The subject of forcing a comment with all down votes has been discussed and rejected several times. The conclusion (and rightly so) is always that we should not force this. But it is almost universally agreed that doing so benefits the community as well as the poster.

Because of this:

I hereby pledge to never Down Vote any Question or Answer without leaving a comment explaining why.

I will be putting this in my “About me”, linking back to this question, and I urge you to do the same.

  • 19
    -1 because cake
    – mmyers
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:20
  • 1
    Considering how requests to force comments on downvotes have always been shot down, I'd say it's agreed that doing so does not benefit the community. Dec 16, 2011 at 17:27
  • 3
    @mmyers the cake is a lie
    – yannis
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:38
  • 3
    Well, I'm sticking to the pledge. And will do so until someone tells me to "Keep your Down-vote comments to your self"
    – Morons
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:49
  • 4
    it is almost universally agreed that doing so benefits the community as well as the poster. -- [citation needed] Dec 16, 2011 at 17:51
  • 2
    @Morons Actually I don't think anyone really cares whether you leave downvote comments or not. There's no official policy on the matter, and there's no reason there should be one. You can do as you please, the downvotes your question has gathered are more to say that people don't feel obliged to do the same. If your downvote comments are indeed helpful and you somehow manage to bypass the ugliness I describe in my answer, you could start a trend, regardless of the reaction to this question. Go for it, but you shouldn't really expect others to do the same...
    – yannis
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:56
  • @Morons you could probably skip explaining those on a meta site. It just means you don't agree, a comment saying you don't agree only adds something if it's not clear why.
    – psr
    Dec 16, 2011 at 21:07

3 Answers 3


But it is almost universally agreed that doing so benefits the community as well as the poster.

Actually I don't think so. Quite a few times my downvote comments, especially on answers, lead to unhappy responses which may turn into lengthy comment wars (for which I am as much to blame as the op). I've used the "let's continue in chat" feature more times than I would want to. That's a byproduct of the downvote comment that's common enough to be taken into consideration.

The same doesn't happen (as much) in questions, but there where a couple of instances that: I was the first to happen upon the question, downvoted and left a message. And then the question was deleted by the op. That's the op's right, but not why I took the time to write the comment, which was to help the op improve the question. Imagine my frustration when I've written a lengthy comment with links and helpful tips, just to find out a few minutes later that the question (and my comment) was gone.

So, when it comes to answers, the faq states (emphasis mine):

Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development.

I hereby pledge to aggressively downvote every answer that in my mind is not an expert answer, without feeling any obligation to explain why I did so.

It's in the faq, I don't care if an asker is unclear on the guidelines, but imho an answerer must be. People should answer only if they are 100% certain of what they are saying, otherwise leave a comment instead.

And when it comes to questions:

I hereby pledge to aggressively downvote every question that could be easily answered with a simple Google search, or the Wikipedia article on the matter, or something that would require similarly minimal effort.

I will consider taking the time to accompany my downvote with a helpful comment if and only if the asker is clearly a noob.

Downvotes are the StackExchange way of saying "your answer is not helpful" and "your question doesn't meet the criteria". I'm getting increasingly tired of all the whining, all those "why the downvote" comments, especially when there's only one downvote - if it's more than one, well it should be obvious. But if it's just one, the correct question the op should be asking would be "how come no one cancelled out that downvote with an upvote?".

btw I don't have any opinion on if you choose to leave a comment explaining a downvote or not. I'm just saying that in my experience sometimes it's not as helpful as intended, people get hung up on the one downvote disregarding the fact that it doesn't really matter. And I've seen more than enough sad instances of ops responding aggresively to the one downvoter that was kind enough to leave a comment, without taking into account the fact that their post was downvoted into oblivion.

A comment is personal - it identifies one individual's thoughts on the post. Whether that will lead into an improvement of the post or a comment war highly depends on the op and the commenter. It can't be safely predicted or assumed that it will by default benefit the community and the op.

  • 6
    -1 No Comment (left a Comment as per my pledge.)
    – Morons
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:08
  • 2
    @Morons :) I'm actually hoping this gets downvoted - ideally people should see things your way and downvote comments should help improve posts, I just don't see it happening. But keep in mind that downvoting on meta posts means "I disagree with you", no need to explain that any further. I've actually upvoted your question, I like the way you think and honestly hope it could be as simple as that, but I don't think it is.
    – yannis
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:18
  • 2
    +1 because you explained it better than I could. But I didn't feel especially obliged or pressured to leave this comment. Dec 16, 2011 at 17:57
  • I hereby pledge to aggressively capitalise all acronyms, FWIW. Jan 27, 2013 at 14:56

I would resist any effort to tie downvotes to comments.

Here's why: every time I've explained my downvote in a comment, I've gotten into an argument with the OP. So I don't do it anymore. It just causes unnecessary and unwanted noise.

Strictly speaking, using comments to explain downvotes is not a proper use of the comments system; it is meta discussion. Comments should generally only be used to clarify a post or ask for additional information.

  • Comments should generally only be used to clarify a post or ask for additional information. -- [citation needed]
    – Morons
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:57
  • @Morons: stackoverflow.com/privileges/comment, under the subheading "When should I comment?" It does state there that you can leave constructive criticism, but it doesn't require it. Dec 16, 2011 at 17:59
  • 1
    See # 2, Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
    – Morons
    Dec 16, 2011 at 18:02
  • 1
    Erm, didn't I just say that? :/ Gotta read, brutha... It doesnt require people to leave feedback. Dec 16, 2011 at 18:18
  • 3
    As to "comment war after downvoting and commenting": see above. :) Dec 17, 2011 at 14:32

Morons, This is great idea! I support you 100%

  • 1
    -1 because your self imposed obligation to comment has obviously hampered you getting out there and using your own votes to make a difference. 108 votes as a 10k user is beyond stingy. Both up and down votes benefit the community and you are holding out. Lead by example first, then instruct others...
    – Caleb
    Nov 23, 2012 at 10:38
  • @Caleb Thank for providing a reason for your down vote, you set a great example for the entire community to see.
    – Morons
    Nov 23, 2012 at 12:24
  • +1 because it made me smile Jan 14, 2014 at 14:01

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