I think we should have anti-badges.

They could be implemented as a sort-of punishment for doing stupid things such as;

  1. Get -10 score and no upvotes on any post on the meta site for this site. -- Idiocracy Badge, lose 20 rep.
  2. Have 2 questions closed as "Not a real question." -- Blasphemy badge, lose 20 rep.
  3. Get -50 or more on any one question. -- Troll badge, lose 20 rep.
  4. Get all Anti-Badges. -- Forever-Ignorant badge, 10 day ban from posting new questions (maybe not this one...).

Does anyone agree with this? I don't think it would end badly and would be a more obvious hint to users that they have to change behavior or be punished.

  • 2
    I've stated my opinion here: chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/10070618#10070618 bad idea.
    – Zirak
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 18:56
  • 1
    I should make a user script for this, just because I can. Time to setup a database somewhere... Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 18:59
  • 4
    It's just an idea. I don't mind if it's shot down. There's nothing wrong with sharing an opinion/idea on Meta, that's why it's here. I can see that this is not a good idea to anyone else ha.
    – anon
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:00
  • 11
    "Get -10 score and no upvotes on any post on the meta site for this site" The way voting works on Meta, there's absolutely no reason to call a -10 score ridiculous behavior or trolling.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:04
  • @Yannis what about -10/0 on answers? Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:04
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    Some people will do anything for attention. It doesn't have to be positive attention, as long as it is attention. If people cannot earn the "good" badges, they will be happy to go after the "bad" ones. We cannot assume that they will feel the expected shame, and the site will suffer. Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:07
  • What if these anti-badges were only visible to the owner? Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:10
  • 1
    @JanDvorak Does this post seem like a troll to you? It has a score of -137. If a low score meant trolling, certainly that post would qualify. That trolling posts get a low score doesn't mean all posts with a low score are trolls.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:10
  • @JanDvorak If they weren't visible it would defeat the point. It seems like the entire goal here from the OP's perspective is to shame the user for doing something wrong.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:11
  • 3
    Even the peer pressure badge attracts some people intentionally trying to get it. I recall someone posting 2 dumb questions on SO (one I think was even titled "Please don't respond to this") just to get that badge. If you gamify it even more, you will have a lot more to clean up. Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:11
  • @Servy, make that -138. I always hated that policy (even though it stopped being personally relevant a long time ago, I still disagree with it). But to get back on topic, that answer, as you point it, is certainly by no means trolling, just controversial.
    – Ben Lee
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:55
  • Do you upvote or downvote a "can I haz shineh bidges pls?" question?
    – user206222
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 20:51
  • The number of downvotes here speaks for itself (and serves as a great counter-example to what OP was talking about). I will not downvote-- only say that it places too much emphasis on exactly what a downvote means. People are capricious.
    – AMayes
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 0:00
  • 1
    In general, people in this community assume that their reputation will (almost) monotonically grow. Any proposal that could decrease it (apart from downvotes) is almost certainly destined to be nuked
    – ElCid
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 5:39
  • 3
    @anon, I'm afraid you accidentally earned the Troll Badge... Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 0:20

5 Answers 5


Badges should encourage good behaviour. There is absolutely no advantage in giving a shiny badge for a bad thing.

Some people would start collecting those badges just for fun.

  • 1
    Look how quick we jumped on the whole hat thing..... I miss my hats
    – rlemon
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 18:58
  • 1
    "Some people would start collecting those badges just for fun." I know I would :)
    – vascowhite
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 18:59
  • "Badges should encourage good behaviour." Exactly. This would be something new. Not a badge in our current form, but an anti-badge that punishes an arrogant/trolling user.
    – DJSpud
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:02
  • 1
    @Jhawinsss It would encourage such behavior nevertheless Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:03
  • 5
    How does giving a badge punish someone?
    – juergen d
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:03
  • @juergend Well, if the badge is for a bad thing, the idea is that you're shaming the user publicly and drawing attention to the bad behavior.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:04
  • I am not ashamed having the Peer Preasure badge which means I posted something with a score of -3 or less.
    – juergen d
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:05
  • @juergend maybe you should Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:05
  • @juergend That's fine, but for these new badges being proposed you probably should be. At least, that would be the point of implementing them.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:06
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    @JanDvorak He should not. The idea of peer pressure is that you're able to recognize when you make a mistake and are willing to remove the harmful answer, as opposed to leaving poor information out there for some unsuspecting user to actually use.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:07
  • @Servy point taken. Still, there are some people who post bad answers just to delete them and game the badge Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:16
  • @JanDvorak that may be so, however the suggestion that we should add more of said badges to the system is ludicrous (even if they could be spun to try and promote positive behavior, like Peer Pressure).
    – rlemon
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:22
  • @rlemon I never said marks of shame were a good idea :-) Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 19:23
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    @Jhawinsss We don't do marks of shame, temporary or not. There's absolutely nothing to gain by publicly shaming a user. If a user is being disruptive, the moderators already have the abillity to let them know they are walking on thin ice privately, and stop them if need be. Also, most users that would qualify for your proposed badges, do an excellent job of shaming themselves, the badges would be redundant even if they were somehow useful.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 20:07
  • 3
    @Jhawinsss Fun fact: The public reason for suspensions was introduced because people were running around speculating about the suspension, unwittingly shaming the user in the process a lot more than the terse suspension reason does. It's not a very nice feature, but unfortunately at some point it became a necessary one. As for the peer pressure badge, nothing shameful about cleaning up after yourself. The badge doesn't signify that you posted crap, but that you realized you posted crap and and came back and removed it yourself.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 20:34

Maybe taking a different view of it will help.

We're in the 1st grade, in Mrs. Applebee's class. She wears long hem skirts and always smells like peach pie (irony? perhaps). Whenever someone's cleans after they play or draws a pretty picture or helps Mr. Applebee in the garden, they get a gold star on their locker.

You're very happy with your gold stars. You and Susan each have 4 gold stars, and all is well in the world.

One day, Mrs. Applebee decided to give a frowney-face sticker (known as ffs from now on) to kids who misbehave. Those who draw with crayons all over the walls, those who don't eat all their vegetables, and those who kill other kids. Mike got a ffs for killing Susan. You miss her some times.

Here are some of your possible reactions to the new system. If you don't have positive motivation towards gold stars...

  • "I don't care about stickers!" - Well, then the introduction of ffs won't deter you one bit. You don't care about gold stars and ffs, so you're outside the system.
  • "oohhh, stickers!" - You just want the stickers. You want your locker full of them. You don't care if it's frowning or smiling or whatever, as long as it's sticky and firmly embedded on your locker. Introduction of ffs doesn't matter.

But if you do care about gold stars, what happens when you get a ffs?

  • "I'm unmotivated" - Your perfect record has been tarnished. No matter how much you'll try and improve, you'll always have that ffs.
  • "I'll just go into the witness protection program, find a new identity, evade the system!" - That's abuse of the rules, which we already have to deal with here in StackOverflow Elementary School. Adding more to that problem isn't a good result. I'd like to add that whoever does this cares more about the stickers themselves than their symbolic meaning, so he's not a good kid.

And of course, there's the neutral:

  • "meh, who cares" - You simply don't care.

So, in 4/5 of these cases, the introduction of ffs did not help one bit, and in 1 case it deterred people from trying to gain golden stickers. You've mentioned in chat that you'd want the ffs to be temporary. Well, disregarding any technical difficulties with making and properly designing that system, then we have two cases now:

  1. The people who don't care for the stickers (good or bad) are completely unmoved. The people who only do it to gain ffs are demotivated, but we don't want them in the system in the first place.
  2. The people who care for the stickers are annoyed. A user who actually cares about the gold stickers will notice its absence, he'll know when he should get a ffs. And he'll try to fix it. Adding a temporary ffs only served as a demotivator and maybe a reason for shame or humiliation.

In summary, at first glance the system may have merits. However, when you look at how it behaves, its worst case scenario demotivates good users and motivates bad ones, and its best case scenario is no different than what we have now.

Edit: Having read this again, it serves as a more general description to why most forms of penalty we incorporate today are by large unhelpful. Mark Steel, I believe, said this brilliantly:

When a psychopath puts his victim's decapitated head in the freezer, he doesn't stop and think "hang on...is this against the law?"

People who are good will usually punish themselves. People who are bad will continue being bad. People who don't care...simply don't care. But this post isn't about my personal opinion.

  • 10
    DAMNIT MIKE, NOT SUSAN!!! WHY?!?!?! Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 20:06
  • This example is sort of reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's story about Sneeches and Sniches, and those who have stars on their bellies and those who don't. So I upvoted it because it reminds me of Dr. Suess. Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 20:31
  • 5
    That escalated quickly...
    – TronicZomB
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 21:00
  • I think this is an excellent analysis of the impact that positive & negative reinforcement (via badges) have on a collective group. This is exactly why anti-badges will not work. Plus what happens when a user gets a badge and an anti-badge... will the annihilate each other and destroy the user? Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 22:19
  • 2
    Excuse me... may I kill you? No? Only a single person? But... I just want my sticker! Oh well, I'll find someone else to kill
    – Doorknob
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 22:38

This would be a bad idea, because you are basically encouraging people to do bad things. Even with losing rep, if you only have 1 rep and you want to have badges, then you won't lose any rep. So you are encouraging new users to not try on their questions and answers

Why would you want to give a badge to someone for doing something wrong? It'd be like going to a prison and giving the prisoners a medal for killing someone


Does anyone agree with this? I don't think it would end badly and would be a more obvious hint to users that they have to change behavior or be punished.

Do you know what's more obvious than an "anti-badge?" Everything. Who arrives at this (or any other) site knowing what an "anti-badge" is?

If a user is doing things to deserve "anti-badges", we have existing means of dealing with them which actually interfere with their use of the site, like automatic question bans, actual moderator-imposed bans, and down-votes. Anti-badges are a bad solution to an already solved problem, and create a whole host of brand new problems.

  • "Who the hell arrives at this (or any) site knowing what an 'anti-badge' is?" To this. Who the hell arrives at this site knowing what a normal badge is. Or what different privileges are. This is why we have FAQ pages.
    – DJSpud
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 19:14
  • @Jhawinsss However, most people arrive at this site with a pretty good idea of what down-votes and bans are about.
    – user229044
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 19:36
  • I never said they didn't...
    – DJSpud
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 20:01
  • @Jhawinsss You did miss the point though. The existing methods of negative reinforcement are understood, with no time spent reading the FAQ. "Anti-badges" for this purpose is extremely non-obvious.
    – user229044
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 20:03
  • I beg to differ. If I get a notification saying I've been reprimanded with the "Idiocracy" badge, and lost rep, I'd have to be an idiot to not realize that's bad.
    – DJSpud
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 20:11
  • @Jhawinsss And if you're a 1 rep user who doesn't know how to check their notifications? The site has proven time and time again that users immediately know what the negative numbers beside their question means. This is a solved problem, why are you seriously defending layering on complexity which can only introduce new problems?
    – user229044
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 20:31
  • This answer has zero upvotes...yet I think it's the best answer here. Exactly! This is an attempt to solve problems that are best dealt with by other means--and those other means are already in place! (Okay, now it doesn't have zero upvotes anymore)
    – Adi Inbar
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 19:13

When I got here, I thought the badges were a cool idea. Kind of like a Gamer Score. You would definitely encourage bad behavior if you made badges available for negative votes. I think this is a bad idea and will not promote the site in a positive manner.