If a user starts with Stack Overflow and the first question they ask gets 100 down-votes, is it possible for that user to achieve a negative reputation score?

This question does indeed differ from How does “Reputation” work?, and is a new and valid question. While that other question is a general inquiry as to the function and nature of rep on SO, this question asks specifically for the behavior of reputation and downvote effects at scores close to zero.

In particular, so the FAQ says what happens to the reputation -- but not what happens to the downvotes occuring at a time when a user has +1 rep. But what about those downvotes -- are they just nullified? Effectively that means that a downvote on someone with a rep of 100 has an effect, but a downvote on someone with a rep of +1 has no effect, ever.

This means that users with +1 rep are effectively invulnerable. They may have no privileges, but they are invulnerable.

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    From the linked faq: No user's reputation may drop below one point; if an action would cause a user's reputation to drop below one point, that user's reputation is set to one point Jan 31, 2013 at 12:51
  • Sorry can't see what's not clear. If user with 1 rep get downvote, he will stay with 1 rep. If user with 1 rep get upvote, he will have 6 or 11 rep. If user with 6 rep get downvote, he will fall down to 4 points. And if reputation recalc will take place, it will just start from 1 and go through all the reputation events one by one. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:30
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    "This means that users with +1 rep are effectively invulnerable"..for as far as their rep goes, yes. They can still be post-banned however. And please don't remove the "possible duplicate" message.
    – Bart
    Jan 31, 2013 at 14:01
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    About the header - I am trying to convince meta users that it is not a duplicate. "Please edit your question to explain why it is different" -- was the instructions on the banner. After I edited it to explain the difference, leaving the possible duplicate header seemed like a poor choice. Jan 31, 2013 at 14:08
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    @CrisStringfellow That header will remain in place until the question is reopened. Reopening can happen through community voting or by a moderator. Removing that banner manually does not change the status of your question. If you feel this needs to be reopened, perhaps flag for moderator attention.
    – Bart
    Jan 31, 2013 at 14:10
  • @Bart Okay. I will flag in a day or two, once some time has passed. Thanks. Jan 31, 2013 at 14:13
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    No need, I reopened it. For the record, the question you link to, contains in its answer a link to Why does reputation have a lower bound of 1? which may be worth a short read too. Jan 31, 2013 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


But what about those downvotes -- are they just nullified?

No, the downvote is stored safely in the database. The only change is that it won't affect the target user's reputation.

The post score will still reflect the downvote and it will have effect towards the automatic post ban.

Far from being "nullified". :)


No, reputation is fixed to a minimum of 1 point.

That means that if a user receives 5 downvotes, then one upvote on his question, they'd be at +6 points if the votes were received in that order.

  • Interesting. So at the +1 score end, the order of the votes cast matters. Is there a complete vote history for a user? Or is it just linked to posts and then calculated when things change? -- should this be a second question. Jan 31, 2013 at 12:50
  • Each user profile has a Reputation tab; we can all see yours for example. Jan 31, 2013 at 12:51
  • In the SO database is this stored as a list of votes, or are these collated on the fly from that users questions and ordered over time? Jan 31, 2013 at 12:52
  • There are denormalized columns for faster totals displaying, but yes, there is a list of votes in a table. Jan 31, 2013 at 12:53
  • I see. What is a denormalized column? Jan 31, 2013 at 12:54
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    In database design, you want to keep duplication down to a minimum; the process of designing a schema with minimal duplication is called normalization. Denormalized columns then are columns that duplicate information anyway for performance purposes. It's faster to ask for a ready-collated total than have the database recalculate the total each time. Jan 31, 2013 at 12:56
  • Cool, thanks. So in this case the denormalized columns might be a users rep change on any given day or question? Or some higher level than that I guess... Jan 31, 2013 at 12:58
  • I don't know all the schema details; I know there is a per-day total from an older post where Jeff Atwood (original main architect) shared a SQL query for a feature that used that column. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:06
  • Cool. It is pretty interesting how a big site like SO works so quickly while keeping track of all the changes and totals. Jan 31, 2013 at 13:47
  • @CrisStringfellow All your schema questions can be answered here data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/queries
    – Mike B
    Jan 31, 2013 at 16:37
  • @MikeB: The data explorer schema is a lot simpler than the production schema though. Jan 31, 2013 at 16:47

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