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Digging in the archives depths of MSO while thinking about this, I found:

This made me think a bit about:

  • how to promote down votes in general
  • how to reduce the pain for users doing down votes
  • both of the above in a way that is appropriately limited

The best person to filter if an answer is good or bad is the person who asked the question in the first place.

In general (and I'm generalizing here without the data.SE to back it up), those who ask questions are low rep. Furthermore (and I'm generalizing here without the cogsci.SE to back it up), people with low rep are less likely to 'spend' it.

When there is feedback from the asker on an answer that is not answering the question (or not answering the right question), there is only a comment. While a comment is good feedback, it doesn't help factor into the sorting of votes, nor does it provide the 'slap on the wrist' for answering a question poorly.

Give the person asking the question free down votes on the answers for that question

This person is in the best position to judge if an answer to the question is good or not. This is to help encourage the use of votes to indicate "this answer is not useful." By giving this person limited free down votes it should help further separate good answers from poor ones and in the case of habitual people providing poor answers (across multiple questions hoping for drive by upvotes and otherwise 'meh' answer to down votes) help make them reconsider their ways.

It is the person who asks the question who always gets notified of answers and has the best ability to help curate the quality of answers in the question. Help them not be afraid to use the tools they are given because of attachment to reputation (however imaginary it may be).

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I downvoted and quickly reversed my vote because I can see some merit in this idea. However, I see 2 problems. First, some askers will take critical comments too personally and might downvote answers from specific users that left critical comments. And an asker who ends up answering his/her own post might use the free downvote for tactical purposes. If you can find a solution to both, I think it might be workable. –  psubsee2003 Sep 7 '13 at 22:25
actually, I don't think the person asking the question is necessarily in a better position to judge than anyone else, and this might encourage down votes on answers that the asker simply does not "like". Anyone can do that now of course, but the 1-point penalty causes at least a moment of thought. In theory. –  Andrew Barber Sep 7 '13 at 22:27
@AndrewBarber just playing devil advocate, it would give the OP some ammo to be able to downvote posts where the asker did not read the question and provided an answer that the OP expressly indicated won't work. –  psubsee2003 Sep 7 '13 at 22:31
@psubsee2003 The tactical use of down votes on self answered questions will unlikely be put off by -1 rep (after all, they can accept the answer to make it at the top anyways). The asymmetry between up vote value and down vote will likely continue to make that the case that even a free down vote will not fix. I really don't think it will make that much of a difference in those questions. –  MichaelT Sep 7 '13 at 22:33
@psub I can definitely see some value in that. Maybe but enough to do this, but, yup! –  Andrew Barber Sep 7 '13 at 22:33
@MichaelT self-accepts do not right to the top, so post score becomes much more important to get visibility to the post. –  psubsee2003 Sep 7 '13 at 22:38
@AndrewBarber did not know that bit about sorting. I still don't believe that a -1 vs 0 rep will deter someone trying to shuffle the order of answers on a self answered question. –  MichaelT Sep 7 '13 at 22:38
@MichaelT you'd be surprised how much a single point can motivate some people. I've seen posts on meta complaining about serial and/or unexplained downvoting over a single downvote. –  psubsee2003 Sep 7 '13 at 22:41
@psub Michael did that reply to me and not you because I had just posted the same comment, but then deleted it for some reason. just saying, cause that looks odd! ;) –  Andrew Barber Sep 7 '13 at 22:41
@AndrewBarber I took the reply to you as a complement that he mistook my most excellent comment for one by you :-) –  psubsee2003 Sep 7 '13 at 22:42
@psubsee2003 (I went for the most recent one when looking from the bottom text box here) - Trying to get some data on self-answered questions on SO... or at least the good ones. –  MichaelT Sep 7 '13 at 22:45
@pubsee2003 (just playing devil advocate): It also would allow the OP to punish people that the OP feels didn't read the question, when in fact the OP's question was phrased so badly that the answerer wasn't wrong in the interpretation. I totally disagree with the idea posted here, because the OP is asking for people to write answers to their question, and shouldn't be given carte blanc to then punish them for doing so. The OP is quite often not the best judge of the best answer, as is evident by the number of questions that accept an answer that clearly isn't the best, but just first. –  Ken White Sep 7 '13 at 23:19

1 Answer 1

"The best person to filter if an answer is good or bad is the person who asked the question in the first place." Not always true. The person who asked the question is the best person to say whether the answer helped them in their particular scenario, but that doesn't mean they can judge whether or not a solution is effective for others with similar issues or questions. The best people to determine whether an answer is good or bad are the "experts" who provide the answers; the "community" at large.

And even so, giving an OP the free reign to downvote with reckless abandon is not a good idea for SO.

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