I've been having a perplexing issue with the down-voting feature on SO lately.

When somebody down-votes my answers, I'd really like to know something about the user who down-voted me. It's certainly not because I have a grudge against the other user. Quite the opposite, I'd like a little insight to if it's somebody who has a high reputation (and thus a little more weight when it comes to their opinions).

Obviously, there's no good way to show exactly which user down-voted an answer without starting a flame war. My only other reasonable thought was to weight the down-vote. It's quite simple in concept:

A User with a high reputation downvoting your answer = More points deducted

It could easily be done in steps based on Rep:

     1 - 5000 = -2 Rep
 5001 - 10000 = -3 Rep
10001 - 15000 = -4 Rep

...and so on. That way, when you see the decrease you at least know the range of the user that downvoted you and then can (theoretically) see if there's something seriously flawed in the answer (which requires fixing/deleting) or simply a user mis-understanding part of the answer.

I understand that this isn't perfect logic but, in my opinion, it's better than not knowing anything about who downvoted you (or why).

  • 17
    You are so lucky your suggestion isn't implemented on Meta yet...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:12
  • 1
    @Shog9 - As much as I enjoy my Rep, I obviously wouldn't mind losing it for a truly poor suggestion (which, apparently, this one is). In all reality, I'm just looking for SOME kind of feedback on downvotes. I've had quite a few instances where I got a reasonable number of downvotes with no explanation what/why I was wrong. Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:14
  • (straw man alert) - I have two employees. One started a year ago, the other last week. Both came in late today for the first time. Should my year old employee get worse treatment than the new person, given that its the first time for both?
    – user50049
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:48
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    @Tim Your comparison is off. This question is posing that given two people who are meting out the punishment on the same person, the one with higher status has greater weight. Your example is one person meting out punishment to two people, the one with higher status getting heavier punishment.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:57
  • 4
    Why so much aversion to vote weight? The Google algorithm gives different weights to links coming from different sites, and they seem to be doing alright... Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 21:05
  • @CiroSantilliOurBigBook.com, Doesn't Google get paid to adjust link 'weights'?
    – ouflak
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 14:43
  • @ouflak my understanding is that they clearly mark ads that show up on top as such, and other results should be impartial. I've read that this was a fundamental design decision partly due to the idealism of Sergey and Brin (I lost that precious quote), but also as a way to it give greater credibility. Let me know if you find a source saying otherwise. Ads that cannot be paid to disappear are of course evil, but ads that are not clearly disclosed even more so. Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 15:04

3 Answers 3


There are two disconnects here. One is that high reputation implies better downvoting. You can be knowledgeable on both the system of downvoting properly and the subject matter of a post without needing to have high reputation. Likewise, people with high reputation may not actually know the subject matter at hand, but they can still downvote for reasons like poorly formatted questions which are completely irrelevant to reputation. So adding weight is not a good idea.

The more egregious disconnect is the idea that high reputation users should have greater control on the reputation of other users. This would allow a small group of high reputation users to deal crushing blows to other users because of possibly minor effects. It greatly unbalances the system - just because one user had more reputation than another, I suddenly take a hefty -8 for that one downvote? Maybe the higher reputation user knows better and the downvote on the question is more useful, but that should not be any reason that the user suffers exponentially for it.

There simply is no real relation between how much reputation a user has, and the effect of downvotes. Maybe you might trust their voice more, but this is punishing the target of the downvote very seriously for unrelated reasons to their offense.

  • 2
    +1, I've suspected a high-rep user of revenge downvoting some of my posts in the past. People seem to think that high-rep users are more trustworthy but it's not always the case.
    – Andy E
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:13
  • @Andy E's head - Like I said, it's not perfect. My scale wasn't necessarily the best either. I personally don't think a couple of rep points is that big a deal...but I can see how a large number of high rep users could kill your rep. Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:16
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    The real issue is not revenge-downvoting, but mere casual downvoting. I mean, one Jon Skeet downvote today is worth -39 reputation in this system. That is absolutely crippling. Combined with the fact that high reputation users tend to cast more downvotes, this would result in a catastrophic drop in reputation across the board.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:18
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    @Justin Niessner: sometimes I wish my downvotes carried more weight ;-) @ccomet: then another downside to this suggestion would be the removal of anonymity for some downvotes. If I received one downvote weighing in at -39, it wouldn't be too hard for me to work out whodunnit.
    – Andy E
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 17:18
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    this would result in a catastrophic drop in reputation across the board you are saying that like if it were a bad thing.
    – perbert
    Commented Jun 22, 2010 at 16:49

High rep doesn't necessarily equal the in-depth knowledge you need to answer a question, or judge an answer appropriately.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone potentially misreads an answer. Everyone has a bad day where they just feel like unleashing their fury on the first thing they see with even the slightest issue.

I'm not saying that all downvotes are invalid. Certainly, I would argue that the very vast majority of downvotes are totally legitimate.

But a system weighted entirely on rep isn't going to work. I could, for example, downvote a perl answer on Stack Overflow, and your system would ding that user 3 points. Yet, I know almost nothing of any weight about perl; my rep is all from C#/.NET and Objective-C/Cocoa.

Novel idea, interesting approach, but ultimately not in favor of it.

Trust me, if your answer has issues, you'll know because either someone will comment (eventually) on it, someone may edit it, or the answer will turn gray from being downvoted into oblivion. Ultimately, you have most of the feedback you need already.


(I just stumbled over this old question.) I like the idea behind the suggestion. More experienced users can be trusted more, and experience is measured by reputation here. Actually, the word reputation means: How much do people give on your opinion?

The reasons given here against the suggestion are poor: Yes, users could misuse their rep earned on subject A to downvote on subject B. But why should they? Their contribution shows they like the site and how it is working. There is no reason to believe this change would make them start downvoting on random subjects. Remember: they are even trusted to vote on closing questions of subject B! They would not do if they don't understand whether this is a real duplicate, for example.

Just let me add four suggestions to improve the idea:

  1. The weight can't grow linear with the reputation; there are too many users around with extremely high reputation. Exponential reputation is more realistic: 100 rep gives the priviledge to downvote by 2 – 1000 rep lets you downvote by 4 – 10'000 rep downvote by 6 – 100'000 rep downvote by 8, for example.

  2. Why only downvote? The same applies for upvotes: An experienced user can better judge, whether something is a real good question. Use the same multiplicator for upvotes.

  3. Make it an option: Instead of always using the full voting multiplicator, allow high-rep users to vote two, three or four times. This allows me to only give a normal vote for subject B, but vote three times when I'm highly convinced of my judgement. Side effects: (a) downvoting multiple times will increase the downvoting costs and (b) they need to rework those ugly new voting buttons to indicate the number of my votes.

  4. Exclude meta sites from this system. Voting is different there and should remain democratic: one person, one vote.

With these changes, I think this will improve voting and thus user experience. Still, I don't think it's important enough to get a high priority.

  • 7
    "More experienced users can be trusted more" - citation needed.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 10:56
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    "experience is measured by reputation here" - citation needed
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 11:28
  • 4
    as a high rep user... nooooooooooooooooo Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 12:00
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    Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you (see meta.stackexchange.com/help/whats-reputation). I think this is too obvious to cite.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 12:37
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    Interesting that this gets a worse score than the question itself, although the effects would be less dramatic – except for point (2). Is the possibility for high rep users to increase the upvote more horrifying than the idea that all their downvote will be highly increased? I would appreciate comments on which of the four suggestions are heading the wrong direction.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 12:42
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    "Their contribution shows they like the site and how it is working." Judging by some meta discussions, this doesn't appear to generally be the case. There regularly are high-reputation people surprised by what the rules actually say. Having a high reputation can also mean that people ignore how the site works and instead focus on reputation gaining actions, e.g. answering questions that should be closed. Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 13:15
  • It's not clear how this answer addresses the feedback provided in Grace Note's answer
    – user1359324
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 22:41
  • @MisterMiyagi Who said »generally«? Of course there are exceptions, but the whole reputation system is based on the assumption that there is a relation. Following your arguments, you should fight against privileges based on reputation.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 5:23
  • @Wicket Surely it does. It explicitly mentions that it is a poor argument that people could use rep earned at subject A to make a mess at subject B – do we have a problem with those people vote for closing in subject B? Next, the problem of downvoting because of poor formatting is adressed by multiple votes: If you vote for a minor reason, you only vote once like today; if you have major or multiple concerns, you can lay more weight in. Finally, the logarithmic scale avoids extreme unbalancing (like GraceNote having up to minus 6 instead of 18 downvote according to the linear scale).
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 5:36
  • @Wicket The concerns are clearly addressed, but even if they were not, the question remains: why are the modifications considered worse than the original suggestion by Justin?
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 5:39
  • @Philippos-prostrike- Yes? That’s why I support proposals to give moderation privileges based on other criteria, and weigh in critically on those linking them even more strongly to reputation. Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 5:44
  • @MisterMiyagi If you mistrust the reputation system, this is probably not the place for you.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 5:58
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    Well for one thing, I'd be thinking harder about voting, especially on a newer user, since my vote goes from having an equal weight to essentially being a mini bounty every time I vote. Its much like how 'new' mods suddenly have trouble closevoting since it goes from 1 of 5 to 1 of 1. It also would result in a certain degree of vote inflation. Also, practically, reputation dosen't entirely reflect expertise in a specific topic. and as a person who does mostly linux and windows, why should my MacOS votes have extra weight? So basically no cause it breaks how I'd use the site Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 6:36
  • @Philippos-prostrike- Who said »mistrust«? Many moderation privileges are just not used by people who don't care for the rules, so it doesn't hurt there – meaning this is a place where this works. Up and downvoting is something that people do use, so tying it to rep would change the equation – meaning this would become a place that indeed isn't for me anymore. Seems like a good time to speak out against it... Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 6:52
  • @JourneymanGeekOnStrike Maybe you didn't understand my suggestions. The original proposal was about your vote having always more weight. I addressed this by proposing that high-rep users can vote several times intentionally, so your point address the original proposal, but are solved the modification. Everyone can use voting exactly like before, but in certain cases use their reputation to put in more weight in their voting.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 7:05

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