Several times I have seen posts like this: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/16419458/learn-java-development where a very low quality/off topic question is asked very politely.

These sorts of question follow a standard pattern:

  • Several -1s due to low quality question
  • Several +1s from people who think the original posters politeness means that a negative score is too harsh (but would never have given +1 if the score was already 0 or positive).

Because negative and positive scores receive different amount of reputation this actually gives the original poster considerable positive reputation, in the linked example at the time of posting the OP had -2 score for the question but a net +11 reputation from it.

So my suggestion is: That reputation from a question/answer should be from its overall score not from the individual +1s and -1.

So if this question received 3 upvotes and 1 downvote I would receive +20 rep. But if (as is more likely) it received 3 downvotes and 1 upvote I would receive -4 rep rather than in the current system where I would receive +6

  • 4
    One question - how would this be fair for random downvotes?
    – Oded
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:35
  • 2
    You're going to have a hard time for two reasons: First, people generally don't like massive changes. Second, this would trigger a global reputation change. I generally like this idea, assuming people vote fairly, but this makes stray downvotes a whole lot worse
    – user206222
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:35
  • That would be another system, yes...what makes it better than what we currently have though? You sketch a sympathy-upvote scenario, but that's just one of the many possible scenarios. I like the somewhat positive underlying principles of the site.
    – Bart
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:35
  • Absolutely, probably not a big deal (as it only really affects the people starting out anyway), but in principle I think it would be a fairer system Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:36
  • @Bart I like that too, thats why I definately wouldn't be in favour of negative votes and positive votes being the same size Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:38
  • 2
    You know, it's fake points on a website. And the more of them you gather, the more tools you get to clean up other people's crap. It all doesn't matter all that much. Are there outliers who should perhaps not have as much reputation and privileges as they do have? Sure. Do we really need to change things? Meh.....
    – Bart
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:39
  • 1
    Although I promise I did search, I would like to self report this as a duplicate meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1390/… Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:42
  • @Bart isn't everything in the end (well technically no). Just a strange anomaly I thought was interesting. Although it would be interesting to see how much reputation you could farm by posting vaguely wrong but polite questions (plenty of people don't see the just fake points side of things) Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:46
  • @RichardTingle I could point you to users who consistently post zero-effort, utterly crap questions, have had timed suspensions several times over, don't seem to improve in the slightest and still have a reputation in the thousands and the accompanying privileges. Is it fair? Perhaps not. But I'm beyond caring about it.
    – Bart
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 13:51
  • For that question in particular, and such questions in general, all rep changes will go away on inevitable deletion...
    – AakashM
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


The problem with reputation on SO is simply that the users of the site are human, and thus fallible. That's going to be hard to fix with an algorithm change for reputation. ;)

You have one good scenario for why the current rep system doesn't work. Allow me to paint you an alternative one where the current rep system does work:

Consider a bad question, it gets posted and gets -4 votes (-8 rep) right away with a slew of comments asking the typical what have you tried sort of message.

Poster comes back 15 minutes later and if the question isn't already closed, the poster updates the question with what was tried and clarification as to what specific real world question is being asked.

The sad truth of the SO world is many times when people downvote they then "walk away" from the question instead of following up to see if there are improvements. In this case we now have a question in good condition which is a fit for SO with a number of negative down votes.

In this case it's only going to take +2 upvotes in order for this user to get back the lost rep and then some (net gain +2 rep).

With your proposed system, the user would still have a negative score and negative rep.

We can't fix people who sympathy upvote, or random downvote, so the question is just do we give the "power" to the upvotes, or to the downvotes. I think the current system is a more positive experience.


I would support this proposal looked at again in light of the 2019 change from 5 points per question to 10 points per question. The main thing that irritates me about the change is that a question that gets 1 upvote and 4 downvotes (i.e. is pretty dire) is still "up" in reputation (and a lot of really rubbish questions get at least one sympathy upvote). This proposal fixes that aspect, and has a couple of nice features:

  • A new-downvoted question doesn't lose that much reputation (it's still only -2 points per vote below 0), which I think is right - we shouldn't punish people too much.
  • Good quality questions are rewarded on par with answers, which I think is right.

I think the most compelling reasons to support this are on the basis of questions since awful questions are much more common than awful answers (mostly due to moderation since a lot of awful answers are rapidly deleted as NAA). However, I see no reason why this shouldn't be applied to answers too.

(I'm not actually expecting this to be adopted - especially not on the basis of me dredging up an old post by adding an answer - but I do think it's a valuable idea that mitigates one of the main issues with the change to the reputation system).

  • There is a problem, yes, but this is not the way to fix it.
    – Mast
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 14:07
  • @Mast I'd be interested to know why not. I don't think it's likely that this idea will be adopted (whether or not it's a good idea), but I do honestly quite like it. I think it tends to ensure rewards go to the right kind of questions/answers (as much as anything can ensure that)
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 14:11

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