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I noticed that recently I am losing reputation points due to a question that gets downvotes. I don't understand how I got the points in the first place, but that's a different story.

I don't want to obsess about some points, but this does cause a series of issues:

  1. Obviously, I don't want to lose reputation points, or any kind of points. Losing gives a bad feeling for anyone using any service.

  2. There is a certain threshold of reputation points required to access most of the community activity of this platform, so losing points below that threshold becomes very problematic.

  3. To avoid losing points, I can delete the question completely, but this creates the wrong incentive, because the whole point of having a Q&A platform is to be able to discuss things and find answers.

So, my question is:

How do we fix this points system issue?

I hope to get some positive change, because from my last question I got the feeling that things are stuck the way they are, without any point in trying anymore.


Update #1:

Apparently, a question cannot be deleted if it has activity that affects the reputation points of other users.

I tried deleting my question and got this system message:

You cannot delete this question as others have invested time and effort into answering it. For more information, visit the help center.


Update #2:

Apparently, downvotes on a question affect only the reputation points received from that specific question, but not the reputation from other questions. Is this documented anywhere?


Update #3:

Apparently, the points system has a significant delay between receiving downvotes and updating the reputation points.

It's hard to figure out whether it works correctly or not, but all downvotes seem indeed to affect all reputation points. So Update #2 was a false impression due to the system delay.

As an example, I will use my own meta account:

  • I have this current question with at least 9 downvotes, so -18 points or more.
  • I have this other question with at least 9 downvotes, so -18 points or more.
  • The other question also received three upvotes, so +30 points.
  • Based on these two questions (+30 -18 -18 = -6), I should have negative reputation points, or one point if it's capped at minimum.
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  • 2
    Can you clarify the question's title a bit? I'm honestly not sure what you mean by "closing questions with downvotes" and it doesn't seem to match what you're asking.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 30, 2023 at 13:32
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    @morco there's no "punishment". Votes relate to good or bad content, not users. Dec 30, 2023 at 14:05
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    It's so much easier to gain points than to lose them that losing privileges is very rare. A bigger problem would be getting automatically banned from asking or answering (depending what gets downvoted) from getting downvoted too much. Dec 30, 2023 at 14:55
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    "Apparently downvotes on a question affects only the reputation points received from that specific question, but not the reputation from other questions." That isn't the case. What's given you that impression?
    – W.O.
    Dec 30, 2023 at 14:59
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    If you don't have an apple have you been punished. What if you make two bets, the first wins you an apple and the second bet loses it again. You're in the same position as if you never had an apple. Why is taking away reputation you gained punishment? You can't go below what you started with, so all you can lose is what you gained. Dec 30, 2023 at 15:07
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    To be clear: your argument is that we somehow should not restrict the use privileges, or otherwise lower a "reputation" score, for people who repeatedly ask low-quality questions? You do understand that we do not want people to ask low-quality questions, right? So, there is explicitly a disincentive for doing so. Why is that an "issue"? Dec 30, 2023 at 15:14
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    @Morco update 2 makes no sense. Reputation is one fungible bucket. Dec 30, 2023 at 15:15
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    "Apparently, a question cannot be deleted if it has activity that affects the reputation points of other users." Not exactly. Questions cannot be deleted if they have at least one upvoted answer. There are other activities that can affect other users' rep - bounties, suggested edits, and of course downvoted answers - that do not prevent question deletion.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:19
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    "Do you know how many downvotes are required to receive a ban?" Nobody knows this. The details of the question-ban algorithm are deliberately kept secret so as to prevent people from gaming it. I can tell you that it is much harder - almost impossible, in fact - to be question-banned here on Meta.SE than it is on other SE sites. I'll also note, however, that deleted questions still count towards the question ban and are believed to count more heavily, so deleting your downvoted questions won't help you prevent that.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:21
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    "I found this post on Quora about downvotes". Contrary to what that post claims, users are warned - explicitly and repeatedly - when they are approaching the question ban threshold. Many users sadly choose to ignore both the warnings and any feedback they may have been given, continue posting low-quality questions, and then falsely complain that they were banned "without warning".
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:25
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    As a final note, downvotes work differently on Meta sites, so your experience here on Meta.SE with regards to downvotes should in no way be considered indicative of the experience you should expect on the rest of the network.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:27
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    @F1Krazy There was a significant period of time during which the warnings about question bans were not actually shown to users, due to an error on SE's part. I recall the existence of the meta bug report/discussion about it and that it was fixed, but I don't recall the actual timeframes of when the issue started or when it was resolved. IIRC, the resolution was within the last couple of years.
    – Makyen
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:35
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    The company running SO essentially ignores any feature requests at this point, sometimes fixing small bugs and that's it. It's unlikely that you could change the reputation system, even if the community supports you. Dec 30, 2023 at 16:07
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    Oh, you're dead right about delays. See another question about that: Un-synced reputation? (Should I blame caching?). Without radical change to international server configurations (which would have negative effects on system resilience as I understand it) we're stuck with it for now. As much an internet issue as an SE issue.
    – W.O.
    Dec 30, 2023 at 16:08

3 Answers 3

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How do we fix this points system issue?

We don't. The system works as designed, even for the case you describe.

I don't want to lose reputation points

Then you have to make sure to post content that gets well received by the site's visitors. The help center and per-site meta is loaded with guidance what topics are welcome and what is expected from contributions.

There is a certain threshold of reputation points required to access most of the community activity of this platform.

Asking on-topic, well researched, unique questions and/or providing useful answer to questions require no reputation and makes up the most relevant activity of the platform.

I can delete the question completely

That is not a given and in general bad advice. If you post enough low-quality, sub-par content you will end up in a quality-ban. The only option to get out of such ban is by editing your posts so they can garner upvotes. Deleted posts can't be voted on.

Relevant FAQ posts:

Maybe helpful as well: How does a new user begin using Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange?

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  • This kind of advice sounds good in theory, but in practice, it has a few issues, for which I will create a separate question, so it can be discussed properly. Nonetheless, thanks for the resources.
    – Morco
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:48
  • I created a new question for discussing the issues: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/395756/…
    – Morco
    Dec 30, 2023 at 16:16
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You haven't really established there is a problem to be solved. Ask and answer useful questions that have a positive effect on the site and your reputation increases. Do the opposite and waste everyone's time and it decreases because we would like to disincentivise that.

You said,

There is a certain threshold of reputation points required to access most of the community activity of this platform, so losing points below that threshold becomes very problematic.

No, the most important community activity on the site is asking and answering questions and those activities require 1 reputation. Since the minimum reputation anyone can have, regardless of downvotes is 1, you're always safe. Having said that if you post problematic content repeatedly then the frequency you can post will be reduced till you can show you can contribute positively.

Deleting posts that other people have added useful answers to is not a positive contribution to the site so you're prevented from doing that. Even if your post has no answers then you've wasted the time of everyone who has read it by deleting it so if you continue to do that, it will also reduce the frequency you can post.

If you want to know how reputation is calculated, there's a guide here but it's not as simple as adding everything up, you have to do it in time order as your reputation can never go below 1.

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The best way to offset the effect of downvotes is to improve your question so that it gets upvotes. A downvote is only -2 reputation, while an upvote is worth +10 according to the What is reputation? How do I earn (and lose) it? topic in the Help Center.

There is some advice for asking questions here on Meta and in the Help Center. Each site may have more detailed advice on their metas that is specific to that site's topic, for example, English Language Learners has a post on asking good questions and a how-to guide for improving questions.

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  • I think you are missing the bigger picture: the points system feels broken and unfair towards newcomers on this platform. Also, please check my 2 updates of the question.
    – Morco
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:09
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    @Morco I understand your concerns. You aren't the first person to have a bad experience because you don't understand how the site is intended to work. The reputation system is fundamental to the network, so the best advice I can give you is to understand how it works so that your posts will get upvoted. There are pages and pages of text about this issue, but I don't think reading all of that discussion would be that helpful to you.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:15
  • The fact that the reputation system is so fundamental is the exact reason for pointing out any serious issues related to it. I guess my main concern is related to how it affects newcomers. Maybe it has less relevance for old users.
    – Morco
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:39

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