There are reasons why I don't like anonymous downvoting. It is very confusing to new members. It doesn't encourage people to stay. It isn't helping to make this site not 'beta.' I understand that there is a reasonable concern about one or few time posters getting carried away, spam and so on. I'd prefer a flag, like in the comments. The flag could have reasons like in the review section for things like: spam, off-topic, inappropriate language or, not a question. I think this would be far more inviting and helpful. It would teach in a non-threatening way.

Downvotes matter. Privileges on site are 'bought' with votes. So having anyone be able to downvote without a reason, makes new members confused and feel unwelcomed. Hey, I am a newbie. I know that is how I felt.

ON EDIT Jan 22/17: I have been here since early December/late November. It still irks me. For example, someone downvoted this question. Probably they did not like it. I think not upvoting is enough to say you did not like the question. I have no clue whatsoever why a question that was honest and respectful would get a downvote. It taught me nothing more than someone either doesn't like me -- well okay -- or they felt threatened by the question. I (finally) have enough reputation to not worry about downvotes, but I think that newbies, and particularly people whose first language is not English, do not feel welcomed. Sure a few idiots get through and try to stir the pot. We have mods for that. I can flag a post if I have a concern and know that a mod will decide. I've done no harm. I can be wrong about a flag and the OP has no worry -- an experienced mod will decide.

So I still think that downvoting without a comment is bullpucky. Ha! I am stubborn, I know.

  • 1
    Side note: while privileges are gained by upvotes from others, every downvoter "pays" for a downvote: -1 for the voter as well.
    – Stephie Mod
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 7:00
  • 1
    Regarding your edit about someone downvoting this question: voting on meta is different. Basically, someone probably just disagrees with you. Nothing more than that. (Meta votes don't hurt your rep either.)
    – Becuzz
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 13:18
  • @Becuzz -- thanks, however this is just one example. I know I am not going to win this one, but wonder how many people just leave because they can't gain rep and they do not get any help. I think people with low reps need some extra help.
    – WRX
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 13:25
  • There's not a win-lose situation here; this is how SE operates. People used to forums do feel hostility on SE sites where none is meant. If that is a persistent problem that causes pain, they usually drift away. It happens all the time. People are making the point that downvotes with comments are problematic, and they are: it causes arguments on the site, which strives to be above that (professional). The edit doesn't add anything to your original post except to make it clear that it's personal for you. It's not, especially in meta. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 14:32
  • The pinnacle of politeness would be downvoted in meta if they posed a question asking to abolish winter bash on a larger site. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 14:33
  • @anongoodnurse I will not revisit this after today -- but here is a better example. Again, I am not worried about the downvote per se but this is meaningless and if I were new I would start complaining or I might leave. (Though personally, I am too stubborn.) Link
    – WRX
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:15
  • I didn't downvote, but Meta.SE has had this conversation multiple times. The problem with only flagging (not downvoting) is that there are limited options to explain. The problem with forcing someone to comment if they downvote, is that you'll get a lot of the same comments and a lot of fhjfhfhf comments since some people (unfortunately) don't want to take the time to comment.
    – Mikey
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 9:07

3 Answers 3


No one likes downvotes. But I believe we need anonymous downvotes for a variety of reasons.

Users often state that explanations of down votes will help them learn to post better questions/answers, and this may very well be true for some users. However, much more often the user feels unjustly attacked.

Few people honestly want to hear that their post is not helpful, useful, poorly researched, incorrect (in the case of an answer), unclear or any other legitimate reason for a down vote. In my experience, this often results in a defensive response and an arguement with the down voter leading to a tedious comment war.

Sometimes when I see a potential problem with a post, including a down-voted one where the OP asks why they were downvoted, I offer a possible answer. Not uncommonly, I’ve then been accused of being the down voter of the post. This assumption - that the commenter is the down voter - is one of the very good reasons that people don’t leave comments with their down vote, and why (imo) downvotes and comments should remain separate and voluntary.

Not rarely, downvotes with an explanation result in revenge downvoting.

As far as our beta status, downvotes are a network-wide privilege that has not prevented other sites from graduating.

Flagging should not take the place of downvotes. Flagging creates work for moderators that should really be reserved for the site's given reasons for flagging.

Again, nobody likes getting downvotes, but they are votes on a question, not the person posting the question. It's a fixed feature on the network, has been for years, and is not going away.

The ideal response to a downvote is to see if the question is lacking in some way that can be seen by hovering over the downvote button.

I know this sounds cold-hearted, but after years in this network, this is how I feel. As a mod, I accept downvotes as part of the system. If you want to make a case for eliminating anonymous downvotes, SE Meta is the place to do so, but a quick search will show that it's been asked often.

  • Okay, thanks for your response. You do have years of experience here.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:35

A quick addition to @anongoodnurse's post:

Stack Exchange has deliberately implemented anonymous downvoting. This is not an accident.

This canonical question over on meta.SE has gained a lot of interest (with nearly 900 upvotes) asking for a way to prompt people who may not realise they can leave a comment, but there is definitely no interest in mandating it.

As one of the SE employees commented:

I enjoy being able to down-vote posts I don't care for without worrying about retaliation. And I really enjoy being able to leave honest comments without worrying that they'll be justifiably interpreted as evidence that I've down-voted. I would not like to see the two systems linked.

  • thanks for the explanation. I understand there are different povs. I just think that if the person could say why -- even anonymously, a downvote would be of more use. I don't expect to 'win' this one, btw. I totally get that I am a newbie.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 19:51

On StackOverflow, which I believe is the oldest StackExchange site, the etiquette is that you leave a comment with a downvote. However, lots of people ignore this etiquette because of the risk of retaliatory downvoting. No foolproof way has been found to differentiate retaliatory downvoting from normal downvoting, so it can't really be prevented.

Personally, I provide a comment with a downvote whenever I can write one that I think might be taken constructively by the poster. That is not the situation 100% of the time, however. And in many of the cases where I can leave a constructive comment, I don't feel the need to downvote.

I do agree that downvotes on this site are such that they help make it unfriendly to new users and are at least part of what's preventing it from making it out of beta. On StackOverflow, most people only downvote answers that they know to be incorrect and harmful; here, there seems to be a lot of downvoting of posts that people merely disagree with, or even that they don't disagree with but merely bring up uncomfortable issues, such as your question here - and probably this answer to it.

  • 3
    Note that retaliatory downvoting is not the only reason some people (not myself) abstain from commenting to explain their downvotes; frequently (maybe as much as 1/4 of the times I comment explaining my downvote, depending on the site), the person who was downvoted will start making insulting or aggressively confrontational comments in response. This is particularly a problem (at least it seems that way to me) with posts from people who are new to the SE platform; it takes time before people learn to understand that downvotes aren't personal criticisms.
    – user420
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 19:11
  • 3
    Also, note that downvotes in meta traditionally mean something very different than on main sites; on meta, downvotes are generally intended to indicate disagreement, so this post and your answer could absolutely be downvoted because someone disagreed, and that would be the appropriate use of downvotes. On the main site, though, downvotes should not be used for disagreement, generally speaking, but ultimately people can (and do) use them however they want.
    – user420
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 19:13
  • @Beofett Valid points in both cases. I am talking about downvoting on the main site, not meta, which is also what I took Willow's question to be about.
    – Warren Dew
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 23:44

You must log in to answer this question.

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