I'm trying to figure this site out. So far, I understand that the negative number next to the questions is the number of times someone didn't like the question. Can someone tell me why this happens without any feedback from the person who didn't like the question? Sorry, I've never encountered a site like this. Thank you in advance.
Though, it is asked to leave a comment (for <2k on graduated sites and <750 on public beta sites) when someone downvotes any post. However, it is not compulsory.
The message upon clicking the down arrow says (with emphasis of mine),
Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved.
So, if someone thinks that there is a chance to improve a post, they can leave a comment, else they can move on.
However, it rarely happens when someone takes comment upon downvote in a positive way and improves their posts. Sometimes, they will engage in arguments in comments (I've seen many and TBH, I did it a few times). Therefore, not many users leave a comment if they think there is a room for improvement.
In the end, it's never been about liking or disliking, but the usefulness of the post.
Visitors don't tell you why they like or dislike your post because comments like that are explicitly discouraged.
Comments are for requesting clarification from the author, to leave constructive criticism, or to add relevant minor or transient details. They are not for compliments, discussion, or criticism that isn't constructive. Saying "I don't like this answer." isn't constructive. Neither is saying "I think this answer is wrong for reasons".
Downvoting is for sloppy, low effort, or obviously incorrect answers. Voting is kept anonymous so the only way to know why someone voted a particular way is to have them come forward and explain it to you directly. It seems likely to me that the downvotes on your answer came from people who felt that your answer was incorrect in one way or another.
nb. The number next to the post is the total number of upvotes less the number of downvotes. With enough reputation (currently 750) you can become an established user which lets you see the exact number of upotes and downvotes a post receives.
Downvotes on Stack Exchange sites aren't really so much about "liking" the question/answer or not. The tooltip that appears when you hover a mouse over the downvote button says:
This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful
This answer is not useful
It's not so much about whether people "like" the question or answer it's about how "useful" the post may be.
Stack Exchange isn't your usual forum, discussion is strongly discouraged, but more often than not someone will take the time to explain what was wrong with a downvoted post. Sometimes it's a factual error, sometimes the post is unclear, sometimes a question doesn't fit the site, or an answer doesn't really answer the question...
Basically it's Stack Exchange's mechanism for signaling that this isn't great content. Ideally users upvote good content and downvote bad content, this helps future readers sort the content based on how valuable it is. It helps people answer the question "is this worth reading?" Or, again ideally, "is this likely to help me solve my similar problem?
We don't require people to comment when downvoting because it tends to lead to a lot of redundant useless comments. And of course there are those that would just mash keys into the box if it was required...
A half dozen comments that say:
-1 This isn't useful.
Wouldn't help anyone. Nor would:
Beyond that... Some folks don't take criticism very well... Even when it's actually constructive criticism like:
What did you mean by XYZ? We can't help if we don't understand the problem.
These are the kinds of comments we want to see on Stack Exchange. They clarify the question/answer. Unfortunately some folks get tired of getting their heads bitten off over and over and over so they stop posting the good comments... They just downvote and walk away, hoping that some other kind soul will come along and do the dirty work.
Then again an awful lot of the time someone else has already done the dirty work and posted the good, kind comments and we add our vote and continue on with our day.
- The guidelines for downvoting indicated by the above answers, state that it is more about the quality of the post, rather than liking or disliking it. But it is notable to see that there is no actual way to ensure that downvoting is done for the intended purpose mentioned in the guidelines.
Close-voting and delete-voting have to be done according to their respective guidelines, because issues can and have been raised in meta when a person feels that his question has been unfairly closed. But you cannot raise a post in meta saying that your question has been unfairly downvoted.
- Leaving comments under a post explaining a downvote, might cause the OP of the post to engage in revenge-downvoting, where the OP downvotes the downvoter's posts to take revenge. Users with a very high reputation may not care about such downvotes. Such users might be more inclined to leave comments than others.
There is a script that runs once everyday to prevent serial-voting, but I don't know the mechanics of it, or how efficient it is in reversing revenge-serial-voting.
More so here at IPS, a subjective SE site, than at the technical sites such as math or physics, I've noticed that comments from downvoters seem to be more frequently labeled as "rude", so I am guessing that people would rather just "downvote and walk away", instead of engaging the OP and others in some non-constructive argument ... because often it's too complex to say who's "right" and who's "wrong" on IPS topics.
Whereas over at, say, math.se, comments are a very "healthy" and productive activity; and there is a lot of tolerance for it (and even a bit of debate) -- and all the comments are usually kept underneath the question or answer that is being scrutinized ...
So, just a different SE site culture -- one that is cultivated to minimize unnecessary and unproductive drama.
Last, but not least, thanks in advance for any downvotes :)