Ok, I get that we don't want people down-voting indiscriminately - or because the guy being down-voted was rude about an answer someone gave - or any one of a hundred other invalid reasons for a down-vote.

But occasionally I see anwers to questions that are mis-leading, teach bad-practices, or are just plain wrong. And I'm becoming more and more inclined to not down-vote them. I even got a comment on a comment the other day asking why I didn't downvote if I felt that way. And it's rare, when I do downvote, for anyone else to downvote as well, presumably because someone else already has so why should they waste their reputation.

Some of the reasons given here are about wanting to encourage upvoting rather than downvoting. Funny, I thought this website was a technical resource, not a mutual back-slapping club.

Why can't we have a simple, reputation-based mechanism for rewarding good downvoting? How about the first person to downvote gets penalised 2 reputation, and the next guy to downvote gets penalised 1. But if, say, 4 people in total downvote then clearly they were right to downvote, so remove the penalty.

There have been times when people have upvoted a question I downvoted. I disagree with that obviously, but this is a community. So maybe instead of removing the downvote penalty if 4 people downvote, it should be to remove the downvote penalty if the total vote is -4 or worse.

As a programmer, I can't see that the impact of this solution on the system would be particularly huge. And the result would be to encourage people to downvote on questions which are so bad that others would be likely to support that decision. Resulting in a website where bad questions are marked as such as clearly as good answers are marked as good. Hopefully.

  • Just in case you don't know: there are even people who tried to abuse the system by temporarily downvoting, which in the end resulted in locking the votes after a few minutes.
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:21
  • I have yet to see any reason for down voting that a comment would not be much better for. Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 1:42

3 Answers 3


Losing 1 reputation isn't really a significant penalty - just enough of an irritant to prevent indiscriminate downvoting.

Seriously, posting an answer with a single upvote "buys" you 10 downvotes. In the time it took you to write this post, I suspect you could have answered a question or two and garnered multiple upvotes.

How much do you really care about losing 1 rep?

Personally I've been in favour of raising the cost of downvotes rather than removing it.

  • 4
    Actually no - I write several answers a day, when I can find a question that I can answer hat hasn't already been suitably answered, but I often seem to answer people who don't understand the vote thing and so don't vote or accept my answer, or someone else gets there while I'm typing. TBH I'm not so bothered about losing a few reputation as I am bothered about the principle of being "punished" for trying to hep the community with a bit of criticism.
    – AlastairG
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:05
  • @AlastairG ~ Ok, then my advice is to only give answers to people with scores higher than 125. That way you can be assured they have some sort of community involvement already and that your time is going to be well invested. In addition to the ones where you don't answer because someone else already did, try and provide a fresh angle or more insight into the problem, thus garnering you additional upvotes even if not the "answer" position. I often try to add to the conversation, whether I get upvotes or not, and you'll notice I'm not doing poorly.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:10
  • @AlastairG: Good point, constructive criticism shouldn't be punished in an ideal world. The trouble is that there are so many hackers in SO that they can hack any advanced reputation system, IMHO. It's probably best to keep it simple.
    – Costique
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:16
  • 1
    (@AlastairG, as for being punished to criticism: if that refers to the votes here on Meta: those often only indicate if people agree on not, and do not necessarily indicate that people think your question is bad.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:17
  • 7
    Once you've estimated how much you care about losing 2 rep when downvoting, remember that you actually only lose 1 rep and it's like an early Christmas Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:23
  • @Michael: Whoops! Will edit :)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 17:20
  • 1
    @jon it is bewildering, but there is a not-insignificant # of users who will not ever cast a downvote (or, will do so only under extreme duress) because they don't want to lose even 1 reputation. Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 8:25
  • @Jeff: I guess there will always be some people for don't "get" that the point of the site is to provide and quality information and rate it, rather than just a rep race. Ah well. The site seems to be surviving regardless ;)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 8:27
  • 1
    @Jon: You only say that because you're winning the rep race! :-)
    – richard
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 5:28
  • 2
    Raising the cost of down-voting may seem like a good idea to someone with a reputation of 43.7k.. but in terms of promoting lively interaction with the site for new members, or even the aforementioned reputation "cheapskates" - it certainly is not. Abuse should be controlled via automated controls and limits, and any form of positive interaction (such as down voting) should be fostered and encouraged - never penalized.
    – alex gray
    Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 6:13

For what it's worth, my feeling on the cost of downvoting is that if I downvote an answer to my question because it's clearly not the correct answer, I'm going to lose rep when the recipient of my downvote downvotes my question.

I really don't mind losing one or two rep for downvoting (or whatever it costs now). However, it seems like a lot of users will downvote me in a tit for tat fassion. I don't like it. I feel like SO might work better if more people downvoted; there are definitely more posts worthy of upvoting than downvoting, but I think we could use more downvotes to help sort the wheat from the chaff.

  • 3
    Votes are anonymous, aren't they? How would they know who to retaliate against?
    – endolith
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 22:52

I don't want to flog a dead horse, but are we conflating "this answer is not useful" (refer tooltip) and "I don't like this answer/user/carpet/whatever"?

The OP is correct that SO shouldn't be a "back-slapping club", but it shouldn't be a "if-you-don't-have-anything-positive-to-say-shut-the-ck-up" happy happy positive spot of circular (ahem) congratulation, either. There are answers that are not useful, even harmful. Downvoting them does serve to filter signal from noise - especially if the useful answers have only a few votes each.

Yes, there is a herd effect (e.g. I don't think this deserved all the downvotes it got: It's not a great question in many ways, but -49 ?!? Whoa, dude! There are IMNSHO much worse questions with much higher score), but due the "dovnwoting will hurt both sides" mechanism effectively limits it.

Personally, I'd welcome a stronger downvote (with the 5:1 up:down ratio, it is rather weak), but that's neither here or there.

  • 1
    This is Meta; downvote meaning "I disagree" is accepted practice here. That's not the case on the main sites. Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 8:55
  • @Donal Fellows: Indeed it is. I was under the impression that the OP was asking about the main site. Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 9:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .