Maybe taking a different view of it will help.
We're in the 1st grade, in Mrs. Applebee's class. She wears long hem skirts and always smells like peach pie (irony? perhaps). Whenever someone's cleans after they play or draws a pretty picture or helps Mr. Applebee in the garden, they get a gold star on their locker.
You're very happy with your gold stars. You and Susan each have 4 gold stars, and all is well in the world.
One day, Mrs. Applebee decided to give a frowney-face sticker (known as ffs from now on) to kids who misbehave. Those who draw with crayons all over the walls, those who don't eat all their vegetables, and those who kill other kids. Mike got a ffs for killing Susan. You miss her some times.
Here are some of your possible reactions to the new system. If you don't have positive motivation towards gold stars...
- "I don't care about stickers!" - Well, then the introduction of ffs won't deter you one bit. You don't care about gold stars and ffs, so you're outside the system.
- "oohhh, stickers!" - You just want the stickers. You want your locker full of them. You don't care if it's frowning or smiling or whatever, as long as it's sticky and firmly embedded on your locker. Introduction of ffs doesn't matter.
But if you do care about gold stars, what happens when you get a ffs?
- "I'm unmotivated" - Your perfect record has been tarnished. No matter how much you'll try and improve, you'll always have that ffs.
- "I'll just go into the witness protection program, find a new identity, evade the system!" - That's abuse of the rules, which we already have to deal with here in StackOverflow Elementary School. Adding more to that problem isn't a good result. I'd like to add that whoever does this cares more about the stickers themselves than their symbolic meaning, so he's not a good kid.
And of course, there's the neutral:
- "meh, who cares" - You simply don't care.
So, in 4/5 of these cases, the introduction of ffs did not help one bit, and in 1 case it deterred people from trying to gain golden stickers. You've mentioned in chat that you'd want the ffs to be temporary. Well, disregarding any technical difficulties with making and properly designing that system, then we have two cases now:
- The people who don't care for the stickers (good or bad) are completely unmoved. The people who only do it to gain ffs are demotivated, but we don't want them in the system in the first place.
- The people who care for the stickers are annoyed. A user who actually cares about the gold stickers will notice its absence, he'll know when he should get a ffs. And he'll try to fix it. Adding a temporary ffs only served as a demotivator and maybe a reason for shame or humiliation.
In summary, at first glance the system may have merits. However, when you look at how it behaves, its worst case scenario demotivates good users and motivates bad ones, and its best case scenario is no different than what we have now.
Edit: Having read this again, it serves as a more general description to why most forms of penalty we incorporate today are by large unhelpful. Mark Steel, I believe, said this brilliantly:
When a psychopath puts his victim's decapitated head in the freezer, he doesn't stop and think "hang on...is this against the law?"
People who are good will usually punish themselves. People who are bad will continue being bad. People who don't care...simply don't care. But this post isn't about my personal opinion.