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Downvotes as punishment for “bad behavior”
Flag abusive users
Bad users are not punished enough!

Because of the nature of things, people can be rude, this is life. Whether it's on purpose or otherwise, people get offended, and this can be counter productive. If someone answers a question with valid points, but phrases it in a way that provokes an emotional response, this can lead away from the real discussion, and in some extreme cases, ankle biting. My response is usually to kill it with kindness, but others may not react with civility.

In "real life", people's reputation consists of their intelligence, as well as their people skills. On SO, it seems that people are graded on intelligence only. Is this a good thing..?

It would be interesting to see how well liked a user is? If they found themselves down voted more than others, perhaps this would persuade them to change their attitude toward new users.

Anyway, this might be a terrible idea. Let the flaming commence! ;)


If you down vote, I don't mind at all, but please explain why - I promise that I won't take it personally; it's CW anyway ;) -- I'm actually fully prepared for down votes in this case, since now I'm wondering why "people votes" are such a bad idea (the general consensus is that they are, a very bad idea).

  • I was one of the downvoters; see my answer for reasons.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:48
  • Do you mean having a 'how-nice-i-am' point system on top of the current one?
    – o.k.w
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:49
  • @o.k.w Yes, as a separate counter though - but not displayed by each answer, just on their profile page. This should not affect their reputation, of course. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:51
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    Would someone with ten grand or a diamond please tell me if there's a deleted answer on this question?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:51
  • @balpha Haha, thanks for your honesty. What do you mean about the deleted answer? Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:52
  • @Nick Bolton: You shouldn't take it personally anyway. A downvote on meta usually (in this case, definitely) just means "I disagree with your suggestion," nothing more. Re deleted: I encountered a weird behavior when posting my answer, so unless there's a deleted answer here (which might be the reason), I'll file a bug.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:53
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    @Nick: Having this new metric will induce more emotions into the community which I feel already is getting overwhlemed at times.
    – o.k.w
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:56
  • @balpha Don't worry, I was very much prepared for down votes! I'm aware that this is a very controversial suggestion. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:57
  • @o.k.w.: Well-said. Even the accept rate is the source for quite some... issues.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:57
  • I'm tempted to leave this open for the good of the community, but fearful of what it'll do to my reputation ;) Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:58
  • It's meta-rep, come on :) Also, you can still make the question CW.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:00
  • Haha, you're right. If I had a few 1000 rep I'd probably leave it as my question, but since I'm a meta-newb I think I'll make it CW! Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:02
  • Hmm, I see what you mean about fueling the emotion level if you're down voted on niceness... However, if I found that I had -10 nice-o-meter points, then I'd frantically check all my posts to see who I'd been nasty too and apologise... But then again, maybe this makes me a big girls blouse! ;) Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:06

4 Answers 4


Just a slightly different take on balpha's answer...

... people can vote on different criteria. I would consider an encouraging, polite answer to be more helpful than a rude one. It's more likely to provoke a positive response in the reader.

Given two answers which are equally accurate, I'd be much more likely to upvote a polite one than a rude one - and in extreme cases I'd flag an answer, of course. That's what the flag button is there for - to call moderator attention to offensive, abusive, spammy etc answers.

Slight sarcasm and generally being "somewhat rude" may well not get you flagged, but I believe it's likely to get you significantly fewer upvotes, and probably some comments indicating the reason. That should be a hint...

So I'm with balpha: vote on individual answers, not whole users. If a user is consistently unpleasant, their overall rep will suffer as a result anyway, I believe.

  • +1 Your philosophy on consistent unpleasantness puts me at ease. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:30
  • Search the site for [users] [behavior] and you will see many references to users whose overall rep does not suffer. Because of various flaws in the voting system that have been extensively discussed, users who consistently post bad questions still see their rep go up.
    – Ether
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 20:10
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    Posting "bad questions" isn't the same as the sort of rudeness which I think is being discussed here.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 20:50

It is stated and accepted policy of the SO community and SO's founders, that each and every answer stands by itself.

This is a knowledge exchange. The biggest &%#*+! can be quite a savvy guy, and might always produce excellent answers, while still being, say, quite disliked. I know there's a few people of that kind around.

If next to such a guy's name there was an indication like "79% of people hate this user", that would have nothing to do with the quality of his questions and answers, and thus be counter-productive to the purpose of Stack Overflow.

  • 2
    Yea, this is not a social networking site. +1
    – o.k.w
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:50
  • Hmm, sounds like a double edged sword. If the person is disliked, then their answer may be unnecessarily ignored, but if they noticed they were becoming disliked, they'd probably do something to stop the situation getting worse. But I wouldn't suggest a percentage; just a +/- vote counter. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 7:55
  • As of right now, you have the only answer on this page. There are no deleted.
    – random
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:00
  • Seconded - nothing deleted. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 8:31
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    With the each and every answer stands by itself argument, is there not merit for removing the rep count of a user from the author summary (for all posts, not just CW)
    – Justin
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 16:23
  • Now, on the other hand, being able to see a stat like "this user has received 120 total upvotes and 3000 downvotes" is much more of an indicator of the person and his quality of posts.
    – Ether
    Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 16:52

Flag abusive users

One thing we flirted with is having users sort of rate each other. But Joel quickly headed me off at the pass there and felt that would lead to what he called "bad high school days flashbacks."


If someone is outright rude, then they get flagged, they get downvoted, and they get reputations. What we're mainly here for are answers, in any case.

I recently came across a fellow who was a bit too sharp with me and more than a little trite. He wrote a long-a$$ answer that didn't help me one bit. I downvoted his answer, wishing I could down vote him. An hour later, I posted another question and he answered promptly in the same amazing detail, but this time being very helpful.

On the other hand, I came across a situation where a fellow got downvoted for a logically correct, but entirely off topic answer. After 5 downvotes, someone came along and upvoted him because they felt sorry for the guy. So I guess the reputation aspect doesn't always work.

I suggest that the up and down vote gets tweaked a little (with regards to its effect on reputation) but I certainly think downvoting people allows things to get a little too personal.

  • In an ideal world, we could have two buttons "vote logically", and "vote emotionally"; if users had to pick one, they might chose the correct button. Then again, people lie. So that could be flawed. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 16:46
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    The other alternative is that the amount of rep lost for a downvoted answer is non-linearly related to the number of downvotes. Or perhaps an upvote negative answer gives less rep than an upvote on a positive answer (ie +4 as opposed to the blanket +10) Also, perhaps making other people's reputations contingent on what they vote up or down (to a much smaller degree like +1 for each person that gives the same vote to an answer as them and -1 for each person that votes differently to them) might stop people simply voting for the sake of it. Commented Jan 12, 2010 at 21:05

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