If a user is the type of person to consecutively get downvoted to potential negative reputation, so be it. What's the reasoning to maintain a minimum of one?

One reason that may justify this is of trying to not deter new users from the site who haven't read the FAQ and unknowingly and wrongly ask or answer a question. But most of us acknowledge this and not downvote in such a scenario.

So what's the reasoning behind this lower bound of 1?


4 Answers 4


The StackOverflow team believes that everybody's special in their own way and doesn't deserve to have a negative self-esteem (aka reputation). (ref)

This. A rep of zero or negative seemed cruel.

Plus, everyone starts out as "a one" instead of "a zero".

  • 22
    Oh, the irony. I would've thought it would have been my serious one, not one of my silly ones. Goes to show you: Truth is sometimes exactly the same as fiction.
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 2:54
  • 5
    That's what I call... "propaganda". lol!
    – mmx
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 2:56
  • Rose West, she doesn't need negative self-esteem? Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 10:53
  • 3
    Yeah, say No to cruelty against animals! :-) But what if new member asks question, gets 20 downvotes. Then asks another question, gets 2 upvotes. Will he still be at 1? It doesn't seem fair if those first downvotes are just ignored. Then again, it seems to be some kind of "forgiveness" factor. Commented Nov 27, 2009 at 14:41
  • 14
    Still, as Delphi/C++ developer, I hate 1-bound ranges! All ranges should start at 0! :-) Commented Nov 27, 2009 at 14:42
  • 2
    @Tom - as a Gloucester local, I call bad taste! Commented Nov 29, 2009 at 9:12
  • 1
    Note: I have always had a first rep score of -2, making my rep graph (stackoverflow.com/users/6309?tab=reputationhistory#tab-top) displaying rep from -10000 (!) up to my current score...
    – VonC
    Commented Apr 21, 2010 at 6:29
  • @VonC did they fix that?
    – Paul C
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 13:12
  • @CodeBlend yes: my rep doesn't show that initial -2 anymore, plus they changed the graph.
    – VonC
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 6:49
  • 1
    Really? Why not do that with questions and answers as well? Don't negative scores on questions or answers discourage the questioner or from asking or answering? (I know it doesn't, but I was just trying to get an analogy to your point...) Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 15:30
  • 2
    Why is reputation related to "self-esteem" though. I never think of it as such and never will. Any kind of attention to "self-esteem" does much more bad than good to all of us.
    – xji
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 5:23
  • Did they change something because my reputation is -200. Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 21:21

I'm going to add one other reason:

If there were negative scores, then some kinds of people would try for the most negative score. And that wouldn't be good for Stack Overflow.

  • 21
    I'd upvote this if I could. It wouldn't be fun, but it would be FASCINATING! Commented May 21, 2010 at 2:40
  • 10
    There are negative scores for questions and answers. I haven't seen a person in the race to get most negative votes... Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 15:26
  • 2
    @AwalGarg meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/326492/…
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 0:40
  • 2
    They would rapidly be banned.
    – Raedwald
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 12:14
  • @Raedwald it seems to me implied that such a contest would have a without/before getting banned side-condition. Just like the people who use roadside "your speed is [,,,]" signs to see who can get the largest number - it's implied that this is without crashing and/or before the police arrive. In that case I believe most such signs are now designed in a way that they refuse to display numbers that would win such a competition, so that when they reach the point the sign refuses to show a number they give up and do something less dangerous rather than trying for even faster speeds.
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 9:32

I don't know the real reason, so I'll wildly speculate:

  1. Jon Skeet forced them to use an unsigned int.
  2. So nobody just creates another account if their rep went below the starting point (1). This cuts down on a bunch of zombie accounts.
  3. The StackOverflow team believes that everybody's special in their own way and doesn't deserve to have a negative self-esteem (aka reputation).

Choose whichever explanation you find best suits you.

  • 12
    I think #2 is most likely, though I do like #1 and #3 :-) Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 2:51
  • 26
    I'll go for #1 :P
    – Diadistis
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 3:01
  • 2
    ... #3 For The Win Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 14:58
  • 25
    An unsigned int would start at 0, not 1.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 3:25
  • 3
    @joe-z at which point the fencepost handler kicks in and increments it one.
    – pcurry
    Commented May 9, 2013 at 22:05


  • 0 reputation seems a bit demoralizing as opposed to 1 reputation
  • It would encourage people who drop below 1 reputation to simply start a new account
  • Seeing that everyone hates you might discourage you from returning to the site
  • I accept point 1 and 2. But do we really need the users those user from point 3? Note that I don't mean those who dipped into the negatives and then got there act together again.
    – Martin
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 12:53
  • 0 seems 'demoralizing' for developers? I find that doubtful, personally I would take it as an indication that someone was just a newbie to the site. Maybe you're referring to repeatedly hitting 0 rep due to down votes, but if that is deserved so be it - too much PC in the world nowadays!
    – Alok
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 19:03
  • 3
    The third point draws a bit of suspicion: Wouldn't one be discouraged anyway from a post being heavily downvoted, deleted, or closed?
    – nanofarad
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 12:39
  • 1
    I was a bit discouraged at first; my formatting was terrible, I was in a bit of a tizzy. I thought everybody hates me here, but then I saw that just maybe most of us are actually quite nice :)
    – MadTux
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 9:28
  • My first Stack Exchange post got a downvote. Having a negative reputation would have made me not contribute at all to Stack Exchange
    – mathlander
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 22:16

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