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Introduction:

I find the downvoting system to be very permeable to abuse. Despite the loss of rep when downvoting, the cumulative effect is more felt on the person being downvoted. And this is perfectly acceptable. However, in a non perfect world like this one I've been witnessing on numerous occasions a "monkey see, monkey do" effect.

A question or answer rep remains pretty much unchanged for a while but once it is downvoted it is often followed by a series of successive downvotes. As I interpret it, users are copying the last action. The system is being twisted.

I'm not sure how prevalent this is. Only the devs could probably answer that question after doing some some data mining. But I've seen this happening on numerous occasions. Often on questions or answers that while certainly meriting a downvote, are in no way a case for a flurry of negative rep. It's particularly damaging to newcomers, who posting on the wrong forum suddenly see their perfectly valid question (albeit, done in the wrong place) being voted down to... say -6. For many of them, this becomes an unfriendly place.


My suggestion:

I suggest the system remains unchanged. Rep is calculated the same, downvotes and upvotes too. A flurry of downvotes can still happen. However, let the webpage display at most -3, even for those cases where the true rep is actually less.

I suspect this will help curb the enthusiasm of the downvoters.


Debatable aspects:

Why -3?:

This is tied to the Peer Pressure badge and still helps give the poster a clear indication of the general non appreciation of their post. Limiting it to -2, or -1 would be probably too much since there is probably an element of "punishment" (take the word liberally please) that would be lost. But -3 seems good enough.

A really bad post should have lots of downvotes:

A really bad post should be closed, period. And anything below -3 should be considered for closing instead of yet more downvotes. Nothing is gained by this approach. Not even those who downvote since they too lose rep. What happens is, I suspect, most users that have enough rep to vote for closing down a post still prefer to downvote.

Why not just limit the downvotes to -3?

This would be my approach if I was in charge. But I'm not. In any case, limiting the downvotes to -3 may not fit well into the current system which does not remove enough rep. A bad post worth 3 downvotes would remove 6 rep for the poster. If it had 1 single upvote, it would need 4 downvotes to get to -3 and the poster would even gain 2 rep(!).

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6  
Just to note... I believe at -5, a question no longer pops up on the front page when it's modified. So there's a good reason to down-vote some questions even if you've already closed or flagged them. –  Shog9 Nov 5 '09 at 20:10
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And at -10 (I think) it's automatically deleted. –  tvanfosson Nov 5 '09 at 20:16
    
This question is on its way! We should find out soon. –  GEOCHET Nov 5 '09 at 20:17
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Naw. There've been questions with way more than 10 down-votes. But quite often, by the time they get to that point they're collecting flags pretty quickly too. –  Shog9 Nov 5 '09 at 20:18
    
@Shog9: As well they should be. –  GEOCHET Nov 5 '09 at 20:19
    
I'm not suggesting to limit downvotes. But instead their visibility. Incidentally, being this meta, I find it perfectly reasonable to have -5, -10, -100 votes. Especially when the question is a suggestion. –  A Dwarf Nov 5 '09 at 20:41
    
@Dwarf: Things should be shown as they are. Why sugarcoat it? –  GEOCHET Nov 5 '09 at 20:45
2  
FWIW: I'll often down-vote a question that's already at -3 (for the reason given in my last comment), but after -5 or so I often won't bother. Presumably, others have other thresholds; I think it's a bad idea to try to guess where those lie... –  Shog9 Nov 5 '09 at 20:54
    
@Chet Things are as they are because they have already been "sugarcoated" by previous downvotes. That's my whole point. However I do not feel the desire to defend my suggestion beyond what I have done already. It's not important to me. Instead something that occurred to me after witnessing too many valid questions and answers suffering a flurry of downvotes in quick succession, simply because they have been put on the wrong forum or have had the misfortune of gathering 1 or 2 downvotes for no objective reason. –  A Dwarf Nov 5 '09 at 21:22
    
@Dwarf: If you think putting a post on the wrong site is not cause for a flurry of downvotes, then I am through discussing this with you as well. –  GEOCHET Nov 5 '09 at 21:27
    
That's right. I don't see that as a reason for so much downvoting. Have a nice day. –  A Dwarf Nov 5 '09 at 21:45
    
I particularly like the symmetry of this question currently sitting at -4. –  womble Nov 28 '09 at 22:42
    
+1 for "It's particularly damaging to newcomers, who posting on the wrong forum suddenly see their perfectly valid question (albeit, done in the wrong place) being voted down to... say -6. For many of them, this becomes an unfriendly place." –  Levon May 27 '12 at 15:27

5 Answers 5

Completely disagree.

First, if anything Downvotes garner sympathy upvotes just as much as they garner 'monkey see, monkey do' downvotes.

Also note that an upvote is worth 5 times more than a downvote.

This effect is not only negated by the voting system, it's practically irrelevant.

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You do bring up an interesting point, that to me, would be a point in favor of this idea...limiting downvotes to -3 might limit sympathy upvotes to some degree. –  beska Nov 5 '09 at 20:09
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-1 attracts enough sympathy upvotes. Something really has to suck to get it past -3. –  GEOCHET Nov 5 '09 at 20:11
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@beska Unfortunately it doesn't seem to matter. Whether 1 downvote or 3; people still sympathy upvote. But that is a metric that I'd like to hear from the STack Overflow team -- how much sympathy upvoting goes on? –  George Stocker Nov 5 '09 at 20:12
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How do you determine a sympathy upvote? Just because someone votes something up after it has hit negatives does not mean that there was sympathy involved in it. You can't measure motive. –  TheTXI Nov 5 '09 at 20:30
    
Mind you, I believe that there are a number of posts that have genuine questions (not code dumps) that sincerely try, but are outright down voted. And as such, these posts don't get too much purpose, you get angry users, people who think that people don't do anything on SO and they don't try, and the cycle restarts it, creating a miserable, repetitive effect that doesn't seem to wear off. –  Zizouz212 9 hours ago

You seem to be only thinking of questions:

A really bad post should be closed, period.

What about answers? If an answer suggests something completely irresponsible, I would personally welcome it being downvoted to oblivion, to make it perfectly clear to anyone reading it that this is terrible idea.

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5  
+1. Right now it's too easy to delete bad answers, meaning items that should be there to show users that this is the wrong way to do something just disappear. –  Joel Coehoorn Nov 5 '09 at 20:17
    
This is an interesting and excellent point. Knowing what one should avoid is often very useful. –  beska Nov 5 '09 at 21:53
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Yeah, imagine SO in 1900, and if a Mr W. Wright had suggested he could fly in a heavier than air device he would have got -1000 –  TFD Nov 22 '10 at 23:46

Strongly against this. Leave the voting system alone, it is working just fine as it is.

Down voting is not abuse. Leave your emotions at the door. Down voting is very necessary for separating the good from the bad.

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I understand where you're coming from, but I completely disagree with the suggestion. Let the community speak. If the OP is worried / threatened by a barrage of downvotes then they have free reign to

  1. edit the post to explain or change something
  2. delete their post and
  3. flag it for moderator attention for a lock in case they feel there is abuse

If something is colossally bad, then it should be reflected as such. If the community thinks something is colossally bad, then it should also be reflected as such.

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(Meta aside, as voting is very different.)

Main issue

let the webpage display at most -3, even for those cases where the true rep is actually less.

I see no reason to fool innocent people into viewing a question or answer, because a "-3" could still offer some interesting or valuable info, and often can be salvaged by editing or some re-wording. Whereas a -6 and less (for example) is unlikely to be fixable without a lot of work and won't likely have anything worth reading.

I suspect this will help curb the enthusiasm of the downvoters.

We don't need to curb their enthusiasm, we need to keep it there - perhaps bring some enthusiasm to upvoting, but that's another discussion.

If there is "unfair" voting going on then "perhaps" it could be addressed, but you have to look at the bigger picture, the world beyond feeling hurt you got downvoted a lot or feeling others are being put off by being downvoted a lot.

The site relies on showing what is good content and what is bad.

And if all questions had a max lower limit of "-3" how would we know which is good and bad, or really bad, or terrible, or "omg don't even dare look at this shi7".

The worst possible post would be "-3", and this is not a "sorting" method at all, because quite often a -3 question, or even answer, can easily be salvaged, so lining such posts up with -10 ones is not fair and will hinder people editing to make improvements.

We need to see when a post is really bad, and if that upsets anyone, then either don't use the site, or (preferable) just make better posts...



Other issues

4 million users vs 1 user

The single person who wrote a poor question or answer should not have their downvotes hidden when this greatly affects everyone else.

We cannot hide the truth from other people as to what score a post has, and possibly steal their time reading a really poor question or answer which is useless and likely not salvageable.


Sheep

A question or answer rep remains pretty much unchanged for a while but once it is downvoted it is often followed by a series of successive downvotes. As I interpret it, users are copying the last action.

Yes, this probably happens, but I believe it's rare enough to not be a problem.
Even if it was a serious problem, there is nothing that can be done to solve it, and most certainly not your solution.

People for the most part just upvote good posts or downvote the crap because they spent their time reading a lazy, or unclear question, or useless answer.

But I've seen this happening on numerous occasions.

I agree that you have seen a pattern, but you misread the pattern.
If a post is bad, then it will naturally obtain downvotes, and the reverse for good posts.

Why does it have to be "sheep" and not just "numerous people agreed on the quality"?


Make it worse

It's nice you are thinking of other users, and not wanting their being downvoted to hell. However, consider that a lot of users will not downvote a post if it already has X downvotes.

With your proposal, anyone who feels a post is really bad will downvote, because they only see "-3", and the question or answer might be at "-20" or more.

All you save there is the user's public face, and their rep just keeps plummeting and they then struggle to rectify the issue.


Site design based on votes

The site orders posts based on votes, so do we list all -3 in... date order? Or do we still list them based on their actual votes but only show "-3" as per your proposal?

Also, posts are greyed out at -8 score on Meta, so this would no longer work. And doing this at -3 would make most Meta sites look like dismal.


Let's entirely ruin the site

Why not just limit the downvotes to -3?

This would be my approach if I was in charge

So you'd run the site based on your feelings then? Or, I dunno, some silly notion that we should all hug and skip and jump together and be nice and not downvote past -3?

It's not nice when we get downvoted to hell, it's happened to me (not poor post but feature request and everyone disagreed) but I wouldn't change this fact just to save my own feelings, it's necessary.
In fact, I'm glad I got butt-hurt in votes because it made me think about my FR and realise why it would have been a bad idea and I learned a bit about the site as a result of that.

Had I only got -3, I'd have still been there now arguing why it is a great idea...

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