In a site that offers a voting system, should there be extra criteria to "down vote"?

I think it would make a lot of sense to add an extra step to down voting someone's question or answer. If you are up voting, great, you are saying that you agree. But if you down vote, wouldn't it be helpful for owner of the content in question to know why exactly you down voted to be able to learn/understand what drove your decision?

I also believe it would deter people from going on angry tirades against other individuals that they dislikes and automatically down voting every answer they post just out of spite. They might think twice before doing this.

It's clearly a win win.

Update: I definitely agree with the reasoning for the current system now. And I think that the popup notification that you get when down voting is enough of a reminder to leave a comment. Most reasonable people will leave a constructive comment when down voting anyway.


3 Answers 3


Sometimes, an answer is unsatisfactory, misleading or poor advice. Giving a comment could be constructive, but that's not always easy/feasible/wise. For example:

  1. Language. The user is not very confident in their writing (english as a second language) and they don't want to be embarrassed, but they still feel the advice given was bad.
  2. Gut Reaction. The user is not sure how to explain why it's bad advice and they don't want to be targeted for criticism or revenge.
  3. Psychotic. The user is crazy, (You know who you are!), and is just down voting for whatever reasons the voices in his head tell him.

I think for these reasons, you should not force a comment for down votes. However, I don't like anonymous votes either. I wish that you could see who down-votes on a question. The comment seems too much, but anonymous seems too little. I would love to see vote names up and down.

Great UX comes from balance. Like Yin/Yang. You have to allow for people to express themselves without the threat of reprisals and at the same time not let people be trolls and jerks because they have anonymity.

  • 2
    I understand the reasons you give for not commenting, though I still think it is a pity, because I always feel a down-vote without a comment is a lost opportunity to learn. I don't agree with your desire for naming votes. Anonimity on votes, and on down-votes in particular, ensures that people can down-vote without having to fear retaliatory (I hope that's a word) conduct by the down-voted. And that in itself is another reason not to require a comment with a down-vote, as comments are always named... But I guess you know that - considering your last paragraph. Apr 30, 2011 at 7:13

If we're talking specifically about SE, I feel that the current system works well. There are a number of deterrents to downvoting lightly:

  1. You need a significant amount of rep to down-vote - nearly 10 times the amount of rep required to up-vote. This eliminates the casual, unafiliated voters, and the mischief-makers
  2. Down-voting costs the voter rep (granted, it's a token amount, and one could argue for a greater amount), but there is another deterrent

In other SE's I've noticed that it is common etiquette to provide the reason why you're down-voting someone. I like this emergent behaviour: it's not strictly enforced by the system, but the community expects that level of courtesy.

I feel that in terms of comment ranking systems, SE has one of the best models (which could arguably be tweaked), which is most definitely what has contributed to the original Stackoverflow's success (and the resulting spinoff of the platform franchise).

Since this SE is about UX in general, and not SE Meta, let's broaden the scope of the discussion to voting UI implementations in general. The decision to implement any additional barriers to user input must always be weighed by the needs and objectives of the system. For example, if your primary objective were to encourage site stickiness through user engagement, then providing the least amount of barriers to user input would be the guiding principle behind all UI decisions. On the other hand, if you want to create a forum for positive encouragement, and minimize the potential for "griefing" (I'm borrowing the term from MMO behaviour categorization here), then the more barriers the better.

Radio buttons or a plaintext field aren't really barriers, as much as annoyances - road bumps that slow you down but can ultimately be bypassed. Unless you're going to go the length of validating user input in some meaningful way, one can always just type 'sdfdssdfsdfs' into a textfield and proceed with the downvote.

  • 1
    +1 For mentioning the deterrents to down-voting and the general discussion of when to discourage certain types of input and when not. Apr 30, 2011 at 7:08

In theory it sounds nice and I have found myself there, especially when I am new to the community, why I was downvoted.

However, it does not work for the system. If there are a total of 8 upvotes and 5 downvotes and 5 comments as to why it doesnt seem so bad.

But, scale that up to 5,000 upvotes and 2,000 downvotes. Now you have 2k comments that might all say the same thing.

You want to encourage the use of both upvotes and downvotes.

If I had to implement your suggestion, you could have a few radio buttons appear when the user clicks to downvote and a reason must be selected.

  • Very good points. I didn't really look at it this way. Apr 29, 2011 at 19:11

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