-9
$\begingroup$

When I post a short simple answer to a posted question and someone downvotes it, they should be able to explain their objections if I so request. During the months I've been here, I don't recall that any such requests from me have been ignored until it happened twice within the past week. Could there at least be some officially promulgated norm about politeness and about respect for the fact that we are here for a common purpose, that says something about this?

$\endgroup$
  • 46
    $\begingroup$ You can ask for an explanation of the downvote, but no one should be feel obligated to give you any. No one has any obligation to explain upvotes, either! $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Nov 1 '11 at 20:56
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ @Michael: On what grounds do you assert categorically that your behaviour should be the model which everyone else should emulate? Certainly, if you don't like it, then it would be hypocritical for you to do it to others; but the fact that you do not do so does not mean that nobody else "should". So, kindly, get off that high horse. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 2 '11 at 4:30
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo: instead of in-your-face boldface and attribution of behaviors that may or may not be there (riding a "high horse") it would be more productive to deal with the question, not the poster. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 2 '11 at 6:26
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo I did not say that my behavior should be a model that others should emulate. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 10:48
  • 17
    $\begingroup$ I downvote this post because I disagree with it. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Nov 2 '11 at 14:51
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy: "I don't think I've cast any votes that I would or could not explain if asked. Nor should anyone else." If that's not an indication that you believe that everyone should behave in the way that you behave, then I don't know what is. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 2 '11 at 15:44
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ @zyx: "In-your-face boldface" would be attributing behavior that may or may not be there. It's called "emphasis" where I come from. In meta, I express my opinion, which is, as I understand it, what is supposed to happen. So, in my opinion, you might also want to dismount. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 2 '11 at 15:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo If you write "The sum of the square is not generally equal to the square of the sum", does that imply that if you believe that then others should too, and that generally others should believe whatever you believe? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 3 '11 at 18:05
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo, that seems to be slightly disingenious. If I believe strongly that everyone in situation X should do Y, and therefore I do Y myself when I'm in situation X, then you could express that as "everyone in situation X should do what I do". However, phrasing it that way could conflate cause and effect. It's not that everybody should do it because I do it; on the contrary I do it because I think everybody should. (I agree, though, that mere fact that I follow my own rule is not a particularly relevant fact in a discussion about whether the rule is reasonable). $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 4 '11 at 1:37
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @ArturoMagidin I was going to answer your comment, but Henning Makholm's has said what needed to be said. I'm surprised this point wasn't obvious to you. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 4 '11 at 2:36
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Michael: The discussion, as Henning notes in parenthesis, is whether the behavior you believe should be followed is something that others agree should be followed. By merely asserting that you follow your own rule, you are simply saying "I am not a hypocrite". You are not, however, justifying the validity, reasonableness, or reason-why-everyone-should-follow the rule. I'm surprised this point wasn't obvious to you. I asked why; simply saying "I do it" is not a reason why; simply implying "I believe strongly everyone should do it" does not say why either. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 4 '11 at 3:16
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo: none of that explains (and it seems inconsistent with) your "get of the high horse" comment. Exactly which comments of MH indicate horsemanship, and how? $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 4 '11 at 12:00
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Arturo:if you think that the words "it would be more productive to deal with the question, not the poster" are a form (or attitude) of moralism and control, maybe a meta thread is in order; it's likely that the quoted words represent an overwhelming consensus about the use of the meta and the main site. And while you may not owe any replies to me, your commandment to MH to "get off the high horse" does incur some obligation (to him, and to the others who contested your characterization) to explain exactly what that he did say, does amount to such horsemanship, and how. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 4 '11 at 14:21
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Downvotes are not destructive. And how do I know that your upvotes are sincere, or that you even understand what you are upvoting? I demand you explain your upvotes! $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 27 '15 at 2:39
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Honestly I do not see the point in reviving this discussion, which was settled an age ago and regarding which nothing has changed. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 27 '15 at 5:03
33
$\begingroup$

No, it is not abusive to downvote for no stated reason.

$\endgroup$
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ I want to add that I had a look at the downvoted answers from the OP and the pattern is: The downvotes are explained and the OP either does not respond or responds with "Yes, it is wrong", but lets the wrong answer stand. $\endgroup$ – Phira Nov 1 '11 at 21:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Be explicit. In which of the five cases did that happen? Look at this: math.stackexchange.com/questions/67171/… Show me one where the downvotes are explains or where I said "Yes it is wrong." Show me one where the answer I wrote was wrong. Show me a case where I let a wrong answer stand. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 3:49
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Phira, you lie. You are dishonest. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 4:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I have flagged this answer for moderator attention because the comment immediately following it is dishonest. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 4:21
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Michael: Since you asked: How about this one or that one? $\endgroup$ – t.b. Nov 2 '11 at 4:43
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Michael: If I understand correctly, Phira was talking about your answers with negative total vote count where I can see the exact pattern she describes. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Nov 2 '11 at 4:50
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ ....misunderstood the question. It is clearly not one of the ones in which Phira claims to have seen the pattern. Among those in which Phira claimed to have seen the pattern, there is not one that matches it. (There is one among the five where someone found fault with the answer in the comments.) $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 4:57
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ @Michael, Mariano has opined that no one is obliged to explain downvotes. Arturo has agreed. Zev has cited official policy agreeing. Phira has agreed. No one has disagreed. I think you have the answer to your question. Time to cut your losses. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 2 '11 at 6:12
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ This is a response to the comment below that I "lie and am dishonest" when I say that "I had a look at the downvoted answers from the OP and the pattern is". Even though t.b. explained that I was clearly looking at the OPs answers with total negative vote-count (I will hardly look at every post of the OP to check whether it got a lonely downvote among upvotes) and linked to examples the OP insists that "Phira said that among the answers of mine that were downvoted within the past week (there are five of them) that pattern holds." $\endgroup$ – Phira Nov 2 '11 at 7:32
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ These are the links to the currently downvoted questions one finds easily in Michael Hardy's profile: math.stackexchange.com/questions/57244/… (MH: "Oh, I see." let's post stand) math.stackexchange.com/questions/57691/… (MH disagrees with the critique and does not follow up on the question where the critique is mistaken) math.stackexchange.com/questions/47865/… (downvote explained with no reaction of MH) $\endgroup$ – Phira Nov 2 '11 at 7:33
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ math.stackexchange.com/questions/55281/… (MH: "You are right." lets post stand) math.stackexchange.com/questions/52531/… (MH: "Oh, I see". lets post stand.) I might note that while correctness proves that I did not lie, factual wrongness would not prove that I did. $\endgroup$ – Phira Nov 2 '11 at 7:33
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Phira: you stretched the facts to suit the accusation. First, in several of the instances where you say "the downvotes are explained", no-one wrote anything about downvotes or took credit for such. Second, in several of the cases you raised, either MH's comments went beyond an "I see" and stated the error (in effect making a visible correction in the comments rather than the question), or there was no clear need to correct anything. You snidely asserted a "pattern" of discounting input in 5 cases, when per your description that is false in 3-4 out of those 5 cases. $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 2 '11 at 8:43
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Five of my postings got unexplained downvotes in two days; I mentioned that here; then Phira said a certain "pattern" holds among those postings. The alleged "pattern" occurred in none of them. Then Phira points to other postings, not among those, where she says the "pattern" holds. One of them is one where I think I got the answer right, so it doesn't match the pattern. Another is one where I acknowledged in comments that I had misunderstood the question. I don't consider posting that statement to amount to "letting the post stand". $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 3 '11 at 18:10
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ This is a dishonest personal vendetta. I don't know why it's happening. Phira is taking advantage of the fact that many people disagree with the opinion I put forth to get sympathy for false accusations. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 4 '11 at 2:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I may revive this discussion (with fervent hope that it won't repeat itself), while I agree with the statement of this answer, it does leave a lot unsaid. It isn't abusive to downvote without comment, and not even to refuse to explain upon request. It is, however, not very productive behavior either, and I firmly believe voters should strive to improve more than they do to critic. Mark an answer as faulty, and you've saved some future surfer some confusion; teach the poster to post better answers/questions, and you've essentially doubled constructive posts in the future. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Y. Jan 20 '14 at 6:21
25
$\begingroup$

There is a discussion on meta.SO about this. While all the answers and comments are interesting, the answer given by Jeff Atwood, one of the two creators of the StackExchange network, says that people do not need to explain their downvotes (or at least, not enough so that they face any repercussions from not doing so), but a reminder that one can explain one's downvote with a comment is implemented for users with <2000 rep.

Also, my own opinion is that it is only abusive to serially downvote a single person's posts out of spite, which in any case would automatically create flags, moderators would take care of things, etc. Requiring an explanation via a comment means loss of anonymity of downvotes, which I consider to be extremely important (as did many of the commenters in the discussion linked to above), and perhaps the downvoter has to attend to something else at the moment, or thinks the problem with a post is so blatantly obvious it doesn't need an explanation. If an answer is absolutely abysmal, it's a waste of everyone's time to have to post a comment - it is in the best interests of the site to make sorting the site's content by value as efficient as possible. Requiring an explanation to accompany every downvote would be such a large drain on everyone's time that vastly fewer people would bother to downvote, which would thereby harm the site.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You refer to "Jeff et al." And say that "official policy" comes from them. Who and what is "Jeff"? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 1 '11 at 20:59
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy You could go to the stackexchange homepage and click on "about" or you could just infer from context that Jeff et al. are the people who make the official policy in the sense that they decide what is sanctioned by the software. $\endgroup$ – Phira Nov 1 '11 at 21:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Phira As you can see, I already did infer that "Jeff et al." are people who make official policy, and that is what I asked who and what they are. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Nov 2 '11 at 4:02
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Michael Hardy: "Jeff" means Jeff Atwood, a stackexchange.com employee. But he does not make official policy here, we make our own official policy as a community run site. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Nov 2 '11 at 22:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Sorry for this irrelevant comment, but I just saw the first comment above which I find quite funny: "Who and what is "Jeff"?" :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 13 '12 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ "or at least, not enough so that they face any repercussions from not doing so" - the explanation could rely on anonymity. $\endgroup$ – Billy Rubina Aug 29 '12 at 0:10
10
$\begingroup$

Downvoters do not necessarily see the requests to explain their votes.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Speaking of downvotes without a stated reason... $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 2 '11 at 11:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Here's a reason without a vote :) $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Nov 2 '11 at 19:44
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I'm trying to understand what a downvote could even mean in the case of this answer. Somebody believes that downvoters always see the requests for explanation? $\endgroup$ – zyx Nov 2 '11 at 19:52
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Must be! I don't know. Maybe they don't like other things you've said. Again, I don't know $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Nov 2 '11 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it should be added as a functionality that you subscribe to comments on stuff you downvote. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Apr 20 '15 at 13:58
8
$\begingroup$

I agree with the sentiment that downvoters should ideally explain their votes. My posts haven't been voted down too often, but whenever I see anonymous downvotes, I usually request an explanation irrespective of the poster. That said, I agree with Mariano's comment that this shouldn't be an obligation on the voters.

I am also a bit puzzled about the exact suggestion made by the OP.

Could there at least be some officially promulgated norm about politeness and about respect for the fact that we are here for a common purpose, that says something about this?

What would be the benefits of such a policy (even assuming we all agreed on one)? Whether

  • the downvoter forgot to explain the vote and also missed the request for the explanation, or

  • the vote is just a hit-and-run case,

I don't think we'll be any more successful in enforcing this official policy, given that the chief issue here is the anonymity of the vote. If all that the downvote victim could do is to post a comment and hope for a response, isn't that what we're doing already?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think leaving such comments is very likely to be productive -- at least if it's only a single stray downvote. It seems unlikely that somebody who downvoted will come by later to discover that someone left a comment for him to answer. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 2 '11 at 13:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Henning Well, whatever you say does check out with my experience so far: my comments requesting explanation get upvoted frequently, but they do not elicit a response from the original voter. =) And with regards "at least if it's only a single stray downvote", I have a feeling that such a comment deters an unnecessary cascade of downvotes to some extent. Of course, it is hard to confirm this and I could just be deluding myself. $\endgroup$ – Srivatsan Nov 2 '11 at 13:57
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I do think it would be good for the FAQ to have some gentle suggestion that downvotes should be accompanied by comments when there is a useful comment to be made. Sometimes there is nothing that I can say when I downvote, though, because my limited English skills are insufficient to phrase what I am thinking in a reasonable way. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Nov 3 '11 at 0:40

You must log in to answer this question.

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