In recent times, several users, including myself, have posted questions where the first vote was a downvote but no explanation was given. Here are some examples:

(Granted, not all of these questions had their first vote as a DV, but several of them did with no explanation provided)

I am aware that there are protocols in place to avoid users going on downvoting-rampages from negatively impacting the community, but it got me thinking about a policy we could implement.

What if we had a policy whereby users who downvote a question, and that vote is the first vote, they are required to indicate the reason for that downvote. This would be similar, I envisage, to the process like when voting to close where you have several pre-defined options or an 'other' category where you can write your own reason. That would allow for the OP to gain an understanding of where they've gone wrong in their question and improve the quality of it, but would also hopefully reduce the proportion of rogue individuals downvoting for no apparent reason.

  • 5
    Downvoted. Related discussions and pointers to multiple related discussions: Should a Down Vote require a comment? and Downvoting- Maybe we at least should attempt to leave a comment?
    – phantom42
    Jun 28, 2015 at 3:48
  • 3
    cheers for the feedback @phantom42 - would've been ironic to have this post downvoted without any feedback! Jun 28, 2015 at 3:51
  • I'll add that I usually try to leave feedback if I'm downvoting or voting to close. I just don't think it should be a system or policy requirement. The SO overlords don't seem to think so either.
    – phantom42
    Jun 28, 2015 at 3:53
  • 1
    @phantom42 thanks - I think it really helps to leave a comment when downvoting for the reasons I've mentioned above. Seems like I'm flogging a dead horse though (pun intended) Jun 28, 2015 at 3:54
  • 2
    Downvotes on Meta mean "I don't agree". That's the explanation :-)
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2015 at 15:15
  • 2
    A lot of times I downvote questions that show no effort on the asker's part. If the asker can't be bothered to show some effort when posting a question, why should I be obliged to post a comment about why I downvoted?
    – Null Mod
    Jun 30, 2015 at 14:19
  • @Null What effort should be expended? Some questions may be easily answered with Google, but not necessarily on SE.
    – user31178
    Jul 13, 2015 at 23:02
  • @CreationEdge Surely you've seen questions written by lazy users who make no attempt to use proper spelling, capitalization, etc. Or obscure story-id questions with maybe two factoids. And so on. I don't downvote just any question that can be answered by Google, but I expect some level of effort.
    – Null Mod
    Jul 14, 2015 at 2:39
  • @Null It was hard to tell what you meant. I tend not to dv for grammar and spelling, because I know it's not taught as effectively in many places, or they may be ESL users. But minimal info story ids makes sense. I can think of other bad Qs along that line, now that you mention it.
    – user31178
    Jul 14, 2015 at 3:39
  • 3
    @CreationEdge I do avoid downvoting on posts that I think are from ESL users, and I edit their posts as best I can to help them out. But there are plenty of native speakers who just use text-speak and the like, and those I downvote for laziness and for wasting my time trying to understand the post. To put it in programming/Stack Overflow terms, I'm talking about questions of the "plz send teh codez" nature.
    – Null Mod
    Jul 14, 2015 at 4:14

1 Answer 1


Since no one has formally answered, let me just point out the two major issues with this proposal (so you don't feel ignored :) )

  1. You're asking in the wrong place. This kind of change to the site would require changing the software, which is not something the site-specific moderators can do. This kind of feature request needs to be asked on the meta-meta meta.stackexchange.com, which covers things related to the entire Stack Exchange network.

  2. They're going to tell you no. This question, as @phantom42 has pointed out, comes up all the time, on every site. Yours is a bit of a novel variation on the topic, but it still suffers from the same fundamental problem all similar feature requests have:

It forces a user to identify themselves when they downvote.

Voting on Stack Exchange is anonymous. It's that way on purpose. People need to feel free to vote up or down without worrying about how those votes will affect them later on. Being forced to identify a reason why you voted someone down destroys that anonymity in the worst way possible: you are now the primary target for the OP's wrath.

For the record, I never leave comments when I downvote, because I find it useless. Or, to put it in slightly better terms, I never downvote a question if I'm planning to leave a comment. If I'm going to bother writing a comment to help the OP improve their question, it means I've giving them a chance to fix it before I cast judgement.

If I'm voting a question down, it means either I find it so obviously terrible that the OP should be able to figure it out on their own, or else I've previously left a comment and it has gone ignored. In both cases, I don't see any benefit in explaining myself any further.

I'm not saying everyone should follow this practice; downvotes are one of the most personalized and individualized things we have on SE. I'm merely saying that, IMO, there are genuinely good reasons why we don't require people to comment on their votes, and historically the people who run SE find those reasons quite compelling. Your argument is nothing they haven't heard hundreds of times, I doubt one more try will change their minds.

  • 1
    I tend to downvote, then comment. I'm on often enough that if the OP amends their post in a positive way, I'll probably notice and have the opportunity to change my mind later
    – Valorum
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:13

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