I am interested to know what is the correct etiquette (if such exists) when downvoting a question:

  • Do you downvote a question, and then make a comment ?
  • Do you make a comment first, and then downvote immediately afterwards (or indeed wait a certain time period before applying the downvote) ?
  • Or is it irrelevant which way around the downvote/comment is undertaken ?
  • Indeed what are the consequences (if any) of applying a downvote to a question without making any comment whatsoever ?

I believe this to be an important question, so would appreciate clarification in the above regard.

Edit

I forgot obviously this applies to downvoting with regards to the respective answer(s) as well (and not just questions).

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I'd suggest that this question is relevant for upvoting too. We are too often focused on the negative side of the coin. –  daniel Azuelos Jul 28 '13 at 11:50
    
I upvoted this question because I asked myself the same one: what's the key difference function between up or down voting, and positive or negative comments. –  daniel Azuelos Jul 28 '13 at 11:52
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4 Answers

I would argue that no, one need not feel any obligation to comment when downvoting a post.

First of all, voting is, by design, anonymous, and comments are not. If we don't want the site to have an anonymous negative feedback mechanism, we should request that feature be removed. Having an anonymous negative feedback mechanism in place that no one is supposed to use is rather absurd.

Secondly, with regard to answers, the downvote button is labeled "This answer is not useful." We discourage people from posting comments like "thanks, this worked for me"; rather, we encourage them to simply click the up arrow. Similarly, we don't need a host of comments saying, "this answer doesn't work." Voting communicates information; we don't need to duplicate it in comments.

A downvoted question is more ambiguous: it could mean the question does not show research effort, it could mean it is unclear, and it could mean it is not useful. A comment would certainly add clarity. But even for questions a vote by itself communicates useful information.

Now if one wants to offer constructive information to the poster beyond "this answer is not useful," a comment might be quite helpful. But that added information is a bonus; we should neither require nor expect people to post that.

Most of the time users don't need to downvote anything. Upvote what is good and the rest will filter out. But sometimes one encounters a question or answer that needs to be actively marked as not working. While a vote and comment might communicate even more, a vote by itself should never be considered inappropriate.

I expect some people will think it clever to vote against this answer. If you disagree with my point, you of course can do so. And voting on meta is different than on the main site. That said, I would urge people to refrain from pressuring downvoters to comment. We have far too little voting on the site to begin with; let's not discourage people from participating!

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The order of coment and downvotes does not really matter as the reader is very unlikely to see the question between the two actions.

However more imprtantly is the last question "Indeed what are the consequences (if any) of applying a downvote to a question without making any comment whatsoever ?" and the answer is none, that is how StackExchange sites are meant to be used. Downvote if you think the question is not good, you do not need to say why.

See many meta stackexchange threads here and here and here

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Ah I see, I thought that you had to make a comment otherwise you yourself would be penalised minus points. –  Simon May 31 '13 at 17:44
    
@Simon, You lose 1 rep when you downvote an answer (-2 to the poster of the question or answer). People have different opinions on whether it is best or most polite to comment why you downvoted. For me, it varies. –  bassplayer7 May 31 '13 at 18:04
    
@bassplayer7 You lose 1 rep irrespective of whether you comment or not ? –  Simon May 31 '13 at 18:21
    
@Simon - yes - voting and comments are totally separate –  Mark May 31 '13 at 18:46
    
@Mark I'm guessing you lose 1 rep to discourage you from downvoting in the first place ? –  Simon May 31 '13 at 18:51
    
You lose 1 rep to discourage you from downvoting all over the place. And in general it's preferable to upvote the questions/answers you like. –  patrix Jun 1 '13 at 14:48
    
@patrix Makes sense –  Simon Jun 5 '13 at 12:31
    
Disagree. One may not need to say why they downvoted, but one ought to say why (constructively). –  Chris W. Rea Jun 13 '13 at 19:16
    
@ChrisW.Rea Agreed. Also is there a point where after a certain number of downvotes, a question is removed from the site ? –  Simon Jun 14 '13 at 9:40
    
@Simon - questions I do not think are removed just for downvotes - however if the question gets so many downvotes there is probably enough wrong with it to be eligible for downvote reasons. –  Mark Jun 14 '13 at 10:00
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I think if this site was only about encouraging people to votes then you could give a point for an upvote. But it is not. Its about getting answers to your questions. The voting system is a mechanism to try and help qualify an answer or question.

I understand the need for anonymous voting. But that does not mean I think not commenting on down votes for answers is helpful. But I also understand that if every on down voted commented it would become a mess.

So we are stuck with the good things and bad things because no one solution is going to fully help the site function.

So Can I suggest a something else that is added to the voting buttons.

Clicking the up or down vote reveals a popover which gives the more reasons to why the voter is voting. "This Answer is not useful", "This Answer does not work".."Other" and so on.

The vote counte number changes. But the reason is added to a Poll. Which can be viewed by other readers if they want to see what the overall reasons for the votes are. This in some where may give a clearer indication to the anonymous voting than the simple one we have now, be more helpfull and without causing the clutter of duplicate comments.

Small update for mark's comment. Answer is well thought out.

Answer is well thought out and structured.

Answer Works as described.

I Just like the Answer

Answer is correct but badly constructed.

Answer is incorrect.

Answer dose not work as described.

Answer is not useful

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What reasons could be given - The two you give are very similar - other reasons are covered by down votes –  Mark Jun 14 '13 at 9:58
    
The idea is to give more info to the poster and others, maintain anonymity and not clutter comments. { Answer is well thought out, Answer is well thought out and structured, Answer, Works as described, I Just like the Answer, Answer is correct but badly constructed, Answer is incorrect, Answer does not work as described, Answer is not useful} are some that would help me at least to know where to start looking to improve my answers. And imo better than a all encompassing "This Answer is not useful. But anyway only a suggestion.. –  markhunte Jun 14 '13 at 14:48
    
Out of those down votes "is correct but badly constructed" is that a down vote? "is incorrect." is the same as "dose not work as described" and is not useful is more of a flag isn't it? –  Mark Jun 14 '13 at 15:18
    
Possibly. But "Does not work as described" to me is there is a fault in the answer as opposed to the answer works but is badly written. If this idea was ever taken up I am sure the wording would be worked out to convey useful meaning. But I doubt it will..:-) –  markhunte Jun 14 '13 at 16:56
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I would say yes, that it is expected etiquette to comment — and constructively! — along with your downvote.

It certainly isn't required (otherwise the system would enforce it) but if you drive-by downvote on a post that hasn't already been remarked upon, then you're risking an insult to the person who posted the question or answer. Yes, you're voting anonymously, but did you really want to risk ruining somebody's day? Be nice.

There are two ways a downvote can be constructive:

  1. if a comment is left explaining why it isn't a good question (or answer), and how it might be improved; or

  2. if there's already a constructive comment explaining a downvote, then you don't need to leave your own – but you could nod agreement with the existing comment by upvoting it after your own downvote.

So, please, if you're obviously the first person to down-vote a post, please add a brief, constructive comment to help the poster get better at asking/answering and improve the question/answer.

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