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This is a weird one, but it occurred to me the other day. What if all answers were automatically added at -1 or -2 status? That is, they automatically take a little bit of reputation to enter.

  1. People would be more careful putting in answers
  2. Newbies would be immune because they don't lose points for downvotes
  3. Everyone would have a vested interest in cleaning up their own useless answers, since if no one upvotes them, they're just a drain on their rep
  4. Thus, #3 allows us to better distribute the responsibility (and drive) for cleaning things up
  5. Since there's talk recently of 10 vs -2 being too askew for up/down votes, this effectively un-skews the value of upvotes for the first 1 or two of them, making them effectively worth 8 each

Update: removing bit about needing to get rep back for deleting, as this is already the case. Keeping italicized only.

Now, in combination with this, it would have to be reasonable that deleting an answer would give you back your lost rep. Optionally, it could give you back only the -1/-2 initial lost-rep (thus further downvotes still stick, just like today).

This has an additional implementation benefit of not affecting anything previous, since all currently-added answers are already added, so they don't have intial-downvotes. And I'm sure that if an "initial downvote" column were added to the table, then the old things could default to 0 and the news ones to -1/-2, thus making the deletion of old answers work appropriately even retroactively.

Update:

Accepting an answer could also cancel this out, optionally.

Update:

As mentioned below, it might be interesting to do this for questions rather than answers.

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This is certainly more unique than the one suggestion for all answers to start at +1... but for the record, deleting a post with downvotes will get you back that reputation. –  Grace Note Jul 13 '10 at 16:53
    
@grace note - really? it didn't seem to be that way when I've done it only recently. maybe i wasn't paying enough attention. –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 16:54
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It doesn't automatically happen - your displayed reputation won't change. But your actual reputation does change, which you can check with a reputation audit at stackoverflow.com/reputation . The number shown there will be your actual reputation, which you can get fixed to your display by requesting a recalculation. Note that this also applied to upvotes - deletion will lose your reputation as well. –  Grace Note Jul 13 '10 at 16:59
    
@grace note - cool, i didn't know about the audit page! –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 17:10
    
funny how people find this a bad question but don't have responses... it may not be something we want to implement, but i find the negative question value puzzling. do people shortcut upvoting contrary answers by downvoting questions? i'm still new here... –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 17:19
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Downvoting tends to indicate disagreement here on Meta. For some more insight into the madness in our methods, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/47634/how-does-meta-work. –  Grace Note Jul 13 '10 at 17:21
    
interesting. just when i thought i was starting to understand the 'so' community, there's always more to learn. :-) –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 17:29
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Well, welcome to Meta, @eruciform! Not all stuff to learn is bad: since you have >200 rep on SO, you can go to the "accounts" tab in your profile and manually deassociate/reassociate your account for a free 100 rep. Rinse and repeat on SF and SU! –  Pops Jul 13 '10 at 18:07
    
@popular demand: awesome, thanks! is there any way to permanently associate, so that my rep from SO transfers to the other sites continuously? and just to check, I do what you said from this site's profile, right? not on original SO, correct? –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 18:26
    
@eruciform: Accounts actually are normally permanently associated. There's a one-time bonus on all sites for having >200 rep on any site; after that single +100 bonus, there's no further "rep transfer." The only quirk is that if you associate your accounts before you have 200 rep on any site, you have to manually de- and reassociate to get the bonus. And yes, do this on all of the sites except for SO itself. –  Pops Jul 13 '10 at 18:32
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@popular: nice! now watch it plummet to zero as people hammer on my question! tis but a flesh wound! :-P –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 18:39
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@eruciform: With a Monty Python reference and a demonstration of good humor and understanding in the face of downvotes in a single comment, something tells me you'll fit in here just fine. :) –  Bill the Lizard Jul 13 '10 at 18:46
    
@bill: thank you, that made my day! i look forward to being more useful. this site and facebook have kind of become my "work mates", as i work from home and it's a little lonely! :-) –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 18:48
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@eruciform: I will upvote everything you ever do from here on out, and to heck with the rules, if you can incontrovertibly prove that you are, right now, wearing black plate armor. Super bonus points if you are entirely limbless. –  Pops Jul 13 '10 at 19:13
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@Bill, actually, I'm with you. I refuse to use "leetspeak," "txtspeak" or emoticons. I also don't send or receive text messages. Furthermore, get off my lawn, ya darned kids! I only commented because it's so rare to hear about someone literally laughing out loud, let alone to hear someone literally laughing out loud. –  Pops Jul 13 '10 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I don't think we want to discourage answering. It is, after all, what makes these sites work.

I think users casting thoughtful downvotes on answers that are actively unhelpful is a good deterrant to bad answers. Since good answers rise to the top of the page, answers that are simply meh don't really have a lot of impact on the visibility of the good ones.

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does it discourage answering, or discourage lots of useless answers? i really don't know, that's why i wanted to start the discussion... –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 16:55
    
@eruciform: Is lots of useless answers a big problem that you're seeing somewhere? On a few select classes of CW questions maybe, but in general? –  Bill the Lizard Jul 13 '10 at 16:58
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@bill: there's a lot of duplication, and sometimes a lot of incorrect things that sit there but don't necessarily get down-voted, especially on the obscure questions that aren't that popular. the ones everyone's eyes go to get sorted out pretty quickly. but the small ones get no total votes at all, so it's hard to sort them out. –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 17:01
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To answer your question, though, yes I think it would discourage answering. Not so much for me and other high-rep users, but for a user with 100 rep and little guarantee that his answer will be upvoted, I suspect it would be a deterrent. –  Bill the Lizard Jul 13 '10 at 17:02
    
well, if everyone except the newbies (who aren't affected by it much) are aware of it, then everyone will in turn pretty quickly upvote the reasonable non-dup answers. even one upvote from -2 to -1 (if we make it -2) already cancels out the negative. it's still in the hands of the users, after all! :-) –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 18:46
    
Additionally, there are many questions where only a single answer comes, and no one upvotes it (either because they don't see the question, or don't have an opinion on the answer). All of these answers will start and stay at -1? That's terrible both for new and existing question askers alike. –  rlb.usa Jul 13 '10 at 19:20

I agree with Bill that discouraging answers is not good, but I find the idea of using this feature on questions to be quite intriguing, especially when coupled with the recent discussion of problem users and bad questions.

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+1: nice thought! added to question details above. i hope it makes for a better discussion! :-) –  eruciform Jul 13 '10 at 18:44
    
Interesting, but what about first-time askers who don't know anything about the site? I imagine they're the biggest offenders for "throwaway" questions. –  Faisal Jul 13 '10 at 20:32

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