Is there a policy to encourage people to make comments when they give downvotes? Commentless downvotes do very little to improve the site. If something is wrong, you should explain what about it is wrong.

  • There's been a bunch of discussion of this topic on meta.SO.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 14:23
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    @Isaac, mot of what you link to is suggestions that the software encourage comments (by assigning/removing reputation depending on whether comments are left), whereas this question (unless I'm reading it wrong) seems to be about a best-practices policy encouraging comments without any software implementation. Such a policy needn't be common to all the SE sites AFAICT.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 15:35
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    @msh210 Agreed on both points. That's why I linked to these discussions as relevant data rather than submitting them as an answer, as if this question was resolved already.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 15:36

2 Answers 2


There is already such a rule in the FAQ (and also in the old FAQ):

If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong.


Commentless downvotes do very little to improve the site.

Oh, but you're wrong! Voting is at least - and probably more - important than commenting when it comes to improving the quality of the information presented by the site. Up-voted questions are given more visibility, while down-voted questions are given less. Up-voted answers display (by default) near the top of the list under their question, while down-voted answers display near the bottom. And users with a history of posting poor questions or answers can be restricted from further participation.

Comments... Hmm. Carefully-crafted constructive criticism can motivate a receptive author to improve their post. But not all voters are sufficiently diplomatic, nor all authors sufficiently receptive of criticism, to make this ideal outcome a reality. And not all down-votes require comments: the criterion for down-voting is simply that the reader did not find the answer "useful" - this doesn't necessarily indicate a problem that needs to be stated in a comment, any more than a comment noting an answer's usefulness needs to be coupled with an up-vote.

Ultimately, comments and votes are two different forms of communication, with different intended uses and different audiences. The system does encourage you to leave a comment when down-voting, but if you don't have anything worth saying, then... don't say it.

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    +1 for evening the playing field. The question should apply equally to up-voting, as your answer implies.
    – WAF
    Commented May 24, 2011 at 17:30
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    -1, and I'll do one better: I'll explain. I believe the goal of the SE network is to provide useful information to anybody looking for it. The means to that goal is to encourage users to contribute useful content, and modify existing content so that it becomes (more) useful. Commentless downvoting can advance the immediate goal (by ensuring that the content most useful to the most people rises and gets noticed), but it shoots the overall means in the foot (because it makes it harder to improve that content, and the author cannot correct himself for the future).
    – HodofHod
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 6:41
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    -1, and I'll add -- Explaining a down vote helps avoid causing the poster to feel that the down vote was a prejudicial vote having nothing to do with the content, or reflects the view of someone who has serious theological differences with normative Judaism. Causing such speculation is not helpful to our souls, as well as hurtful or unhelpful to the quality of the answers and questions on the site. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 13:18
  • Hmmm 9 downvotes and only two explanations for those downvotes.
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:37
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    @Daniel ...and twelve upvotes on those comments.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 2:12
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    @Daniel maybe several downvoters are doing so for the same reason and no need for lots of "me too" comments
    – CashCow
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 10:22
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    I upvoted this answer. Do you REALLY need to know why??? (Careful - you may get what you ask for :-)
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:58
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    @HodofHod: I just accidentally posted a duplicate of this question because your reasoning of 6-1/2 years ago struck me as obvious. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 16:08
  • I see that I already upvoted this answer a while ago, and boy, am I happy that in about 3 years, no one has asked me why. But, while I find good constructive comments useful (though, not always helpful, admittedly,) to me, the bottom line is this is just another web site. (Moderators, don't get offended by that!) We're all anonymous, here (though I wouldn't mind meeting a few of you to tell you what I really think ;-) My point is - if someone wants to vote either positive or negative, I'm not emotionally attached to a cyber-number in any significant way. I can't figure why anyone would be.
    – DanF
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 21:06

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