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Recently, I have been receiving downvotes on some of my questions and answers without obtaining a clear understanding as to why these downvotes were made. I wanted to propose a short anonymous one-click survey while downvoting a post which may explain the reason behind the downvotes and help in improving the content. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to figure out exactly which aspects must be improved upon.

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  • $\begingroup$ SE suggests the user to leave feedback in comment after downvoting. Isn't that helpful to you? $\endgroup$ May 3, 2023 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Proscionexium as has been my experience, most downvoting users won't go through the trouble of typing out exactly why they downvoted a post; a simple anonymous one-click survey will be much more effective in this regard. $\endgroup$
    – ananta
    May 3, 2023 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Proscionexium most users won't care to explain the downvote as it is not mandatory to do so. They will close vote it and the poster will get an indication why they downvote it. Again, I am not saying that all downvoters are close voters and vice versa but the poster or the reader will get an indication (unless they want to explicitly mention "I downvoted because...") $\endgroup$ May 3, 2023 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @ananta this has been discussed to death. In short, it is part and parcel of any q&a community. If you get upvote, you will also get downvote. If you do care, then edit the post and hope that the downvoter reverse it (don't get your hopes up). I would suggest to move with it. Initially you will feel bad but eventually you will get a hang of it. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2023 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ And to be fair to you, I did downvoted this post because it has been discussed previously so do check other posts. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2023 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Yes @NilayGhosh. Though, I did suggest a solution to the problem as well. This may be worth considering since a simple anonymous one-click survey (perhaps even with a 'skip' button) requires very little time and effort and could be more accessible to all users. Really, we are all trying to improve the SE content here. $\endgroup$
    – ananta
    May 3, 2023 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @NilayGhosh The previous post you have mentioned does entail a similar problem but offers no innovative solution to it. All this does is show that this a problem that many users face, but there hasn't been much progress towards solving this issue. $\endgroup$
    – ananta
    May 3, 2023 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ The linked meta post NilayGhosh provided and others linked within provide a good background to the issue. Maybe downvoting should be more costly than it is. What you are proposing however is a "feature request" which would be punted to the developers responsible for the underlying functionality on the site. I recommend reading the linked posts and searching the main meta site to learn more about this issue: meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=downvoting $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 3, 2023 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @BuckThorn I went through some hundred posts you suggested and found the following commonalities: 1. Downvotes should be moderated. 2. Downvotes must mandatorily require a comment. 3. Downvoting users should have more reputation. Bar point 3, none of these suggestions protect the anonymity of downvoting users, and my suggestion, while protecting anonymity, gives feedback to OP while considering downvoting users. Hence, my suggestion stands out. I realize that this requires developers to pay attention, but I honestly think it would greatly improve the quality of SE content. $\endgroup$
    – ananta
    May 3, 2023 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ What you are suggesting will defeat the purpose of downvoting and in the grand scheme of things, this will only affect how things work here (for an analogy, people didn't like when YouTube removed the dislike count). Have a proper read: chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3138/… $\endgroup$ May 4, 2023 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it suffice to have a pop-up that suggests commenting, as in the first answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… ? $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ There are timestamps on most posted items (comments, q's, a's) that are recorded into a timeline visible to high reputation users and would help defeat anonymity. However I am not opposed to your idea. I see however too many roadblocks to implementation. It would need approval from the community here and then from the higher-ups. The technical implementation issues might not even be the hardest to overcome, although such a change might require implementation across SE. I would be out of my element commenting further. A second look at meta SE might be worthwhile. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder what the choices would be on the survey. Maybe carelessly written, missing sources, didn't search site for existing answers, too many misconceptions, didn't try to figure it our themselves, boring, what are they even asking. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Some related meta posts to look into: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/144851/… meta.stackexchange.com/questions/143115/… meta.stackexchange.com/questions/325416/… $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ see also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4924/… $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 16:49

2 Answers 2

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On Meta, downvotes are often interpreted as not being in favor of a proposal (even though when you hover over the down arrow, it says "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful").

To me, your question is clear and useful. This is the function of meta - to discuss how the main SE Chemistry site works, to check in with the community and, sometimes, to suggest changes to the site.

From the comments, I get the sense that those who read this post and chose to comment don't feel that the suggested feature has a chance of being implemented. Some commenters don't think the feature would be useful, and others caution that this would be a change that would have to be implemented across all SE sites, so it would require a large campaign, and similar campaigns have failed in the past.

I want to use my answer to suggest some possible actions to address the problem you identified without implementing the one-click survey.

To get a general idea about votes (and votes to close) on the site, search this meta site for "downvoting" and "reopen".

Sometimes the OP whose question has been downvoted will post it on meta, asking for feedback (e.g. Please help me understand why asking about an acid-base reaction was down-voted and closed). Often, the comments and answers show consent in how to improve the question. Sometimes, those who reply disagree on the merit of the question, and this should encourage the OP to implement any suggestions to improve the question. Either way, posting on meta will give the question more attention, amplifying the original signal (up and down votes), and giving some context. It helps to take some time to write a meta post, and to try to moderate your emotions, otherwise your meta-post will not be received well (e.g. Why are my questions downvoted for no reason?).

You can also discuss questions in the chat, or discuss voting in the chat. Someone even opened a chat room just to discuss downvoting: https://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/138453/downvoting

This research (as well as looking at the daily feed) will give you a sense how folks exercise their right to vote anonymously on the SE Chemistry site, and might give you some pointers to write your questions in a way that they are "popular" (or, to say it less cynically, a good fit). The latter part is tricky because very few people vote, and who votes first depends on the time of day (i.e. who is awake and on the site). As such, the votes never reflect a representative sample.

In the end, you're fine if the question attracts the interest of at least one person who can give you the answer, and there is a lot of randomness involved in that as well. On the other hand, the only thing you have to invest for the chance of a good answer is your time, and your willingness to receive feedback that has a certain randomness to it.

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This meta post has been an interesting (if poorly timed, personally) opportunity to review this recurring subject.

My thoughts are wandering now in support of the idea that downvotes on new questions should not happen at all. If anything, the downvotes should be on answers, not questions. After all, if I encounter a question on SE, how can I justify voting down? Because it does not interest me? Because it is not useful to me? That makes no sense. If it doesn't then move on, don't offend the person who posted the question. Because it is poorly written, unclear, unfocused, or a duplicate? Then vote to close. In fact any serious flaw should lead to a close vote and any reason to dislike a question should in a sane world lead to ignoring the post altogether.

Ok, I get that the votes are supposed to communicate whether a question is interesting. But downvotes are not required for that. The only other unintended purpose they might serve is communicating that a post is flawed without taking the time to elaborate or vote to close. Drive-by criticism.

Despite my waffling opinion on this matter, I like the site and don't see this feature changing. It is pretty much hardcoded. But hey, I never expected to be having a cogent dialogue with a chatbot in 2023. Crazy things do happen.

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    $\begingroup$ Other aspects to consider: automated removal of posts based on votes; anonymity... $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 18:31

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