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I know that downvotes are anonymous, but I wonder if it would be good practice for people who downvote questions or answers to provide some explanation or suggestions for improvement?

I ask because it is common for people to ask "Why the downvote?" (I just recently tried to give my own suggestions for improvement in response to such a question), and in the cases where people would legitimately wish to improve their answer/question, it seems an explanation from the downvoter is warranted.

6

It's your right to downvote when and if you see fit without having to explain yourself or disclose your identity.

That being said, if you have a specific suggestion for what could be changed to improve a question or answer, give it. Whereas if your explanation is merely, "I think the question/answer sucks," I would suggest remaining anonymous.

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We will never be able to require explanations for downvotes; it is and always will be a courtesy, unless the folks who run SE decide to put something in place to force it. Even if we wanted to do something like that on just our site, the mods don't have that kind of power (to build such a mechanism), nor can we see who votes for what should we want to enforce it manually.

That said, I have not seen this to be a significant problem. When something is downvoted, especially more than once, usually at least one person leaves a comment why. If there are no comments and many downvotes, it is usually (and ought to be) explicitly clear why the post is being downvoted.

Is there a particular question or answer you have that you are curious as to why it was downvoted?

  • Oh, I wasn't trying to suggest it should be mandatory. I was just wondering if the community had some view about whether it was a good idea to do so. It seems like you, at least, agree with me that it is a nice thing to do. No, there isn't a particular question I'm concerned about. I just came across a situation where someone was downvoted and asked why, and I gave my suggestions of how the answer might be improved. – Dennis Jan 8 '13 at 4:47
  • The answer that got me thinking about this was Greg L.'s on this question. But I think I know why it was downvoted. – Dennis Jan 8 '13 at 4:48
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I believe that down-voting should always be explained. This limits the amount of retaliatory down-voting that can occur. (And don't be so naive as to believe there is no retaliatory down-voting on this site).

In addition, IMO down-voting without an explanation is counter-productive: This is not a popularity contest or a political game, it is a site designed for people to learn on, and to educate with.

If you find something worthy of a down-vote, what do you lose by explaining yourself? You will either educate the one you down-voted, or perhaps get an explanation that will make you change your mind.

  • 1
    Can't agree more. But looks like there are, more than retaliatory downvoting, also political games... – Rodrigo Apr 1 '15 at 13:07

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