I understand the abundance of downvote-related questions that are asked here, but I didn't find any related to what I propose, so here is my thought:

I wholeheartedly aggree that the reasons for one's downvote are personal, subjective, and should not be "rulefied". This is not the issue.

What happens is the following: If you post an answer, you almost surely know why you think it is a good one. Therefore, an upvote is a "natural" follow-up for that: it needs no justification. A downvote is something that you do not expect for (in theory) and, with great chance, you don't know why happened: but it can be useful. It serves to alert and to motivate the person to modify their answer properly: I think this may belong among the most prominent objectives of a downvote (along with alerting the rest of the community that maybe this answer is not worth reading etc.).

So, why withhold this potential benefit of the downvote? Most of times, what happens in a downvote is the following:

Downvote happens.

Userthatwasdownvoted: Why the downvote?

(and, maybe:)

Userthatdownvoted: Because of this, this and that.

My proposition is the following: Everytime you cast a downvote, a prompt of "Downvote Summary", similar to "Edit Summary", open up and you should write at least a character. No penalty should be issued to the person that would simply type "a", or something. But I think this encourages the aspect I told about: the downvote itself gives motivation, and the explanation says "motivation for THIS".

EDIT: Let me be more clear. Asaf showed me related questions, and on one of them, the following is the most upvoted answer:

No, I do not think the downvoter must leave a comment. Often I do, but to enforce it is a bad idea; it is already encouraged by the software for newer users.

An incomplete list why it is a bad idea:

-It is impossible to enforce that a meaningful comment is left, so it would just be some comment.

-There are legitimate reasons to want to downvote anonymously, for example, when the downvotee is know to be a difficult user one might not want to engage in a discussion with them.

-Multiple downvotes would lead to multiple comments. (...)

I aggree with the value of anonymity, and I aggree that a "spam" of comments is not helpful (and, of course, spammy). And I think it is good the fact that we can't impose a meaningful comment: a non-meaningful comment means that the downvote is non-meaningful. I was not clear in my suggestion:

Suppose that the "Downvote summary" opens up, and a "text block input" issues you to put some comment. You put anything, or a reasonable explanation. My idea is: all comments that are left stay in a "page", like the edit page, with some sort of "log", in which you could see all of them: and they would be displayed, anonymously, in order. The only downside of this idea I can see by myself is the fact that (maybe, I don't understand much about webhosting etc) this could create much more data to store, but I don't think this would be an issue.

Is this a bad idea? Why?

EDIT2: Scavenging a little, I found this answer that proposes something quite similar to what I proposed:


Which is highly upvoted, but I think that didn't get enough practical attention, I guess. What are your thoughts about this?

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    $\begingroup$ This meta, and surely many other meta sites, are full with these requests. They never go well. (Note, by the way, that voting on the meta site is different, and signals disagreement with the proposal; it carries no reputation penalty.) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Aug 8, 2015 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ I really didn't find anything related to this idea. Could you provide me any reference? I would like to see the points made in the discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Aug 8, 2015 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Having read your linked posts, I have the feeling that (although related), the propositions are quite different. I will edit my question properly. Thank you for your attention. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Aug 8, 2015 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ What should happen is a little box popping up every time a question is asked on meta: "Are you asking for non-anonymous downvotes / mandatory comment when downvoting? Well, please don't, because it's been asked a thousand times already and the answer is no." $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2015 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ There was also a short-lived experiment - a separate chatroom for discussing reasons of a downvotes. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2015 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ Usually when I downvote an answer (thankfully it is relatively rare that I need to do so) the only "improvement" I can think of is to have the answer removed. As of late this is because I strongly felt that the question should not have been answered in the first place. If there is a correctable mathematical error I may still downvote, but I usually comment in those cases (downvote comes later, if the author does not react). $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2015 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


I oppose this suggestion. Why? It adds a barrier to downvoting. Downvoting is a good thing, and too few people engage in it already:

  • Of the approximately 3 million votes cast on this site, only 8.8% are downvotes.
  • Of the 48 thousand users who have cast at least one vote, only 14.6% have cast a downvote.

As an aside, I recommend reading mixedmath's blog post about Some Statistics on the Growth of Math.SE; in it, there are some every interesting observations about the prevalence of different vote types.

Adding another step to downvoting (even if I just have to type a single character) makes it less likely for users to engage in it.

An example of this may be found in closevoting. I am less likely to vote to close a question simply because I don't want to make 3 or 4 clicks to navigate through a dialog box--I would rarely use up all 50 of my daily close votes. When I added bookmarklets to make closing a one-click process, I started to use nearly all of my daily closevotes. (Now I'm experimenting with ways to make this process involve even fewer clicks.)

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    $\begingroup$ It should be added, perhaps, that downvoting more does not mean upvoting less. I don't think many people on the site reach their voting quota on a regular basis. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Aug 9, 2015 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ I upvoted this answer, I think it is a nice justification... but I have some troubles with the truthness of some statements: 1 - Is downvoting really a good thing, as it is? Why? I think it is non-constructive. The only good reason I see a downvote being useful for is to mark a question as heavily problematic, which often results in closing it. Therefore, I agree that downvoting for questions is a good thing: but what about answers? It seems like a "shady" hint that something may be wrong $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Aug 9, 2015 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ 2 - Is it really a barrier? Isn't this exaggeration, two clicks instead of one? How many times do you downvote an answer, for example? And when you do, isn't it when you really think it deserves? Would 2 clicks instead of one stop you from doing it? See, closing a question is something frequent - a lot of badly written questions pop up, for example. I understand that a lenghty procedure is counter-productive. But (I think) that bad answers are not close at all with respect to quantity. $\endgroup$
    – Aloizio Macedo Mod
    Aug 9, 2015 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ Re: 1: Yes, downvoting is a good thing. For questions, it's the pearls vs. sand argument. For answers, realize that our purpose isn't to reward correct* answers, but helpful answers. Downvotes indicate an answer isn't useful to me, not that it is wrong. We're trying to build a library of high-quality answers to questions, and this involves sorting the many answers a question receives by quality using both upvotes and downvotes. $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Aug 10, 2015 at 3:02
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    $\begingroup$ Re: 2: Yes, it is a barrier. Downvoting is something that should be far more common than closing a question--after all, you can downvote at 125 rep, but only close at 2000 rep. Also, remember that our site uses the same framework as the entire SE network (except Area 51, which is the unloved one), and making significant per-site changes to UI is infeasible. We are unique in that many of our answers are verifiably "the best" (or at least close); other sites have much larger problems with poor answers, and thus warrant instant downvoting. $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Aug 10, 2015 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ General: Finally, requiring a justification for every vote is unnecessary. The purpose of voting is to be a quick, near-instant form of feedback. If I have a specific problem I want to air, I will leave a comment. When I downvote, I want to be able to do it in less than a second; don't make me spend 5 seconds typing a worthless character and pressing "enter." (@AloizioMacedo) $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Aug 10, 2015 at 3:11

A different approach to make it possible to easier "correct" downvotes occured to me on my answer to this question. I got downvoted for a reason as I didn't think it through; it took me some time to realise why I was wrong and thanks to Axoren's comments I finally got it. This is a case where I was glad about the comment explaining the downvote. As I knew from the comments that Axoren voted my answer down, I could notify him about my idea and suspect that he turned his downvote into an upvote. The other person either thinks that my answer is still worth downvoting or (what I think is more likely) never looked at the question and my answer again.

My idea/proposal: install a button for the author of the answer where he can anonymously notify the people who downvoted his answer that he has improved it. This way you get notified that you might want to remove your downvote without any obligation to comment and you don't have to keep track of all your downvotes if there are any improvements.


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