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I just wonder will it be better if you will comment your decision to downvote someone's answer? To correct or to specify a more better answer? It's not about getting a downvote, but more about knowing when you are mistaken and why.

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I just wonder will it be better if you will comment your decision to downvote someone's answer? To correct or to specify a more better answer? It's not about getting a downvote, but more about knowing when you are mistaken and why.

Thank you for your question; I felt like someone should respond to this since you're making a very common request on Stack Exchange. I also should mention that I was not the downvoter for the post that concerned you. These are my own personal perspectives on voting after being around Stack Exchange for a while. I haven't always felt or reacted this way myself... these conclusions have evolved over time.

I vote a lot, because voting is the currency of Stack Exchange. If you enjoy this place and the information you get here, the best way to ensure that network engineering continues is to vote good content up, and bad content down.

Downvoting

The reasons for upvoting should be fairly obvious, but I elaborated in the meta.SO question linked in my second paragraph if anyone is curious.

Why is downvoting important? Three reasons:

  • It signals to the recipient that something is significantly wrong with their answer. Generally, I downvote when I'm ready to ask someone to rethink non-trivial portions of their question / answer.
  • It signals to the community that something is wrong with this post.
  • It serves as a collective community feedback mechanism to discourage future careless, mistaken or otherwise low-quality posts. In other words, by downvoting we help make Stack Exchange a better place.

There is a problem though, some people cannot handle honest criticism well... even when it's done in the nicest possible way... which could be challenging if the downvoter is still frustrated by the post. Thus, there is several possible reasons not to explain downvotes:

  • Sometimes the downvoters are not past the frustration which triggered them to downvote. If the downvoter is still frustrated, there is a strong chance that any feedback given will not be worded well.
  • Many people who ask for downvote explanations wind up arguing about whether the downvoter should have downvoted; sometimes arguing in spite of their best intentions to listen objectively... they just naturally defend their answer. Most of the time, that discussion is pointless. Downvoting is a personal decision, and it's best if we all don't get offended about the downvotes, or expect downvote justifications.
  • Explaining downvotes risks harming an otherwise good, or neutral relationship between the downvoter / downvote recipient (even if the downvote was justified). Perhaps the downvote recipient felt ashamed because their misunderstandings / logical flaws were exposed. Maybe they even felt like that was a good answer, and they were proud of it. If the emotions are strong enough, the downvote recipient could hold a grudge or hate the downvoter.
  • If relationships are damaged, one party may retaliate in various ways... maybe they don't upvote or accept that person's answers any more. Perhaps they even start revenge downvoting (which is rarely smart, because SE keeps track of this stuff... but it still happens).

Responding to downvotes you've received

When you are downvoted, the best thing you can do is think about your answer and whether it really answers the questions that were asked. Think about the wording, logic and truth in your answer. If there are gaps, fix them.

You deleted your answer; that's also a valid downvote response...

Finally I'll mention that it's certainly ok to try explaining downvotes; however, I personally have found it's not worth it. If you do try to explain downvotes, it's best to invite the person to a private chat room. That way, your feedback is more likely to get a reasonable response from them. If you explain downvotes in comments, the feedback is public and the recipient is more likely to get emotional about it.

  • Thank you very much. I understood and will try to give more informative and well constructed answers. Because I don't know yet so much, for me a good explanation or perhaps a hint where I'm wrong is very welcome. – MarinTailor Feb 20 '14 at 15:04

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