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Why is voting without a comment justifying the vote allowed ?

I can see the usefulness of having a graded and changing answer list ( though sometimes it is a bit funny, getting an answer before the comment that gave rise to it). Also the usefulness of keeping all answers in the voting result order: It gives what people consider the clearest answer top position.

When anonymity is taken into account though, this can lead to a group think of people down voting people with whom they do not agree, even for answers that are reasonable and clear. If each voter justifies the vote ( unphysical, not clear enough, trivial, or whatever) it will give readers a rational reason for the down voting and provoke further thoughts to the one who wrote the answer. The judge should be open to judgment and moderation too.

For example, I saw a down vote in a comment that said "you have been told that this is not the place to talk of your own theories". This goes against the open format of this forum. If Nima Arkani-Hamed had been answering a question using his new twistor revolution concepts would one say "this is not the place to talk of your own theories" ? As long as it is clear that it is a new out of the beaten path proposal censorship should be avoided, imo.

We all know that scientific questions are not decided by consensus but by physics and mathematics clearly stated. The concept of this forum is admirable, but I think that the voting procedure needs some tweaking.

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    $\begingroup$ I think a norm of voting only with comments would be very bad for quickly establishing good vs bad answers. I often have the time to pop in here for a few minutes and vote up or down things that I read. Writing comments explaining why would take more time than I'm willing to spend. $\endgroup$ – Matt Reece Feb 7 '11 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the problem with people "talking of their own theories" is that they tend to be crackpots; I see nothing wrong with competent people bringing up their own work in answers to questions. $\endgroup$ – Matt Reece Feb 7 '11 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Matt Reece With all respect, if you have not the time to write one sentence on a down vote, you should not be voting. Physics should not be in the same class as the May Queen. As for crackpots, I would suppose that a policy should be in place already. People theorizing about leprechauns playing dice with quanta are easily eliminated, maybe by a block. One can ignore questions, and then they stay at 0, and up vote questions one thinks interesting, without comment, though it would be educational to have one any way. Down voting may be abused in the sense described, people ganging up on people. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 7 '11 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @anna: just because something may be abused doesn't mean it should be forbidden. Also, downvoting costs reputation which has to be earned beforehand. $\endgroup$ – gigacyan Feb 7 '11 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @anna: The point is to not require moderator intervention to sort the decent questions and answers from the bad one. Any plan that promotes moderator intervention over crowdsourced quality evaluation will not find acceptance with the powers that be. And that's the way it should be. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Feb 8 '11 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee I am not suggesting moderation. I am suggesting clarity and tranparency in the voting procedure when it is negative. It will be educational not only for readers but for the writer too. Down votes without explicit reason ("contradicts energy conservation", "cannot include plethora of other data", "unclear", etc) does not lead to an open and transparent group opinion based on scientific knowledge and facts. It leads to a popularity contest, which can be tolerated for positive votes mainly because people will be reading with interest those entries and will form their own opinion. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 8 '11 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ @anna: "As for crackpots, I would suppose that a policy should be in place already." There are only three mechanism on the site: crowd-sourced evaluation, crowd-sourced closing (mediated by the rep system; i.e. crowd-sourced evaluation), and moderator intervention. You've presented no convincing case that downvotes are worse than upvotes. You've presented no convincing case why physics is more objective than math or (now that subjective fluff is being pushed to programmers.SE) programing. Groupthink is always a problem, but blaming it on only one half of the evaluation coin is senseless. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Feb 8 '11 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ When are we "launching" ? Beta over ? $\endgroup$ – TROLLHUNTER Feb 8 '11 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ This idea would primarily result in an injection of noise and acrimony. A comment doesn't need to be right, or even rational. And you see the problem with the less permissive approach. It cannot achieve its end so its end becomes a series of stronger attempts to do so. The next recommendation will be: Let's force comments to be good; in the name of science. :( $\endgroup$ – Ashley Feb 8 '11 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @anna you raise some very pertinent points. In particular the phenomenon of "preferential attachment" or "herd behavior" is at play and becomes particularly harmful when combined with targeted down-voting of certain individuals or certain kinds of answers. The only way to discourage such behavior is to call out the anonymous down-voters with firm language. This can be a remarkably effective method for drawing them out. Of course, one should exercise prudence in using this tactic as with any others. $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Feb 11 '11 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, there's my behavior, where I up vote all answers in competition with mine. (Haven't got the "sportsmanship badge" yet, but expect to in the next few weeks.) $\endgroup$ – Carl Brannen Feb 12 '11 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ best example for what @Ashley meant: -1 my cat's breath smells like cat food – Shog9 Jul 31 '10 at 6:13 $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Feb 16 '11 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl you shouldn't upvote all competing answers unless they really indicate the same correctness... $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Feb 16 '11 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I skip the ones that are egregiously incorrect. Despite this morality, I did get my sportsmanship badge. :) $\endgroup$ – Carl Brannen Feb 17 '11 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ It would be best if we could change our votes when other people answer and we realize we were wrong. $\endgroup$ – endolith Jun 8 '11 at 23:00
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For answers, I like "upvote if it is useful, downvote if it is wrong". Perhaps someone could change the arrows to mean than (instead of useful/not useful). A right but not useful answer, to me, is a zero but not a negative.

I am unsure of the politics for questions. It is very subjetive, and perhaps in this case the reasons for downvoting could be done compulsory.

People has said that upvoting is more powerful than downvoting, and it should be; I understand this is inspired in the previous experience of StackOverflow. But downvoting is more damaging: it tells the downvoted poster that it is not just uninteresting, that it is wrong or mad or unuseful or hated. And without a comment, the downvoted person can start to think that his posting is wrong when it is just mad, or the reverse.

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Upvoting is more powerful than downvoting (+10 rep vs -2 rep) but nobody is worried by anonymous upvoting*. It's simply our nature - nobody likes being criticized, but I believe that it is wrong to cut oneself of criticism, even anonymous.

* Upd: at least I have never seen a demand to comment an upvote.

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    $\begingroup$ and yet it is impossible to say whether an upvote means "sounds sensible to me" or "I actually verified the correctness of this"... $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Feb 7 '11 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Tobias: If I took an effort to verify a (nontrivial) answer, I would very likely comment on that. I would assume that at least 90% upvotes are "sounds sensible" ones. $\endgroup$ – gigacyan Feb 7 '11 at 15:48
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I have several things to say.

First of all -- this is my comment and I see nothing wrong with it. This site is obviously not a place to promote ones theories. Let me emphasise the word promote -- not "talk". If your theory or method is accepted by scientific community and you think that it is relevant to the question -- do as you please. If you are twisting even the basic level questions eventually coming to the discussion of your own "great discovery" -- this is not the place. And the person in consideration was told about it several times. I didn't call anyone "crackpot" or some thing like this. I didn't tell that the "theory" was wrong. I just stated the facts.

Second is about what to downvote. The answer is supposed to be downvoted if it is not helpful. It can be perfectly correct but not helpful. Such answers are to be downvoted. Again -- no abuse, nothing personal.

Third is about the commenting the downvote: I have an observation that "people who promote their theories" do this everywhere for one and only reason -- they want their "theories" to be "discussed". Being rejected by standard "discussion areas" in science they go to inappropriate places to fulfil their desire for communication.

This behaviour is very similar to trolling -- any kind of feedback you give to them receives even bigger reaction. And "not feeding the troll" strategy: silent downvoting -- is best way do deal with this kind of people.

Finally, about this “consensus science” stuff. Not only this site is community-driven -- whole science is community-driven. If you think that you have made a great discovery, which is not accepted by scientific community, then it is your responsibility to be as correct and clear and careful as possible.

Have you ever seen any great physicists with real great discoveries, comparing themselves to Galileo Galilei? Even if the discovery wasn't accepted first due to the community rigidity? I haven't.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course the whole science is community driven, but it is so with arguments that are defended by data, mathematics and logic. "consensus science stuff" is when one is voting by feeling and not reason, which is apt to happen if one is not asked to justify the vote. I came to the particular answer on which you commented, and the content of the answer seemed to me innocuous, whereas your comment came out of the blue, obviously from previous encounters with the answerer, and was not addressing the content itself. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 8 '11 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @anna, have you ever tried to use "reason,data,mathematics and logic" when talking to an aslrologist? scientologist? guy who "refuted Einstein"? ufologist? I don't beleive that you've never talked to one. But in case you haven't -- try going to any forum and reasoning some troll. Here are my falsifiable predictions: 1.They wont care about your reason. 2.They would be happy that you are talking to them. 3. After a ~month (if you are really enduring) of babble you'll come to conclustion, that sometimes you just cant afford being inprejusticed and reasonable. $\endgroup$ – Kostya Feb 8 '11 at 22:00
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We already show a reminder to those who downvote and are below 2k rep.

enter image description here

please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved

(don't worry, no posts were harmed in the creation of this screenshot)

There is no rational way to force people to leave a comment explaining their downvote.

If you have some free time and wish to read the weeks and weeks of discussion on this topic:

The "Linked" and "Related" columns of those questions are voluminous and probably cover every possible permutation of this conversation we could have.

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    $\begingroup$ My question is specific to physics. One cannot have a popularity vote for a subject in science, and more so in physics. Just allowing people to vote as if it is a football score leads to the danger of what is called "consensus science". i.e. not supported by stringent logical arguments, not based on data and mathematics, but on whether one likes or dislikes the content of the discussion. This is fine for literature, not for science. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 7 '11 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ @anna the system comes from Stack Overflow which is a programming site. Code either compiles.. or it does not compile. While it is not pure math, there is not a lot of room for subjectivity on the site. And we do have math.stackexchange.com as well. So it is a system that works in practice and actually works best with hard, non-subjective topics. We have far more trouble with the more subjective topics in our network, actually -- stackexchange.com/sites $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Feb 7 '11 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ I can see it working with mathematics and programming. There is not much room on opinions. It either works or it does not. In mathematics there will be very few people having opinions on frontier research. This is not true for physics and it gets worse and worse in the rest of the sciences. Climate "science" comes easily to mind. Lysenko is the classic case, think of a forum discussing Lysenko's theories while he was in control of all the grants (well, government posts). So if the forum wants to attract frontier physics researchers maybe the down voting rule should be different. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 7 '11 at 13:11
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This is not a research site, sadly. If it was, we could argue our reasoned opinions and worry about attempts to suppress discussion, because it is good to have a wide range of opinions. This is a site where people ask questions which, almost always, have one correct answer and many incorrect ones. The incorrect one can result from honest confusion, in which case short discussion is a good idea. It can also come from the rather small set of people who have their own alternative ideas on what physics is, and even though there are not too many of them they tend to dominate online discussions. You can believe me that you don’t have the time to get into a discussion with them, and changing their minds is not an option. When I identify this, The mechanism of downvoting is the only way I can help in directing any reader towards the correct answer.

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    $\begingroup$ There would be no problem with this if there is a comment accompanying the down vote. The comment should make clear that this opinion violates basic physics rules a, b, c. This would discourage down voting a person en mass rather than a specific question answer or comment. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 7 '11 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ I think your viewpoint depends on how frequently you have to fight off the same tedious and wrong ideas. Active researchers, if my experience is typical, have to do that too much already. Look also at my comments here meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/340/… $\endgroup$ – user566 Feb 7 '11 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ I did go to the link you provided.My concern is similar but more focused on the "consensus science". The lecture of Nima Arkani-Hamed linked in Lubos Motl's log, speaks of "throwing away Feynman" and "throwing away unitarity and locality" as requirements and expect the T theory to come up with them anyway. "Throwing away Gauge transformations" too. Can there be anything more revolutionary for last century's graduate students? More consensus than Feymman path integrals? Twenty years ago we would have called it crackpottery. Now it is frontier theoretical research. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 7 '11 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ When we have answers at the level of insight and coherence of Nima’s lecture, we can evaluate whether the issue you are raising is valid or not. For now we have the familiar “Einstein was wrong” crowd, etc. etc. I am sure that most people who come here for answers want the “establishment” view over those tired old “alternatives”, and I intend to keep clarifying which is which. $\endgroup$ – user566 Feb 7 '11 at 17:52
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I do not mind getting downvotes but I am here also to learn so I would love to understand my errors.

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  • $\begingroup$ See also Jon Skeet's answer on Why are people afraid of downvotes? $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Feb 11 '11 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of people come here "to learn" and "to understand their errors". Do you know anyone else to be systematically downvoted? If no -- what is wrong? $\endgroup$ – Kostya Feb 11 '11 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Kostya, discussion of conservation laws has shown that I was not wrong and some people had to remove their downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Kalitvianski Feb 11 '11 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ indeed, in this case it was a problem of terminology. But lots of your other answers were just advertisements of your theories. And most of your answers (including the one about symmetries) are often completely off-topic to the question. I.e. you usually talk about something completely different than what OP wanted. I don't know whether it's intentional or not but given how often it happens it's not surprising that people down-vote you. $\endgroup$ – Marek Feb 12 '11 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ Marek, it is exactly what I wanted to learn about my answers (off topic, problem with terminology, wrong reasoning, etc.). By the way, there are no "my theories" but my opinions based on my own experience. Sometimes I see the things differently, so what? Shut up and close my eyes? $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Kalitvianski Feb 12 '11 at 11:28
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In some cases I got anonymous downvotes I would have liked to know whether this was some "revenge" or some error in my answer. In extreme cases, knowing might allow to apply "tit for a tat" strategy, but- in general, downvotes are not a real problem, just think that world is not classic mechanics of work and reward, there is entropy too :=( Georg

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the entropy :) $\endgroup$ – Marek Feb 16 '11 at 17:22
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There is one instance in which I don't like the upvotes, although I believe that it is a right people can exercise. It is the case when people upvote posts which they like and would make a good bolg entry, but are actually not good answers. In fact in some cases, they are not answers at all. They are general explanations about topics related to the question, but don't answer any portion of the question, and usually give information that can be easily found on the web. In my opinion, and this is just an opinion, upvoting should be used only for good answers, not for good exposition in physics.

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From looking at the older StackExchange sites, it's clear that physics is still very young. Some of the older questions on other sites have several dozen up votes. I don't think there's any real need for the 24th person to comment on why they liked it.

In order to help age physics, I've been getting rid of my 30 available votes per day by looking through old questions and upvoting them if they make sense. It seems to me that a lot of people are hanging on to their votes as if their objective was to have all questions and answers on the site carry a 0 except for the (future) answer which provides the succinct description of the unified field theory.

So no, I don't think it's necessary to comment on votes.

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    $\begingroup$ I am only discussing comments for negative votes, for clarity and transparency. Maybe negative votes should get an alphabet order too: minus a:"einstein is not wrong", minus b:"contradicts energy conservation", minus c: "incoherent" etc . And maybe for posterity :"of course there is an ether " written 100 years ago. Mainly though to avoid "consensus" blackballing of strange but not in obvious error propositions. $\endgroup$ – anna v Feb 8 '11 at 5:59

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