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I personally think down voting is not very useful, and should be replaced with a report abuse option.

(Please see update at bottom for change to feature request based on feedback. Leaving details in tack for historical purposes.)

Reasoning (Deprecated)

  1. In real life voting you cannot down vote a proposition or politician no matter how much you would like too.
  2. It is to easy for people with a high reputation to abuse by down voting people who are just trying to help instead of only down voting the true individuals who are just initially be lame or idiotic. I feel that if someone is trying to help but there answer or question is not well formed or right or inline with the site we should comment and let them know and and help them if possible. They can then update the answer or question or just delete it.
  3. Stats provided to me by Robert Cartaino (shown below) I feel show that down voting is hardly even used and while not being abused on any wide scale it does get seriously abused by a small few. I feel that if it isn't really getting used much then it should go as it it tends to get miss-used more than properly used.

I think the down vote should be replaced with a Report Abuse system.

How Report Abuse Would Work

This would provide a "Report Abuse" link on all questions, answers and comments. A single report would could be queue as low priority for the moderators to review. However as it gets more and more reports by other individuals its priority for review goes up. It could even have a threshold that would automatically deactivate or remove the report item if gets a specific (large) number of reports. The number of abuse reports can be shown as a counter on the item if it gets more than 1 report. The report must provide an shoot intelligent reason why it is an abuse.

Help Others With Conversation Not Negative Reputation

I am for people be made aware of being incorrect and being helped to be better in the future or correct there post. I am not for maligning another persons reputation with negative values who is just trying to be helpful or earnestly looking for help, even if they where not perfect in the question or answer.

Provided Stats

Down-voting is statistically very rare. The account for only 0.8% of all the votes cast on the system. And we're not seeing any large patterns of abuse. Of the 7.5 million users who come to Stack Overflow every month, only 18(!) users have cast more down-votes than up-votes (with > 100 down-votes)... ever! - Robert Cartaino (via email)

While I am quoting stats provided by Robert, I am not implying that he is in favor of this feature. In fact my impression is he is not sold on the idea so he suggested putting it to the community as a feature request.


EDIT - UPDATE 7-9-2010

Since there is already an abuse system it is just called "Flag" which is not a good user experience as it is not obvious what that is for. I would suggestion Flag be called "Report" to clarity.

Also if we keep the down voting why not then make minor changes to it which would be Down Votes require a comment explaining why or you can't do it. This makes it not anonymous, which will make people think before doing it and reduce the abuse even more if they have to explain why it is not a good answer or question. Doing this would make it easier to understand why you got a down vote, because getting one or more with out a reason is confusing.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Martijn Pieters, Undo, ben is uǝq backwards, hims056 Jul 20 '13 at 15:28

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

7  
Please don't be put off by the downvotes on your post -- it is very thoughtful and well-worded. On meta, a downvote simply means disagreement. –  Ether Jun 29 '10 at 22:12
1  
Point 2 and 3 contradict themselves –  jmfsg Jun 29 '10 at 22:18
2  
Isn't flagging the exact system you're describing? It shows up on the moderator or 10k flag list depending on the flag type, and enough flags auto-deletes the post and lowers the poster's reputation –  Michael Mrozek Jun 29 '10 at 22:21
    
@Juan they do not actually. #2 states that people with high points CAN abuse it, and have. #3 states that I believe the stats provided show the abuse even though the down voting is used very at a small percentage of the time compared to up votes. However if the system for example received 2 million up votes in a week that would mean based on the states that there where about 16,000 down votes in a week. It only takes a person with 2000 rep to down vote questions or answers 10 a week while up voting 100 a week to go unnoticed ... –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:42
    
@Juan ... while there score goes up but the 10 down votes against a person just getting started is damaging and confusing to them because they don't understand yet. I seen down votes for no reason I can see, may it was a typo or a poor grammer. But since they didn't comment you will never know. I think if the down votes are supposed to be helpful to users especially new ones. Since it isn't going anywhere it should require a comment explaining WHY the person thinks it is not a good question or answer and provide a way to give feedback. Why can't Comments be up and down voted as well? –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:45
    
Why is there no "Flag" for comments? I also just noticed that some comments have a number next to them on meta that say "great comment" votes but visible way to give an up or down vote for the comment, do you have to have a specific number of points to vote on a comment? And is this on Stack or only meta? –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:56
    
@MIchael Mrozek, actually I updated the question because Flagging while turning out to be the same, is not obvious that it is for reporting a problem or abuse. To most developers that stack is oriented to "Flag" means something more broad an is not required to be negative in nature. –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:59

9 Answers 9

I came across a question last night where four readers had each posted answers, answers which made no effort to identify the asker's problem or even confirm that there was a problem, much less that the code they were posting actually did anything to solve it. Instead, each assumed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the code the asker had posted (there wasn't...) and each proceeded to post their own implementation of the same (accomplishing nothing). No explanation was provided, nor rationale given as to why replacing one piece of valid code with another might have any effect on the problem described.

So I down-voted each answer.

Later on, the asker returned to write that he had found the source of his problem, and it wasn't in the code that he'd thought it was in, and so he wouldn't be using any of the solutions posted. None of the answerers responded. One did return to whine about being down-voted.

I am not for maligning another persons reputation with negative values who is just trying to be helpful or earnestly looking for help, even if they where not perfect in the question or answer.

Neither am I. Nor am I trying to waste my time stating the obvious ("you just wasted all of our time by posting an obviously irrelevant answer!"). Or trying to conduct a conversation with someone who can't be bothered to read the question they're answering or put any effort into the answer itself. Your solution is at best a recipe for apathy, and likely as not an invitation for hurt feelings and pointless bickering: if you think the tiny, tiny amount of reputation lost to a down-vote is overly negative, then you should be glad I'm down-voting instead of typing out what I'm thinking while I'm down-voting...

Regardless, it takes a lot of down-votes to put any meaningful dent in the reputation of someone who occasionally posts something of value. Unless you're fond of posting nothing but pointless crap, it's not something you have to worry about. Remember, the rep-cost of a down-vote isn't its primary purpose, but rather a side-effect meant to remind both the voter and the author that each has taken on a responsibility by their decision to participate on the site.

No, the primary purpose of the down-vote - like that of the up-vote - is to act as a signal to other readers, clear and immediately visible, that this post is or is not worth reading. Votes gain their value in aggregate, when voters vote honestly and sincerely, and that value is unmatched by anything that can be provided in the form of conversation.

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Aggregate votes suffer from confirmation bias and herd mentality. We still need to discuss what works and what doesn't. –  Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 19:25
    
Only if there's something to discuss. If I find a post that's already been answered or commented on to my satisfaction, I vote accordingly - on both the post and the answer / comment. A dozen "me-too" comments illustrate the same herd mentality without adding anything but noise. –  Shog9 Nov 3 '11 at 19:42
2  
@Mark look at your last three feature requests. Do they suffer from a lack of discussion? –  Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 19:42
    
No but the discussion for at least one of them is now gone due to downvoting. None of them were me-too. They were all well-written and thought-out. –  Mark Cidade Nov 3 '11 at 20:36
    
Maybe, but all of them were against the suggestion. So what you want (comments going along with downvotes) is already happening. –  Pëkka Nov 3 '11 at 21:06
    
Re:"it takes a lot of down-votes to put any meaningful dent in the reputation of someone who occasionally posts something of value." That is true but these votes can lead to the blocking of new and inexperienced users. –  DHorse Jul 20 '13 at 8:56

With 12K+ of rep on stackoverflow, I don't need any more. So I try to do my best to bring sunshine into the lives of others by downvoting ad libitum.

Before I touch the 'close' link or the 'flag' link, I ask myself, "Does this really need to be closed? or is it just an (to quote @Jeff) extremely poorly asked question?"

On answers, similarly, I often see awful answers flagged, when, really, a downvote is what was called for. It's not spam, it's not offensive, or abusive, or hate speech. It's just the subject of Sturgeon's Law.

Few questions earn a vote; of those, very few deserve upvotes. Which is why the torrent of muppetacious upvotes on fluff can annoy with insufficient deep breathing. Those questions that are truly acutely lazy, or tendentious, or both, however, richly deserve their -1.

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"Few questions earn a vote" - You'll never get an Electorate badge with that attitude. –  Charles Stewart Jun 30 '10 at 14:04
    
@Cha badgeless and proud of it. –  Rosinante Jun 30 '10 at 15:04
    
There could perhaps be an alternative to Electorate, call it Sunshine Bringer, where you have to get 600 down votes. –  Charles Stewart Jun 30 '10 at 17:38

I've gone on record that I don't think downvoting is very useful for questions, but I certainly think can be appropriate for answers. It's possible, in fact probable, that a wrong answer is not abusive even if it's wrong. In that case a downvote, to indicate that an answer is incorrect, is the appropriate response.

Here on meta downvoting does serve a useful purpose for questions -- it indicates disagreement with the sentiment expressed by the OP.

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7  
I generally downvote questions that are extremely poorly asked, so I would argue that voting on questions is useful in the general case. Good questions (and by good I mean 'well-asked') are rare. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 29 '10 at 22:37

There's already a "flag" button on every post for abuse.

Downvoting isn't supposed to happen often, as Jeff has stated in the past. It's supposed to be reserved for "special" occasions.

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@Creepy, But please don't misuse the flag system, offensive is for offensive and spam is for spam, anything else you need to flag the moderators –  Lance Roberts Jun 29 '10 at 22:29
    
But it is abused because it is anonymous, it shouldn't be and a comment explaining the down vote should be required. –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:27
    
@Creepy Please review this topic. –  waiwai933 Jul 10 '10 at 20:39

I will attempt to engage you point by point. It might take a while, and I'm terribly long winded.

Reasoning

  1. In real life voting you cannot down vote a proposition or politician no matter how much you would like too.

Of the many many complaints levied against the system of representative democracy, one of them is certainly that the voters do not have enough input on the politicians themselves. That is, their main choice is the casting of their one vote. This does not indicate that they liked two of the other candidates, or that they hated a third. With StackOverflow, we have many more options, because we can upvote as many answers as we like, and downvote as many as we like. Also, the fact that SO is not a direct mirror for real life is not particularly relevant.

2 a) It is too easy for people with a high reputation to abuse by down voting people who are just trying to help instead of only down voting the true individuals who are just initially be lame or idiotic.

There are daily downvote limits and malicious voting pattern detectors. The system doesn't make it that easy to engage in downvote abuse. And, regardless of downvotes/upvotes/comments/questions, in any situation where you give internet users the ability to interact with each other, at least one will abuse it.

2 b) I feel that if someone is trying to help but there answer or question is not well formed or right or inline with the site we should comment and let them know and and help them if possible. They can then update the answer or question or just delete it.

This is a misunderstanding of what voting is for. You are equating downvoting with reporting abuse, which is simply not true. There is a flagging system for reporting abuse, there is a downvoting system for reporting issues with the technical content. If a user posts "2 + 2 = 5" this is not abuse, this is incorrect. Therefore, they deserve a downvote, and not a flag.

3) Stats provided to me by Robert Cartaino (shown below) I feel show that down voting is hardly even used and while not being abused on any wide scale it does get seriously abused by a small few. I feel that if it isn't really getting used much then it should go as it it tends to get miss-used more than properly used.

I feel that you've been serial downvoted at some point, and it prompted this post. Serial Downvoting happens. When/if it does, there are valid options for recourse.

  1. Go to one of the posts which was downvoted, hit the "flag" link and select "Flag for moderator attention", then, in the textbox provided, indicate that you believe you were serial downvoted, and explain why.
  2. Wait. The malicious vote detector runs once a day, so this stuff will usually be caught overnight and not immediately.
  3. Email "team@StackOverflow.com" and inform them what happened.
  4. Ignore the problem. Downvotes are frustrating, but if they are clearly invalid, you should chalk it up to a small case of "internet-asshole", which usually subsides in a couple of days.
  5. Add a comment to you question that politely asks why you were downvoted. Usually this will generate a sympathy upvote. I don't approve of that effect, but it happens.

How Report Abuse Would Work

This is already implemented as the "flagging" feature.

Help Others With Conversation Not Negative Reputation

I am for people be made aware of being incorrect and being helped to be better in the future or correct there post. I am not for maligning another persons reputation with negative values who is just trying to be helpful or earnestly looking for help, even if they where not perfect in the question or answer.

The negative reputation is rather minor, and the downvote is valid critisicm. It is not the most constructive criticism, but it is a very quick and easy way to indicate that "I find flaw with your answer". Sometimes, it means "I disagree", for instance when a user says "You should never XYZ", I will almost always downvote them. Absolutes are usually (mostly) inappropriate on SO, because the situations that come up here are often quite unique.

As for being helpful, if I'm lost in New York city and I ask someone for directions, it doesn't matter how nice they are, if they are wrong. I appreciate that they were trying to help, but if they didn't know the correct answer, they should probably have stayed silent. So, I would downvote them. Even if they were very sweet about it.

Provided Stats

Down-voting is statistically very rare.

The fact that something is statistically rare is completely irrelevant. What matters is whether or not we feel that the feature itself is useful. In this case, downvotes are an incredibly useful tool for certain situations.

I will not deny that downvotes plus comments are far superior, but sometimes you don't have time to exhaustively catalogue all the reasons someone is wrong, but you do want to leave a "note" that indicates that they are.

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Being wrong isn't abuse, but it is still wrong and therefore of negative "usefulness" which is the metric for upvotes.

This is why the flagging system is not appropriate for wrong answers, and downvoting is.

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Laziness, thoughtlessness, and wrongness are tiresome, but they are features of the human condition that we must have some patience with when dealing with our fellow community members. Abuse is much worse than that: it's the kind of thing that should expel people from our community over.

It is good to have means of indicating that answers are tiresome that are not as tiresome to use as negative comments, and which don't involve the ostracism of reporting abuse.

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People take down-voting too seriously. A down-vote is not a personal insult. It simply means that someone thinks that your answer is not helpful. I've received a few down-votes myself and wouldn't mind to receive more in the event that I post an answer that isn't helpful.

I think down-voting could actually be more useful if people down-voted more often. It would be informative to know that many people find a post to be not so helpful, or that a post is getting mixed reviews.

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By calling your "score" "reputation" you are making it personal. When someone down votes it impacts your reputation. I think it is more useful if they don't call it reputation, or if they require you to make a comment with your down vote and that the down vote is public as to who did it and they explain it when they do it. If they don't explain it then it is just being rude and intentionally harmfull. –  Rodney Foley Jul 10 '10 at 4:26

This is all good discussion but at the end of the day, enhanced voting would enormously improve the user experience on the site and require a single additional "click" on the part of the voter. See:

Change request: Up / Down voting

This would also help address the issue of new and/or inexperienced users getting blocked. Regards.

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