I never understood this asymmetry. You can up-vote all you want (well, up to some daily limit), but down-votes are discouraged by decreasing your rep.

If we're worried about down-vote abuse, then a daily limit would fix that most likely.

But why punish someone for rating a poorly written question as such? With this policy people are more likely to vote to close a question (it's free).

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    Yes downvotes should cost you rep. Spread love(upvotes) not hate(downvotes). If you feel somethings wrong, painfully part with some of your rep and add a comment. Like I did(Ok I didnot downvote too hard to part with my preciouss).
    – abel
    Jan 6 '11 at 8:41
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    Actually, i would remove downvoting. It is pointless anyway, and discourages people.
    – DejanLekic
    Dec 15 '11 at 15:01
  • When I first started on the site, I downvoted poor questions and answers, not realizing I was losing rep in the process. Once I found out, I stopped downvoting altogether. I am not going to do something that would cost me rep, even if it would help improve site quality. Because rep = privileges. Now I just ignore questions and answers I want to downvote, but otherwise don't want to deal with. Daily down vote limits are the right way. Punishing me for helping improve the site? No, just no.
    – ADTC
    Oct 15 '14 at 9:00

Personally I think that when a post is deleted by moderator or the community that any downvotes for it should be refunded back to the users who gave them. That would make the system fair. Normal downvotes should cost even a nominal amount of rep (which 1 rep is) to discourage their abuse. But, for me, the rep cost of downvoting a spam/offensive question means I just don't other than voting to close and/or flagging, as appropriate.

After all, what's the point of paying rep to downvote someone on 1 rep who is no doubt a throwaway account anyway?

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    It seems an oddity to me that closed questions don't have more downvotes. Jun 28 '09 at 15:02
  • an excellent proposal Jul 13 '09 at 1:14
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    Also, downvoting posts done by a user which has a reputation of 1 should be free. Jul 29 '09 at 7:26
  • not entirely; votes on deleted posts are not counted but this requires a rep recalc due to the denormalized nature of the rep score. Mar 20 '10 at 5:51

I think there should be a "cost" to downvote; it's like throwing stones -- there's a social inhibition against doing it, until someone starts, and then all of a sudden, WHAM, viral release of anger. There's some really interesting epiphenomena about the voting system on SO. I've noticed that there seems to be several different tiers of votes:

  • The highly upvoted answers. These have several advantages: they're usually good answers (have merit), people see the vote counts so they're more likely to reinforce that, and they show up first on the "votes" tab so if you're looking at that, and there are a lot of answers, you see them first.
  • The answers that have a net vote count of 1 or 2. Someone's already voted them up, so it's socially more acceptible to reinforce that vote. If there are only a small number of answers, you'll notice these, but if a question has 10 or 20 answers, they tend to get lost in the shuffle.
  • The answers that have a net vote count of 0. I think people are hesitant sometimes to upvote or downvote something that has a 0 vote count... you really have to read an answer and judge it on its own merits. For a question with lots of answers, these tend to be down towards the bottom and get read less frequently.
  • The answers that have a negative vote count. Again, it's easier to vote down someone who's already been voted down. These are at the bottom of the list and are read less frequently.

I personally don't care much about the reputation score, the only advantages to me are being able to have some editor abilities, and to be able to offer some of it as a bounty. I do care about the social aspects of Q & A voting. This site has several advantages over newsgroups, one of them is that people here tend to be more helpful and less sarcastic. I'd like to see that continue.

  • Well, I like sarcasm, but I upvoted you anyway. Jun 28 '09 at 16:12
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    Your comments on the social aspect of voting are interesting. What would the effect be if number of votes was kept hidden until after it exceeded +/-1? So at least 2 people would need to individually agree before the social pile on started. Would this also have a positive effect on those who act like the sky is falling the first time they get a down vote?
    – David
    Jan 5 '11 at 18:02

Most definitely yes, downvoting costing rep is one of the features I love about stackoverflow.

Let me explain:

This concept is borrowed from animal training, it has been shown that positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train an animal. Applied to SO this means that if you are going to down vote someone (something that will make them feel bad) you should feel a little bad yourself thereby discouraging positive punishment on the site and making the site a happier community.

Perhaps there is room to adjust the pain ratio depending on rep, I don't know.

  • I just posted this on another question: newscientist.com/article/… (replace wikipedia with stackoverflow) Jun 29 '09 at 0:15
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    I have a snack machine rigged up so I get a potato chip every time one of my answers is voted up.
    – Nosredna
    Jun 29 '09 at 4:53

You can't vote to close a question until you have 3000 rep. By that point, you generally don't care about losing one point here and there for downvoting.

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    Well, I have to disagree. It's true that you care less about 1 point here and there, but on the other hand there are tons of really bad questions that I would love to be able to down-vote without seeing my precious rep squandered. Jun 28 '09 at 14:20
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    If you love them, set them free. That's my motto (when it comes to reputation and down votes.) I am a fairly prolific down voter and admire those who have 1:1 vote ratios. Jun 28 '09 at 14:25
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    Sturgeon's Law would suggest a very different ratio. Jun 28 '09 at 15:04
  • I agree with Assaf. Very often, a new user will post 2 or 3 similar, totally bad questions together with a couple of bad answers, and taking care of all those actions will cost me 4, 5 or 6 reputation points. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't. If my rep has just gone over 3,000 and is now 3,002, for example, I won't feel like doing it. Jul 29 '09 at 7:30
  • Hmmm... maybe it's just me then. My rep on SO is six thousand something, but off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you if it's closer to 6,100 or 6,900. When my rep was under a thousand and I decided that a question or answer was worth downvoting, I'd check my rep score first to see if I could "afford" the downvote cost, but I don't do that anymore. I assumed I wasn't alone. Jul 29 '09 at 11:33
  • Somehow I feel like I should be rewarded for downvoting these very clearly bad contributions. I'd do it for free, but if I even have to pay a small amount of rep, I find it odd. Jul 29 '09 at 12:24

The cost based approach seems to work on most parts of SO. Due the -1 of downvote, I do it in extremely rare cases. Instead, I put a comment on various places asking for clarification and such. Unfortunately, if an answer is too old, you cannot even revoke your downvote. (Maybe someone could come up with an adaptive cost scheme for the downvote system, taking the time between downvotes, reputation, other votes, etc. into account.)


There should not be a cost for downvoting.

The idea of being penalized for performing my service to the society seems totally absurd to me.

  • Sorry for this late half-answer, but I didn't find anything representing the same idea to up-vote. :)
    – Rotsor
    Jul 7 '11 at 14:14
  • I'd hardly call it "being penalized"... 1 measly rep... and on top of that, you get it back if you remove the vote. And that's ultimately the intent: a down-vote should point out a flaw in the answer (that's why you're encouraged to leave a comment), so the answerer can update his answer, and the downvoter can revoke his vote (or even up-vote in stead).
    – fretje
    Jul 7 '11 at 14:28
  • If that 1 rep was enough to open a discussion, it is not "measly" anymore. At least not in this discussion. In addition, if you are saying that 1 rep. is enough to motivate people to leave a comment to try and revoke the down-vote, this only reinforces the "non-measlyness" of 1 rep. The bottom line is that -1 is indeed a penalty for public duty, which seems nonsensical to me.
    – Rotsor
    Jul 8 '11 at 0:01
  • Hey, it's not me who started this discussion ;-) and apparently the community disagrees with you... For more info, see also the answers to this question.
    – fretje
    Jul 8 '11 at 7:00
  • @fretje, thank you for the link. At least there are people sharing my opinion.
    – Rotsor
    Jul 8 '11 at 10:22

There should be a cost for downvoting.

And there should be a bonus for contributing to raising the quality of the site.

So downvotes that highlight an actionable quality issue (eg leading to a question being closed) should be rewarded in some way.

Downvotes that mark personal/subjective views (and other reasons) should not.

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