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When a user's question or answer gets deleted, their reputation gets re-calculated.

Like if my answer gets an upvote, and then gets deleted, I lose my ten rep that I gained from the upvote. I guess I get this part, but what about the opposite?

If my question (not to name names) gets 9 downvotes, and I delete it, I get my 18 rep back. Why is this?

I am not criticising the system; I am purely wondering why this is the way things are.

I mean, if I earned ten rep, that's my ten rep! If I lose ten rep, I did something 'wrong' and don't deserve to get it back!

Does anyone get where I'm coming from?

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    Giving back rep deducted for bad contributions incentivizes deleting them, which is a good thing. Commented May 14 at 9:39
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    @testing-ma-lady I'm aware of those, that's why I'm just pondering it in comments instead of writing a full-blown proposal. The current system isn't perfect, but I'm not exactly sure how to fix it. (And SE ignores feature-requrests anyway.) Commented May 15 at 8:08
  • @ShadowWizardLoveZelda "I don't downvote as punishment." Yes, and I'm saying that perceptions of others matters more than the intent. All other things equal, good intent is better than bad intent, yes. But if people are repeatedly getting mad at us, maybe there's a way to reduce the friction without compromising quality. Commented May 15 at 8:14
  • @HolyBlackCat Not true. I’ll agree that they ignore feature requests that don’t improve what’s already established (and I haven’t seen any around voting or explaining downvotes that I would approve, either). It’s also probably true that in the current climate (layoffs, cash-clawing) there aren’t a lot of resources to spend knocking off feature requests just because. I’d rather they focus on bugs anyway. Commented May 15 at 10:48
  • @testing-ma-lady Fair enough, I should've said "non-trivial" feature requests. Anything changing the core mechanics of the site has zero chance of getting implemented. Commented May 15 at 10:52
  • @HolyBlackCat and like I said, it’s quite subjective, but most suggestions I see wouldn’t actually be improvements. So it’s not always “we don’t feel like it”; often, it’s “that doesn’t make sense.” Substantial changes - even if they do make sense - cascade to the resource problem. Their priorities at the moment seem to be AI, improving SEDE, reacting to Imgur leaving, etc. The voting changes that have been proposed over time are deemed both far less important and “if it ain’t broke…” Commented May 15 at 11:00
  • @HolyBlackCat And remember that changing core mechanics of “the site” actually means changing the core mechanics of over 300 sites, many of which have established cultures and norms over a decade. You can’t just change voting mechanics on all those sites based on “this might reduce friction for new users.” Like I mentioned before, staging ground is a real initiative that has a lot more promise (imho) than tweaking voting mechanics or forcing meaningless explanations for downvotes. Commented May 15 at 11:04
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    @testing-ma-lady Again, I'm just thinking out loud. I'm not sure whether if this will help or not, that's why I'm not posting a full feature request. Commented May 15 at 11:13
  • @HolyBlackCat I understand. But you implied they would ignore a feature request anyway. And they should, if it won’t help, or at least isn’t clear that it would. And, again subjectively, none of the suggestions I’ve seen seem like they would help (or would just trade helping that a bit for ruining something else). This has been discussed for years and there’s a reason there has never been any movement on it. Commented May 15 at 11:17
  • FWIW, there was a test a few years ago on SO to clamp downvoted questions to display zero if they were actually negative. It didn't go so well... meta.stackoverflow.com/q/393907/4014959
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented May 15 at 14:07

2 Answers 2

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To an extent, the reputation system is supposed to be self-regulating. Upvoted posts flow to the top, downvoted ones go to the bottom, and sufficiently negatively scored posts can be deleted by the community.

While we do want to encourage good posts and discourage bad ones - the goal isn't punishment for its own sake; it's quality control. The goal is longer term positive reinforcement for good posts (and you wouldn't lose rep for old, high score, deleted posts in some circumstances) and short term negative reinforcement, and ideally opportunities to learn for less good ones.

A downvoted post isn't always 'wrong'. It can reflect a lack of understanding of a system, question or post, lack of quality, or in some cases disagreement. It's entirely possible to have a 'right' post downvoted too. There's a surprising amount of nuance to a simple system

If a downvoted post is however 'wrong' or 'bad' in some way, removing it from visibility helps the commons. Either it leaves the place open for someone else to ask a question on the same topic, or prevents someone from finding a answer that confuses them or is of low quality. The system as such incentivises people to delete downvoted posts on the assumption they're bad (but if your post is good, either you stand by it, or history proves it to be better than people thought it was).

There's also other regulatory systems in place - such as automatic question and answer bans that use a mix of reputation, and the quantity/percentage of deleted posts.

While optional sometimes people comment too. It all works together in a sense and it's worth thinking of it as a overall system rather than just one aspect of it.

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The concept behind reputation changes being reversed when a post is deleted is that it's supposed to be as if the post never happened (which means nobody got to vote on it). This is reinforced in a comment by Jon Skeet here, dating back more than a decade ago:

There's also some explanation of behaviors (and why) by Nick Craver here, and responses/justifications among some of the answers:

This doesn't seem fair in all cases, but I think it's a reasonable implementation choice.

Note that it's not just about losing positive reputation changes when a post you've written - and that has been upvoted or accepted - gets deleted. The reverse is also true, as you've noted. As well as if you've down-voted someone's answer and that gets deleted - you get your down-vote penalty back.

This happens on a larger scale when someone has serial voted you (in either direction) and that gets reversed. Or on an even larger scale when a user gets removed - you can get a bunch of reputation added or subtracted as their votes on your content get invalidated.

Potentially useful reading, some rather historical:

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