Disregard. I had started with an incorrect premise, the what lies below is a false assumption based on an incorrect understanding of the voting system.
I'm seeing (perhaps imagining) a state of runaway reputation on for users of StackOverflow though this perhaps applies to other SE communities as well. A larger and larger number of them are at 10K+ (some 500K+). These generally come down to good answers, most frequently for easily answered questions, e.g., "What's the difference between X and Y?" where there's some subtlety between them. This results in some answers having 1,000's of up-votes netting the early users who answered the questions significant reputation.
"So what? They earned it!", true...up to a point. One of the consequences of a (relatively) large number of people with 10k+ reputation is that the barrier for downvoting is pretty much nil. Looking at newly asked questions now, I see quite a few with downvotes - usually by newbies who aren't yet familiar with the posting rules and the usual duplicates. A couple of years ago, this would generally be met with moderators (or anyone with enough rep) to post a comment that the post needed to be cleaned up or otherwise marked as a duplicate - but they wouldn't have downvoted it. These days people are.
I think this is putting off new users signing up and creating something of a class system within the larger community. While a very subjective viewpoint admittedly, instead of the helpful comments I remember (can can still see when I look back), seeing were more helpful and guiding. Now they're blunt, jaded and at times borderline rude, e.g., "Change this", "Follow the guidlines: [link]". With the added downvote trend, this translates a new/naive user's experience into;
- Registers to ask a question
- Gets their 101 rep
- Immediately gets downvoted +/ gets those blunt comments as their first response from the community
Some possible tweaks to prevent such a scenario;
- Rather than a fixed -2, perhaps a percentage based system if rep is above a certain threshold. This will maintain the slight pain a lower rep user would take for downvoting.
- Putting a cap on received reputation after X number of upvotes, say no more rep after 500? You still get the upvote but it doesn't contribute to a runaway rep count
- Recalculation of rep based on the above. I personally don't see that one flying with the community but it'd certainly give a more realistic view of people's actual contributions.
Am I imagining the above? Is this a trend people are seeing on SO? What about the wider SE in general?
EDIT Based on the downvotes and discussion in the comments, this post seem to be giving the impression that I'm giving out about being downvoted - I'm not because I generally haven't been. Another impression is that I think people shouldn't downvote - I do, it's a necessary part of keeping the quality of the information. The purpose of this post was to question whether the cost to downvoting for a user with 200 rep (-2/200=1%) is not the same to a user with a large rep, (-2/100,000=0.00002%)