. Nowhere in my decision making process did I go, "Well, this is a new user, we should lay off". It shouldn't matter if it's a new user or not; crap is crap is crap.
    – Frank
    May 23, 2013 at 15:34
  • 1
    @fbueckert I do understand that we fundamentally disagree. I'm trying to cultivate a community of good users, to ask and answer questions. You (as I see it) are trying to curate content with no regard to the people aspect. Both our opinions are out there, folks can vote on whichever they like better. I can see a lot of folks currently disagree with me, but I'm playing the long game.
    – EBongo
    May 23, 2013 at 17:55
  • 8
    You're right, we are on opposing sides of this argument. Content quality is much more important than any random new user. That's why I stick around. If it becomes more focused on kowtowing to ensure we get new users (when we obviously do NOT need them), Arqade will have officially become Yahoo Answers, and the expertise will evaporate. I'm here because we require (and can enforce) higher standards than anywhere else out there. I don't know what long game you're playing, but I will always oppose elevating new users over quality content.
    – Frank
    May 23, 2013 at 18:07
  • 3
    I feel your stance is inherently self-defeating. That which makes Arqade great is our content quality. By making new users more important, you are subverting that, and devaluing all established member's contributions. If a new user is more important than me, who's spent a year here contributing and helping out, why should I stick around? You've just told me that my worth is less than a new user's. Your stance would create a revolving door of users that would lead to the site's eventual demise, all in the name of new users.
    – Frank
    May 24, 2013 at 14:51
  • 2
    ... it's as much their responsibility to conform and adapt to our rules and standards. What I see is you shifting that responsibility onto established users to keep the new users, and that's what I oppose. Completely, and utterly. I'll happily discuss this in chat with you if you want to continue this, but as it stands, I think I've said my piece. The new user experience is not solely our responsibility.
    – Frank
    May 25, 2013 at 3:02
  • 2
    Essentially, we're not interested in making new users into good users. We're only interested in the already-pretty-good users finding a home here because we already operate in a way that suits and appeals to them. Bad new users aren't going to help the site, and we don't have a system for converting them into good users. We have a system that limits the damage they can do that would drive away good users. Whether bad users stay or not is up to them. If they can't figure out how to become good users on their own, our energy would be wasted on them anyway. May 26, 2013 at 21:48
  • 2
    @SevenSidedDie It isn't lost on me that some new users have no interest in ever contributing to the site. I don't like such users any more than the next guy, and I'm not referring to them when I refer to improving the new user experience. I'm talking about new users that have potential that I see turned away time and time again. A happier compromise between content and users.
    – EBongo
    May 27, 2013 at 12:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .