Seeing the number of downvotes is extremely useful: it can indicate that there's something seriously wrong with a popular answer that only a small number of experts have noticed. It encourages me to read the comments carefully (which can sometimes have the gem insight lost in tons of noise).

Why is this very useful piece of information denied to users who haven't used SO enough yet?

EDIT: apparently this feature is there to save DB traffic. I can't really appreciate this reason at all. Why not limit people below 1000 rep to seeing at most 3 answers then, that would save some DB traffic too!

Observation: there are only two rep-limited features that are read-only (and hence have nothing to do with how much the community trusts the user): reduced ads, and up/down counts. Reduced ads is entirely understandable. Up/down counts is totally out of place.

  • (-1) For the edit. You asked a question, you got the answer. If you want to redesign their DB architecture, apply for a job with the team.
    – devinb
    Aug 3, 2010 at 14:33
  • @devinb - ironically I have no way to actually see whether anyone else downvoted it :) Really, though, it's tagged "discussion", so I'm not sure why you're discouraging my (admittedly now dead) discussion. (P.S. I have a feeling no employee can fix this, because the official line from Jeff is that the rep limit is desirable here.)
    – RomanSt
    Aug 9, 2010 at 19:28
  • I was in a chippy mood that day. I've removed the downvote. I misread your glib "why not limit..." comment as being more venomous. I apologize. the best practice on meta, however, is to be relentlessly positive, no matter what. People here are quite happy with SO and regard bitterness as something to be mocked.
    – devinb
    Aug 9, 2010 at 19:40
  • It's an indirect workaround that requires some arithmetic on your part, but the new timeline view of any question will show users of any reputation the upvote and downvote counts per day and what posts they were given to. You can see the timeline of any post using a URL of the format http://<sitename>/posts/<question>/timeline, although there are some GreaseMonkey scripts here and there that just tack it onto the posts.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Aug 9, 2010 at 19:50
  • @devinb - point taken about bitterness. I'm certainly prone to it here on Meta...
    – RomanSt
    Aug 9, 2010 at 20:23
  • Why not limit people below 1000 rep to seeing at most 3 answers then, that would save some DB traffic too — because programming using the categorical imperative is ridiculous? It's a Q+A site, so let everyone see the Q's and A's. The vote counts are peripheral.
    – detly
    Aug 10, 2010 at 4:48
  • @detly - I'd love it if what you say were true. They're not peripheral; they are key to unlocking certain basic features (like the one discussed here).
    – RomanSt
    Aug 10, 2010 at 9:08
  • @romkyns — I'm not talking about the votes themselves, but viewing the +/- vote split — that is peripheral. The vote count itself is important, and that's always there.
    – detly
    Aug 10, 2010 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


The current vote count is stored denormalized the database. If someone clicks to see the actual down- and up-votes, it issues an two extra DB query which is extra load to the server. This should be minimized and is therefore only available to users with a certain minimum reputation.

See this answer.

  • 2
    Thanks for the link, interesting read. So basically they can't be bothered to make it fast, so instead they limit the availability. They might as well limit viewing more than 3 answers to people with 1000 rep - that would save some DB traffic too! That would be so totally SO style!
    – RomanSt
    Aug 2, 2010 at 9:40
  • @romkyns - Limiting the answers is backwards; the rep system is meant to benefit those who participate in the community, whereas showing fewer answers to low rep users inconveniences those who are just joining the community. It also continues the trend of high vote answers getting all the visibility, and consequently more votes (a kind of Matthew Effect). Aug 2, 2010 at 16:05
  • 1
    @(Richard JP Le Guen) - limiting the vote counts is equally backwards! The numbers are NOT USELESS because clearly someone took the effort to implement the feature. Everyone who is a beginner programmer has NO CHANCE of ever seeing them because they can't earn 1k rep through asking silly beginner questions alone.
    – RomanSt
    Aug 3, 2010 at 11:10
  • @romkyns - I'm not saying it's useless; I'm saying the rep system is meant to benefit those who participate as opposed to inconvenience those who have literally done nothing to deserve it. Limiting the number of visible answers would be a penalty which one would have to work off, like some kind of Original Sin :P That's not how it should work (no offense to the God of Abraham) and since seeing answers is more important to the purpose of the site than seeing vote distributions... Aug 3, 2010 at 17:46
  • @(Richard JP Le Guen) - that's a fair point. From that perspective it looks a bit more acceptable. Though to be fair, not having this feature here on Meta feels just the same - that it's some kind of Original Sin that I have to work off by... I don't even know how to, since I'm not a Meta expert. I suppose I could ask another 10 questions and that would give me another 500 rep...
    – RomanSt
    Aug 10, 2010 at 9:14

it can indicate that there's something seriously wrong with a popular answer that only a small number of experts have noticed

Hardly. It could also indicate that a few crackpots didn't like the answer for whatever reason the radio waves their tinfoil hats are tuned to happened to be receiving that particular day. It could mean pretty much anything.

In other words, you still need to read the answers and decide for yourself in all cases, whether viewing Score or viewing Up/Down. Viewing vote breakdowns is a bit of an "info-porn" distraction from my perspective, so you must be 18 years of age (read: have some reputation) to do it.

The fix is simple: earn more reputation!

  • I don't really understand this reasoning; could you please elaborate? Are you saying that you have decided that only users with 1000 rep or more are experienced enough to know how to use the separate vote counts?
    – RomanSt
    Aug 2, 2010 at 9:57
  • @romkyns - No, he's saying that no one really needs to see the total distribution of up/down votes, and since - given performance expectations for SO - they need to reduce the number of users who use this feature, they filter on Rep. The alternative is no one sees the distribution :P Aug 2, 2010 at 16:03
  • Jeff: the fix is simple for people with enough knowledge to contribute answers. The fix is impossible for people who are here to ask questions (unless they're nearing something like 100 questions).
    – RomanSt
    Aug 3, 2010 at 11:11

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