Looking at the oldest (2008...2010) questions it's easy to find those with 50+ votes and answers with 100+. This trend seems to be changing, new questions (especially with certain tags) pretty often have only a few votes (or they stay unvoted even when the question itself is good and not just a "What's wrong in my code?"). The same goes for answers, I see a lot of very good answers but very often they don't earn more than 5 votes (in the first 10 minutes of life).
I know that an old question has been around for years so it has accumulated votes over the years but for some tags (maybe with more disciplined users) everything still works as it should.
So my question is: Stack Overflow rules were good for a limited number of users and Q/A (thresholds for badges, for examples). Are these rules still valid? If the assertion "users are very interested in reputation" is true then to change something may increase both the number of votes and number/quality of answers. For example:
- Add rep +2 for each upvote on answers and +1 for each upvote on questions (all users would be encouraged to vote/check/read and other users would have more satisfaction posting a good answer). This change may simply mimic what happens with downvotes. I understand that it could start a "random voting" season but a few restrictions may be applied (just as an example, the rep change may be applied only if the question reached a given number of upvotes and it has no downvotes).
Rep change when someone downvotes a question is -1 for downvoter and -2 for the one who posted the (bad?) answer. Maybe many people do not downvote for the -1 but no one is afraid to post a random answer (untested, wrong, out of topic, answer instead of comment) as scoring -2 isn't that bad when you consider that one upvote recovers all the lost reputation with 5 downvotes (and it's not common to see answers with five downvotes, even when they may deserve it).
The point then is: Why don't upvotes and downvotes have the same weight? +10 for an upvote, -10 for a downvote (or at least -5). This may even stop posting quick and incomplete answers to be the first one (and to catch, maybe, some upvotes when the question is in the period of high visibility).
After some clarifications in the comments I would point my topic better:
- Why votes per question and votes per answer plotted per year seem to show a decreasing trend? Is it just about users' discipline?
- Has it a negative impact? Is there a way to improve average quality using reputation system? Specially for the second point I think it would increase average quality for answers.
TEST (TO DO BEFORE ANY REPLY)
Quick test for old pro users (I would be really interested to know the results!): pick randomly five of your simple (= no more than syntax check) oldest (< = 2009) answers. Calculate the average score per month (twelve upvotes in one year = one upvote per month). Please note that often this isn't really good because that kind of answers aren't reviewed many times (a better but more complex test would involve the number of views too). Now pick five new answers, calculate their score per month and compare them.
Moreover do the same for five pro answers. Something that involves a complex topic or something you're proud of.
What's the result of this comparison?