Is there a policy to encourage people to make comments when they give downvotes? Commentless downvotes do very little to improve the site. If something is wrong, you should explain what about it is wrong.

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There's been a bunch of discussion of this topic on meta.SO. –  Isaac Moses May 23 '11 at 14:23
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@Isaac, mot of what you link to is suggestions that the software encourage comments (by assigning/removing reputation depending on whether comments are left), whereas this question (unless I'm reading it wrong) seems to be about a best-practices policy encouraging comments without any software implementation. Such a policy needn't be common to all the SE sites AFAICT. –  msh210 May 23 '11 at 15:35
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@msh210 Agreed on both points. That's why I linked to these discussions as relevant data rather than submitting them as an answer, as if this question was resolved already. –  Isaac Moses May 23 '11 at 15:36

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

There is already such a rule in the FAQ (and also in the old FAQ):

If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong.

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Commentless downvotes do very little to improve the site.

Oh, but you're wrong! Voting is at least - and probably more - important than commenting when it comes to improving the quality of the information presented by the site. Up-voted questions are given more visibility, while down-voted questions are given less. Up-voted answers display (by default) near the top of the list under their question, while down-voted answers display near the bottom. And users with a history of posting poor questions or answers can be restricted from further participation.

Comments... Hmm. Carefully-crafted constructive criticism can motivate a receptive author to improve their post. But not all voters are sufficiently diplomatic, nor all authors sufficiently receptive of criticism, to make this ideal outcome a reality. And not all down-votes require comments: the criterion for down-voting is simply that the reader did not find the answer "useful" - this doesn't necessarily indicate a problem that needs to be stated in a comment, any more than a comment noting an answer's usefulness needs to be coupled with an up-vote.

Ultimately, comments and votes are two different forms of communication, with different intended uses and different audiences. The system does encourage you to leave a comment when down-voting, but if you don't have anything worth saying, then... don't say it.

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+1 for evening the playing field. The question should apply equally to up-voting, as your answer implies. –  WAF May 24 '11 at 17:30
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-1, and I'll do one better: I'll explain. I believe the goal of the SE network is to provide useful information to anybody looking for it. The means to that goal is to encourage users to contribute useful content, and modify existing content so that it becomes (more) useful. Commentless downvoting can advance the immediate goal (by ensuring that the content most useful to the most people rises and gets noticed), but it shoots the overall means in the foot (because it makes it harder to improve that content, and the author cannot correct himself for the future). –  HodofHod Dec 14 '11 at 6:41
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-1, and I'll add -- Explaining a down vote helps avoid causing the poster to feel that the down vote was a prejudicial vote having nothing to do with the content, or reflects the view of someone who has serious theological differences with normative Judaism. Causing such speculation is not helpful to our souls, as well as hurtful or unhelpful to the quality of the answers and questions on the site. –  Bruce James Apr 24 at 13:18

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