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Actively downvoting bad answers can be costly, especially when you are a junior user in that SE (little reps). However if we don't penalise downvoters, we fear users might abuse this to downvote answers that aren't too bad. How about reverting the penalty when the answer's (or question's) score is less than certain limit?

Several suggestions on the non-penalty criteria (the actual implementation may be different):

  • No penalty if score <= -2
  • No penalty if the answer gets 3 or more downvotes, and it has a negative score
  • No penalty if it gets deleted
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How about the case that someone revoked their downvote after post got -2? –  YOU Apr 24 '11 at 6:55
    
recalculate the penalty? –  Louis Rhys Apr 24 '11 at 6:57
    
Third one regarding post deletions already in effect, you only need to recalc your rep at /reputation audit. –  YOU Apr 24 '11 at 6:57
    
-1, @Jon Skeet and @jmort253 sum it up perfectly –  davidsleeps Apr 24 '11 at 7:34

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I disagree that it's significantly costly.

It's really not that hard to find a question you can answer such that you get a couple of upvotes, worth 20 rep. That's enough for 20 downvotes, which is a heck of a lot.

Anyone who is really discouraged from downvoting by a 1 rep penalty is already being pretty irrational, IMO - I doubt that a relatively complicated system of penalty-free downvoting would make a significant difference.

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Worth pointing out, it's just as easy to find ten questions that need a little editing help (especially these days) and suggest some edits. Add a period or question mark - get rep. :) –  Tim Post Apr 24 '11 at 12:28

The nice thing about downvoting is that it costs you something to say "I think user X's answer is low quality, wrong, or I disagree with it."

This means that user X has to write something that you disagree with pretty badly in order to justify a downvote.

If we create a situation where it doesn't cost you anything to downvote a question or answer that already has 2 downvotes, are we then losing some objectivity in downvoting? Users with 10 downvotes on a question have 10 downvotes because 10 users felt the answer or question justified giving up 1 reputation to communicate disagreement with the question or answer.

If we remove this restriction, questions or answers that normally may only have 2 downvotes may suddenly have 20. This doesn't seem very fair or objective to me.

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I understand your frustration in that you don't want to lose some reputation for downvoting something that is obviously wrong - but look at it the other way. The recipient of downvotes also loses rep, if we change the system so that 20 downvotes is a regular occurrence then people will feel like they have done something dreadfully wrong and may leave as a result.

If a question or answer is bad it can be flagged, if its wrong it can be downvoted. But I'd resist the temptation to change the system so that we can turn a 2-downvote slap-on-the-wrist into what a user may feel like is a 20-downvote pitchfork-and-flaming-torches campaign against them.

If you don't want to waste rep on a downvote then why not write a comment or flag the post?

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This suggestion would

  • Encourage pile-on voting for posts post already deeply in the red, which is "not nice" and is not helpful when the recipient is a new and confused user just learning the culture.

  • Do nothing to encourage down votes for

    • slightly bad posts sitting at zero
    • marginal posts that have inexplicable received one or more up votes

    which---in my opinion---are the ones most in need down votes.

So put me down as against.

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