On the main1 site, I often see questions with down votes but no explanation. Today's example with two down votes:

I don't have a problem with down voting (I do it myself occasionally) but I would like to see explanations. I think this should particularly be the case on Christianity SE where we should be welcoming (or hospitable), right?

So - here's my request - if you downvote on the main site, particularly on posts from newcomers, please explain why. I'm not proposing a policy, it is just a request.

Feel free to downvote this if you disagree... :)

1I know meta works differently, I'm not talking about meta.

2 Answers 2


This is phrased as a request rather than a policy for a simple reason - We can neither demand nor enforce that anyone do anything in regards to votes. As such, the only solution is to plead. And this, I will do - I would appeal to the better angels of your nature, if you choose to anonymously downvote.

It has been said that any fool can knock over a building. It takes a craftsman to build one up. The one who has labored to create quality content has built something of value (well, most of the time anyway!) and to simply come by and say "That's dumb" has a psychological hurt value.

Downvotes de-incentivize productive participation. Period.

A downvote in any event teaches the one who is engaged not to do what he or she is doing. Sometimes, that may be warranted - if someone is contributing things that are wrong, unclear, off-topic, or just plain not what the site is about (and you'd be surprised how little that actually is!), then correction is warranted.

But - and this is the big but - if you don't leave an explanation, you are unlikely to teach the right lesson.

Lets face it - an anonymous downvote says "You - Shut up!"

Or, the poster might feel like a martyr. "You just disgaree with me. Well, you're just stupid!" Of such things nothing good will come.

A downvote with explanation, however, teaches people with zeal to be better.

So, it's really simple. Love this site? Downvote Publically. Be willing to stick your neck out and actually help. Cowards knock down without building up.

Can I force you to do this? No. But if you love this site, you will follow this commandment.

  • 3
    I wholeheartedly agree, but I do have one grievance, and it's with the whole "review task" thing. Whenever I do those and I see something that's not so good and I would leave a message, but it's exactly the same thing as has already been written. I just upvote the other message and downvote/VTC the question. I don't think there's any reason to duplicate someone else's comments and there's certainly no reason to say me too.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Oct 11, 2012 at 21:19
  • @PeterTurner: I agree, but I think that should be clear to the original poster from the voted. That is, if there are two down votes plus one comment (explaining the down vote) which has an upvote, it ought to be clear there are two people who think this and hence down vote. Affable Geek: I entirely agree with your answer, very well put. Oct 12, 2012 at 4:43
  • This question needs wider publicity. Oct 17, 2014 at 2:02

Voting is supposed to be anonymous. By asking people to explain their down votes (which the system already does), your asking them to break the anonymity that they are entitled do.

If someone wants to comment they are welcome and encouraged to, but if they don't want to we can't make them.

Last note: depending on why you're down voting it may be counter productve to explain the down vote. Sometimes it can actually cause more harm than good to leave a comment then just downvote. If someone downvotes assume there is something wrong and attempt to fix it. (this meta answer has some good reasons not to ask for an explanation at least).

An explanation is a privilege if given, it's never a right; if voting wasn't anonymous, then there would be all sorts of shenanigans and retaliatory behavior much larger on the scale of what we see now.

While I do think it's a wonderful thing that you offer a reason when you downvote (and I'd love to see more responsible participants on SO like you), it's not required of you as you are granted anonymity in this action (even mods can't see specific votes you cast).

This is your right.

You choosing to forfeit that right doesn't demand that someone else do the same. Common courtesy might, but that's not something that we could enforce even if we wanted to (nor do I know that I'd want to, given it's subjective nature).

Let's not badger people who anonymously downvote, they likely have a reason.

  • 2
    Yes, I agree with your first two paragraphs. However, I think that downvoting without commenting should be an exception, not the norm. And I think this should be particularly for newcomers. If I posted a question for the first time on a site used by Christians, and then found a negative number next to it, I would at least want to know why. Oct 11, 2012 at 14:17
  • 2
    Because Brothers, we are not Christians
    – wax eagle
    Oct 11, 2012 at 15:54
  • 1
    I like the sentiment, but just because we're supposed to be Christians doesn't remove the fact that it's still the Internet.
    – wax eagle
    Oct 11, 2012 at 15:55

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