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).

  • 9
    You are so lucky your suggestion isn't implemented on Meta yet...
    – Shog9
    Jun 21, 2010 at 17:12
  • @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. 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?
    – Tim Post
    Jun 21, 2010 at 17:48
  • 4
    @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
    Jun 21, 2010 at 17:57
  • 3
    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... Dec 30, 2013 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 1
    +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
    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. Jun 21, 2010 at 17:16
  • 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
    Jun 21, 2010 at 17:18
  • 3
    @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
    Jun 21, 2010 at 17:18
  • 1
    this would result in a catastrophic drop in reputation across the board you are saying that like if it were a bad thing.
    – perbert
    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.

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