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Whenever I leave an upvote, I do not feel the need to explain it as it is in support of the status quo. However, when I leave a downvote or a close vote, I tend to leave an explanation about improvement and generally ask the same of others in the comments. However, others do not tend to follow this same trend, so I am wondering if I am doing something wrong.

  • Should we leave explanations of our close votes?
  • Should we leave explanations of our upvotes?
  • Should we leave explanations of our downvotes?
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3 Answers 3

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Constructive feedback is recommended but not required.

This is an SE-wide thing. It's usually helpful to leave explanations of downvotes and especially close-votes: constructive criticism is more likely to lead to improvement of the post than silent votes are. But on the other hand, people should be able to upvote or downvote as they wish without advertising the fact and potentially subjecting themselves to angry comments or retaliatory votes.

  • Close votes should always be explained, and in fact the system requires every close-voter to choose a reason: "primarily opinion-based", "too broad", etc. That reason is often pretty broad and it may not be clear exactly how it applies to the specific question (so leaving a comment as well is encouraged), but it's better than nothing. In addition, if a question is successfully closed, then the list of close-voters is public, so they can then be asked individually to explain themselves.

  • Downvotes should usually be explained, but it's not mandatory. Upvotes and downvotes are anonymous by design - they're supposed to be a way of maintaining quality, by recording an aggregate of users' subjective opinions of a post. As mentioned above, constructive criticism is helpful, but nobody should refrain from downvoting just because they're scared to advertise themselves as doing so.

  • Upvotes don't really need explanation at all. If you think a post is good, upvote it and leave it at that. There's no real need to tell the OP why you thought it was good, since they (presumably) already think it's good! If a post has already been heavily downvoted, you might consider leaving an explanation for your upvote, in the hope of convincing others that this is in fact an overlooked gem - but in general, there's no point.

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    Another good reason for explaining an upvote is if there's some particular aspect of the answer you want to point out to encourage it for future posts (like a particularly good use of quotes or very clear presentation of an argument etc.). As for downvotes, there's one more aspect to this and that is people asking downvoters for explanations: on PPCG we're going as far as deleting those comments as not constructive, because if the downvoter had wanted to explain their vote (which they're not required to for good reason as you say) they would have done so. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 10:30
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Nope.


Downvotes

Requiring explanations for downvotes is often discussed elsewhere in SE and it is usually an unpopular suggestion from what I can see. We can try to establish a norm (leading by example), but we have no way to enforce this. Making a requirement that we cannot enforce is pointless, and SE definitely isn't going to make this a requirement for us.

Also, saying that you have downvoted (even for a good reason) is an invitation for the OP to start ranting at you. I have lost track of how many times a user who explained what was wrong was mistaken for the downvoter, and had the OP start whining and complaining about them.


Upvotes

Unless there is something special (but hard to notice) about the post that you want others to notice, don't, please. This just leads to useless drivel of the "+1, I like this" variety.


Close votes

For the same reason as with downvotes, I usually won't. However, sometimes I might feel like giving a heads up to the OP if the post can be fixed so that it needn't be closed. But only if it can be fixed.

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  • This is not looking for a requirement, this is looking for personal guidance.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 1:48
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    @Benjamin asking "should we" feels like looking for requirements.
    – muru
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 1:50
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It's up to you.

Upvotes and downvotes are anonymous to protect the voter. It's fine to explain your votes if you want to, but we shouldn't have a policy stating that it's necessary. I'd hesitate even to encourage it, because that could look like an unofficial requirement to comment, defeating the anonymity of the vote.

My point here is that if someone downvotes a post and leaves no comment, then the voter has done nothing wrong. Comments accompanying votes are fine and can be helpful, but we should not set up a culture here that makes people feel like they have to choose between commenting on their votes or refraining from voting. Anonymous votes, including anonymous downvotes, are always acceptable.

Upvotes

Leaving an explanation of your vote is a nice gesture, but it's not always necessary. We don't need 25 people all leaving comments that say, "this is a good question"; the upvotes make that clear enough already.

Downvotes

Many people on the site will graciously accept constructive criticism, but there will always be a few people who will take a negative comment the wrong way and reply rudely. I haven't seen that happen on this site yet (thankfully), but judging from other sites like Stack Overflow, and considering human nature, leaving any sort of negative comment exposes the commenter to risk of a backlash.

Related reading on Meta Stack Overflow: Require a comment explaining the reason for the first downvote on a question

Close votes

For close votes, if you're picking one of the pre-defined close reasons, it may be clear enough already why you voted that way. For a custom off-topic close reason, the system automatically posts a comment stating your close reason.

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    Seeing anonymous votes on this answer warms my heart. :D
    – amaranth
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 2:19
  • The comment box even says we should avoid things like "+1 good post". So up-votes IMO definitely do not need a comment.
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 20:32

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