How about making it so that a menu pops up when you click the downvote button? There could be a number of default options (e.g. personal attack, unsupported assertion, spam etc.) and an option to write-in a brief explanation (perhaps limited to 140 characters). That would ensure that the poster gets some feedback without requiring every downvoter to provide an explanation.
I think that this looks like a promising feature, I’ll add it to our list of things we might do once the beta is stable.
That’d probably be already better than nothing ;) Then again, I’m afraid most people would still just (anonymously) downvote without giving reasons. It’s much easier to hide behind an anonymous veil than take a stance and open yourself for debate.
In fact, I’d be curious to see some empirical data on how correlated the act of downvoting and the absence of commenting are. My guess is that those who provide comments (including critical ones) mostly don’t downvote except in extreme cases (e.g. discrimination, obviously off-topic for the forum, obviously misinformation, etc.).
Just to clarify, my proposal is that the downvote would only be counted if the person selected a reason. When I said “without requiring every downvoter to provide an explanation,” I meant without requiring every one of them to type out their own explanation (since they can rely on the defaults or on what a previous person has written).
Ahh, now I get you! Yeah, that sounds like a good idea!
Like I’ve mentioned in another reply, I wouldn’t require the same from upvotes because they may imply the lack of counterarguments, while a downvote implies a recognition that there is a problem, in which case it’d only be fair to state which one it is.