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Should we reduce rep bonus for upvotes on posts with a negative score?

I've nearly given up on downvoting questions. Why? It seems that no matter how awful, there's someone to upvote it. Several someones. Missing critical information? 'Pls send me teh codez?' No matter. I downvote, four people upvote.


People looking for that new badge, voting willy-nilly?

A tea-party of users who want this to become Yahoo Answers?

If I were duke, the rep cost to vote would be symmetric (it would cost the same to vote up or down), and there would be a rep floor to vote for questions. Anyone is qualified to vote for answers, but questions should be voted on by people who have demonstrated that they have a clue.

Edit1: The joke in the first sentence doesn't make sense with the new title, so I removed it.

Edit2: I had considered collecting a sheaf of examples before posting this, but I went ahead because I had a sense from other discussions that a number of people of significant mass in the community were observing the same phenomenon, and might chime in. Seeing the reactions so far, I'll deposit examples, and then you can all decide if this is a real issue or, alternatively, if I'm a grumpy misanthrope.

Edit3: also posted as an answer to the thing this seems to be a dup of:

This isn't about rep, at least in my mind. It's about encouraging the effort it takes to write a question that some third person will get value out of some future day. The idea of voting for (and against) questions is that the questions that have more usefulness will be voted up, and less will be voted down. If gaming, or sympathy voting, or martians, persistently upvote awful questions, then the goal is not achieved.

  • 2
    Any example questions (links) to support the claim? :)
    – IAbstract
    Feb 7, 2010 at 13:26
  • 3
    +1 I agree - it's out of control.
    – nb69307
    Feb 7, 2010 at 13:28
  • 1
    symmetric voting costs for up & down votes is an interesting idea. but the net effect would probably be to drastically cut all voting, and then, secondarily, even out the ratio of up:down. Feb 7, 2010 at 13:38
  • Symmetric voting costs would kill getting up-voted. Yes, there are some zealous up-voters out there...just as there are some zealous down-voters even though it costs 1 rep.
    – IAbstract
    Feb 7, 2010 at 14:10
  • 1
    If people upvote it then maybe it's not such a bad question by the Community's standards. If that's the case then you are the minority. If however you are referring to questions with 10 downvotes and 3 upvotes which would give 10 rep to the OP then I agree. Feb 7, 2010 at 14:34
  • 5
    really needs specific examples to center the discussion, otherwise it's just a rant. Feb 7, 2010 at 14:41
  • 1
    I refuse to up-vote this question until I see some examples - asked for an hour ago... :(
    – IAbstract
    Feb 7, 2010 at 14:45
  • I will add answers over the next few days.
    – Rosinante
    Feb 7, 2010 at 15:36
  • 4
    See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1390/…
    – Shog9
    Feb 7, 2010 at 16:39
  • Hey, please close this as a dup of that. I looked, really I did.
    – Rosinante
    Feb 7, 2010 at 16:50
  • @dboarman: please feel free not to vote for this, with or without examples. I posted my experience as a discussion. I don't expect anyone to do anything based on just me. If your experience is contrary, post an answer. Downvote. Not that it matters, but I won't be offended.
    – Rosinante
    Feb 7, 2010 at 17:11
  • It's been long "planned" to increase the penalty for downvotes: see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7322/… -- which would help a lot.
    – Ether
    Feb 7, 2010 at 23:28

4 Answers 4


We complain that some users ask hundreds of poorly written questions and we wonder why. Well, for every person that downvotes, there will always be at least one that upvotes thinking that the question has "potential".

A downvote incurs a penalty for both the person that downvotes, and for the one that receives it. Therefore, it's more expensive to downvote, yet the impact can be minimal (-2 is a very small penalty). Upvotes, however, are "free", you lose nothing for casting one. The downside to an upvote is that even heavily downvoted questions can earn the person that asked rep points. It seems unfair that 5 downvotes are equal to a single upvote.

We have to understand that, although the questions have potential, downvotes can have a beneficial effect. I've always tried to improve my questions and answers after they were downvoted. It made me question what I had written, helping me identify the weak points. These sympathy upvotes sometimes hurt more than they help; a person that only cares about rep will only see the bottom line; 4 downvotes, 1 upvote? Cool, 2 rep points, enough for me.

Upvote when the question really has merit, when you see an effort from the author to improve. If a question is mostly bad, but there is some value to it, instead of upvoting, first look at the author's profile, check out his other questions. If there's no improvement whatsoever, leave the upvote for someone who deserves it more. They need to learn something, they need to be stimulated.


Without wide-spread statistics (or even a few, solid examples), it's hard to identify if there is a wide-spread problem.

So in a most general sense, it comes across as saying that you don't want to vote because, no matter how often you try, everyone doesn't agree with you. You're using apathy to counter, what? ... subterfuge? Stupidity? Some people simply vote in reaction to the current vote.

If a few random, anomalous votes are so fundamentally damaging to your view of voting, then you're over-thinking the whole thing. When questions are receiving so few votes, the random, anomalous vote (up or down) is of no statistical significance. Really.

If voting were more wide-spread as to garner dozens-to-hundreds of votes per question, then out-lying voting patterns would hardly be noticeable. In the meantime, we need more voting on posts, not less.

  • 3
    I have to agree with this. As much as I don't like them, voters have as much of a right to vote out of sympathy as I have to vote for... whatever arbitrary criteria I happen to be using today.
    – Shog9
    Feb 7, 2010 at 17:21

I rarely downvote unclear questions:

  • Downvoting costs reputation.
  • Downvoting a question doesn't help anyone.

Instead of downvoting the bad questions, I leave them and just upvote the good questions.

For the bad questions:

  • I post questions asking for clarifications
  • Make educated (or sometimes stupid) guesses about what they wanted
  • Try to state my assumptions of what they want in the question and ask the OP to challenge my assumptions if that's not what they wanted.

Or if the question is really bad, I ignore it completely, or vote to close as not a real question.

Making upvoting questions cost rep will just cause people stop upvoting questions.


Really I don't think it is much of a problem. Even if the question is poorly worded and phrases like "plz send me the codez", the question has some value. The person asking it obviously has difficulty figuring out how to accomplish something and is asking for help. Just because the phrasing of the question sucks, doesn't mean that other people can't find value.

A lot of times I have seen questions which are blatantly asking for the code to a problem, are swiftly dealt with. (Ever seen what happens when someone is asking for a solution to their homework problem without at least trying to find the answer first?)

I really find it kind of funny (funny interesting not funny haha) that you think that only qualified people should vote for questions...but anyone can vote for answers. I would guess that most people who vote for questions are not qualified to vote for the answer because they don't know what the answer is, but they would like to find out. Hence why they up vote the question.

Minus certain instances where moderators have to step in for one reason or another, the whole point of the site is for the collective to decide what is important and what isn't. By qualifying who is allowed to vote for what, it is kind of defeating the purpose of the site. One could argue that getting additional tools etc. for rep counts goes against this, but as jeff pointed out there are certain abilities that you can't give out to everyone on day one. There has to be some order to the site. Things like voting to close questions and editing other people responses, and note that edits can be rolled back and it takes multiple votes to close a question.

  • This is a philosophical attack on downvoting questions. I don't necessarily disagree, if the management agrees with this, they should eliminate downvoting questions.
    – Rosinante
    Feb 7, 2010 at 16:51

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