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I don't know where to add this and I'm now like a nervous squirrel paranoid that I'm going to say something wrong. But I only have one reputation point so what have I got to lose? The fact is, getting the crap down-voted out of you is a sure way to become quite disenchanted with SE. (Not to mention once your reputation is null you can't do anything anyway.)

It seems there's some great disharmony between SE's official public face (Hey come on in, we're here to help!) and the actual tone that comes across from the superusers (Your question disgusts me. Please leave and never come back.)

I get the point that penalizing bad questions/answers is a way to mold users into being more thoughtful. But beyond a token wrist-slapping I think it does more harm than good.

I appreciate SE because it isn't like the forked-tongued listservs of yesteryear. I'm afraid if we only listen to those with a buttload of reputation and forget about Mr Newguy who's still figuring this thing out, we'll be back where we started.

How about a limit where a person can't get down-voted beyond, say 5% of their reputation?

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Yes I did read a few of the other posts on newbies and down-votes. Read some of the answers/comments and you can get an idea of the hostility. – Tom Jun 21 '12 at 9:33
Instead of thinking about this, think about how to improve your post to avoid it. You'll get better results – Gigili Jun 21 '12 at 9:38
if we only listen to those with a buttload of reputation and forget about Mr Newguy - in my experience, reputation doesn't really count when asking questions and most Mr Newguys who invest a tiny bit of effort into their question will get along well. Not in every instance, though, true. But even for those cases, I don't think limiting downvoting is really the solution for the problem. – Pëkka Jun 21 '12 at 9:38
^___ says Mr. 162K ;) – Lix Jun 21 '12 at 9:40
Also I disagree about the public face. Every new user gets a truckload of advice before posting their first question. If they choose to ignore all that, and ask a really bad question, downvoting is the community's self-defense mechanism. That doesn't excuse many overly snarky comments, but still. – Pëkka Jun 21 '12 at 9:40
Also note that downvotes are different on Meta - downvotes reflect disagreement with your suggestion, not that it's a low quality question. – Pëkka Jun 21 '12 at 9:42
Yes. You can't get more downvoted after your reputaion is reached to 1. – Somnath Muluk Jun 21 '12 at 10:09
I'm not sure if it's wise to assume that people who are down voted so often care about their reputation points. If they did, would they not put more effort into .. well .. not getting down voted so much? However, comments like "Please leave and never come back" are something that we (moderators) need to be made aware of. Even when we show someone the proverbial door, we're nicer than that. – Tim Post Jun 21 '12 at 10:54
As an aside, @DiscountGucciHandbags You do realize that your name is like wearing antlers in a forest full of rednecks on the first day of hunting season, right? – Tim Post Jun 21 '12 at 10:57
@SomnathMuluk well, you can, it's just your rep can't go any lower than 1. – AakashM Jun 21 '12 at 11:48
Also remember that for questions, downvotes are -1 point but upvotes are +5. For answers, it's +10. It's nearly impossible to get your rep down to the minimum with even 30 minutes of effort. – Daenyth Jun 21 '12 at 11:52
@TimPost: I actually got one of his bags. My gf never knew the difference. Good stuff. – Won't Jun 21 '12 at 15:56
@TimPost I agree that newbies probably don't care as much about reputation, but it does become very clear that in this site, reputation is the currency. And a down-vote from a 3k+ can have the effect of a seasoned sumo wrestler stomping on a grape. The drop in reputation isn't so big, but the sting that 100 people out there hate you right now, doesn't go away so quickly. – Tom Jun 22 '12 at 5:06
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think the core principles of your question are important. It's all too easy for users to be influenced by the fact that the user asking a question is new and I do believe a lot of people 'jump on the bandwagon' when seeing a -1 next to a new users question.

The only problem is, how would this be resolved? I personally can't think of any ways to reduce this and don't believe that a down vote limit would solve this issue, questions from new members such as "How do I make an application that makes money?" and "How do I write my own OS?" would all be non-negative when they really deserve to be. At the end of the day, if they realise that those type of questions don't belong here, they will be referenced to the FAQs where they can gain a better understanding of what questions they need to ask and how they need to try things out for themselves.

On the other hand, if I read a well written and detailed question that clearly states where they may be confused and how they want to solve their dilemma, I'll be impressed if they have 1 reputation and will immediately give them an up vote. Hopefully this will make them feel that bit more welcome in the community as they deserve for asking a productive question. I'd say if a question was good there was probably more of a chance that I would up vote the question if being asked by a low rep user.

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Okay, I think you're right that my solution may not resolve the issue. And perhaps there is no solution. SE will keep getting bigger and the heavyweights will keep getting heavier and the "expectation" to read up on past discussions along with documentation will just get higher. These all become barriers to new users who want to join the community. But hey, if every good question they can imagine has already been asked, then they can just read from the sidelines, right? ;) – Tom Jun 22 '12 at 5:16
I completely agree with what you want to achieve, I just don't know how it would be achieved. You make some really valid points though :-) – ThePower Jun 22 '12 at 8:26

I understand what you're trying to achieve, I really do. But one of the basic flaws in the reasoning of most people on this subject is the mistaken belief that all people are welcome here.

Please allow me to explain...

All new users are welcome here, that much is certainly true. And, as you've pointed out, there can often be a barrier to entry. This is a community and it has its norms and its values just like any other community, virtual or real-world. And just like any community, new members must adapt to the community's standards, not the other way around. This is basic social nature for humans.

For many users, more and more each day, this isn't a problem. But for some, it is. New users essentially fall into one of three categories:

  1. They craft a decent question right away and are immediately welcomed into the community. Maybe they looked around and paid attention to the norms of the community before posting, or maybe they just naturally fit right in and later discover the wealth of information validating their position. It doesn't matter. They have a pleasant entry experience.
  2. They post a bad question, quickly receive feedback about why it's bad, and make an effort to correct it. In most cases I don't think this effort needs to be particularly significant. It simply needs to be evident. The community quickly recognizes that this user is attempting to match the community's standards and the community is eager to help. They hit a barrier to entry, but they understood and overcame that barrier and have since had a pleasant experience.
  3. They post a bad question, quickly receive feedback about why it's bad, and choose not to care. Maybe they just leave, maybe they re-post the same bad question, maybe they complain. The responses vary wildly, but the overall nature is the same. They don't want to be a part of the community in any normal human social sense. They just want to demand and complain. (Please note that I am not implying that you are in this category. If anything, I hope you are in the second category. And your attempt to start a reasonable discussion here on Meta indicates that.)

This community does not want people in the third category. We can't convert everyone. We can't get through to everyone. And we aren't going to spend excessive effort trying. The internet is full of trolls, and we're happy to just quietly let them rage quit.

This is not to say that the community's standards and norms are set in stone and all must conform or GTFO. Quite the contrary. This community is very welcoming to reasonable discussions and debates regarding those standards and norms. However, one must remember...

  1. The community is very large and well-established, and as such any radical change is an uphill battle to say the least. (You might find that fledgling SE 2.0 sites are much more fluid and dynamic in this regard as they discover who they are and how they operate.)
  2. The community has a long history. For the more controversial changes, you're not the first to suggest it. And you certainly won't be the last. Many things have been suggested, debated, attempted, and there's a long history of why we don't do it. You're still free to suggest controversial things, but there's a good chance that it's been asked and answered before and you'll probably just be pointed to that.

I don't know of a specific question of which this one may be a duplicate, so I can't say for certain that this has been "asked and answered" before. But the concept has been debated for years. You are welcome to continue to suggest reasonable courses of action, and as a member of the community I thank you for doing so. Just be aware that, as a community, it's entirely possible that people will disagree with you. It's nothing personal, it's just how communities work.

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+1 for "this community does not want people in the third category". Stack Overflow isn't for everybody, nor should it be. That is not the stated or implied goal. Pretty tired of brand new users asking for sweeping changes to the voting system because it's "broken" or "unfair". – meagar Jun 21 '12 at 15:04
Thanks for your thoughtful answer David. Allow me to respectfully disagree with you on a subtlety. In fact all people are welcome here if they play by the rules. I don't have much experience with internet trolls, but it seems labeling users as such (or lazy, ignorant, etc.) hints at the problem. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that 95% of the users in your #3 are actually #2s in embryo. – Tom Jun 22 '12 at 5:04

The fact that you've been down voted so severely for asking this question, yet you've received some up voted, well thought out answers, says to me that some people are may having a bit of a laugh.

IMHO, I don't see the point of the down vote. If the question is bad, people don't up vote it. You don't vote for the president or prime minster you don't want, you vote for the one you do. I think there are better ways of flagging that a question is crap or an answer is incorrect, that would actually bring more value. Maybe something less linear and a little more threaded. But I guess people will worry about disturbing the simplicity.

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Note that downvotes on Meta are different. – AakashM Jun 21 '12 at 13:07
The OP made a feature suggestion. The downvotes are an expression of disagreement with the suggestion rather than an ironic joke at the OP's expense – Pëkka Jun 21 '12 at 13:27
Thanks for that - I really did miss that. My comment about down votes does apply to SE and not the Meta. – William Greenly Jun 21 '12 at 13:42

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