On most SE sites general users tend to leave an explanation explaining the reason for the down vote.

Does that not happen here?

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  • users having Stack Overflow background may follow its cultural traits because they are used to do like that, see Why isn't providing feedback mandatory on downvotes, and why are ideas suggesting such shot down? – gnat Jan 30 at 11:25
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    "Does that not happen here?" - occasionally. Not very often. – Joe Strazzere Jan 30 at 11:56
  • rarely, and that is a bone of contention – Old_Lamplighter Jan 30 at 12:09
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    It may also be the case that someone downvotes the post and upvotes an existing comment which explains why – Bee Jan 30 at 13:20
  • @Bee without the end user seeing a notification with respect to an upvote it doesn't really explain anything. – Dan K Jan 30 at 13:32
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    @Dan no I'm just saying that sometimes you may downvote and not explain as there is already an explanation there, in those cases I tend to up-vote the comment. The answer gnat already linked to explains in detail though – Bee Jan 30 at 13:41
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    @DanK - For questions, the hover text associated with the downvote button says "This question does not show any research effort; it is unlear or not useful". For answers it says "This answer is not useful". Sometimes no other explanation is given. Sometimes no other explanation is needed. I don't know if that was the case for the question/answer that you are referring to. – Joe Strazzere Jan 31 at 11:40
  • realistically many downvotes seem to be from the same users, who just downvote everything at random. They can't leave an explanation 'Itchy mouse finger' – Kilisi Feb 2 at 12:46
  • I love how someone has downvoted both of the current answers, without adding comments to explain why. – dwizum Feb 3 at 14:22

The Workplace is different than many other SE network sites in that it is fairly subjective in nature. On a site like Stack Overflow, or some of the more technically-focused network sites, there may be easy, obvious, and objective commentary users can put into answers they disagree with -

your idea is really inefficient, here's why, and you can improve it by using this method instead...


this code doesn't solve for these edge cases, it would be better if you added XYZ...

or whatever. That is the implied intent of having comments on answers - to clarify or suggest improvements. These objective comments are generally valuable - the person who wrote the answer can consider the feedback and edit the suggestions into their answer, resulting in an answer that both parties can agree is better and more valuable.

Meanwhile, on The Workplace, questions and answers are frequently much more subjective, and there's a big gray area in terms of opinion, personal bias, or cultural differences impacting an answer.

For instance, when someone asks a question that presents a conflict with a coworker, there are bound to be a handful of very different suggestions, and people will feel that some suggestions are bad, or they just won't like them. However, this sets up a bit of a trap that few people are willing to engage with - if you don't like an answer, or disagree with it, saying so in a comment isn't exactly helpful, since many times the person who wrote the answer will (justifiably) say, "well too bad that you don't like it, I think this answer is good." The comment isn't really helpful and nothing has changed. When people do make these kinds of unhelpful comments, it often just spirals into a series of disagreements and eventually gets deleted or moved to chat. No one has accomplished anything.

In other words, we have a site that is, by it's nature, fairly more subjective than other SE sites. Because of that, the model of "use comments to suggest improvements" doesn't always work well, so people sometimes don't bother. When you see a downvote that's not explained, it usually just means "I don't like this and I have nothing constructive to say." If the purpose of comments is to suggest improvements or seek clarification, and someone is making a subjective downvote, they may legitimately not have an actual improvement or clarification to put in a comment, so they don't leave a comment, because doing so would violate the intent of comments and not add any value.

Of course, there are also people who are just simply downvoting and aren't really interested in considering whether or not they can make a helpful comment. But if someone isn't interested in being helpful, and is going to make anonymous downvotes, there's not much that can be done about it, and it's hard to take their expression of their dislike seriously.

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Let's consider one of my answers that recently got a downvote and where people commented on the downvote.

The question is essentially: "Do you warn a co-worker who you know/suspect is going to be fired?"

The answers essentially are:

  • No, it could backfire on you (the self-interest argument)
  • No, it will not be appreciated (the it has limited benefit anyway argument)
  • No, it is not your business and unprofessional (the professionalism argument)
  • Yes, provided that you can mitigate your risk (the do right if possible argument)
  • No, stand up for him in other ways (the alternative solution argument)
  • Yes, but only hint at it (the advising argument)

My answer made the case for yes and provided a plausible framework for mitigating the risk. If you are in any of the camps except the limited benefit or professionalism camp, my answer can find common ground with yours.

However, if your reason for opposing informing the employee is based on professionalism, telling the employee he is on a rickety bridge remains improper even if you can get away with it. That is a fundamental disagreement in terms of values between our two positions.

With limited benefit, telling the person remains useless even if you can get away with it. It comes down to a fundamental disagreement over whether knowing about a possible impending firing is useful to people.

A certain number of downvotes are probably just based on those types of disagreements.

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