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I vote a lot. This includes quite a few downvotes. I do not comment with my downvotes anymore, because most of the time when I do comment I am met with attacks. I have been called names, received retaliation downvotes, etc. Today even, I downvoted something. In the comments there were a few people shaming the unknown downvoter.

I simply don't explain my downvotes anymore. I don't care that some stranger is upset with me. However there is considerable desire for explanations of downvotes. I understand this. However attacking downvoters disincentives an explanations, to the point where me (and I'm sure many others) simply don't explain ever!

So if someone is kind enough to explain their downvote, do not attack them. A downvote is not a personal attack on you. A downvote is not saying that your question/answer is trash and unsalvagable or anything like that.

So, can we please be nicer to downvoters, especially those who are kind enough to explain their downvote?

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    $\begingroup$ It is a bit of a paradox, innit? Even a constructive comment becomes a lightning rod if said comment was accompanied by a downvote. It would be interesting to count how many of the people who ask for downvote explanations are also petty enough to perform retaliatory downvotes when given an explained downvote. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jun 20 '16 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I'm at the exact same place - I've gotten quite a bit of abuse (and not just here at SE, but also off-site) as a result of giving such comments. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Jun 20 '16 at 5:13
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe we should start a campaign to shame unexplained upvotes! $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Jun 20 '16 at 5:20
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    $\begingroup$ This (being nicer to downvotes) is unfortunately never going to happen. You see, downvotes take something of great value to the downvotee: 2 points of reputation. From the experiences I've had explaining my downvotes, downvoting is generally seen as casting judgment on their entire life, value as a human being, everything and finding it unsatisfactory. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 20 '16 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, there are times where downvotes are perplexing. And in those cases silent downvotes can cause a bit of emotional discomfort. Picture yourself giving a seminar talk, to a large crowd, and when you are in your third board of the proof, someone from the back of the crowd says "No, you're wrong". You can't identify who that was, and no additional input is given. How do you feel? Do you think you'll be stressed? Do you think you'll be upset? Would you feel any sort of discomfort? Not all downvotes should be explained, but sometimes... sometimes they should be. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 20 '16 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ I used to offer explanations for downvotes following comments asking for them. The reactions were more often than not negative. I once even initiated a chat room for users to ask what might be the reason for some downvote. The interest in this was minimal. I am convinced there is much less actual interest in explanations than is claimed. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ @David many downvotes never intended to challenge the correctness of the post. It appears your expectation is based on a false premise. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @ArturoHernandez I've had several occasions now where I've tried to leave constructive comments explaining my downvotes of bad posts, and gotten abusive or even threatening emails over it. I don't mind having a little discussion with someone here on the site, but there are a lot of occasions where it develops far past that. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Jun 20 '16 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @David: I confess, when a user thinks a question deserves a downvote but is disinclined to go through the effort of commenting and all that would entail, between the options of "cast the downvote without comment" and lying about their opinion with "don't cast the downvote", it's the latter I would consider intellectually dishonest. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Jun 20 '16 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ I’m certainly not going to attack someone responsible enough to explain a downvote. I will, however, continue to make snide remarks about unexplained downvotes of correct answers, especially when they are the first vote, though I do try to remember to remove such comments once the net vote ceases to be misleading. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jun 20 '16 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott the assumption in hardmath's scenario is, I think, that the redundant answer was likely given to get some quick points. If the goal is to avoid this being done again, a downvote can be quite useful to this end, arguably more so than a comment explaining the situation. On your other comment, in my observation you did not always react well to valid mathematical criticism (note observation, not experience). $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott fine it is well known that others do care, and act accordingly. You might consider showing some consideration for the opinions and sensibilities of others. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ Can we be harsher to incorrect answers? Why the hell should anyone have the expectation that their answer will not be downvoted if there are issues with it? Witness my recent experience downvoting at math.stackexchange.com/questions/1814579 to see where I'm coming from. Hell, include a clause in the FAQ that one should expect incorrect answers to be downvoted, possibly to oblivion, and even deleted. If there are disagreements about the correctness of the answer, well, that's why there's democratic voting, and also comments to be used to resolve the issues. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 21 '16 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Deepak: But what about upvote abuse? You ask your friends to vote you up, you ask your students to vote you up, you like someone and just vote them up. And you do all this without needing to justify anything. And that happened in the past, on very large scales, too. Downvotes are a means to an end. They allow a user to quickly determine that something might not be worth reading, without sifting through endless comments "I like it" and "I don't like it". On a site this big, that is not a bad thing to have. So if you want to cancel downvotes, you can't keep upvotes, it makes no sense to me. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 25 '16 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree with the conception of downvotes as "penalties", or I guess reversely of upvotes as "rewards". The purpose of the score on your answer (or question) is to indicate the trust the community has in your answer, or more generally, to indicate the merit of your answer as judged by the community. Plus, there is NOTHING we can do to enforce a specific downvoting behavior, but we could do something to enforce specific commenting behavior, e.g. we could curb abuse... $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 28 '16 at 3:48
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It disappoints me that the admission

I don't explain my downvotes anymore because I get abused when I do so.

and the subsequent plea

Can you all be nicer to downvoters so that we don't feel disinclined to explain our downvotes?

is responded to with discussions of

When, how, and why you should explain your downvotes or should you even cast downvotes at all/it's understandable why the abuse happens, how would you like it if your answer was downvoted, especially without a comment?

What I'd like to see discussed instead are

  1. the transparency and facility of the mechanisms by which such abuse can be reported and appropriately dealt with.

  2. whether we should and how we could modify the expectation some users have that their answers should not be downvoted, which breeds the above abuse when downvoting occurs.

My position is that the purpose of this web-site is to generate correct answers to people's questions, not to give people the opportunity to puff themselves up on reputation. The abuse impeded that and therefore I am against it, whereas the voting mechanism (both up and down) serves to assess the relative merit of the answers according to the community, and therefore I support both downvotes and commenting that improves answers. It is up to an answer's author to ensure their answer is as correct useful and correct as possible, especially when given feedback; abuse is unacceptable.


Apparently nobody reads the existing behavior guidelines. The very first guideline, quoted below (and bolded by me) directly explains when to downvote, in direct conflict with the tenor of all the existing discussion in the comment threads of this question and its answers.

Be honest.

Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Last but not least, edit and improve the existing questions and answers! By doing these things, you are helping keep Stack Exchange a great place to share knowledge of our craft.

While you’re doing all of those things, we also require that you...

Ah, but maybe they do, it's just that they follow the link to the privilege documentation on downvoting, and don't just stick to the behavior guideline.

When should I vote down?

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

...

Down-voting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

Instead of voting down:

Why are these in contradiction to one another??!!!

The guideline suggests to always vote misinformation down, while the privilege documentation suggests that downvoting should be an action of last resort in improving a question or answer. I'd wager much of the abuse to downvoters stems from users believing in the privilege documentation and not the behavior guideline, while many of the downvoters believe in the guideline and not the documentation.

Obviously abuse is never justified, but the outrage of being downvoted would be justified by the way the downvoting privilege is described. I think this flaw in the documentation should be taken up to meta.stackexchange.com...


I also don't read the guidelines, otherwise I will have known that there already are well-written instructions on dealing with abuse by flagging. Specifically

Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:

  • Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").

  • Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)

  • Inappropriate language or attention. Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive. Also, this is not a dating site.

  • Harassment and bullying. If you see a hostile interaction, flag it. If it keeps up, disengage — we'll handle it. If something needs staff attention, you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.

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    $\begingroup$ "It is up to an answer's author to ensure their answer is as correct as possible..." Actually, it is up to the answer's author to ensure that an answer is as useful as possible. Correctness does not imply any level of usefulness to either the OP or the community. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Jun 22 '16 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ i'd agree that correctness is only necessary, not sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 22 '16 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ There are arguments that correctness and usefulness are somewhat independent of each other. There can be useful threads which include very common "naive approach" and though these approaches may often fail, that is useful, even if not correct. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 22 '16 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ if you're suggesting it's good enough to have useful incorrect answers, i disagree: it's better to have useful correct answers (of course "correct" can be understood broadly: with errors or pitfalls clearly labeled, etc). if we were to belabor the point i'd say that usefulness is the degree to which an answer actually answers the question, i.e., "generate correct answers to people's questions"... but let's not belabor the point. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 22 '16 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ You seem to be ignoring the fact that the abuse goes both ways. No, downvoters should not be abused simply for downvoting. But the fact is that some downvotes are at best displays of ignorance and at worst abusive; I’ve seen two such in the last hour. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jun 22 '16 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Downvotes on their own (unless given overwhelmingly or serially, which is usually reversed automatically) are not abusive. They may not be friendly or nice, but the worst they do is cost a few reputation points from every party involved. This is incomparable with the abuse that those who are willing to comment about downvotes receive. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Jun 22 '16 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers: Reputation is almost irrelevant, save for new answerers. When the first vote on a correct answer is a downvote, that downvote is definitely abusive: it is misleading to the OP and any casual reader, and it may cause the answerer to waste time trying to figure out whether there actually is an error, and if so, what it is. The more upvotes there are, the less the downvote matters. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jun 22 '16 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers: I was serially downvoted, several times, by people who know the script limitations, and just dowvoted one or two posts a day for a while. This sort of behavior takes a long time to discover and recover, and it is frustrating. Because I put, usually, a lot of effort into my answers. So this means some period of annoyance, before there is some enough evidence. And as time progresses, whoever is behind this becomes cleverer and this becomes more difficult to detect. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 22 '16 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott if you insist labeling commentless downvoting as abuse, it is obviously an abuse of a different kind than the abuse that a downvoter also receives (verbal attacks, shaming, stalking, etc). These two different kinds of abuse would have to be addressed by different mechanisms so I don't think conflating them is useful toward resolving either issue. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 22 '16 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Also, is it not obvious that downvoting itself would not be abolished, that decorating downvotes with comments would not be mandated, hence that the commentless downvoting "abuse" can be limited a) by the algorithms to detect it, and b) establishing community norms to retaliate with verbal abuse, etc. or c) I can't think of a "c)". $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 22 '16 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ I meant that, short of instituting a community guideline to berate anonymous downvotes (which is absurd, i don't mean anyone's suggesting it), there isn't much we can do to curb anonymous downvotes beyond the curbing already done by the algorithms to prevent serial downvoting and such. On the other hand, I think there is something the community can do to decrease the verbal abuse and such that's heaped on downvoters. That's why I think even labeling downvoting itself as an "abuse" conflates it with the (in my opinion), more serious but also more easily tractable kind of abuse that's verbal, &c $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 23 '16 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott If the sentence "You seem to be ignoring the fact that the abuse goes both ways." (your own words) isn't conflating the two kinds of abuse, I don't know what is. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 24 '16 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ Rather than down vote, I suggest one leave a constructive comment that alerts the one who posted the answer as to your concern. This gives the author a chance to improve her/his answer before being penalized. I hope that all of the "happy trigger" down voters consider this courtesy. They should put themselves in the other person's situation. Would they not appreciate the opportunity to address the concern and improve an answer before being punished for trying to help someone. -Mark $\endgroup$ – Mark Viola Jun 27 '16 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ maybe if we're more abusive to commenters who contribute only noise, they will stop commenting! let me try: @Dr.MV do you not see that your comment is completely inappropriate for this thread because the very answer the thread's subordinate to is about how off-topic discussions of "how to downvote" are? do you not read what others write because you assume that your own opinions are so novel and brilliant that there is no way they've been thought of or discussed at all in the hundreds(!) of comments throughout the discussion of this question? $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 28 '16 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ @VladimirSotirov Yes. How's that? And your comment has been flagged as rude and offensive. ;-)) $\endgroup$ – Mark Viola Jun 28 '16 at 2:24
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One small step towards being nicer to downvoters would be to try to eradicate the many comments on the site to the effect of

@downvoter: Why you downvote?

or, more colorfully,

@downvoter: What the hell is this downvote for? explain yourself!

These probably all fall under the umbrella of "non-constructive". These comments are rarely answered, and so they simply become lasting noise on the site. Such comments left by old-hats also seem to embolden newer contributors to be more aggressive towards (anonymous) downvoters.

They also don't appear to serve the intended purpose of comments, as per the "Comment Everywhere" privilege page:

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

(Asking about a downvote does not request clarification from the author, and doesn't provide constructive criticism to the author, and doesn't provide any additional information to the post.)

I'm not going to be holding my breath on this, as it seems that the most frequent "downvoter" commenter is a moderator.

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    $\begingroup$ I flag such comments 'not constructive' as I come across them. Usually, they get deleted. To be more precise, I flag the comment typically if it reads more like a complaint; if it sincerely seeks to understand a potential problem, I might offer my opinion on that even if it is not my vote or just move on. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 28 '16 at 17:39
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Since we freely can wote as we which having enough privileges, we have to accept downvotes as we must accept weather or something. Votes is an objective messure of popularity, mainly based on the confidence in a user. And that's it!

Obviously some downvotes are obscure while most of them are adequate.

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    $\begingroup$ See? No hard feelings, in spite of the #@*%! downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Lehs Jul 3 '16 at 14:43
5
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The following is a draft wiki to hammer out guidelines for both downvoters and downvotees, concerning "being nice to downvoters" (that is, best practice for rections when receiving downvotes and coping with perceived abuse for casting downvotes), to be included in the FAQ (or wherever we decide it should go). Feel free to add relevant information or queries/suggestions for relevant information that should be included. Some of this might already be in the FAQ, but the site-navigation is sufficiently cumbersome for me not to want to do this by myself.

DRAFT


Steps to take if you receive a downvote

  1. If there is no comment with the downvote, take a deep breath. Take this as an opportunity to look at your answer again and improve it if it is not as correct or as clear as you would like it to be. Since you have no written feedback, that is the most productive course of action you can take. Do NOT decrease the quality of your answer by commenting negatively on the anonymous downvote, but feel free to politely request the downvoter comment.

  2. If there is a comment explaining the reason for the downvote, you can either

    • incorporate its suggestion in your own answer if it convinces you there is a problem with your answer. If the problem with your answer is insurmountable, you should edit it to indicate the problem.
    • ignore the suggestion if its obviously incorrect, but do attempt to explain (in the comments or in your answer if appropriate) why the suggestion is incorrect. it in a comment of your own if the reasoning is incorrect.
    • if the feedback is unclear, engage in polite dialogue with the downvoter to determine the nature of the complaint. Feel free to ask them for help if they convince you there is something wrong with your answer but you are uncertain how to fix it.
    • do NOT hurl invective at the downvoter no matter how horribly incorrect you think their suggestion is or how mistaken you think they are in their understanding.

Steps to take if you are suffering abuse for using the downvoting mechanism, or generally for your participation on the site.

  1. If you receive abusive comments, flag them as abusive. What will happen is that a moderator will evaluate whether the comment is indeed abusive, and delete it if necessary. Your moderators are:...

    • What if the abusive comment is from a moderator or high-reputation user?
  2. If you receive abusive emails, contact the community managers. These are:...
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer mainly focuses on the downvoting of an answer. What about the downvoting of a question? $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Jun 25 '16 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ Feel free to add a section on what to do if your question is downvoted; I haven't thought about it. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 25 '16 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't one need some number of points to flag comments as abusive? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jun 25 '16 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ this is a draft: fill in the details and fix the errors if you've the time and inclination... $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 25 '16 at 6:01
  • $\begingroup$ I would take out "Do NOT decrease the quality of your answer by commenting on the anonymous downvote." If I don't get a comment on a downvote, I will often add a comment asking" Why the downvote? This has then prompted the downvoter to ad a comment. I don't see a problem in asking for clarification on a downvote. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Jun 25 '16 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson yes, but so does casting a downvote. (Also it is only 15 points.) Since the latter needs more points than the former there is no problem in the current context (except in very unlikely corner cases). $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 25 '16 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ Rather than down vote, I suggest one leave a constructive comment that alerts the one who posted the answer as to your concern. This gives the author a chance to improve her/his answer before being penalized. I hope that all of the "happy trigger" down voters consider this courtesy. They should put themselves in the other person's situation. Would they not appreciate the opportunity to address the concern and improve an answer before being punished for trying to help someone. -Mark $\endgroup$ – Mark Viola Jun 27 '16 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the attempt to draft a wiki. What's missing is that Not all downvotes are about math errors. They are more about the downvoter expressing their opinion that this post simply should not have been posted. Period. May be they feel that the site would be better off without the question that spawned this answer? May be they feel (or know from past dealings with this person) that the poster is so confused that the post is unsalvageable? I dare not even guesstimate how large a fraction of all our downvotes are motivated by such concerns, but it is not insignificant. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 28 '16 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Jyrki maybe it's not clear from what I wrote, but it was my intention to indicate that if a poster receives a downvote and, as far as they can tell, there is nothing mathematically wrong with their answer, i.e. the downvote expresses some sort of disagreement or opinion, then there's nothing for the poster to do (unless the downvote fits into a pattern of serial abuse, in which case a moderator should be flagged). $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 28 '16 at 20:31
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Don't know if it has already been proposed. Anyway, why don't force comment on downvote? In other words, if I click "downvote", then I must obliged to write a comment. No wish to comment, no downvote. I think this is easy and effective, doesn't it?

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    $\begingroup$ It was proposed in this very thread and numerous times before. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 23 '16 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is a good solution to the problem of "downvoters are being harassed due to commenting about their votes." It's literally the exact opposite of a solution. It also leads to massive amounts of unnecessary noise. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Jun 23 '16 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Here's my comment. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jun 24 '16 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ This has nothing to do with the question and has been discussed at length anyway. $\endgroup$ – user223391 Jun 24 '16 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ I wanted to make the same comment as @Joel, but he already made that comment. Since I have to write a comment, this is my comment. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 24 '16 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ As mentioned by quid, this was discussed several times. Some questions discussing this were linked directly in the question. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 24 '16 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ I had only wanted to upvote Joel's and Asaf's comments, but alright, here is a comment. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jun 24 '16 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @the_candyman In case you didn't understand, the comments of Joel, Asaf and J. M. are all comments that accompanied a downvote. They forced themselves to write a comment when they downvoted, as you were suggesting. As you can see, this wasn't useful at all. (Oh and this comment is accompanying a downvote too.) $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 24 '16 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi ok, I got it $\endgroup$ – the_candyman Jun 24 '16 at 7:14
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    $\begingroup$ Eh. Y'all seem to be having fun downvoting this one, but the non-useful comments intended to show how comments can be non-useful as self-fulfilling evidence for downvotes to this answer here looks like something of a circular argument to me. Not saying I necessarily agree or disagree with the proposal, but unfortunately many of the dissents at this point are amounting to circular noise. I'm +1ing this to try to balance it out and invite meaningful responses instead. (A couple of responses, e.g. by quid, T.Bongers, and Martin. Sleziak, are indeed meaninfgul.) $\endgroup$ – Don Hatch Jun 26 '16 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @DonHatch I think you missed the point. I for example was ready to downvote without commenting because I disagree with the proposal, but if I was forced to leave a comment I would just have left a BS comment like the others. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 26 '16 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi: yes, but then, as the abused and downvoted, I'd be able to see that you downvoted me. And then...and then...I'LL HAVE MY REVENGE!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!...<cough cough> I mean, you'll think twice before doing the right thing regarding my lousy post. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Jun 26 '16 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi I get that point, thanks. Did you get mine? I'll try again-- the BS comments accompanying downvotes for this particular question aren't credible as evidence since they are biased by the fact that they are coming from people who already don't like the proposal and are therefore motivated to produce such evidence. Playing that card on this one doesn't help advance the position, and isn't clever, it just comes off as smug and annoying, to me. Better to just say something like "it leads to massive amounts of unnecessary noise" (which may in fact be true) like Bonger did. $\endgroup$ – Don Hatch Jun 27 '16 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Don: Those people also happen to downvote on a regular basis. I don't think that someone who downvotes once every blue moon will be bothered to leave a comment on that rare occasion. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 27 '16 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Don, for context: I'm more likely to leave a comment than downvote, but if everything I wanted to say has been said already, then I see no point in having to say those things all over again, and just vote accordingly. I don't care for being forced to leave noise. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jun 27 '16 at 8:26
7
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To me, there are to ways of solving this; stopping the output or stopping the input, respectively:

  • creating a system to punish those who threaten/attack/revenge-downvote down voters.
    • The problem with this is that it is hard to prove that someone did this
  • creating a way to leave an anonymous explanation comment that still makes it possible to ping the downvoter and let the downvoter reply

I think we should implement a system similar to the second solution.

This is a problem for everybody across stack exchange communities. I propose we migrate this questions to stack exchange meta.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The technical proposal you make was in variations made dozens of times. If you really want, propose it on Meta Stack Exchange. But I'd predict it will be dupe-closed in less than an hour. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 21 '16 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ As quid said, this has already been suggested on meta.SE: Allow users to leave an anonymous comment when voting. And among the linked questions you can find some duplicates or close duplicates. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 24 '16 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ If there's a downvote and a comment pointing out a problem, there is no way to know whether the comment and the downvote are done by the same person, unless the commenter explicitly says so. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jun 26 '16 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk Yes, anonymous comments would only be available to downvoters/have a "downvoted" preifx/suffix. $\endgroup$ – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 26 '16 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ Rather than down vote, I suggest one leave a constructive comment that alerts the one who posted the answer as to your concern. This gives the author a chance to improve her/his answer before being penalized. I hope that all of the "happy trigger" down voters consider this courtesy. They should put themselves in the other person's situation. Would they not appreciate the opportunity to address the concern and improve an answer before being punished for trying to help someone. -Mark $\endgroup$ – Mark Viola Jun 27 '16 at 22:28
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This question is the logical equivalent of "Can we be nicer to the tax collector?" We certainly need the tax collector so that we may function as a society. Without the tax collector, we lose the ability to govern ourselves. Yet, when the tax collector calls us, do we thank him/her?

ADDENDUM

Along these lines, perhaps we can take some cues from the litany of wannabe Presidents of the United States:

  • Bernie Sanders: Only the Top 1% in reputation may be downvoted, and they should be downvoted with impunity.
  • Ted Cruz: Everyone should have 15% of their posts downvoted, across the board.
  • Donald Trump: I have a terrific plan to make everyone happy with downvoting, it's terrific, it's great, you'll see soon.
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the analogy, I needed a good laugh today. :D $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jun 21 '16 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ @J.M.: Research shows that you need a good laugh every day. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 21 '16 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ I believe there's a middle ground between thanking and hurling insults. Would you be okay with someone sending a letter filled with insults to the collector's home address? $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 21 '16 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi: No, I would not. That wasn't my point however, which is that downvoting is an essential part of our knowledge base, except nobody wants to suffer it individually. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Jun 21 '16 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Well, maybe I misinterpreted your post, but the OP is asking "please do not attack the downvoter" and you reply "well we don't thank the tax collector do we?". This makes it sound like personally attacking a downvoter is on the same level as not thanking the tax collector... All I'm saying is that your point could have been phrase better (e.g. as in your last comment). $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 21 '16 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, I fear it's one of these cases where humor doesn't translate well over text (unless you really mean that we fear and loathe the tax collector, in which case I don't really know what to say). $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 21 '16 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ While I laughed at the Trump commentary, I feel that we have enough politics as it is. No need to introduce outside poison. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 21 '16 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, this addendum does not bring much of interest, if anything, to this answer. $\endgroup$ – Did Jun 21 '16 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @VladimirSotirov: while you are on the whole correct (I never claimed that the analogy was perfect), there are users here for whom a downvote is the apparent equivalent of taking away one's livelihood. Did knows of whom I speak. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Jun 21 '16 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ i'll rephrase my point then: your joke equivocates receiving downvotes with having your survival threatened, and therefore tacitly endorses retaliation for downvoting. it's not a matter of the analogy being imperfect, it's a matter of it being actively misleading. the fact that for some people receiving downvotes does feel life-threatening is a part of the (also important) "when should we downvote?" discussion, not this "how do we not abuse downvoters?" discussion. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Sotirov Jun 21 '16 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ Yet, when the tax collector calls us, do we thank him/her?Yes, we should. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jun 22 '16 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Dr. MV, it's not usually a good idea to be posting the same comment across four different comment threads, FYI. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jun 28 '16 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Dr. MV: Nonetheless, it's a bit annoying to find you engaging with the same comment all across the page. It feels like a five year old kid who just really want people to hear him, so he goes and says the same thing to everyone in the room, regardless to what conversation took place before. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 28 '16 at 6:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Dr.MV: I did not write that comment. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Jun 28 '16 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ I've often had to remind Money.SE members that the IRS (the US tax authority) is just a collector, it's our congress that writes the tax code. But your anology is great. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Jun 30 '16 at 3:15
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This is just a comment too long to be a comment. Judging from the above comments and the linked threads, I don't know how well this will be received. I might even get downvotes :)

Yes we probably and hopefully can and definitely should be nicer to each other in many ways. But as commented above, I don't think this is going to happen any time soon. I welcome the encouragement made here to be nicer, but I wonder how many will actually see it and act on it.

Related to the question to whether we should be nicer is the question about whether or not to comment with a downvote. I wanted to share my general approach to downvoting answers:

  1. I see an answer that has a problem. If the problem is that it is SPAM, rude, or offensive, I downvote and flag it. I do not leave a comment.

  2. If the answer contains a mistake, I comment asking about this. If no response is given and the mistake is not corrected I might downvote if the mistake is substantial enough.

  3. Answers that I downvote always deserve a comment. Often another comment has already been made and in that case I don't leave a new comment, but I upvote the comment and downvote the answer. If no comment exists, I comment. I have received revenge downvotes for this (at least I am pretty cure that I have) and I have learnt to just ignore this. '

  4. When I do downvote, I try (and often fail) to go back later and undo the downvote if the problem is corrected.

5. Oh... and I never downvote competing answers! (In fact, it should be made impossible to downvote competing answers)

I feel strongly that a downvote on an answer that isn't spam, offensive, or rude, should be accompanied by a comment. In fact, I wouldn't mind (nor would I actively campaign for it) forcing people to comment when they downvote. The purpose of a downvote is to show the community that there is a problem with the answer. And so I think it is appropriate to explain to the author what the problem is so that it (ideally) can be worked out.

In rare cases I have actually downvoted and commented only to learn that my downvote was unjustified because I was wrong. The only way I learned this was because I commented.

EDIT: I also wanted to add that if you ever find a mistake or other reason to downvote an answer of mine, then please write a comment first. I am always grateful for any help in improving my answers.

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    $\begingroup$ "And so I think it is appropriate to explain to the author what the problem is so that it (ideally) can be worked out." There are authors that have been explained, and have ignored, the about same thing numerous times as they created numerous posts suffering the same problem. What's the point of doing it again and again and again? $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Maybe I should have included that I don't believe that any perfect strategy exists. No matter what approach you take, you can find exceptions where another strategy work fit better. The above is my general strategy. I do, however, try to stay true to it by just commenting and not worrying too much about how much time it took me to comment. So what if I have to post the "same comment" to the same user several times? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Jun 20 '16 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ I mostly agree with your approach, including often failing at 4 despite best intentions. But personally I disagree with 5. When I see an incorrect answer, downvoting that is beneficial to the site. I'd consider a spectrum from “this answer is wrong, read mine instead” through “I've got a different approach, compare for yourself” up to “this answer is great, but I'd still like to add a different perspective in my own answer” which can be nicely modeled by appropriately voting on competing answers. So imho it should be important not to downvote an answer just because it is competing. $\endgroup$ – MvG Jun 20 '16 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ For one thing, it might annoy the author more than just the downvote. In that sense one could consider it as more effective to comment, though in a sense quite different from the one frequently put forward. To repeat what I said in a comment on OP, many a user does not really want an explication for the downvote. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 20 '16 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ I would vote in favor of forcing a comment with every downvote. At least in a trial basis. And I do understand the frustration of getting unwanted attacks. But that is just the nature of an open website like SO. We do the best we can, and hope there are enough of us doing it to make it worthwhile. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Hernandez Jun 20 '16 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @ArturoHernandez This idea has been shot down. Every. Single. Time. An example. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Jun 20 '16 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MvG: let me strike point 5. I guess my strategy on commenting doesn't need it. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Jun 20 '16 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ Taking the extra effort to offer a comment whenever you think a question deserves a downvote is, imo, laudable. Not downvoting when you think a question deserves one but you're disinclined to comment is, imo, shameful. I can't tell which category you fall into! $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Jun 20 '16 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I downvote when there is a reason to downvote. If I come across a question that deserves a downvote, then I vote down. It is that simple. I just also add a comment (or upvote an existing comment.) $\endgroup$ – Thomas Jun 20 '16 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: Suppose that someone posts an answer which is incorrect, and in an unhelpful way (there is some fundamental mistake). You can point out the mistake, and the author will learn from the comment, and either correct or delete the answer (or perhaps make it a CW post, with a notice that this might be an obvious mistake, and the answer is left as a "warning"). Downvoting in this situation is really unnecessary. I had several situations where I received silent downvotes on such answers, and in all of them, if I recall correctly, the answer was angrily deleted. Even if there was a comment. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 20 '16 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you. I find downvotes useless and simply don’t downvote: as a reader of the site I find the vote counts largely useless, and as an answerer I find unexplained downvotes utterly unhelpful. If there’s a problem, I leave a comment (and try to remember to check whether the problem gets fixed, so that I can delete the comment). For those who do find them useful, your approach is precisely what I’d recommend and the only one that I consider responsible and genuinely helpful. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Jun 20 '16 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ On your point 4: It would be nice to find all posts which were changed after you downvoted them. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be possible with data explorer, since the user ID of votes is invisible even if it is you who voted. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jun 26 '16 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk: I think this is a good suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Jun 26 '16 at 18:35

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