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While searching for similar topics I found several discussions which mainly discuss whether or not to downvote in a particular situation. Usually I agree with the accepted answers. It seems to some extent the opinions on meta on when to downvote on other SE sites are in line.

There are little propositions however which discuss encouraging downvoting more. Many state downvoting is important, since it is part of the mechanism to bring good quality posts to the top. In practice however I feel downvoting isn't promoted enough.

Lack of downvoting

A concrete example: What popular "best practices" are not always best, and why?

At the time of writing, this answer got 24 upvotes and 6 downvotes, placing it somewhere in the middle of all the answers. In my opinion, some of the answers underneath are a lot more useful. They get less attention since they are way down. To indicate this is probably not just a personal opinion, there is a comment critizing the answer which has 59 upvotes! This means at least 59 people saw a problem with the answer, but only 6 cared to downvote it. Why?

Public image of a downvote

Downvotes are bad ... or so you are led to believe when being active on almost any SE site. Is it possible that only the select few that spend their time on meta sites actually understand the downvoting system properly? More than not, the person being downvoted experiences this as an insult, rather than a motivation to improve/correct their answer. Or, to see it as a simple difference in opinion.

Take the following answer (which I downvoted) as an example: Java: Simplify a loop

This user already has 11,107 reputation on SO, but makes statements as:

I don't say that everybody needs to actually like my solution, but I think nothing is wrong with it and the downvote is bullshit.

And again, your solution with a loop var and range checks and inc doesn't look nice to me. But I would never downvote it.

Is it a mere coincidence that he isn't active on any meta site?

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Your first example is CW. Editing the comments into the answer would be more constructive than downvoting. –  Rup Jun 30 '11 at 14:10
    
@Rup: I don't see how you would go about editing the answer as the answer and comment are quite contradictory. –  Steven Jeuris Jun 30 '11 at 14:14
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You're right that downvoting should occur more, for the reasons you cite. So what is your suggestion? How should the SE network go about trying to change people's attitudes? –  Adam Rackis Jun 30 '11 at 15:05
    
@Adam Rackis: Haha :), I guess I'll have to make separate posts for that, since my 'quick' suggestions lead to this question being closed originally. Check out the edit history. –  Steven Jeuris Jun 30 '11 at 15:06
    
@Adam Rackis: I posted the suggestions I made in the question before as an answer instead. –  Steven Jeuris Jun 30 '11 at 15:14
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If people get offended for downvotes, obviously they haven't visited Reddit. If you have time, add a comment - otherwise, don't. Downvoting enough over time will eventually make users want to submit higher quality questions. –  staticx Jun 30 '11 at 16:01
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Come to Skeptics. We love downvotes. –  Borror0 Jun 30 '11 at 20:34
    
"...rather than a motivation to improve/correct their answer..." I would agree with that if a comment accompanied the down-vote. Maybe it is clear to you what is wrong, but it is an assumption that the person being down-voted knows. –  dbasnett Jul 2 '11 at 16:24
    
@dbasnett: That's why it is promoted to leave a comment. Meta works somewhat different however, as you can just disagree with a certain opinion. Still it is more constructive to leave a comment of course, mentioning what you exactly disagree with and why. –  Steven Jeuris Jul 3 '11 at 13:27
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2 Answers

Instead of writing some of the suggestions I had in mind in my question (which lead to it being closed before), I'll write them as an answer instead.

The following suggestions could help solving the issues mentioned:

  • Notify new users when they received a downvote, explaining what it means, and how they can prevent it from happening again.
  • Notify a down voter when a post they downvoted was edited. This gives him a chance to remove the downvote without having to track it himself.
  • Change the text in the popup box which appears when downvoting somewhat. E.g.: "Please consider also leaving a comment if you think this post can be improved."
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6  
+1 --- I like #2 –  Adam Rackis Jun 30 '11 at 15:22
    
Why down vote if you don't think the post can be improved, and I mean improved in the broadest sense. –  dbasnett Jul 2 '11 at 16:03
    
@dbasnett: If you don't think a post can be improved, all the more reason you should down vote if it is erroneous. –  Steven Jeuris Jul 3 '11 at 13:23
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I'm often puzzled by the design choice of a simple UP/DOWN rating system---this goes for other sites too, such as eBay. (tit-for-tat feedback drove me away...)

My training (in economics) motivates the following outline of a solution:

  1. Allow 'multiple upvotes' and completely do away with downvotes. (I'd suggest allowing a max of two upvotes.)
  2. Use this information to calculate a dynamic, ordinal ranking of questions.
  3. At regular time intervals, use the ordinal ranking (at time t) to assign a chunk of reputation points to each user based on the relative share of total upvotes they've accumulated as an OP.

Extension 1:

SO could (should?) also extend this solution to answers---do away with downvoting answers and allow multiple upvotes. Maintain a dynamic ordinal ranking of answers (across all questions) and assign reputation points accordingly.

Extension 2:

Assuming all of the above suggestions were implemented, SO should also dynamically weight the way reputation points are assigned between 'relative share as an OP' and 'relative share as an answerer'. Why? Both good questions and good answers are required to keep the community alive. The dynamic, relative-pricing scheme I've outlined would encourage a healthy balance.

Not a rant, but an observation: One 'anti-pattern' I've noticed is that brilliant users tend to over-answer and under-question. (FYI: I post mainly under the Mathematica tag, where we basically have a few 'super-users' who jump all over new questions, when others could answer. However, only a few of these 'super-users' regularly ask questions. If the 'super-users' get busy/bored the community can shrink dramatically in a hurry. I also worry about 'super-users' eventually losing patience with those of lower rank, along with the potential for cliques.)

Extension 3:

SO should periodically delete or archive questions of low relative value (beyond a certain age). What percentage to drop and how often to drop them would probably be best determined by the inflow of new (valuable) questions. Deleting (or archiving) answers of low relative value might also be appropriate---but I sense the optimal amount of answer-culling would be FAR LESS aggressive than question-culling.

I'll probably have more to add/clarify...

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this is interesting, but it really isn't an answer. If you want to propose it as a new [feature-request] question, that would be better (then delete this one..) –  Jeff Atwood Jul 1 '11 at 6:19
    
My opinion about down-voting remains the same, do away with it entirely. Having that opinion has garnered me enough down-votes that I can't post a question on Meta. –  dbasnett Jul 2 '11 at 16:08
    
Yesterday I had over year old posts get anonymously down-voted on Meta. Was the intent to be constructive? It felt vindictive, but I can't tell because no reason was given. –  dbasnett Jul 2 '11 at 16:11
    
@Jeff Atwood - Why not turn off down voting for some period of time? See what happens. A definite statement could then be made about the positives and / or negatives of having / not having. –  dbasnett Jul 2 '11 at 16:30
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@dbas see blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/03/… –  Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '11 at 21:02
    
@Jeff - for some reason this morning I can only go to certain places. Obviously here, but not blog.stackoverflow. Just what I wanted to do today. I'll read it sometime. –  dbasnett Jul 3 '11 at 11:58
    
@dbasnett: The year old post downvote might originate from somebody searching meta for a similar topic, coming across your question, and disagreeing with it. That's the democratic process of meta. Year old post or not. I upvote/downvote old posts all the time. I don't quite see the value of reputation on meta. –  Steven Jeuris Jul 3 '11 at 13:13
    
So for over a year my reputation, as bad as it is, was stagnant, and then when I express an unpopular opinion I start to get down voted coincidentally. Gibb's Rule #39. –  dbasnett Jul 3 '11 at 13:18
    
@dbasnett: Probably people are looking through all of your posts as they like reading controversial opinions which they disagree with? :) P.s.: I don't see that much questions/answers from you here on meta, so I don't really see what you are talking about. –  Steven Jeuris Jul 3 '11 at 13:21
    
There are some studies of the Psychology of the internet that suggest that people regress. I can't pose questions here, I am in timeout. @Jeff - is that a good link? –  dbasnett Jul 3 '11 at 13:35
    
@dbasnett: For what it's worth, try answering to the original post with your opinion on down voting, backed with scientific links and such. I might just up vote it, and it could get you out of 'timeout'. P.s.: The link doesn't work for me either. –  Steven Jeuris Jul 3 '11 at 13:41
    
@Jeff - Finally could read the blog. Now I understand why we have such different views. "This is how things work on real playgrounds; why would we expect our web playgrounds to be any different?" Maybe in the 50+ years since I was on a playground things have changed, but it was a place where bullies ruled, and the cliques were king. For the rest of us it was keep your head down and your mouth shut, and if you didn't... –  dbasnett Jul 3 '11 at 19:42
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@dbasnett you have a strange and highly selective way of interpreting what I wrote. Here's a relevant sentence: "If you add back in the [downvotes], suddenly the range is doubled. An evil or incorrect post is now different than a mediocre or uninteresting post, because it will have downvotes and a negative score." –  Jeff Atwood Jul 3 '11 at 20:47
    
@Jeff - I read all of what you wrote and chose that quote because that is how this feels to me often. It is your site, you have your reasons, and I just disagree. I did not particularly care for Mr. Clinton, but impeachment! I didn't defend him as much as the office. I don't look at the posts I do based on the score, only topic. It is my opinion that down voting is sometimes abused, and is exacerbated by anonymity. Your writing, as always, is a pleasure to read. –  dbasnett Jul 3 '11 at 21:20
    
@Jeff - After a good nights sleep I re-read the blog. The problem is that you are not consistent about what the rating is rating. "An evil or incorrect post is ..." , closely followed by "But getting downvoted isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time." If you read the blog with consistency of the object being rated (person / post) and then read it with the other you will see what I mean. From the SO FAQ, "Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you" –  dbasnett Jul 4 '11 at 17:38
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