Jeff asks Should the weight of downvotes be increased? and I think the value of downvotes is too low, especially given the "pity upvote" problem, which is very real.

But there's another problem. Most days, from a pure rep perspective, giving a downvote to a high rep user is completely pointless. Most days in the last 6 months I've hit the daily rep cap so a downvote usually doesn't counter (unless you do it at the right time). Now this is because a change was made so that upvotes received after a downvote would counter that downvote (effectively)—a change I support. It wasn't always that way.

Now that doesn't mean I (as one example) don't care about downvotes. If I've made errors I want to correct them and improve the overall quality of anything I post. But I don't have much time for people who downvote just because, for example, they don't like Visual Basic (regardless of its appropriateness to the OP). Nor do I have much time for downvotes lacking comment.

That aside, the cost of giving a downvote does counter against the daily rep cap. I can understand the rationale for this. I guess it stops people going on a downvoting spree because one upvote can counter 10 downvotes given. That argument has two problems:

  1. If you don't hit the daily rep cap the above is true;
  2. If you hit the daily rep cap and do so often I think you've demonstrated a greatly decreased likelihood for that to happen.

You can then get these weird situations where by giving someone a downvote it costs you something and costs them nothing. Sure there's the question/answer ranking part of it but still, it's a disincentive.

Should anything be done about this?

  • 1
    I've typed 2 responses to this, and deleted both of them. I just can't decide! Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 23:12
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    I like the idea of downvoting any given question out of hatred for VB. "Your question was about sorting DNA sequences in Perl? Tough. I don't like VB. -1." Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 18:41
  • ^ Disclaimer: I don't hate VB. At all. The staggering awesomeness of this joke is language-independent. Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 18:47

4 Answers 4


Why should it matter if you are downvoting a high rep or low rep user?

Voting should be entirely detached from the user, it should be all about the post.

Is this post good? If yes, then upvote.
Is this post bad? Is yes, then downvote.

Asking this question is viewing voting and reputation as a punitive measure and not a content rating system as it should be.

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    +1 spot on. The votes should be all about the content. Reputation is a measure of how much value a user contributes. If a user is posting lots of content, some of it good and some of it crap, and hitting the rep cap even with downvotes taken into account, then they deserve the 200 rep. Perhaps the objection is that users are penalized when they perform the valuable service of downvoting bad content, but the penalty is negligible and has to be there to prevent unthoughtful willy-nilly downvoting. Commented Aug 11, 2009 at 20:22
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    The primary affect of upvoting and downvoting answers is to get the answers sorted from best to worst (not counting the accepted answer, which is usually at least correct). The reputation effect should always be secondary. Commented Aug 11, 2009 at 22:00

Just because a downvote doesn't hurt significantly in terms of rep doesn't make it worthless. It indicates (or at least may indicate) that you've made a mistake in an answer. Combine that with a comment, and that's a pretty powerful statement, IMO.



I'd be rather surprised if anyone with greater than, say, 10K on the site right now doesn't know good and well how to get as many up-votes as they need, should that be their goal. I'm sure you could screw with the system enough to where down-votes really, really hurt... but they'd hurt honest users as much as the manipulators.

I think pity voting is a problem simply because it hampers the gentle encouragement of new users. We want down-votes to sting a little, just so they learn how the site works. The folks hitting the rep limit daily already know how it works - if they're still posting crap, it's intentional and they'll just manipulate anything new to achieve the same ends. Ignore 'em.

Perhaps a good analogy are the electric fences used for cattle: they sting, but they'll never seriously hurt an animal. Introduce them young, and by the time they're big enough to where they could brush through a fence without even feeling it, they're already trained to see and avoid the fences.

  • I deleted my answer and am going with this one. Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 23:17
  • Ah, didn't have time to read yours... Thanks though!
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 23:20

If we want the down votes to have a higher significance (which I do), the only thing I ask is that it not be made like the US tax system. I don't care if you are Jon Skeet or Anonymous (Yahoo) user, a down vote is a down vote.

I was thinking that to go along with the effort of recalculating all of the reputation scores, it would be great to include a total reputation summary on each user's profile. Sure, we can already see increases/decreases on a day over day by looking at the chart, but it would be great to see this summarized like this...

  • Total Up votes Received MTD YTD ITD
  • Total Down Votes Received MTD YTD ITD
  • Total Answers Given MTD YTD ITD
  • Total Answers Received MTD YTD ITD
  • Total Down Votes Given MTD YTD ITD
  • Total Up Votes Given MTD YTD ITD

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