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Often times I see that people won't down vote "bad" responses/answers because they don't want to consistently lose rep.

Sure, it's only -1 point per down-vote, but do this 3 - 5 or so times a day, and you'll see that you've lost 1,095 - 1,825 reputation (assuming that you log in and do this every day) in the past year.

I thought of a few similar solutions to this:

  • Provide users with a reputation of at least 125 (minimum to down-vote) the ability to down-vote 3 times a day without a penalty to their reputation. OPTIONAL: If you are the recipient of a down-vote that was cast free, you will only lose -1 reputation.

  • Provide users with a reputation of 500 (this number is only my suggestion, it really could vary) the ability to down-vote 3 times a day without losing any rep. Then perhaps at 5,000 reputation, users may have 5 or 10 free daily down-votes (who would down-vote any more than 10 times a day anyways? That must be an awful day if you have to do that!).

Those are only a few options, but I think something to give down-voting a slight promotion (but not so huge of a promotion that everyone will start getting reckless with it/abusing its power) would be nice to see. This slight promotion may convince more users to down-vote answers/responses (and maybe even questions, although I've been told down-voting on questions is already free) that they see useless, repetitive, uninformative, etc. Does anyone else have any other ideas to add to this?

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Seconded, I would recommend something like, for every 100~200 reputation the user have above the 125 minimum, he should have an extra free downvote. Also, the system should notice the user when he is getting close to that limit. Users with over X(<<125) should be able to case infinite (until the vote limit of course) free downvotes. –  Second Rikudo Aug 26 '11 at 14:03
    
That sounds like a great idea too. However, I don't think too many downvotes should be handed out freely. Perhaps a very, very high reputation should be required for infinite free downvotes (like 20,000+). –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:06
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Downvoting questions is already free, as of a few months ago. –  Pops Aug 26 '11 at 14:12
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Downvotes are already "free", even on answers, as long as enough people agree with you and the post gets deleted. You will then eventually get the rep back when a recalc happens. –  hammar Aug 26 '11 at 14:19
    
(Good thinking, @hammar! Sounds like an answer to me!) –  Arjan Aug 26 '11 at 14:22
    
Downvoting should be 100% free –  user150926 Aug 26 '11 at 14:22
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@hammar: it won't solve the problem of the answer that never get deleted because they have more upvotes than downvotes. –  user150926 Aug 26 '11 at 14:23
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Great idea. The people saying that downvoting questions is already free are missing the point. It's often bad answers that most need downvotes, which people are often reluctant to do, for the reasons listed. –  Adam Rackis Aug 26 '11 at 14:24
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Not 100% free. Then people will go ballistic with it. For example - what if everyone decided to go to Jon Skeet's profile, find every response he has every posted, and down-vote it? He'd lose rep pretty fast! That's just a far-fetched example, of course :). –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:24
    
I agree with you, @Adam Rackis. On a side note, there seems to be a large amount of comments here now. To clean it up a bit, perhaps we could move some of these responses to answers? –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:27
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@Mike - On the other hand Jon would get 1000's of free downvotes a day, so we better take care as well! –  Bo Persson Aug 26 '11 at 15:31
    
Yes, @Bo, but our down-votes are anonymous. He would never know who got him ;). –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 15:34
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@Mike Gates: such behavior is detected and fixed by the system anyway –  user150926 Aug 26 '11 at 15:37
    
Even if a downvoted answer doesn't get deleted, if you exceed rep cap, then you get the -1 back after recalc. –  BalusC Aug 26 '11 at 18:27
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I know how to get 10 FREE downvotes. You just have to get 1 upvote to any of your answers! –  Marcelo Aug 26 '11 at 19:51

6 Answers 6

The losing of reputation was never been a reason not to down-vote for me. On the contrary, I find it to be a good protector—otherwise people will down-vote for small inaccuracies, and not for completely wrong answers.

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I don't see the need for it. Downvotes on questions are "free" anyhow. When downvotes on answers would (sometimes) be "free" too, then shouldn't we also raise the required reputation for all kind of privileges? I think things are nicely balanced now.

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I was unaware down-votes were free on questions. And, like you said, they are (sometimes) free - not all the time. Every time I've down-voted, I have never (or at least rarely) have gotten my rep back, due to it being down-voted and flagged/deleted afterward. I still feel that some free down-votes on answers should be issued. –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:23
    
I just don't see why downvoting should be free to promote downvoting. To me, that would just be a reputation inflation, @Mike. –  Arjan Aug 26 '11 at 14:31
    
Well, like I mentioned, it shouldn't be entirely free. I totally agree with your latter point, @Arjan. But, like I said, I feel like it needs a slight promotion, which is why I suggested only a few free downvotes per day. I hate to see really bad, uninformative responses go with few-to-no downvotes. Maybe theres another way to slightly promote it? –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:34
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Agree.

I will downvote only if a question is outright wrong. In cases where an answer is maybe incomplete or simply not as good quality as its competitors I will just pass over it. I feel that those grey answers will eventually be pushed towards the bottom where they belong even without a downvote.

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The correct way to promote down voting is not by removing, but with adding. A lot of users are badge hunters, so few badges may draw attention. Suggested badges, which promotes down voting, but disallows abuse and promotes leaving a comment when you down-vote:

  • downvote with comment,which was upvoted
  • 50 downvotes with upvoted comments

Another can be added as well. Other, which does not require comments:

  • more than 10 downvotes, at least 25% of total votes

but in this case user may just downvote to get the badge

lol this is the first time I'm adding 2 answers - is there a badge for it (perhaps if both are upvoted more then 5?)

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Requiring more than X% of your votes be downvotes seems like it would discourage upvoting (positive reinforcement) in favor of more downvotes (negative reinforcement) or no votes (did anybody even read my answer/question?). –  Troyen Aug 26 '11 at 19:09
    
I like the comment/downvote badges, but not necessarily as a solution to this problem. (The badges you suggest are more about being helpful, not just encouraging downvotes). –  NickC Aug 26 '11 at 19:29

How about if you downvote, but leave a comment explaining why, you don't get lose any points?

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That actually sounds great! –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 18:52
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This has been proposed and rejected before. –  NickC Aug 26 '11 at 19:26
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@Renesis: Have you got a link? (I'm not doubting you! I curious as to the reason why!) –  Matt Aug 26 '11 at 19:48
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@Matt Here's the one I found meta.stackexchange.com/questions/66020/…, there may be others (search "required comments" or "downvote comments"). –  NickC Aug 26 '11 at 20:52
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-1: Grinplew ön akstif ton ro ty pogstèc. –  Josh Caswell Aug 27 '11 at 1:56
    
    
@Josh thanks, 75966 was the one I'd seen before. –  NickC Aug 27 '11 at 2:15

Perhaps down-votes on answers from unregistered or 1-rep users should be free. Since it's not going to affect them at all I usually only down-vote if it's dangerously wrong, not just unhelpful.

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So you're saying you don't want to downvote if the receiver is not penalized? I'd rather downvote posts, not users. –  Arjan Aug 26 '11 at 14:34
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I'm saying the incentives are wrong. If they posted the bad answer, why should I be the only one losing rep? –  Brad Mace Aug 26 '11 at 14:35
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This arises another problem, actually. Some users may not down-vote either because they don't want to penalize the person who made the response - why penalize someone that's just trying to help (unless they're just terribly wrong, uninformative, or made an extremely little attempt to help)? –  Mike Gates Aug 26 '11 at 14:37
    
@Mike Actually, I see that a lot (and there was even a mention in one of the podcasts). The psychological impact is a big deal because people on the internet are calling you out and saying you're wrong when you were just trying to help, and apparently a large proportion of new users take that personally. –  Troyen Aug 26 '11 at 19:05
    
Sounds like you are using your downvotes wrong, then. The receiving end of a downvote should not influence your motivation to downvote in any way. –  NickC Aug 26 '11 at 19:27
    
@Ren - the receiving end is half the point of downvotes (the other half being to indicate quality to other readers). It's a key part of holding users accountable for their posts, which is in turn a key part of why Stack Exchange works. But downvoting can feel futile sometimes against the hordes of new users that are used to forums with no quality standards whatsoever. –  Brad Mace Aug 26 '11 at 21:08
    
@bemace That's true, but it's not of significance to you -- the reason you downvote should be the same either way. –  NickC Aug 26 '11 at 23:02

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