In some of the questions and answers that I have posted on the Economics Beta site, I have experience several downvotes. I recognize that downvotes are useful with comments to explain why, but nearly 100% of the downvotes that I have received have been without comments.
Is there a way to encourage other users to add comments (and, in some cases, more specific comments) along with a downvote? That way the question/answer can be improved rather than just leaving the OP with a cryptic downvote on their post.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Especially with political questions, any down vote that is not explained can safely assumed to be personal bias against the opinion/preferences based on the question and ignored away. However: While it is ok for questions to base on beliefs, it would always be good if you could state such assumptions explicitly. $\endgroup$
    – FooBar
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ Every downvote gets a message, "Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved." Beyond that, hopefully this question helps bring awareness to the issue. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


When you hover over the downvote button you'll see the tooltip: "this question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful".

Comments exist to ask for clarification on a post, or to point out egregious errors. If a voter feels that a question is not useful, or does not show any research effort, then a comment would be redundant. Only if a question is unclear would a comment asking for clarification be relevant to the downvote.

It's funny how almost no one ever asks why they receive upvotes that are not accompanied by comments. And yet there is a symmetry there: downvotes are just as important as upvotes, and just as informative.

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    $\begingroup$ The asymmetry exists because there's a presumption that an upvote simply means 'I agree this answer is good,' but a DV can have a few reasons. And it's easy to look at a DV and feel "I wonder why exactly someone shot me down. Did they simply disagree, not like my answer, or find some other fault?" The true asymmetry is in how much effort one can put in their writing, and at the other end any member can take .1 seconds to DV, with no comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is a really poor analogy: an upvote signifies that someone thinks this is good: you don't need to know why, because no action is needed. A downvote signifies someone thinks something isn't good enough: but it can't be improved if you don't know why. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @user568458 No. There might be some aspect that made one upvote without thinking everything is great. You are basically claiming upvoted posts cannot profit from feedback. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ No, I'm saying upvotes don't signify a need for action by the author. Obviously, comments like "+1, X is a particularly good point for [reasons]" or "+1 I have experience of this, and [...]" add value: but that value is rarely in changing the behaviour of the author. My point is very simple: if we want to enforce high standards, we need criticism that is specific and constructive. It's like in management: a simple "Good job!" reinforces good practice, but "Bad job!" alone isn't actionable, it can't change bad practice unless the problem is already known. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ @user568458 if a poster doesn't know what's good and upvote-worthy about their post, how do they know what to repeat in future posts; which part of the answer should they leave unchanged, the next time they edit it? There really is a symmetry there. What's asymmetric is people's knee-jerk emotional response to the direction of the vote. And seeking a post-hoc rationalisation for this asymmetric emotional response is perfectly natural and understandable, though I can't really see it as rational. $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers Speculation about people's emotional states is unhelpful and irrelevant, it belongs (at best) in chat, not comments (anyone could equally speculate that you're giving post-hoc rationalisation for past actions as a knee-jerk emotional response to implied criticism of them - but such speculation is unhelpful). Every post I've made has defended constructive downvoting. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ The point is simple: "+1" is actionable - it's a sign your judgement has been good, more of the same please. "-1" isn't - but "-1 please add facts and references" is. Behaviour reinforcement and behaviour change are equally important, but not equally easy. I genuinely don't understand the depth of opposition to simple actions that steer users towards more positive behaviour. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 11:48

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