An answer to a recent question attracted a handful of downvotes, prompting the answerer to comment that the downvotes are "misleading" and as they were not accompanied by a comment were also "invalid". These (and some other) comments have since been removed by moderators, and the user has now edited their answer to begin with this notice: this notice declaring that "all downvotes are wrong and misleading", and again declaring the downvotes "invalid".

I'm not linking to the answer (to try to avoid driving meta-effect downvotes). My initial instinct was to simply edit it and remove this text, as in my opinion this is in no way part of an answer to the question (no matter how much the author may claim otherwise). I'd be inclined to allow it if were accompanied by some explanation of why the downvotes are wrong (i.e. something of a form like "people downvoted because they believe x, but regulation y shows otherwise", with appropriate evidence). But this provides no such explanation, it's merely a declaration that downvotes are "wrong and misleading" accompanied by an assertion that complaining about downvote the answerer perceives to be "wrong and invalid" is "a legitimate part of the answer".

What's the community opinion? Is this critical commentary on votes received acceptable as part of an answer?

  • 1
    I did the edit, taking out the lines that did not belong to the answer (and cleaned up the comments at the same time to get rid of that 'not belonging' chat.) This is not to answer this question, it is just to explain who had done that edit.
    – Willeke Mod
    Nov 15, 2018 at 19:08
  • @Willeke I must admit, when I posted this I hadn't seen that the notice had already been removed by a moderator and then reinstated by the answerer despite that. Had I noticed that, I'd likely have just re-edited or even reported it.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 8:09
  • Other examples of same include travel.stackexchange.com/a/115158/26849 (where I think it was my comment that set off the argument)
    – djr
    Nov 16, 2018 at 22:02
  • Another example of this behavior: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/116687/… Nov 21, 2018 at 17:49
  • 6
    Also, comments such as these make me more inclined to downvote, as it turns a low-quality answer into an actively bad one (as it contains useless noise) Nov 21, 2018 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


I think a Kantian approach is useful here. How often do people agree with downvotes to their answers? If everyone who received a downvote edited in a disclaimer which effectively says, "Other users are idiots or not acting in good faith," site quality would take a dive. In accordance with the categorical imperative, no answer should include such a disclaimer.

I'd be inclined to allow it if were accompanied by some explanation of why the downvotes are wrong (i.e. something of a form like "people downvoted because they believe x, but regulation y shows otherwise", with appropriate evidence).

Even that goes too far if the reason for the downvote is not explicitly given in a comment. (NB I am not saying that if a post has a downvote and a comment pointing out a deficiency then it is reasonable to assume either that the commenter was the downvoter or that the downvote was for the same reason).

There are two appropriate responses to downvotes without explanation: shrug them off as something that happens, or add a polite, non-entitled, comment requesting specific feedback on the perceived deficiency.

Appropriate responses to a comment which points out a deficiency are to remedy it; to respond in comments; or to respond in a postscript to the answer. To respond by prepending an apologia in bold type is to make the answer worse, and personally it biases me in favour of downvoting. It's very hard for an answer to be useful when the most prominent content doesn't address the question.

  • for the record, the reason for downvoting being explicitly stated was an (unstated) assumption of mine when talking about when I'd be ok with it - anything else would be indistinguishable from a strawman. I think we're more or less on the same page.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 8:05
  • @ChrisH, fair enough. I came here from the question you reference, and it's clear that some comments have already been deleted, but not what they contained. Nov 16, 2018 at 8:30
  • "I am not saying that if a post has a downvote and a comment pointing out a deficiency then it is reasonable to assume either that the commenter was the downvoter or that the downvote was for the same reason": but even still, the answer could address any factual dispute or other disagreement raised by the comment without mentioning the downvotes, and it probably should, especially since there is no way of knowing for certain, unless the commenter claims to have done so, whether the commenter cast the downvote.
    – phoog
    Nov 28, 2018 at 18:51
  • Personally I find these "downvoters please explain" comments as noise and have occasionally flagged them as unnecessary because that's what they are in my opinion. If you think your answer is complete, accurate, and answers the question using solid reasoning and sources, then that's that. Life moves on regardless of imaginary internet points. Nov 28, 2018 at 19:46

This is a chronic problem here and pointing out invalid Downvotes is 100% right.

Downvotes on an otherwise correct Answer mislead readers suggesting that the Answer is not correct. In this case, it was very clear that Downvoters did not read the Answer making the Downvotes actually wrong.

Until there is a way to defend against this, pointing it out is absolutely legitimate.

Unfortunately, seems too many are ok with misleading readers.

  • 7
    I think the question makes it clear both that I disagree and why I disagree, but to summarise the latter again: If you claim such notes are legitimate to avoid downvotes misleading future readers, surely you must accept that a well-reasoned (and ideally backed up with something verifiable) explanation of why the reasons stated for downvoting are invalid is requried. It can't fulfill that purpose otherwise. Your initial declaration that downvotes were invalid came before anybody had even stated a reason, so you can't possibly have been in a position to judge the validity of their reason.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 11:52
  • @ChrisH You missed the initial drama. Comments were deleted to hide evidence. Downvotes on an otherwise correct Answer are wrong and misleading and have a detrimental effect on future readers. In this case, there is nothing factually wrong with the Answer, but it is likely to be perceived as wrong due to the Downvotes.
    – DTRT
    Nov 16, 2018 at 11:58
  • 1
    no, I saw the comments before they were cleaned up, I just didn't post this until seeing that you'd edited your complaints into the answer itself. As I've stated both in the question and the previous comment, if you are able to provide an actual explanation for why the answer doesn't deserve the criticism it's received, I'd welcome that being included (though I'd suggest you phrase it less confrontationally). Merely asserting the answer to be correct seems entirely unproductive - the fact you posted the answer in the first place already asserts that you believe it to be correct.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:02
  • The comment in which you first declared the downvotes to be invalid was before anybody had provided a reason for downvoting. You yourself made this perfectly clear: the lack of explanation was the very reason you gave for considering the votes invalid.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:04
  • 7
    Comments were deleted to take chat out, not to hide anything. And this is not the first time an 'down votes are wrong' remark of yours has been edited out, I have done a few of those edits before becoming mod,
    – Willeke Mod
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:08
  • @ChrisH Well that's the problem, uncommented Downvotes. They provide no context or advice to improve the Answer. These unhelpful and should be presumed wrong.
    – DTRT
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:08
  • @Johns-305 I don't see how "unhelpful and should be presumed wrong" applies any less to an assertion (provided with no justification, or even awareness of the reason behind) that other users' downvotes are wrong and invalid. But I'm going to leave the discussion at this point because frankly it seems like we're going round in circles already.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:20
  • @ChrisH It's all about reader perception. Readers are mislead by Downvotes on otherwise correct Answers. And still, Downvotes on correct Answers are inherently wrong...hence wrong and misleading. That's it.
    – DTRT
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:24
  • 14
    @Johns-305 I very much doubt that adding this kind of thing to answers affects reader perception in the direction you want it to.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16, 2018 at 12:44
  • 9
    There seem to be multiple false premises underlying this answer. Firstly, downvotes are not purely about correctness. The tooltip on the voting buttons are "This answer is useful" vs "This answer is not useful". There are many ways in which an answer can be correct without being useful, and on the other side it's occasionally possible for an answer to be useful despite being wrong. Nov 16, 2018 at 12:50
  • 13
    Secondly, correctness of answers on this site is not an objective Boolean property. People can legitimately disagree about whether an answer is correct. It's the height of arrogance to claim that everyone who disagrees with you is therefore wrong, and it's a failure to assume good faith to assume that everyone who disagrees with you does so because they haven't read the answer. Thirdly, the choice is not between ignoring downvotes and editing the answer. Comments also exist. Nov 16, 2018 at 12:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .