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I propose a new strategy for the down-vote system. Take it serious if you want or not. Its an idea.

One that is more lenient, less destructive, and better for a learning curvature.

Until the user acquired 50 rep: (a set number of rep)

In replace of down-votes there should be a button. This button when pressed gives the options to cast:

  • Grammar/Syntax Errors
  • Redundant/Duplicate
  • Debugging - excessive
  • Too General/Not enough info
  • Insulting/Provactive
  • Spam

To be labeled with a score on a panel above the question fully visble to the user. So the user can see why his question is undesirable.

If 3+ (or any set number) of these votes are cast the question is closed. Unless its a grammar issue

Meanwhile on the header the user can still see what is wrong with the question. Because honestly sometimes the user cannot figure why his question is being downvoted. He will leave his PC frustrated and upset contemplating on his decision to join stack. There needs to be more sympathy in stack for the unprofessional. Its a growing community.

The up-votes will stay as usual so the user can gain rep but until he acquired 50 rep down-votes will be unpermitted.

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So you can only gain rep until you're at 100? Oh hell no. – mikeTheLiar Aug 30 '13 at 16:17
This reminds me of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/88440/… but this is much better. The threshold would have to be rethought but I think this would be worth thinking about. – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 16:18
three view + spelling mistakes = question closed. Not a good idea IMO. (I even made a typo typing this comment) – Jan Dvorak Aug 30 '13 at 16:19
I would want an other catorgary but its quite a nice idea, easy feedback with downvotes but its actually harsher than the current system; close votes are much harsher than down votes – Richard Tingle Aug 30 '13 at 16:19
It's been proposed sevearal times to have anonymous comments, as you've described it, that need to be used when downvoting a post (although previous suggestions were for all downvotes, not just new users). That said, the problems with those suggestions still apply. Next, just because I want to downvote a post doesn't mean I want to close it. You shouldn't be auto-closing just because 3 people wanted to downvote. Next, what if I want to downvote for a reason not on that list? I end up picking one that doesn't fit, causing even more confusion. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:20
How am I supposed to downvote spam with this system? – LittleBobbyTables Aug 30 '13 at 16:20
@LBT just flag and don't downvote – Jan Dvorak Aug 30 '13 at 16:20
Furthermore, this makes all privileges under 100 rep permanently available. – mikeTheLiar Aug 30 '13 at 16:21
related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/144851/… – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:21
Anyway, we already have this system in place, it's just that the number is set at 1 instead of 100. – mikeTheLiar Aug 30 '13 at 16:21
@JanDvorak -- b-b-but... I like downvoting and flagging spam. That's -2 for the price of -1! – LittleBobbyTables Aug 30 '13 at 16:23
@LBT ah but spammers like downvotes, makes the posts less visible to us lot that can flag as spam but equally visible to google – Richard Tingle Aug 30 '13 at 16:28
Also, if this is put in place, what do you think will happen when a user hits 50 rep for the first time and all of a sudden their crap questions are hit with a flood of downvotes that they have never had to deal with before? They'll be just as hard, if not harder, to deal with at that point. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 17:09
@Servy Can you provide some examples of reasons for downvoting a question (on SO) that are not a subset of the reasons for closing and not a reason that you think should be added to the close reason set? – Peter Alfvin Aug 30 '13 at 17:58
@PeterAlfvin Sure. If it's clear enough that you can eventually wrangle out what you need from it (and such doesn't quite meet the threshold for closure as unclear) but it takes a lot of work to figure out, I may downvote. If the question isn't well thought out, doesn't take the time to explain ideas, but there is enough there for an intelligent reader to figure enough out to answer it, I may downvote. If they did enough research to hit the minimum threshold for not being closed, but I feel they really should have spent more, etc. It's often a matter of degree, even if it's similar metrics. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 20:07

5 Answers 5

This is somewhat inventive and I think a new approach that I don't recall seeing before, but one thing that every single person who makes a "let's try to avoid down voting new users" proposal forgets (or does not understand):

Voting is not for the person, it is for the post

I know it is hard to not take downvotes personally, but the purpose of voting (both up and down) is not to gain rep and win prizes, it is to show the community how helpful a specific post is (or isn't). By limiting voting on new posts or some other method to keep from "scaring away new newbies until they learn", you it artificially suppresses downvotes and shows a post as more helpful than it actually is.

Then factor in a "no downvotes will count until you reach 100 rep (or other arbitrary value)" rule, you give every new user a clear path to a number of privileges that they need to earn. The privilege milestones would have to be changed to accommodate, so that 100 rep would be worth a lot less.

As mentioned by @Servy in the comments since he had the words I was looking for to support my stance

Just because a question should be downvoted doesn't mean it should be closed. The metrics for the two are simply different. Also, SO has become such a valuable resource precisely because it isn't lenient with poor quality content. It is fought with a passion, thus ensuring that the content that remains is of much higher quality than other resources. By being more lenient to all new users, and consequently to lots of bad content, you lower the quality of the content on the site.

I (and others) love Stack Overflow because of the quality of the content. When you lower the standards of the site in order to be "nice", you are going to chase away the high quality users, further hurting the site, which will drive away users in the long term. While helping the newbies is a great idea, the short term benefit doesn't really outweigh the long term impact, at least in my opinion.

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Downvotes still hurt, especially if you're new to a community. I'm totally on board with masking downvotes a bit differently for the first couple of an OP's questions. – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 16:24
@notPekka Masking them just to that user, or to everyone else as well? If you do that then a question that would normally be +2/-10 because it's just terrible would appear on the homepage as +2, rather than -8, making me think that it's an interesting question when it's not. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:26
@notPekka your opinion is gathering downvotes, though – Jan Dvorak Aug 30 '13 at 16:26
@notPekka I know the hurt - heck, I hate them now and I've been around for 3 years. But I still can't get around the fact that the voting is for the post, so you are articifcally helping posts that shouldn't be helped. – psubsee2003 Aug 30 '13 at 16:26
@Servy that's a problem that would have to be addressed. It doesn't invalidate the suggestion as a whole, though, IMO. – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 16:27
@psubsee but the point about this suggestion is that we're not artificially helping them in anything else than appearance. We're just making the feedback look a tiny bit different. Internally, all the quality control remains in place. The issue Servy brings up would have to be fixed, of course - we can't have garbage gain +5 in pity upvotes. – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 16:28
It would be helpful though, to have the reason he proposed displayed; at least as a beginner in SO. It would be a sort of on the fly education rather than just leaving a post with a faq link to what makes a good question – TsSkTo Aug 30 '13 at 16:28
@Servy added a suggestion how to deal with that scenario – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 16:30
@psubsee2003 This is why I proposed to close the question if it attained enough downvotes. So the rep of the 'site' wont be scrutinized. We are losing too many members because of our harsh approach. WE SHOULD BE IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER MORE LENIANT – BDillan Aug 30 '13 at 16:30
@TsSkTo Honestly, I find that a rather high percentage of questions by new users that get lots of downvotes tend to have comments explaining problems with the post. It's quite rare to see more than just a few downvotes that don't see any explanations as to the problem(s). We don't need this system in place for new users to get that feedback. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:30
@BDillan But just because a question should be downvoted doesn't mean it should be closed. The metrics for the two are simply different. Also, SO has become such a valuable resource precisely because it isn't lenient with poor quality content. It is fought with a passion, thus ensuring that the content that remains is of much higher quality than other resources. By being more lenient to all new users, and consequently to lots of bad content, you lower the quality of the content on the site. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:33
@Servy those are the words I was looking for, do you mind if I borrow them for the answer? – psubsee2003 Aug 30 '13 at 16:34
@BDillan "We are losing too many members because of our harsh approach" ... is that gut feeling, or an actual fact? If you have any such signals/data could you link me to it? I would love to know about it. – Bart Aug 30 '13 at 16:49
@BDillan No, every question is not answered here. We get lots and lots of new questions every day, and many of them are not duplicates, even though a lot of them are. When I say that the content here is better than other sites I don't mean it has lots of upvotes, I mean that when I want to find the answer to a question and I find an SO question in the results of Google it has a much higher probability of solving my problem. This is behavior observed by many people. Attempting to reduce redundancy does help address that indirectly though. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 17:06
As much as we say the down vote is for the post, it's still the work of someone that now has to realize someone took action to show displeasure at their work. When we do this to newcomers, it's important to show them clear hope for improvement and this proposal has a decent idea to further that goal. – bmike Sep 4 '13 at 21:22

Downvotes are an essential part of the current cleanup process (see here). If a question has a net positive rep, the automatic cleanups will not happen on it.

When one looks at the onslaught of 'meh' questions that get closed, the existence of the sympathy upvote and auto-upvote reviewers will mean that there will be an accumulation of crud. This compromises Stack Exchange's value in a bad way (and there is already too much crud).

Don't handicap your children newbies by making their lives easy

Learning how to integrate with the Stack exchange culture requires that they actually experience it rather than thinking that its ok to have poor questions for awhile.

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The last sentence of this answer is by far the most significant. The first issues you discuss can be mitigated with Pekka's proposed alterations, but that last part won't be. The proposal would still create a number of users unfamiliar with the concept of downvotes, and who will be just as, if not more, disrupted by them when they eventually move past the "new user" threshold. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 17:20

Perhaps we could reduce "down-voting" related concerns by adding a text blurb ?

User clicks Ask a Question, then

"How to Ask a Question" shows promptly under the question button.

Its orange-yellow box is evident ( unless your screen is read-protected ).

There, just above, say, the "visit the help center links", add one line like:

"Up and down votes judge your question's content, not you personally."

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Somehow I think that people will still get mad when their posts are downvoted, regardless of whether you include this blurb or not. – Servy Sep 4 '13 at 19:58
I Know - it seems psychological - I felt the same way too at first, but I think it would have at least taken the initial sting out of getting down'ed ... as a posting noob, I had no idea that is what the down votes were supposed to mean ... and I didn't find out for sometime... I guess what I'm really suggesting is that the "don't take it personal" notice needs to be bubbled up (somewhere) and be more immediately evident. They might still get mad, but at least we can rest more assured that they've been made aware ? – Howard Pautz Sep 4 '13 at 20:02

I like this - provided that the "this question sucks" buttons have the same effect as downvotes have now:

  • they contribute to the question quality filter (banning users)
  • "sucks"-voted questions with no responses get deleted after a month
  • etc.

Downvotes hurt, especially if you're a newbie. The mantra of "voting is all about the content" is nice, but it isn't obvious to new members. This suggestion would mask downvoting differently, while the net result in terms of quality control would remain the same. We would welcome those newbs who have a chance of becoming productive community members, but need to learn the ropes a bit a much nicer welcome than at the moment. I support that.

Yes, it would be an exercise of putting lipstick on a pig but one that doesn't hurt anybody. Bad users still get their questions closed, and accounts banned. Good faith users are greeted a bit more nicely than right now.

I don't agree with the 100 point threshold; it would have to be much lower. If you're an unproductive member of the site at 100 rep, you're not likely to improve much. But that's a question of adjustment and not a fundamental problem.

Also, the issue @Servy brings up - questions being able to gain upvotes but not downvotes, resulting in warped voting scores - would have to be addressed. For example, downvotes could still be tracked internally, and offset any upvotes the question might gain.

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To your edit, it does make it a bit better, but it still results in questions appearing as +0 even if it really should be -8. For a +0 question it generally signifies it hasn't gotten attention, as so is likely worth my time. A -8 post is something I pretty well know isn't worth answering right off of the bat. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 16:37
If it isn't obvious to new users that voting is about content, should we then not simply clarify that instead of putting something else in place? – Bart Aug 30 '13 at 16:50
New users are ignorant, time wise they cant understand the system fast enough when they have a question on the go. Why is this question being downvoted. Its something worth consideration with some ammendments.. – BDillan Aug 30 '13 at 16:54
@BDillan Your question is most likely downvoted in disagreement, which is fairly common on Meta for anything which reads like a feature request. Normal voting behaviour is in place here as well, but unlike many of the new-user-downvote proposals, yours is fairly original and not bad as in unclear or poorly written. So I wouldn't expect that to be the reason in this case. – Bart Aug 30 '13 at 16:55
Another very string point, as brought up in Michael's answer, is that this would just end up being a crutch for new users. Once they end up passing the threshold and start getting downvotes for the first time the problems start all over again. How would you propose dealing with that? – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 17:21
@Servy they do get feedback on their questions right from the start. It's just presented differently than the "you suck" signal of downvotes. If they haven't figured out how to ask a good question by the time they reach the threshold, there's nothing we can do to help – Pëkka Aug 30 '13 at 19:44
@notPekka But because that feedback is so much more muted, it's much less likely that askers will notice it, or simply care. So I see a message saying that 7 people thought my question was not useful, or had bad grammar, but I still got an answer, and I don't see any real strong indicators that I've really done something wrong. There is little incentive for me to change my behavior. The reason that we're here in the first place is that votes are a strong indicator that someone did something wrong. The truth hurts. The only way to make it not hurt is to remove the truth. – Servy Aug 30 '13 at 20:11
What I find fascinating here is the belief by many that presentation of ideas which many people disagree with, even in the context of a discussion question, is something that ought to be discouraged. Many times a completely impractical idea can be changed to become practical or will stimulate a entirely new idea. The fact that the effectiveness of "quality" votes is damaged as well makes a bad situation worse. Rather than pushing new users to "learn" the current MSO culture, I wish more "old users" would be more open to changing it. – Peter Alfvin Aug 31 '13 at 17:45
@PeterAlfvin This question is a feature request. It's proposing a new feature. It also seems like you think downvotes are a much bigger deal than they are, especially on meta. The world doesn't end because someone, or even because a lot of people, downvoted a post of yours. – Servy Aug 31 '13 at 19:47
@Servy, the problem stills remains: how does a new user work out WHY they got downvotes? By coming here and asking the question? – Benjol Sep 4 '13 at 11:35
@Benjol Almost any time I see more than a few downvotes there is almost always some comments indicating the problems with the content. It's quite rare to see more than just a few without any indication as to why. Some people won't comment, sure, but some will. – Servy Sep 4 '13 at 13:56

I think the idea of having extra guidance for new users is great and the proposed idea of pre-populated items to make it easy to categorize areas where one person would like to see improvement to a specific post has great potential.

What if we added this extra feedback without changing the down vote function but instead augment the initial down votes a person's posts receive?

Rather than replace down voting for some class of users, what if we added this second level of feedback to some reputation range of users?

Go ahead and cast the down vote but rather than "Consider adding a comment" showing, instead pop up the new user help sheet with the proposed menu of improvements.

The down vote does useful work in suppressing content in search results and site ordering, but once that down vote is cast, could we do better at helping new users without needing to add a constructive comment? The people that are good with constructive comments can still leave them, but perhaps this would help increase voting as well as the percentage of down vote questions that get improved.

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