Before you disagree with me with a downvote, or just want to be funny, please hear me out.
From the "Vote Down" privilege page:
The upvote privilege comes first because that's what you should focus on: pushing great content to the top. Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.
I have honestly never seen a downvote reserved for an extreme case. The process is usually 1) downvote post if it's bad and don't comment. (Not much of a process, is it?)
As you stay on the site longer and longer, you develop a carelessness towards downvotes (as I have), but for new users, it's really discouraging. This question inspired me to [ask balpha to] make this, which is a list of users with 1 rep who have the Peer Pressure badge.
That's the closest I could get to new users who deleted their own posts after downvotes came in. Don't get me wrong, I know the argument about being nice to new users very well, but I still believe it to be an issue.
And since downvoting is free on questions, users are much more inclined to go the lazy route and downvote bad questions. No alternative measures (see below) are taken, for the most part. Personally, I leave a comment and don't downvote until the asker shows no interest in fixing their post.
The only other measure taken to discourage downvotes (on answers) is the -1 rep punishment to the downvoter, which is absolutely meaningless and inconsequential anyways.
How are we supposed to educate new users when we don't teach them what to do, don't direct them to the FAQ, and discourage them with downvotes right off the bat?
Instead of voting down:
If the post is spammy or offensive — flag it.
If the question is duplicate or off-topic — flag it for moderator attention.
If something is wrong, please leave a comment or edit the post to correct it.
We claim to discourage downvoting, yet I see answers like this that encourage us to downvote first and ask questions later when a question is simply unclear or effortless.
It's just an awful chain reaction. A new user comes to the site asking a question, but that doesn't work out too well, so they get downvotes, delete the question in shame, and don't get the help they deserve as a fellow writer of code and programmer.
Strip away the quality of the site for a moment: the core functionality of this site, and the only reason I and a lot of other users are (still) on it, is to receive and give help to/from others. I enjoy making sure fellow programmers get the answer they need, because this site has helped me get mine when I needed them.
Quality can still be maintained if content is fixed rather than downvoted more often.
So can we stop discouraging new users from continuing to use this site and actually start to discourage downvoting? I think we need to encourage effort towards teaching and helping new users understand the system and why their post is bad rather than slapping them in the face with downvotes that they don't know how to interpret anyways.
I'm leaving ways we can do this up to others. My first thought was to increase the punishment for downvoting answers and to no longer make question downvotes free, but those wouldn't be well-received, judging by the history of similar suggestions.