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On SO I've noticed that I'm about twice as likely to answer a question than to upvote anything. I feel like there are two simple drivers for me to answer questions:

  • Helping others
  • Keeping score

These are great and I think the system works well. Yet it seems like I should be upvoting more to help others gain reputation. And even if I consciously try to do it more, ultimately my ratio stays about the same. As well if you look through the top users the majority answer questions more than they upvote.

I think the reason is fairly simple: there's no reward for verifying an answer. In terms of an action it's very easy to click an upvote compared to writing out an answer. Yet I'm only going to upvote an answer if I'm confident it's good. Doing that is almost as much work as answering the question. So I'll tend to move on unless it's easy to verify or I'm already involved in writing an answer to the same question.

What if there was incentive to help not only the people asking questions but the people answering questions? Before I go any further, let me state a few things I believe to be very important:

  • Changing the scoring for reputation should be very infrequent, perhaps never
  • Users wouldn't be happy to see their reputation suddenly change one day
  • There should be no way to gain reputation by only your own actions

After pondering this for a while, I came up with one potential proposal that fits these requirements:

  • +1 after another user upvotes the same answer you previously upvoted
  • Only applied when you upvote a single answer for a question to prevent gaming

I feel like this would change my behavior for the better of the community. The immediate concern that comes to mind is dealing with users that would randomly spam upvotes hoping that someone else also upvotes the same answer. Perhaps a variation then:

  • +5 after an answer is accepted that you previously upvoted
  • Again only applied when you upvote a single answer for a question

I'd think neither of these would be retroactive for the past. I'm sure there are other details and minor variations that would be possible. I understand this could be a sensitive topic with complicated details.

What do you think?

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I don't think we really have a problem here, and I think your suggestions would only lead to rep inflation. Sorry I don't have anything more encouraging to say - I just plain disagree here. –  user27414 Apr 27 '11 at 17:18
    
@status-declined: Fair enough. Perhaps I'll collect my first Peer Pressure badge with this if more people agree with you. –  WhiteFang34 Apr 27 '11 at 17:34
    
I think helping SO out by voting correct answers up, thus making the quality of the site better, is reward enough. –  CanSpice Apr 27 '11 at 17:50
    
I can understand with disagreeing. Not clear how it's getting downvotes though, is it just a bad question? –  WhiteFang34 Apr 27 '11 at 18:24
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Votes on Meta run in accordance with allegiance and opinion of a feature-request. The score of a post has an impact on how much attention it may get for being implemented - as such, downvotes will usually mean "I don't think this is a good idea to implement". –  Grace Note Apr 27 '11 at 18:25
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I downvoted you because I disagree with your proposal. this is how meta works. –  alex Apr 27 '11 at 18:27
    
Got it, thanks for clarifying. –  WhiteFang34 Apr 27 '11 at 18:33

3 Answers 3

There should be an incentive to downvote, not the other way around. There are very few downvotes, even for posts that truly deserve it. People seem to be afraid of losing their precious rep... Getting rep is not that hard, there's no need to push people to upvote even more. In the end, not everything deserves an upvote.

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-1 because you nicely asked for it. And I'm not afraid! –  DavRob60 Apr 27 '11 at 18:14
    
@meta.DavRob60: why should you be afraid :)? –  alex Apr 27 '11 at 18:24
    
@Alex You said : People seem to be afraid [...] and I'M NOT AFRAID! YOU EAR ME? NEVER .... EVER .... AFRAID (whistling in the dark) –  DavRob60 Apr 27 '11 at 18:40
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Back before downvoting cost rep, people downvoted way too much. The -1 rep cost was added to make people think before downvoting. –  Gabe Apr 27 '11 at 18:46
    
@Gabe downvoting should cost rep, otherwise it would be bad, I agree. It's just that people care way too much for that -1. –  alex Apr 28 '11 at 4:00
    
@alex: So you're saying that there should be a disincentive (-1 rep) plus an incentive to downvote? –  Gabe Apr 28 '11 at 4:25
    
@Gabe: no, I'm saying people should stop worrying so much about rep. Give them a badge or something, but nothing else. Keep the -1 to not throw the community into chaos, though. Does it make sense? –  alex Apr 28 '11 at 5:06

One major flaw with this proposal: You could gain a lot of rep without ever posting anything.

Rep is supposed to be a measure of trust the community has for you and this proposal would break that as it would give bonuses to people who vote on popular questions and answers.

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@Grace, technically you have been posting edits so even though you don't have a question or answer, your rep has increased because someone in the community agreed with you. However, this is an interesting example. –  jzd Apr 27 '11 at 19:33
    
Not going to spend too much time defending such an unpopular proposal :) But it could be limited to some factor, e.g. cap it per day to 1/100th of your total upvote/accepted reputation. Too complicated though, I concede already. –  WhiteFang34 Apr 27 '11 at 19:46
    
@WhiteFang, encouraging voting is good, and I understand the point of this request, I just think this implementation would have too many negative side affects. –  jzd Apr 27 '11 at 20:07

@WhiteFang34 has a point. Often, people don't upvote others' good (maybe not great, but good) answers because they might find that it deflates their own reputation value. SO is a lot about ranking (at least, ranking stats always catch my eye when I look at profiles, and I think, I'm not the only one). People would agree with an answer but they still won't upvote it.

On the other hand, @jzd is also right: It would inflate rep value. If there was reputation for up-voting, it would need to be more constrained (e.g. it can only be x% of your total reputation gained or even more complex) and that would make the voting system overly complicated (especially on the implementation side of things).

I reckon that there must be a better solution than reputation to incentivize people to give credit where credit is due. It might just not be that obvious.

Right now, there is a minor explicit incentive: One silver and one gold badge (Sportsmanship and Electorate).

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