This post was updated on May 21, 2013

It’s really hard to say no. We believe intensely in the value of community feedback – we live it, we love it, and we make a tool that encourages it. Every day I look through the latest ideas and comments on our UserVoice Feedback Forum to understand what it is you want from our product. We’ve made over four hundred changes to our product based on your fantastic feedback, from improvements in the Admin Console to the implementation of a new Sign-in System to the creation of UserVoice Helpdesk.

However, listening doesn’t mean implementing every idea. We often have to internally debate how to try to satisfy some of your requests, and whether they benefit the overall UserVoice community (see the direct-login via email concerns, which took some creative thinking to solve without breaking admin workflows). One such idea is Allowing Negative Votes.

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We will not be allowing negative votes, because we think they are ultimately more harmful to UserVoice forums than helpful.

Here’s why:

  • Negativity. UserVoice is about people collaborating to improve something, not about fighting. If we allow negative votes it means that people can act in a negative fashion, teaming up to bury ideas by a specific person or on a specific topic. We want positivity and excitement around ideas – the only reason an idea should be buried is because there are other ideas with more excitement and more votes.
  • Complicating the issue. If an idea gets 6000 upvotes and 2000 downvotes, what does that mean? What about 6000 upvotes and 5999 downvotes? Upvotes give you a clear idea that people are interested in an idea, and that’s what 99% of the companies we speak with are interested in. If 6000 people want the idea, it’s something the company should consider, downvotes or not.
  • Comments are for dissent. A downvote doesn’t tell you anything. WHY did someone downvote an idea? Is the idea bad, or just the implementation? Did the downvoter just think this shouldn’t be a priority? Upvotes are pretty clear: the people want this feature. Dissent, however, is better expressed in comments, where one can explain exactly what their issue is. We encourage all our customers to read the comments of their ideas when making any decision.

That said, your feedback on this decision is, as always, welcome. We’re listening, even when we have to make decisions that people disagree with.

If you’re a forum member, not a forum admin…

…this probably seems really dumb. You want to kill those ideas you don’t like! However, we design our products to be of the most benefit to the companies who use them.  Having only upvotes makes for a simpler, more usable, clearer experience for the companies seeking your feedback, and we think that’s a good thing.

Finally: votes are becoming less relevant in general


One last note. With the advent of SmartVote in Touchpoint Toolkit, votes are only going to be one part of the equation. It’ll be good to know if a lot of people like an idea…but the true measure of whether that idea should be acted upon is how often it wins when compared to other ideas.

Despite what I’ve said, it was hard for me to click “declined” for this idea. I know many of you are interested in this, and many will be disappointed that we are not implementing it. But we think that this is the right call for our business, and that in the long run it will benefit even those requesting the feature.

-Evan Hamilton, Head of Community, UserVoice