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I suggest that new posts (questions and answers) should start at +3 votes by default rather than at 0.

This is meant to have no mechanical effect on the website. It is just a psychological display trick, with two effects:

  • Askers who have a question downvoted will not think Wow, my question is so bad that it has negative value for this site, and will be less discouraged. This is merely a psychological trick, but hey, haven't we all inconsciously been tricked sometimes, for instance by a price set as $9.99? I have had experience that, for instance, when setting the mark scale for an exam, it feels better for a student if their vote does not go into the negative; this can be achieved for instance setting values such as 1 point for a missing answer and 0 for a wrong one rather than 0 and -1.
    On SE, people sometimes feel the need to delete questions outright if they get a couple of downvotes, which is not a good thing: maybe they can be salvaged, or they only contain a minor mistake by a new user. Or maybe that downvote comes from a grumpy user that randomly happened to be the first to see the post, and it will soon be cancelled by several upvotes.

  • Voters will think twice when they downvote a question from 1 to 0, or from 0 to -1: is this question really that bad? Aren't those 2/3 downvotes enough to send a message that this question is not OK? A question should be downvoted more than 2-3 times only if it is egregiously bad. On several SE sites long-time users exercise some restraint with downvotes already, but this trick would make it more natural.

Another argument is that starting at 0 is not necessarily the correct thing: one could argue that there is at least one person who finds the question/answer useful, the poster, so it should start at 1. I believe Reddit posts start at 1, for instance.

Note that SE already does something very similar with reputation (and for exactly the same reason).

  • All privileges also shift up 30 points then? So the comment everywhere at 80 instead of 50? – rene Apr 29 '18 at 12:37
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    @rene Those three "virtual upvotes" would provide no reputation, so this change does not affect reputation thresholds at all. – Federico Poloni Apr 29 '18 at 12:38
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    While your psychological might affect voters, it also affects visitors as they assume what a score of 3 means it is a good post. – rene Apr 29 '18 at 12:45
  • @rene Yes, and the effect could be the post getting more down-votes from the users who see a low-quality, or a blatantly wrong, post. At the end, the suggested feature could not have a positive effect as the OP is hoping. – kiamlaluno Apr 29 '18 at 17:07
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    Are you also suggesting we change badges? “Post scoring 13” just sounds unlucky. – Laurel Apr 29 '18 at 19:30
  • I think this was an excellent suggestion (I upvoted it)—even though I don't think it's a good idea. It's unfortunate that so many people chose to downvote it, rather than upvoting the answers that argue against it. – Jason Bassford Apr 30 '18 at 7:17
  • @Laurel "post with 10 upvotes" sounds fine. – Federico Poloni Apr 30 '18 at 7:22
  • @FedericoPoloni Are you suggesting that it should take 3 less upvotes then? (You did say your idea is that "posts start at 3 upvotes", right?) What if a post gets 50 downvotes, then 10 upvotes (net score: -40)?—under that wording it should get a badge. I just can't see it be anything but confusing. – Laurel Apr 30 '18 at 7:30
  • @Laurel Hmm, good points. Yes, I agree with you, "post reaching score 13" seems the best wording. – Federico Poloni Apr 30 '18 at 7:54
  • @JasonBassford From what I understand, the convention is that downvotes on meta just mean "I disagree", not "this is a poor question" (although the tooltip text doesn't reflect it). So I'm not taking them personally, don't worry. :) – Federico Poloni Apr 30 '18 at 7:59
  • @FedericoPoloni Thanks for the link! In a meta way (meta meta way?) I don't agree with how downvotes function in general (despite their stated intent). And especially here, if the person getting slammed with downvotes is new and finds they can never gain the reputation needed to do anything. Suggestions (brainstorming) should always be encouraged, not discouraged. – Jason Bassford Apr 30 '18 at 14:36
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0 is a very neutral number. It means nothing, somewhat literally. It's a nice neutral starting point, even if many programming languages would rather start at 1. I shall avoid the obligatory monty python quote about 3.

I think the problem with this proposal is a few things. Firstly, it does not help posters ask better questions. It provides them with a buffer, sure but it doesn't fundamentally change the fact that, well, folks found the question worth downvoting.

It also adds an incentive to downvote poor posts (ehh, it's at +1. It's really bad), and the poster will lose reputation anyway. It also affects many mechanisms of the site, such as deletion that are based on votes. In a sense, your small tweak would break many mechanisms of the site.

All we do is shift the goalposts and folks are still going to see, and complain about downvotes.

You might get the same effect ignoring a first to third downvote in terms of visibility on the question (but not other effects), but it doesn't help with the the fundamental reasons a question might be downvoted — the lack of quality or other issues with the posts.

In short, we hurt the feedback mechanisms we currently have, in order to reduce the effects of something that happens by design.

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I would say it's a bad idea, also because it doesn't resolve the behind issues, and it would probably add more issues.

There isn't any evidence that users stop down-voting when the score of a post is 3 or higher. Quite the opposite, in my experience, a blatantly wrong post that has a score of 3 has more chances to get down-votes.

As for the underlying issue described in the question:

  • It is true there are users who delete their posts right after the first down-vote (and in the case of questions, they ask the same question again), but you don't stop them from doing it just showing an artificial score. Right after they learn the post shows a score of 3 right after is created, even if nobody voted it, they will also understand that seeing the score passing from 3 to 2 means somebody down-voted it, and that the score passing from 3 to 0 means 3 users down-voted the question. (I am pretty sure that, if this feature were implemented, the first question asked on a meta site would be "Why does my question show a score of 3 right after I asked it? It cannot be users got so quick to up-vote it.")
    If you really want to avoid a user deletes a post just because its score is -2, then the solution is eventually (but I am not saying it should be implemented) a dialog box that asks to the users they are really sure about deleting it.

  • Down-votes are a signal of a bad post. Users who see a score of 3 for their post could think they wrote a very good post, even if that is really a bad post. From a side, they would not understand they wrote a bad post. From the other side, if they didn't still understand the positive score was a fake score, they would be confused from the reason why after getting a score of 3, users started to down-vote the post. Probably, they would take the down-votes after what they would think the result of up-voting as revenge down-voting. (I can image a reaction like What? If the score was 3, it means my post was considered correct/good from three users. Why did they start to down-vote it?) Even if they would understand the score at +3 is not caused from users up-voting (which is quite easy to check), they could think the score increment was deserved, and think the down-votes are undeserved.

I find giving an initial score of 3 to posts very bad, but that is even more true for posts that are automatically flagged as low-quality from the Community user. It would be a contradiction: From a side the system is giving a prize, and from the other is signaling to the moderators the post is a low-quality one.
Changing the initial score to 3 (which I think it's a bad idea) only for the posts without an automatic low-quality flag would probably have a very negative effect. If users notice the initial score for a post is not 3, they would understand the post was flagged as low-quality, and for making moderators understand they think it's really a low-quality post, they could give a down-vote, well knowing the post is going to be deleted.

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