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Having just got downvoted twice for a (I admit half-assed) answer, it occurred to me that it didn't so much irritate me to lose 4 points as the feeling that either a) I was getting booed out of the room or b) that someone was being a jerk and downvoting me for demanding a comment for the first downvote.

Either way, I had this moment of "Oh c'mon! I get it already!" and it occurred to me that maybe on solution to the downvote dilemma would be to set a bottom of either -1 or, if need be, -2.

This isn't personal, mind you. You can grandfather me in and leave my rep the same. But really if a question or answer goes under -2 or -3 it's usually something that should be removed, not left open for further kicks-to-the-groin.

Plus, -1 has a sort of symbolic nature to it, kinda like null or i. It suggests "Um, this was a less than nothing attempt. We'd rather you just had stayed home." Rather than quantifying just how severe the poorness of a Q or A is, why not just say -1 or vote to remove?

-1 could even be worth a tad more (-5 perhaps, to the user, -3 to the caster) to reflect that it's a big deal.

And I definitely agree that in case of voting something to below 0, there needs to be some cost to the voter. Whoever decides, "Nah, you're going negative, dude" needs to show they really are committed to that vote.

-- Two to the head, zombie-be-dead.
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Remember: Down votes are your friend. Embrace them for the good of the community! –  Stu Thompson Oct 7 '09 at 9:07
Valuable information: ;) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21080/… –  Troggy Oct 7 '09 at 14:25
It's actually really cool to see how many down-votes love you, even here in Meta SO! –  Jefffrey Jan 19 '11 at 13:58
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6 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If downvoting this question into oblivion is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Your other points are adequately addressed by others, but the idea that downvoting should be limited is silly. Those who downvote don't do so lightly - they lose some reputation, and they only have a limited number of downvotes per day.

Further, if more than a few people disagree with you, it behooves you to take a good long look at your answer and consider the idea that perhaps they are right. They might not be, but it may prove to be a learning opportunity for you.

Lastly, it is well within your power to limit the number of downvotes you receive. Removing your answer is always within your power. You say you don't want to be bullied into removing your question - what better way to prove you aren't being bullied than by allowing it to stay up with 5, 10 or even 100 downvotes? By limiting the number of downvotes you stop the bullying early, and at that point your "stand" against the "bullies" means nothing. If you are intent on making a point, you shouldn't be requesting that the bullies leave you alone.

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It's been awhile since I've thought about this (or visited meta, obviously), but your answer is solid. For one, I forget that a downvote costs rep (though there are plenty of >50 users who obviously don't value their rep). For two, great point about standing behind an answer and up to the "bullies". I think my original motivation was based on the idea that people will downvote based on a keyword being off (ie never use the word "tables" in a css thread), but overall, the market prevails and you either believe in the answer or you suck up your pride and retract. Thanks, coach. –  Anthony Mar 1 '12 at 0:28
@Anthony I'm glad my answer was useful! –  Adam Davis Mar 1 '12 at 1:44
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I don't agree. If you can have unlimited upvotes then you can get unlimited downvotes to match.

If you are that ashamed of getting multiple downvotes, you can do the good thing and delete your answer when it reaches a score of -3 and you will get the Peer Pressure badge each time.

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Who wants that frigging peer pressure badge? Plus one for your first sentence. –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 7:56
Deleting it and getting the badge is a lot better than constantly taking the 2 rep penalty. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:00
@John Smithers: Agreed. My peer pressure badge is a badge of shame. –  Stu Thompson Oct 7 '09 at 8:00
First, be careful, please, about using the 2nd person and "ashamed" in your answer. I didn't say I was ashamed, or even embarrassed. I said I was irritated that it went down as if it was being rubbed in my face. And I thought about taking it down, but then I realized that I'm not going to get bullied around just for trying to be helpful. And what if stood behind my answer? Do we let unruly mobs decide what the "right thing" is? Plus, its not sound logic to say that beause something can be x it can be -x. –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:01
And the site admins said they specifically want to avoid downvotes and encourage upvotes. So I thought this fit in to that issue. PS - I have no PP badges, cuz I usually either delete in the first 30 seconds or get stubborn. For more info on why x doesn't imply -x, see Gandhi. –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:04
If you (or anybody else) wants to stand by an answer, you are more than free to just as you are free to keep a good answer up and reap the benefits of it. It is a little annoying to see people (you are not the first) to make the arguments that you should not be required to be punished for something the community doesn't like but there isn't quite the same outrage when it comes to the community LIKING an answer. And yes, we do let unruly mobs decide what the right thing is. What part of community moderated and voted is new here? If you are correct, you can always plead your case. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:06
@TheTXI: I take the penalty! I'll never clean up behind me, because I don't want that badge! –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 8:08
@John Smithers: Just think of it as a tax for not flushing the toilet. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:09
@TXI: the badge or the penalty? –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 8:11
@John Smithers: The penalty. The badge is a gold star for giving a courtesy flush. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:12
@TXI: The badge itself stinks. Stinking has nothing to do with courtesy. –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 8:15
The most votes I've gotten on an answer is 7, the most on a question is 4. I'm not in the same league as some of the pros on here, in terms of experience, expertise, or total answers. But I make it a point to answer at least one question a day, even if its boring, obvious, vague or out of my comfort zone. So actually, I find it REALLY F* annoying that I'm sittin large on a 3-upvote average while "Whats the best tacos to bring to a programming interview" gets upvoted 10k times. I'm fine i with capping it, but that's not nearly as much fun to talk about as this, right? –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:17
And what was the taco of choice when one fronts an interview? –  random Oct 7 '09 at 8:20
Duh, Bacon, cheese, potato with salsa on the side, playa. –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:22
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"the down vote dilemma"

What dilemma?

Furthermore, there are more than a few threads with plenty of answers with < 0 votes. Under your proposal, they would all be ranked equally even though some garnered more (maybe even many more) down votes.

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no, they'd be taken down if they garnered that many. and dilemma = obstacle, not catastrophe: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9508/… –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:11
But only once the threshold is reached, and after some time. Your 'solution' still equates a -1 answer as being equal to a -2 answer to a -n answer. –  Stu Thompson Oct 7 '09 at 9:02
Obstacle? Dilemma: "A circumstance in which a choice must be made between two alternatives that seem equally undesirable" Sorry, I'm just not seeing a choice to fret over. –  Stu Thompson Oct 7 '09 at 9:06
Did you read the question I posted? What word would you use? Situation? –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 21:41
-25 Answer from May: stackoverflow.com/questions/871405/… You were saying? –  Stu Thompson Oct 7 '09 at 23:43
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Actually, the unlimited downvotes make a clear distinction between "bad" and "worse" answers. And I think everyone will look at an answer and then decide if it has been downvoted enough or not. At least, I tend to avoid downvoting bad answers into oblivion. It still has an educational value to show it's a bad answer.

Actually, bad answers aren't always bad as long as an additional comment explains why it's bad. Thus, if someone else thinks about the same bad idea, they will know it's bad instead of thinking it solves the problem. But things get worse when there are real bad answers that just make the problem worse. For example, someone claims about an unreadable file on his disk and someone else claims it's a virus and the only thing that helps against it is to do a low-level format of the whole disk. Such an advise would be real bad since it results in massive dataloss while the answer is (most very likely) wrong. Such answers need to be downvoted into oblivion to discourage that user from posting more dumb answers.

Do keep in mind that there are users at these SE sites whom are just hunting for reputation. They'll answer almost every question with some answer that they can quickly think of, only to hope someone will give them a vote up. They don't mind a few downvotes since every downvote only lowers their reputation by 2, while each upvote gives them 10 reputation.

Thus, if the number of downvotes were limited, those reputation whores would just be encouraged to post lots and lots of answers, hoping to gain at least one + vote per answer. If the downvotes were limited to 3 max, they could get a net gain of 4 points per useless answer, as long as someone will upvote them at least once. I prefer to downvote these reputation whores into oblivion...

However, I do think that every downvote needs to be accompanied with an additional comment, explaining why it is downvoted. This way, others can just agree with the downvote by upvoting the comment to indicate the answer is bad, without downvoting the answer too much because it isn't real bad.

As suggested by John Smithers, enforcing comments for downvotes would not be very popular, so a better suggestion:

Whenever you downvote an answer, you must leave a comment, but this comment will be anonimous! (Just like the vote.) With upvoting, you should also be able to add an anonimous comment. But for upvotes, this would not be required. The reason for forced comments for downvotes is that it forces people to explain the downvote and to make it harder for some to do drive-by downvotes in general, since they have to add a comment every time. (And silly comments could then be flagged and deleted by the moderators with the downvote.)

A question with 20 downvotes would then have at least 20 comments and will get noticed. It's likely that it will be flagged sooner or later and if the owner of the answer doesn't delete it, a moderator could probably delete it after evaluating the comments.

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I was with you until the last paragraph. There are good reasons to not comment downvotes. –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 8:55
Well, how about this: When you downvote and add a comment, the comment will be anonimous so people won't know who downvoted the Q, but still know why it has been downvoted. Would that work? –  Wim ten Brink Oct 7 '09 at 9:24
This request is floating around somewhere here on Meta, but that would be much better, yes. Still people shouldn't be forced to comment. You would only get many nonsense comments (like my ones ;) –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 9:27
-1 [insert useless comment here] –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 10:01
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When one comes across a post with multitudes of downvotes, one is quick to note that indeed this is poison and should thusly be deleted or markedly improved upon post haste. For the good of all kind.

A mere -1 is not clear enough and hoi polloi should do well to make it most assuredly clear on the level required for competent and useful posts.

If perchance one does not wish to receive the Peer Pressure badge by deleting their post, yet wishes to minimise the thrashing of keeping their downvoted affront to humanity, one is available to switch one's post to community wiki mode and spare oneself the hurt in points.

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Good call. It's not the hurt in points, like I said. It's the snowball effect of "yeah, this is a stupid question!" (see question above). –  Anthony Oct 7 '09 at 8:20
Only sissies cw to avoid downvotes ;) –  Ladybug Killer Oct 7 '09 at 8:21
More often people see -1 and give a pity upvote than they see -1 and think they should downvote it again. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in the past with people who post crap answers and questions in high volume and "strike it rich" because of the discrepancy between up and downvote value. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:21
@John Smithers: I habitually downvote answers or questions that are intentionally set as CW simply as a way to avoid the rep penalty. –  TheTXI Oct 7 '09 at 8:22
-1 is definitely not clear enough to all that there is something wrong with the post. Hence, chucking a ride on the backslide down the negative slope. –  random Oct 7 '09 at 8:22
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Some people seem to enjoy getting a large number of downvotes; that, or they don't really care what happens to their answers.

If I get a downvote and I see it has a legitimate reason, I delete it on the spot. If my answer was totally offtopic or misleading, besides deleting it, I also apologize to the OP. It's a matter of respect. I do not like to be given half-assed responses, so I try to do the same to others.

There should be no limit whatsoever to the number of downvotes. It's your answer, take responsibility for it and let it go down in flames if you don't want to delete it.

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What's "OP"? Original poster? –  Ralph Lavelle Oct 7 '09 at 10:50
Yes. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/OP –  alex Oct 7 '09 at 11:55
+1 for "If I get a downvote and I see it has a legitimate reason, I delete it on the spot." At least on SO, SU and SF I'm the same way. (Or I edit it to make it right, if that's possible.) (I don't apply the same rules to CW posts, though ... ) –  John Rudy Oct 7 '09 at 13:53
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