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As there are hundreds of comments on the issue of users down voting a question without leaving a comment - I believe it must be a serious issue to many users.

Since some users don't feel it is important to explain why they are down voting a question, the OPs are unable to learn anything from the down vote... stifling the growth of useful questions on StackExchange.

I realize that many down voters are afraid of retaliation down voting - (and many trolls should be)... but I believe there is a viable solution that would solve the problem without opening up anonymous down voters to such retaliation.

Why don't we?...
- Have the system automatically add a comment for every anonymous down vote that simply states, "down vote with no explanation - @anonymous"
- Have the system internally track the anonymous commenter's userid
- Allow other users to down vote such an anonymous down vote comment and have the system apply the down vote penalty to the anonymous user's account
- Not allow the question's OP to down vote such a comment

Question down voters can still remain anonymous and safe from retaliation voting if they want to... but their reputation can now be made to suffer, just as if they actually did comment about their down vote, if other users disagree with them.

This would also overcome the issues concerning an unenforceable "requirement" that a down voting user add a comment that explains their reasoning... without requiring moderator monitoring and intervention to make such a solution viable.

I believe this solution would stop a lot of trolls and lazy commenters - and really aid in improving the quality of questions by getting users to provide valid feedback, thereby educating the OPs in how to create better questions. All while getting StackExchange back to a much more user-friendly environment.

  • "some users don't feel it is important to explain why they are down voting a question" Why should they? Downvoting is for questions that are "unclear/not useful/don't show any research effort. The OP can edit the question as appropriate. – DavidPostill Aug 28 '17 at 22:08
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    Oh, and by the way I lost my keys – DavidPostill Aug 28 '17 at 22:10
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    "Have the system automatically add a comment for every anonymous down vote that simply states, "down vote with no explanation - @anonymous" What would this tell you that the current behaviour doesn't? – DavidPostill Aug 28 '17 at 22:14
  • Perhaps you need to improve your questions and answer so they are not downvoted? – DavidPostill Aug 28 '17 at 22:16
  • David, it started with my question: superuser.com/questions/1244459/… ... it got down voted, but I have no idea why. How am I supposed to fix it or ask it better? Or did someone just not like it? I'm not a mind-reader, so I have no idea what the issue was. – CBruce Aug 28 '17 at 22:25
  • That question look like a rant to me. You don't provide enough information to even start diagnosing your problem. And an answer that says "don't run explorer" is not really an answer, even if you accept it yourself. – DavidPostill Aug 28 '17 at 22:31
  • I'm sorry David. I did not intend it to be a rant. I WAS frustrated because of something that was causing great instability in my system. I did do a lot of searching and found hundreds of similar questions on the internet. I explained that research and my efforts to resolve my issue up to that point. And I finally came to the best resource that i know of to ask for help. The down vote with no explanation was not helpful at all. And my self answer turned out to be helpful to other users when I went back and provided that information to other users with similar problems. – CBruce Aug 28 '17 at 22:38
  • Also, David, when researching the down vote issue here on Meta - I saw hundreds of complaint comments and corresponding rebuttals. I neither ranted not complained about the down vote system above. I merely tried to provide a thoughtful solution that might make StackExchange better. I love the platform - and I hate to see so many people upset with it. – CBruce Aug 28 '17 at 22:54
  • I seriously apologize Ramhound. I was at my wits end with the problem I was having - (because if I can't work, I don't get paid) - and my frustration spilled over into my comment. I didn't know about Meta at the time or I would have come here first to figure things out. I'll get myself over to the forum and look at your input and see what I can do to edit my question up correctly. – CBruce Aug 29 '17 at 2:50
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    @DavidPostill, I edited my question to get rid of all of the "overboard" tone. Thanks for the input! – CBruce Aug 29 '17 at 3:45
  • I downvoted this question. – Twisty Impersonator Aug 30 '17 at 11:37
  • "I realize that many down voters are afraid of retaliation down voting - (and many trolls should be)...." - You do understand not everyone who issues a down vote is a troll, right? When you review hundreds of a submissions in the review queue you become a target for serial down voters, and the process of reviewing those submissions DOES NOT make you a troll. – Ramhound Sep 4 '17 at 16:57
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  • Have the system automatically add a comment for every anonymous down vote that simply states, "down vote with no explanation - @anonymous"

That would be extremely noisy. In the past 90 days, it would've generated at least 948 comments, comments that explain nothing, take up valuable space for every reader, and perpetually rub in the face of the author that someone downvoted their post.

These would likely be flagged and deleted by moderators within minutes.

Also... If I'm interpreting your proposal correctly, it would strip anonymity from voters who do comment first: if there's a downvote and a comment and no auto-generated comment, then the author of the comment is guaranteed to be the downvoter.

  • Allow other users to down vote such an anonymous down vote comment and have the system apply the down vote penalty to the anonymous user's account

There's no support in the system today for downvoting comments. So, that's a whole big thing we'd have to add.

Also, there's no reputation granted by comment upvotes today, so presumably that's another thing we'd have to add. Ignoring for a minute how we probably don't want to do that because it would incentivize answering in the comments, this is already turning into a massively complicated system for something that - as I explained above - wouldn't actually preserve anyone's anonymity.

  • Not allow the question's OP to down vote such a comment

So not only are we putting this world-visible black mark on the author's post, one that no quantity of edits or upvotes can obliterate, but we're also depriving them of the one bit of catharsis they could possibly have hoped for?

That is, assuming they weren't flag-deleted as noise, which they would be. Probably by the voter themselves, because who in their right mind would want a comment laying around the only purpose of which was to cost them reputation should anyone find it?

And you haven't even touched on the larger problem, which is that the vast majority of readers don't vote at all.

  • Shog9, please understand... I definitely do not want to put a visible black mark on a user. The auto comment I proposed was literal. It would be, "down vote with no explanation - @anonymous". There would be no actual userid seen by anyone. The system would track the user in the background and apply points as necessary. I sought to guarantee anonymity. There are a lot of "down vote without comment" threads on Meta - but they are all personal and without realistic solutions. I merely tried to provide a workable solution. – CBruce Aug 29 '17 at 3:18
  • How would you feel if there was such a comment on one of your posts, @CBruce? What if there were two, or three? – Shog9 Aug 29 '17 at 3:22
  • I'm not quite sure what you mean @Shog9. Today, if someone down votes my question and doesn't leave a comment, then I am sitting there with down votes and no comments. With my proposal, that part wouldn't really change - except I would have three down votes and three anonymous comments that anyone (other than myself) could actively disagree with by adding their own comment and down voting the anonymous comments. I felt that would be an incentive for users to provide useful comments to go along with their down votes of a question. – CBruce Aug 29 '17 at 3:32
  • And 6 years later, when your post is at +30...? – Shog9 Aug 29 '17 at 3:33
  • I am really confused - or else I've really confused you. If my question gets down voted with no comment - I have no idea whether I need to fix it, how to fix it, or whether I'm supposed to delete it. I would welcome any direction that anyone cared to provide. A down vote on my question, with no explanation, is useless to me... and doesn't really help the community. With some guidance - a user might be able to turn their bad question into something useful. Why would I care if there were 3 "@anonymous" comments against my question if other useful comments allowed me to fix it? – CBruce Aug 29 '17 at 3:59
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    I have a question with 343 upvotes and 7 downvotes, @CBruce. In nearly 9 years, I've never gotten one useful bit of criticism on it. I sure as hell don't need 7 "down vote without comment" comments on it. Lament a lack of feedback all you want, I still don't see how a machine screaming at you improves that one bit. – Shog9 Aug 29 '17 at 4:39
  • @CBruce - You need to be that the question body isn't the place to vent your frustrations? I mean clearly you did, but you wondered the reason people didn't indicate that was the reason, it is because we believed you wouldn't be receptive of the feedback. The fact you were receptive, and were at least willing to listen to the feedback is a positive thing, but we should have been more worried about getting more information from you not telling you that we are not the place to vent your frustrations. – Ramhound Aug 29 '17 at 13:54
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    Imagine it from our perspective. If you have kids you might understand this comparison. Your question in it's original revision, was basically that of your child coming to you extremely upset, and they describe what happen but you cannot understand what actually happened because they are crying and sobbing. Now I am not saying you were a literal child, I am saying because you were venting, you failed to describe the problem in a way where somebody could understand what your problem was. – Ramhound Aug 29 '17 at 13:56
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I am concerned primarily about this part:

Question down voters can still remain anonymous and safe from retaliation voting if they want to... but their reputation can now be made to suffer, just as if they actually did comment about their down vote, if other users disagree with them.

Nobody's reputation should "be made to suffer" for their voting or reviewing decisions. Attempting to reduce (or increase, for that matter) the reputation of a specific user - as opposed to simply voting on the quality of a post - is never permissible. Revenge downvoting and overappreciative upvote sprees are both targeted voting:

...intentionally voting merely to reduce or inflate another user's reputation is considered abuse.

Originally, downvoting a question or answer removed one point from the caster as payment (not a penalty) for the use of the downvote privilege and two from the post owner. To encourage poor questions to be identified as such, the decision was made to make question downvotes free as a test, and apparently the test was judged a success, for question downvotes are still free to the caster. There will, unfortunately, be some users who carelessly downvote decent content, but in a system of this size, there's so much going on that these people will be on the whole drowned out by the thoughtful voters.

It's also worth noting that there isn't a requirement of adding a comment when downvoting. Doing so is suggested because it helps the poster improve, but unfortunately some post authors respond rudely to these comments, which discourages helpful people. I would love it if all downvoters would explain their reasoning, but I sympathize with those that don't.

Speaking of getting helpful feedback, you've come to the right place! One function of meta is to allow people to ask about why a post received the community decision that it did. For best results when inquiring about a question, I suggest gently pointing out how the question adheres to the guidance in How to Ask.

  • I apologize to the community, Ben. My choice of phrasing, "be made to suffer", was very poor. My intention was just to point out that if someone DOES make a comment, other users have the chance to provide negative feedback by down-voting that comment. With an anonymous comment, that feedback can never be provided. And the solution I proposed allows for that WITHOUT allowing someone to "target" a specific user. I was just looking for a way to better educate questioners and make the platform even more friendly. – CBruce Aug 28 '17 at 23:02
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    Ah, perhaps I should clarify that with the current system, comments cannot be downvoted, and upvotes on comments do not contribute to reputation. The asymmetry is a bit unintuitive, admittedly. Fortunately, there are a couple ways to address an anonymous downvote. Other users may see the question, find it perfectly fine, and upvote it. If the question is in need of adjustment, users can still gently speculate on what someone may have found lacking. Better yet, someone may take the time to edit the post to bring it into line with best practices. Edits can include helpful summaries/explanations. – Ben N Aug 28 '17 at 23:07

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