Since it's pretty much my fault that VLQ comes with an automatic downvote to begin with, I feel like I should weigh in on this.
I feel very strongly that we should not be removing posts we aren't even comfortable slapping a downvote on.
For all the hand-wringing about downvotes over the years, at least they're transparent: if your question or answer gets downvoted, you know it. Everyone knows it. There's no hidden tribunal deciding the score of your post without your knowledge; every vote is visible.
Deletion is not so transparent. We've made some improvements to that over the years - you can at least view your deleted posts now - but it still feels like gaslighting sometimes; you thought you wrote something, but it's not there on your profile...
None of this is an argument for automatic downvotes though; as long as folks are good about only flagging and deleting things that they're also ok with downvoting, we don't need this system. So... Are they?
Downvotes on VLQ-flagged posts
Once upon a time, we had automatic downvotes for certain close reasons too. We removed those when they were no longer necessary - when > 70% of closed questions got downvoted the old fashioned way.
So let's take a quick look at the numbers for VLQ:
PostType HelpfulVLQPosts PctHelpfulDownvoted Deleted PctDeletedDownvoted
-------- --------------- ------------------- ------- -------------------
Question 2297 89.20 1767 92.30
Answer 3394 45.96 2845 51.35
That's data for Stack Overflow, taken from a 30-day period starting 30 days ago (to allow the dust to settle). I'm not gonna do a fancy graph thing, but... Back when I originally proposed this solution, the numbers were about 60% for questions and 40% for answers. Folks have gotten a LOT better about downvoting questions. They have NOT gotten much better about downvoting answers.
The good news is... We don't need this for questions. We can turn it off; less unnecessary pile-on, essentially the same signal.
The bad news is... We still haven't fixed the problem when it comes to answers.
But never fear! I have two potential solutions: a cheap simple one, and a... much more elaborate one.
Cheap solution: just make the flagger downvote
Funny thing is, I didn't originally propose having the system downvote posts. That was a concession because waffles thought my original proposal was too ridiculous to be serious. But I still like my original proposal:
Silently convert them to down-votes. Complete with the normal rep-deduction for the flagger/voter.
We should listen to 2011 me. That guy was quoting poetry & stuff; he sounds like a pretty savvy dude, not at all broken down and sick of life and drunk on cheap whisky. We have real-time rep recalcs now, which we didn't in 2011 - so you get the rep back for an answer downvote as soon as the answer is deleted; your downvote on a VLQ answer is a wager that it is, indeed, nasty enough to be removed.
So here's what I'm thinking, for answers only:
- If the flagger hasn't already downvoted the answer, the system casts a vote for them. They can retract it if they want, subject to normal vote-locking rules.
- If the flagger has already downvoted, then-extraneous text about downvotes is removed.
- If the flagger has used all of their votes for the day, the option is disabled.
- If the flagger doesn't have the downvote privilege (< 125 rep), then anonymous feedback is recorded instead.
Advantages of this solution:
- It's cheap to implement
- Directly couples the thing we want to encourage instead of patching around it like the current behavior.
- Removes the double-downvote pile-on bonus for folks who downvote and flag.
- Some folks were probably using this flag as a cheap way to get around downvoting.
...I don't really consider that a disadvantage, but some folks'll probably see it that way.
Elaborate solution: remove VLQ flags on answers entirely, replace with fake "wrong answer" flag
We don't actually need VLQ flags on answers; they're not used that much, and for "cat on keyboard" type stuff I've been encouraging the use of abusive flags on those for years now anyway.
Yes, it'd be a pain to strip out, and there's not a lot to be gained from doing so just for the heck of it... But what if we took this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone?
(Hat-tip to the inimitable jmac for that mockup - I miss you!)
This is a bit less forceful than the cheap option above, but it still offers immediate encouragement to downvote - just now instead of flagging for stuff that's not horribad. And, leaves NAA for stuff that isn't even recognizable as an answer, and abusive for stuff that's straight-up eyeball-searing garbage.
Advantages of this solution
- Doesn't add further complexity to how VLQ behaves
- Potentially helps reduce spurious Not an Answer flags by providing an alternative for folks who are just upset about wrong answers.
- Potentially reduces the number of extra "in need of moderator attention" flags generated by the removal of VLQ.
- Encourages downvoting in a slightly less forceful manner than the cheap solution.
- There's... Kind of a lot of stuff that assumes VLQ exists on answers right now. Audits, VLQ queue, help center, tons and tons of meta posts... It'd take some time and work to clean all that up.
- Folks may not like the idea of an always-disabled flag, sitting there, mocking them.
- The rude/abusive flag comes with a MUCH bigger penalty than VLQ does.
...I don't actually consider that last one a disadvantage, but I'm sure someone will.
That other thing that I don't really want to talk about but deserves mention
There's an automated flag that's raised on posts which trip various quality heuristics. It behaves pretty much identically to VLQ, right down to the automated votes. Just FYI.