I am concerned that answers given can be marked down without users having to give any reason for why they have done so. This seems counter productive. If one of my answers is marked down I want to know why so that I can address the issue or learn how to frame my answers more appropriately in future.

The current system allows people to simply mark an answer down because they don't agree with it, or simply because they want to knock another participants rep gain.

Is there anything that can be done to force the one marking down to explain why they have done what they have done, or is there any way for me to find out who has marked me down so that I can ask them why?

  • Caleb speaks wisdom (answer below). ;) But, in the "FWIW" category, I took a quick look at your user profile. You don't have many DV's (downvotes), truth be told. Looking your answers that have been DV'ed, I would guess that there are two main reasons: (1) for brief, comment-like, seemingly opinion-based answers (some of your earlier ones -- been there, done that!); and/or (2) unreferenced/unsupported answers that may otherwise be fine in themselves. The site's "house rule" #1 is: "SHOW YOUR WORK"! Often this means citing recognized authorities for claims/assertions. Hope that helps!
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 22:18
  • Thanks - that's helpful. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 8:21
  • @JonathanChell FWIW-I almost always add a comment when I DV/VtC an answer. I don't do so very often, but I 'feel' for you-it's very difficult finding your 'voice' and gaining rep when you appear to be DV'd without any reason.
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 1:23
  • @JonathanChell For my 'take' on this issue, read this.
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 1:48
  • @Tau thanks that's helpful too Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 8:05
  • @JonathanChell 1 more FYI; I found this particular answer exceptionally well presented and a "10", (IMHO). He addresses the question, formats it, gives references, critiques references, and concludes with footnotes. ON TOP OF ALL THAT he includes visuals which draw in the reader and make his case more convincing, without overbearing length or redundancy. A worthy model to template!
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 6:45
  • The only thing I wonder about is if there is a comment already given describing the issue. I will downvote without comment, because I agree with the existing comment. I suppose the only thing I can do then is to also mark the comment as helpful? I've seen some complain about driveby DVs with multiple DV's but only a couple comments offering criticism. The OP seemed to think the silent DV's were a problem (my own included) but didn't recognize they likely just agreed with the existing comments.
    – Joshua
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


This has been brought up many times and discussed ad nauseam at various times on every SE site. I understand why it comes up, as do the folks at SE (the commercial entity behind the QnA engine this site runs on) but the suggestion is fundamentally at odds with the way the system works.

Voting is supposed to be anonymous. Anything you do to try to turn it into a feedback mechanism necessarily takes away the anonymous nature of it, at which point it stops serving its primary function.

Votes are not primarily a feedback mechanism. In other words they are not primarily for you as a post author. If it was, you would have a point that it isn't optimized for that. But it's not. It's a signal you can use, but it's really for something else and the way it functions is for that other purpose.

The primary purpose of voting is to sort answers and signal site readers about the relative value of answers. It's a crowd-sourced sorting system amalgamating any number of factors about perceived relative usefulness, accuracy, etc. For various reason (that you should research on meta.se) for that to function properly the votes themselves need to be anonymous and are therefore strictly not correlated to other mechanisms such as commenting.

Votes are not meant primarily for you as a way to improve your answers. They are for everybody else. They further the aims of this site in that new visitors to a question find the best answer as ranked by the community at the top of the answer stack and less well received ones lower down.

There are other mechanisms: people with feedback to give are welcome to comment to give you direction. You can also solicit feedback in chat or here on meta, but remember we cannot explain specific votes. The crowd sourced way of sorting answers by perceived usefulness is specifically decoupled from other forms of feedback.

I know it's hard to believe when you're just starting out with your first couple hundred rep, but the minor rep intensives really aren't that big a deal. -2 is never going to seriously hurt you as a user. First, the voter also looses -1 to cast that vote, and they aren't going to be able to do a bunch at once. The system will catch actual abuse patterns.

My advice is to stop worrying about the votes themselves. If you're getting downvotes and you want to turn the tide, step back from the questions you are posting answers to and ask yourself (and maybe others) what you can do to make your answers more useful than the other ones being posted. Find an answer to that question—do whatever work needs to be done to produce more useful answers and voting will take care of itself.

  • Thanks for taking the time to explain the answer to my question. I am not personally concerned about the rep loss but I am concerned that some people don't find my answers helpful and I want to address that. IMHO this functionality is fundamentally flawed. If we are supposed to be about providing the best possible answers then there needs to be feedback on what makes a good answer and a bad one and there needs to be a challenge mechanism against the subjectivism of people's opinions - how do we stop someone down voting a genuine answer because they don't agree with it or viceverse? Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:46
  • That being said, I am sure my lone voice is just that :-D Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:51
  • @JonathanChell I also recommend reading the answers to this meta post, which you may find helpful in understanding this site.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 4:19
  • The reason this objection to the anonymous dv is raised so often is that it is a crappy feature.The rationale that "down voting isn't for you" is short sighted at best. It says that it is for sorting but why is sorting impeded if one is forced to justify/explain the down vote? It's like everyone in Congress having veto power with no responsibility to explain. That is unfair to the American people. And it is annoying as Jello. Certain people make a career of down voting. Also, there are too many restrictions related to changing one's vote. The view from here.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 1:42
  • @Ruminator Baloney. The right to downvote anonymously is not equivalent to a congressional veto power. If you want to go down that road it's more like each citizen having a yes/no vote on each law without having to accompany their vote at the polls with a petition explaining why they think a law should pass or not. If you think it's a bad system you're welcome to make any proposal you like on Meta Stack Exchange, but be warned that it would behoove your case to actually read through some of the previous discussion on this issue.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 9:50
  • @Caleb The reason I compare it to a veto is that a single down vote can effectively kill a post. And some of us have to deal with down voters that simply have down voting in their genes. In case you haven't noticed it is rare for people to vote at all. Most posts have no votes or one or two. So one person's vote often carries the day. And if there is no accountability then one person can destroy a question or answer on a whim. Neither Australia, the USA nor herm.se is a democracy, always representative democracy.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 11:20

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