# Should the weight of downvotes be increased?

When we started Stack Overflow, we wanted to make sure that downvotes were more of a visual and psychological motivator than a punitive action. That's why

• downvotes are -2, and cost the casting voter -1

However, recently, I've seen Marc Gravell and Jon Skeet both say similar things:

IMO, downvotes don't quite carry enough... -5 downvotes and +1 upvote (for sympathy) yields zero points overall; or it could even yield +10 points for a new user! I'd prefer to see, say, -4 points? -5 points?

I am starting to come around to this way of thinking. There are some users who ask a lot of questions that get downvoted heavily, but over time these users end up with a fairly sizable amount of reputation.

This doesn't feel right.

We are considering changing downvotes to -5, with the same -1 cost to the casting voter.

There really aren't that many downvotes in the system, so the net effect of this change would be to reduce rep growth for users who tend to get downvoted as much as they get upvoted. (Yes, I realize this is no panacea: over time, we'll still get rep inflation for marginal users based on sheer quantity; this is only one of several changes we are considering to help mitigate this.)

The other downside to this change, besides the obvious minor loss of rep for most users, is that it would force a global reputation recalc for every user. I think we're due for one of those anyway.

## locked by Jeff AtwoodMay 4 '11 at 8:46

• I like this, but I would raise the weight for users with reputation > X. – jjnguy Jul 20 '09 at 12:02
• I have to ask - are these 'marginal' users causing problems? How? I just want to make sure there isn't some sort of 'anti-noob' bias here. – Michael Kohne Jul 20 '09 at 12:21
• Jeff - as it's a major change it would be worth making an announcement on all the sites just before it happens to explain and hopefully prevent a lot of "I just lost X rep - WTF" messages. – ChrisF Jul 21 '09 at 10:02
• It would not "force" a global recalc. It would work fine without a recalc. The recalc will attract far more complaints than any extra penalty for bad questions/answers. – Perpetual Motion Goat Jul 21 '09 at 10:49
• I say this only somewhat facetiously, but global recalc is unconstitutional. You can't change the law, then punish people for something they did that was legal at the time but now illegal. It's perfectly possible to write a database query that will use one calculation scheme before the cutoff date and a different one after. I support the +5/-2 proposal, but I don't support a global recalc (and my rep is only like 350, so I don't have anything to lose personally--just don't think it's right). – devuxer Jul 22 '09 at 0:42
• Rather than the -2 to -5 change, I'd like to see it just not award rep points for upvotes to questions or answers with a negative score. Much the same effect, but less disruptive to users who play by the rules. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 23 '09 at 13:25
• @DanThMan I'm afraid I disagree - your rep is not something you own. It only really has value relative to what everyone else's got. Everyone's rep would be recalculated, and the relative ranking afterwards would better reflect their actual kudos on the site. – Keith Jul 23 '09 at 20:26
• Doesn't the EULA state that the rep points remain property of stackoverflow? – Tom Hawtin - tackline Jul 24 '09 at 3:05
• It isn't a game. It is a question and answer site. – jjnguy Aug 1 '09 at 21:10
• Any news on when this will be happening? – jjnguy Aug 11 '09 at 13:29
• Downvoters should be forced to write a comment telling why is the downvote. This would help with this "tactic downvote" thing. – The Disintegrator Aug 27 '09 at 3:19
• @Jeff: Please don't go with -5/-2. Or at least make the change to -5 first, and only increase the voter penalty to -2 if there is evidence of a problem with leaving it at -1. If you make the changes one at a time you'll be able to measure the impacts independently. – Dan Dyer Sep 25 '09 at 23:28
• @Roboto: that is ridiculous. I have given 357 downvotes, and I'm sure there are users with way more than that. Forcing people to leave comments for each one would result in thousands of comments that read "asdfasdfasdf" or something equally meaningless. – Graeme Perrow Dec 17 '09 at 16:20
• My forced downvote comment would default to "Take that. Hah!" for 15 character. As much as I dislike drive-by downvotes, forcing a comment is simply an invitation to uniformative or unhelpful comments – dmckee Dec 20 '09 at 1:45
• Declined?! Darn, I was genuinely looking forward to this change – Mark Henderson Mar 19 '10 at 1:54

Yes, definitely -5 for a down-vote for the down-votee, but then I would also "up" the cost to -2 for the down-voter.
The higher cost will reduce the "just feels like it" down-vote behaviour some people are displaying.

• I agree with this. – michelemarcon Jul 20 '09 at 10:19
• And this might also reduce the number of people who down-vote all answers that aren't their own – a_m0d Jul 20 '09 at 10:58
• Yes, -5/-2 sounds like a reasonable trade-off. – Matt Hamilton Jul 20 '09 at 11:10
• I reckon a downvote should take half the value of an upvote, and cost half that again. Given you need a global recalc to do this effectively, I like the idea of it being powers of two, so +8 for an upvote, and -4 (at a -2 cost) for a downvote. You could even throw in a +1 for every ten times a comment gets up voted :) – Rowland Shaw Jul 20 '09 at 12:15
• The only reason to up the penalty to -2 is, if there is a problem that too many people are downvoting stuff, the stats do not seem to back that up. – waffles Jul 20 '09 at 21:43
• There are some people ( you know who ), who have more down-votes than up-votes, who would lose a lot of reputation if the cost of casting down-votes increased. – Brad Gilbert Jul 21 '09 at 15:48
• @Brad: Don't thinks that's so bad. As I see it, that behaviour (having more down-votes than upvotes) is generally 'frowned upon' by the community. – fretje Jul 21 '09 at 16:28
• Important: have a look at the impact of this change in my post below. -2 will heavily punish serial downvoters (RichB will lose almost half his rep). Problem users do not seem to downvote much. Further more, problem users get a lot less sympathy votes than people think. – waffles Aug 14 '09 at 2:26
• There are a lot of knee-jerk downvotes. I've gotten a few for perfectly valid responses, where people were agreeing with me in the comments, but others were downvoting without giving any explanations. – alex Sep 14 '09 at 14:41
• I disagree. Changing to -5 is a step in the right direction (I favour -10 to make up votes and down votes equivalent). However, I am strongly against changing the penalty for the voter to -2. In fact I'm strongly against any penalty for down-voting. People should not be penalised for casting a deserved down-vote. I understand why it was introduced, but I think there are better solutions to that problem. – Dan Dyer Sep 25 '09 at 18:02
• maybe the -2-1 cost for downvoting is void if you supply a comment? – Kevin Peno Nov 5 '09 at 8:06
• @Kevin I actually like that idea considering how frustrating it can be to get downvoted with no reason why. "Explain yourself or pay up" is a good motto for downvoting. – statenjason Nov 7 '09 at 18:13
• @Kevin & statenjason that will lead to the comment: I don't want to lose any rep. – johnc Dec 22 '09 at 4:51
• @lagerdalek. True, but you'd see who was doing the downvotes. – Gary Dec 22 '09 at 6:05
• Oh wow, 10 people down voted this ... I should down vote it too! Sorry, but mob mentality comes into play. Just forcing a comment for a down vote would suffice. If you can't articulate a reason for a down vote, well, why are you down voting? SO is very good at catching retribution in votes, what is the issue in enforcing mandatory comments? – Tim Post Mar 16 '10 at 20:08

I think -1 cost for -5 downvote is too low. It should be -2 or if it stays -1 it should be -3 or -4 (maybe).

Additionally, I think points lost by downvoting should be returned if the post or answer in question is deleted.

If the argument for downvoting costing rep is to improve the quality of questions and answers on the site then perhaps we should incentivize people to delete downvoted content (of theirs) by returning any rep lost to them. I think this will happen with a rep recalc anyway but those are infrequent.

Lastly, if the "downvotee" edits the question so you can change your vote, if this happens on a different day I don't think the daily rep calc properly works with this. This should be corrected.

• "I think points lost by downvoting should be returned if the post or answer in question is deleted." -- this is always true, it just requires a rep recalc – Jeff Atwood Jul 20 '09 at 9:39
• +1 for the rep points get returned – a_m0d Jul 20 '09 at 10:59
• @Jeff, that's pretty much irrelevant. Your rep will get recalculated maybe 2 or 3 times in a lifetime. – Perpetual Motion Goat Jul 21 '09 at 10:29
• @finnw: there's no guarantee of that. I for one would prefer to see them happen more often... – Shog9 Jul 21 '09 at 21:56
• "how often" moved here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7954/… – Marc Gravell Jul 21 '09 at 22:31
• +1 for the rep points get returned – Andrei Rînea Jul 23 '09 at 8:19
• I agree. If I see that you downvoted my answer, I should be able to delete it and get my points back because I realize that it was a bad answer. – Tyler Carter Jul 23 '09 at 15:20
• There's a problem in that. If the question has one upvoted answer you can't delete it anymore. If you can't delete it, you can't get your rep points back. And there's nothing you can do about it. – djeidot Jul 23 '09 at 17:41
• Further from your 'Lastly...', if the downvotee edits his/her answer, there should be an incentive for the downvoter to change his/her mind and rescind the downvote. – akf Jul 24 '09 at 4:51
• Yeah I was really annoyed at myself for asking a really stupid question (maybe my 2nd/3rd night on SO)...I got downvoted badly...I deleted the question. But my rep didn't get refunded. At first I thought, "well, that's crappy, I learned my lesson." However, I really see the value in not getting the rep refunded - boy did I really learn my lesson!!! – IAbstract Feb 8 '10 at 9:25

As you are increasing the penalty of a down-vote I think you ought to strengthen the "nudge" that prompts people to explain the down-vote.

For example, perhaps in this case the cost to the down-voter should be increased to -2 unless they provide a (possibly anonymous) comment, in which case it's -1 or even 0.

EDIT As Jon Skeet suggested in his comment a way to avoid the "afsdrwi" type comment would only to refund the rep if a certain number (2, 5?) of people voted the comment as useful.

I know you've implemented the "have you considered an explanation" to the down-vote button for lower rep users, but with the greater cost you might need a greater nudge.

• I like the idea that A down vote costs a bit more if you don't enter a reason. – Simon P Stevens Jul 20 '09 at 9:39
• – Jon Skeet Jul 20 '09 at 9:44
• My only problem is...you can't force a useful comment. If all it takes is me typing in "gigglefarts" as a comment to lessen the penalty for my downvote, I'm going to do it every single time :) – TheTXI Jul 20 '09 at 12:02
• I agree with TheTXI here. I'd love to see people leave good reasons for every downvote cast, but I don't see a way to enforce it. I think you'll see a lot of "asdfqwerty" comments if you do. – Bill the Lizard Jul 20 '09 at 12:07
• @Bill, I disagree. I think you'll find more "asdfasdfasdfasdf" comments. Why leave the home keys? – devinb Jul 20 '09 at 12:20
• @TheTXI,Bill/devinb: Hence my suggestion a while ago that it would only refund once someone else had upvoted the comment. There are still various counterarguments, certainly - not least complexity - but it's at least an attempt to work around the "useless comment" syndrome. – Jon Skeet Jul 20 '09 at 12:22
• @Jon: That's a good recommendation. I'd never read it before now. – Bill the Lizard Jul 20 '09 at 12:48
• And if that keeps up, we'll need to be able to downvote comments, as well. – John Saunders Jul 21 '09 at 13:31
• Being required to leave a comment to no lose that one extra rep point, mean that your down-vote is no longer anonymous. – Brad Gilbert Jul 21 '09 at 15:58
• It would be anonymous to the end user, but obviously not to the system. Anyway, it was just a suggested mechanism. – ChrisF Jul 21 '09 at 16:33
• I like the idea of encouraging comments for downvotes with reduced penalties, but I dont see why a comment on a downvote should be anonymous. If you are commenting you should be credited. If you are commenting with 'asdf' just to avoid getting dinged, you can be flagged as spam. – akf Jul 21 '09 at 21:41
• @akf - the fear is that if the down-vote is effectively credited then the recipient will retaliate. Though this might be less of a problem with the increased cost. – ChrisF Jul 22 '09 at 8:31
• @ChrisF: I see that, but couldnt that be tracked with appropriate stats on the SO db? It should be easy enough to flag those that have been downvoted as retaliating against their downvoters with timestamps, etc. @Kelly French, you're on my list ;) – akf Jul 24 '09 at 4:47
• if someone posts a comment like asdsadfa for downvoting, and another reader happens to come across that comment, that comment should be able to be downvoted, and the commenter should lose 20 reps. – user131708 Jul 27 '09 at 17:31
• The comment itself is less important than removing anonymity for downvoting. IMO if you don't want to put your name on it, you should not be doing it. Too many people downvote because of opinion or personal preference, not because the answer is actually inappropriate or not useful. Removing the "troll" factor would help. – Brian Moeskau Jan 28 '10 at 14:44

I don't know - this really feels wrong some how. Even at -2 we already have a lot of people complaining about getting downvoted. -5 would make that much worse.

A subtler change that would have almost the same effect is just don't award rep points for upvotes to questions or answers with a negative score at the time of the vote. If the complaint is that some users are slowly accumulating a lot of rep as a result of "pity voting", than just target the pity votes rather than all votes.

Unfortunately, it seems like the new -5/-2 change is already decided :(

As an aside, I was opposed to changing this at all in the past because it looked like a solution in search of a problem. So a few users gain a little extra rep score. So what?

If they're using SO that much they've still invested something of themselves in the site and therefore still earned a certain amount of trust. Beyond that point is doesn't matter; rep is just a toy. Trying to make rep meaningful beyond that is ultimately futile. Who cares if they're gaming the system? Providing good answers is still a much faster way to earn rep, and so they're never going to pass any of the big contributors.

There might be some concern these users don't really understand the system, and so will abuse the abilities they gain from higher rep. But if they don't even care enough to post thoughtful content to their own questions, they're unlikely to use these powers much if at all.

I've recently realized this view was wrong. On one hand, I'm saying these users have "invested something of themselves in the site." On the other, I acknowledge they "don't even care enough to post thoughtful content to their own questions." So which is it? Well, both. They do care. But their actions demonstrate that they don't care as much as I thought, or care about things that don't align with the site's values. Therefore they have not really demonstrated that they've earned any trust, and something should be done to correct this. Whether or not they would actually abuse the trust or use it all, even correctly, isn't really relevant until they actually earn it.

• Maybe the problem is not that "people complain about getting down-voted" but that "people down-vote too easily"? – fretje Jul 23 '09 at 13:40
• Eh- that's not my main point. Changing it to -5 now just feels too much like changing the rules halfway through the game. What I really want to see is the suggestion from my 2nd paragraph implemented instead. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 23 '09 at 13:59
• I think this is a fantastic idea... – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 14:05
• why can't we do both of these things? – Jeff Atwood Jul 23 '09 at 14:12
• I suppose you could, but is one really necessary if you also do the other? And of the two, I think this is really the better fix. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 23 '09 at 14:43
• I don't see changing the downvote to -5 as "changing the rules" more than some of the other stuff that gets implemented (e.g. the tracking of abuse is also implemented at a later time). Again... I don't see the "pity voting" the problem here, but rather the "down-voting to below 0". – fretje Jul 23 '09 at 15:31
• @fretje: everything starts out at 0 - if it's bad, then a down-vote will put it below. The problem then is the knee-jerk reaction to <0 scores often triggers up-votes, regardless of the post's content - in some instances this makes bad posts generate positive reputation for their authors. It's not the end of the world... it's just weird! – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 15:40
• @shog9: Yes indeed. I'm very aware of bad posts potentially generating positive reputation for their authors... that's why I advocate to NOT down-vote below 0, then they won't get any pity votes as well. – fretje Jul 23 '09 at 16:10
• Well, then you've just hamstrung the voting system - you're faced with having to up-vote every other answer (for instance) to direct users away from a potentially-harmful solution. – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 16:29
• yes indeed, I think it's better to up-vote the others than to down-vote below 0 (IMHO) – fretje Jul 23 '09 at 17:52
• @fretje: but that action carries with it implicit approval of every other answer... Which isn't necessarily what i'm going for. Picture one flat-out wrong answer, two accurate but unhelpfully brief and incomplete answers, and one reasonably good answer: i want to up-vote the good one, down-vote the bad one, and leave the two lack-luster answers alone. – Shog9 Jul 24 '09 at 3:33
• @Shog: I understand you, and I'd also vote the way you describe, BUT If an answer really is flat-out wrong, and has 0 votes, I still think it's better to put down a comment than to down-vote it below 0, just to avoid the pity votes. (Other people will come by and up-vote the other answers, so the bad one will stay below, that's the nice thing about a community) – fretje Jul 24 '09 at 11:52
• Or potentally- make the pity upvotes RETURN points from downvotes, so a +1 on a negative post = +2 rep (or 5 after the change) – gnarf Aug 12 '09 at 8:29

Have you considered making the penalty for downvotes of a question different that for the downvotes of an answer? I'm not sure about it (it needs more thought), but it bears consideration.

• I like this. I just posed a question here on meta for a feature-request, and it seems the question is getting down voted because they don't like the idea, and not because it's a bad question. – Kevin Hakanson Jul 22 '09 at 12:21
• I agree. Downvoting an answer isn't as onerous because there are others from which to choose. Downvoting a question (with no comment) could be from bias just as often as because it's a poor question. – Kelly S. French Jul 23 '09 at 15:15
• I'd also like to see the value of an upvote worth less for a question than an answer. There's no reason why they both have to be 10. – Ether Oct 24 '09 at 6:46
• @Ether, they aren't both worth ten, upvotes on questions only earn +5. – Caleb Jun 18 '11 at 13:25
• @Miachael: Which way were you thinking of taking this? I think I agree, but have an idea that we're actually thinking oposites. I think bad questions should be discouraged even more strongly than bad answers. The -2 rep is not enough of an incentive for people to write better questions when they can get downvoted and still come out even by just accepting an answer. I am thinking about how to deal with a user who's last ten questions got -18/+6 votes. Right now that puts him ahead of the game in reputation, but that doesn't make him more of an asset to the community! – Caleb Jun 18 '11 at 13:29

1. Downvotes were always essentially cosmetic, with an extremely minor effect on reputation. Despite this, received downvotes are taken quite seriously by users. Almost too seriously. If we raise them to -5 they are no longer cosmetic but can be wielded as cudgels on other users. This was never the intent of a downvote, so we would be twisting it into something ugly. Users are far, far more attached to their reputation scores than I ever could have predicted, and I believe more than doubling the weight of a downvote will cause a lot of new, additional angst in the community over the occasional received downvote -- to the point that only users who want to hurt other users will cast them. Downvotes go from being cosmetic and psychological to weapons of war.

2. If we amplify the effect of a downvote, in all fairness, we must also amplify the cost to the casting voter as well. So what was -2 to the post, with -1 to the casting voter, will become -5/-2 or even -5/-3. The only reason we had downvotes cost -1 was to make people really think about using downvotes in moderation, only when appropriate. For such an extremely minor cost, users with 20k+ rep are still hesitant to cast downvotes for fear of losing reputation! Our goal is not to prevent people from casting downvotes, and it seems that given the current observed behavior (that is, very few people cast downvotes -- though a tiny select few cast a lot) we would be causing the majority of users to cast even fewer downvotes than they do now. This is, in my mind, a HUGE downside to this proposed change. We would be effectively nerfing downvotes into oblivion because they're now twice as "expensive" to cast.

The real problem I want to solve here is "shore, there is always gold". I am no longer convinced this is the right way to do it, but I am open to hearing ideas on that thread on other ways we could do it.

• +1 I agree with this decision at this time. Each Trilogy site is as much a social experiment as it is a focused Q&A website. It's really difficult to make such a sudden fundamental change for such a big group of people. I think if we can come up with a way to test a modified reputation system with a set of voluntary users, that would allow us to make a better decision. All we have right now is forethought and hypotheticals. – Jon Seigel Mar 19 '10 at 2:13
• It's sad that high rep users won't downvote becuase of the loss of reputation. I'm only on 8k on SF, but I relish the oppertunity to downvote, and the cost of -1 is negligable. – Mark Henderson Mar 19 '10 at 2:32
• Downvotes go from being cosmetic and psychological to weapons of war. May be some people should stop worrying so much about reputation? – perbert Mar 19 '10 at 3:59
• @voyager we have created a monster -- but a monster for GOOD! right? right??? – Jeff Atwood Mar 19 '10 at 4:07
• @Farseeker: See stackoverflow.com/users/76337/john-saunders. 819 downvotes. – John Saunders Mar 19 '10 at 4:09
• @John if only others were more liberal with their rep :) – Mark Henderson Mar 19 '10 at 5:02
• Not even -5/-2 for questions? – Tom Hawtin - tackline Mar 19 '10 at 17:53
• @perbert Most of us has a goal here, and this goal directly or indirectly rep-dependent. If this goal is fulfilled, the activity typically hugely decreases. Thus, the rep is extremely important for the active users. – user259412 Apr 1 at 10:27

I mentioned the inverse of this problem in a Uservoice request a while back.

Penalties for downvoting users with < 25 reputation (or some other amount) should not induce any rep penalty on the downvoter. Why? There is no incentive to downvote users who post spam/off-topic/useless questions when they won't lose any reputation for it - but the downvoter will.

Also, I completely disagree with changing the penalty from -1 to -2 ex-post-facto and then applying it to previous votes. As an example, Rich B would lose almost 30% of his rep just from the extra -1 penalty on downvotes given from that recalculation, which is not fair. This doesn't even account for the -2 to -5 jump for downvotes against him, which I'm sure there are many :)

• +1 for the < 25 reputation point. – Alex B Jul 23 '09 at 17:00
• +1 But I'd up the threshold to 100 rep... 20 is too easy to get by, it wouldn't be a good differentiator – chakrit Jul 25 '09 at 17:10
• There are some people who wouldn't mind certain users losing a large portion of their rep. – Brad Gilbert Aug 13 '09 at 17:09
• Whether I'm one of them that's a different question. – Brad Gilbert Aug 13 '09 at 17:09
• Spam/offtopic questions shouldn't be downvoted but closed / flagged as spam. – Georg Schölly Oct 9 '09 at 11:20
• @gs - that's what I do, but some people do both, as then it shows up on the question page as "-1 votes", likely attracting more people to come in and flag it until it is deleted since not all people have 10k privileges of seeing the flagged posts – John Rasch Oct 9 '09 at 15:01
• +1 for no penalty on some user < x rep; -1 for worrying that Rich B would loose a lot of rep (that's a good thing); net vote 0. – Lawrence Dol Nov 21 '09 at 19:19
• Strong -1 on that idea. "Noobs... you can <censored> with them any way you like, I don't give a damn". The insinuation (low-rep == spammers/useless questioners) is especially... wikipedian. – Jürgen A. Erhard Jan 14 '10 at 6:32
• @jae - no such insinuation was made. The topic is explicitly about low rep users who post spam/off-topic/useless questions, nowhere does it say that all new users makes those types of posts. Flagging your comment as noise – John Rasch Jan 15 '10 at 20:11

I just had a look at my stats and the effect of this change would be really small for me. I stand to lose maybe 100 rep.

I think its interesting to look at the list of people who lose most out of this (restricting to people with less than 10k rep) people with more really should not care:

select top 100 UserId, UserName, (t.DownVotes * -4) + (u.DownVotes * -1)  as Loss1, t.DownVotes * -4 as Loss2, u.Reputation  from UserTotals t
where u.Reputation < 10000
order by Loss2 asc


Results (people most impacted from the change - -5 instead of -1 for a downvote):

### User            Loss  Reputation

Rich B          -1156 7773
Mastermind      -944  6542
theman_on_vista -568  670
Thomas Hansen   -552  2430
Joan Venge      -540  4844
mgb             -468  9772
unknown         -452  918
Masi            -448  4193
Paul Nathan     -444  5653
mP              -440  1606
Unkwntech       -440  8838
Malfist         -420  3332
Bombe           -412  8322
Click Upvote    -412  5683
mson            -396  2773
StingyJack      -392  4907
GateKiller      -388  7190
warren          -388  6602
Kirsh           -340  3235
Bill K          -336  9121
Kevin           -332  2795
David Arno      -324  5905
ck              -320  6869
Grauenwolf      -320  4016
Filip Ekberg    -316  3935
Justice         -312  7653
Shore           -312  1500
BCS             -308  6844
Jon Harrop      -304  1342
Teifion         -304  7439
unknown         -304  4590
samoz           -304  5816
Joshua          -300  2509
Gold            -300  1056
Claudiu         -300  8830
Johanna         -300  638
DannySmurf      -296  6650
TraumaPony      -296  4192
Cody Brocious   -292  8965
dacracot        -288  3991
Alex Fort       -288  5676
tim             -288  8798
Rob Cooper      -284  9021
Thanks          -284  4350
David Dorward   -280  8342
Javier          -280  9524
gs              -280  7802
CodeToGlory     -276  2885
gbjbaanb        -276  8978
Ben Hoffstein   -276  7138
Esteban Araya   -272  4793
DrPizza         -272  4342
acidzombie24    -272  4359
Jason Punyon    -272  6670
Ali A           -268  7412
Luca Matteis    -268  4468
Geo             -260  5079
SpliFF          -260  4337
SilentGhost     -252  7726
jrockway        -248  6781
Blankman        -248  4546
Joshxtothe4     -248  911
mattlant        -248  4414
BobbyShaftoe    -248  9724
David W. Fenton -244  2468
hasen j         -244  6373
Dev er dev      -244  4831
Rob Wells       -240  9495
Daniel A. White -240  6145
shahkalpesh     -240  5147
Chris Ballance  -236  7509
Unknown         -236  8945
MarkusQ         -236  8882
Robert S.       -232  9875
Diodeus         -228  6360
KM              -228  4843
lomaxx          -228  9666
EBGreen         -228  6827
strager         -228  9242
troelskn        -228  7736
Sir Psycho      -224  1193
17 of 26        -224  7972
Skizz           -224  6272
unknown         -224  695
Will Dean       -220  7464
Nathan Campos   -220  746
LFSR Consulting -220  7074
Jian Lin        -220  4016
R. Bemrose      -216  8240
Mike Stone      -216  9750
bpapa           -216  2974
Spencer Ruport  -216  8374
Dillie-O        -216  8139
raj             -216  5790
Omar Abid       -212  842
Charles Bretana -212  7565
James Anderson  -212  2868


People most affected if the change is an extra -1 for a downvote and -5 for being downvoted.

### User            Loss  Reputation

Rich B             -3398 7773
David Dorward      -996  8342
Mastermind         -988  6542
Unkwntech          -859  8838
Click Upvote       -850  5683
DJ                 -822  4910
hop                -809  3473
Joan Venge         -756  4844
Rob                -703  8979
Brian Knoblauch    -667  4004
Bombe              -660  8322
Rob Cooper         -652  9021
Juan Manuel        -624  5192
jrockway           -624  6781
TheSoftwareJedi    -617  6218
LFSR Consulting    -609  7074
Robert S.          -600  9875
Paul Nathan        -600  5653
GateKiller         -589  7190
hasen j            -582  6373
gbjbaanb           -580  8978
Cody Brocious      -577  8965
Malfist            -575  3332
SilentGhost        -570  7726
theman_on_vista    -568  670
Thomas Hansen      -561  2430
rp                 -549  4776
StingyJack         -537  4907
warren             -513  6602
Grauenwolf         -512  4016
Suma               -508  3590
mP                 -506  1606
DannySmurf         -499  6650
Outlaw Programmer  -499  3820
starblue           -495  7913
Masi               -490  4193
David Arno         -483  5905
mgb                -482  9772
tim                -479  8798
Will Dean          -470  7464
Jason Punyon       -469  6670
mson               -462  2773
unknown            -457  918
David W. Fenton    -456  2468
Alex Fort          -450  5676
bdukes             -445  8246
Ed Swangren        -443  5628
bzlm               -442  1515
Samuel             -438  6273
Stu Thompson       -436  4212
gs                 -436  7802
Josh Stodola       -427  3955
Jon Harrop         -422  1342
Kevin              -420  2795
TraumaPony         -418  4192
Bill K             -413  9121
Apocalisp          -410  4848
Jason Bunting      -405  7121
EBGreen            -404  6827
Filip Ekberg       -403  3935
Kirsh              -394  3235
Graeme Perrow      -392  6515
Sklivvz            -392  6722
Jimmy              -390  8532
Kristopher Johnson -389  7058
stepancheg         -389  550
J-P                -389  4867
Geo                -386  5079
Software Monkey    -383  7697
mausch             -381  6271
Justice            -375  7653
01                 -374  2571
samoz              -371  5816
Chris Ballance     -370  7509
blowdart           -369  6120
porneL             -364  5767
superjoe30         -364  2701
DrPizza            -363  4342
BCS                -361  6844
Rob Wells          -358  9495
Greg Dean          -353  4573
Esteban Araya      -350  4793
lomaxx             -350  9666
Ngu Soon Hui       -348  4187
dacracot           -345  3991
lothar             -345  5577
Pesto              -344  6185
ck                 -341  6869
Patrick            -339  4852
unknown            -339  4590
JohnFx             -338  4428
x-x                -337  3626
recursive          -337  5151
Dan                -335  698
Javier             -334  9524
strager            -334  9242
Ben Hoffstein      -332  7138
mattlant           -332  4414
tloach             -328  3981
Svante             -328  6437


Observations:

• "Problem users" do not seem to downvote that much, so it pointless making it more expensive to downvote. (however it seems rich b gets a lot of retribution votes)
• Many of the "bad users" will keep their editing rights
• It is incredibly rare for anyone to lose more than 400 rep.
• yes, this is pretty much the same query I looked at when trying to tell what kind of impact this would have, and on which types of users. One caveat -- you should disallow community wiki posts from counting (although the relative percentages stay pretty much the same for most users, even with CW downvotes incorrectly included) – Jeff Atwood Jul 20 '09 at 9:49
• I (apparently incorrectly) assumed that CW posts had their OwnerUserId changed. I can't see any flags in the Posts table saying that something is CW... I'm probably just missing something obvious, but does anyone care to enlighten a very tired person? – Jon Skeet Jul 20 '09 at 10:38
• I don't think that there is any flag for CW in the data dumps yet, but there have been requests for it (see the question re: what should be included in the data dump) – a_m0d Jul 20 '09 at 11:02
• @Jon, I scraped IsWiki for questions, but still do not have it for answers, will wait for next months dump that hopefully contain it. – waffles Jul 20 '09 at 12:40
• Do any of these have more than 1k rep? ( It might be useful to display their current rep in another column ) – Brad Gilbert Jul 20 '09 at 16:09
• @Brad, the vast majority of problem users have less than 1k rep, ill do a separate list for 2k and above (cause these people may have editing right unfairly) – waffles Jul 20 '09 at 21:40
• ... Also who would be affected the most, if the penalty for casting a down-vote was increased to 2? – Brad Gilbert Jul 21 '09 at 16:02
• theman_on_vista stackoverflow.com/users/67864 would lose the highest percentage of his rep, but he's a troll anyway. stackoverflow.com/questions/474610/… – Brad Gilbert Aug 14 '09 at 1:31
• Great info! – jjnguy Aug 14 '09 at 18:36
• -436? I'll get over it. – Stu Thompson Nov 3 '09 at 21:27

-5 sounds like a nice balance between the "completely equal" -10 (which is a bit of a nuclear option) and the "pretty puny" -2 current option.

I'm not sure about the cost of -1. When I say "not sure" I really mean that - it's not that I think it's wrong, but I have very little idea of what will happen. When people see that their downvotes have more influence on rep but cost the same, will they downvote more to feel the power? Will they save downvotes for genuinely incorrect/unhelpful answers? I have no idea, and I suspect no-one else does either. It may be worth implementing it and saying that the voting cost is "under consideration" or something similar. (Everyone else seems to have been coming up with the same suggestion of -2, which seems reasonable to me.)

I do have one very specific concern: Rich B may be hit very hard by this, as he tends to stir things up and have inappropriate "punishment" downvotes cast against him, I believe... and he downvotes a lot too. (I may not always agree with his idea of what's downvote-worthy, but I suspect he always thinks before downvoting and doesn't do so for purely personal reasons.) In many ways it feels wrong to bring up a specific user, and I know Rich is controversial anyway, but I for one wouldn't want him to lose edit rights due to this. I'm not suggesting any special treatment here - just raising it as a concern.

• We have a limit of 30 up-votes/day. I assume down-votes come from that same total. Should we further limit down-votes? 5-10/day? – pgs Jul 20 '09 at 9:31
• @pgs: I don't think so. Sometimes, for a question with really bad answers, I can blow through 5 downvotes for that single question. – Jon Skeet Jul 20 '09 at 9:34
• Jon: There's a good chance if the weight was increased, Rich would spend even more rep downvoting people :) – TheTXI Jul 20 '09 at 12:04
• @Jon: I can see the number of down-votes available increasing as your rep increases. – pgs Jul 20 '09 at 12:52
• The number of downvotes doesn't need to increase with rep; there is already the advantage of greater rep so the -5 has less impact. – g . Jul 20 '09 at 14:03
• Looking at Sam's impact query, Rich B is not in the list of most affected users anyways. – David Schmitt Jul 23 '09 at 7:54
• @David: That impact query gives proportions, not raw numbers - I'd expect "older" and more prolific users to have a greater absolute reputation loss. The main question is what it would do to him in terms of edit rights... – Jon Skeet Jul 23 '09 at 8:10
• If higher rep people would have greater downvote cost... I think they should have greater upvote bounty to give to people as well... if not, then the added power doesn't make sense – chakrit Jul 25 '09 at 16:56
• @Jon, make sure you have a look at my revised post, its quite enlightening, fyi, rich will still have edit rights. But "problem users" only stand to lose 300 rep or so which really makes little difference. – waffles Aug 14 '09 at 1:35
• I think there'd be more of a psychological effect though, even if it doesn't actually hit people too hard on their existing rep... – Jon Skeet Aug 14 '09 at 5:23

This is one of the most upvoted requests, but it's still only status-planned (it's been that way for close to half a year now). Why not implement the change on Meta first? Seeing how it goes down here would give you a way to gauge the potential reaction of users on the other sites. The community is smaller, but it's the most active and vocal part of it.

After that you can then work out how the whole thing works in real-time. And there's nothing better than data you can really crunch. It's science!

Maybe with that, include an annual rep recalc, maybe twice a year even, to keep the numbers closer to being accurate. You can dress it up as an end of year present/stocktake sale.

• Bring it on! If the people hold onto their Meta rep preciously, they really need to take a step back. Bring it on Meta already. – random Dec 17 '09 at 12:36
• I think recalcs should be more frequent, like maybe once a month, so they don't shock as much. – Paul Tomblin Dec 17 '09 at 12:37
• The fact that we have no idea when a recalc is performed is extremely bad. Every now and then you have people popping over to meta to complain about the fact they've lost x points. If you do it at regular intervals, this thing simply goes away. – alex Dec 17 '09 at 12:42
• I'm upvoting this simply because I like the idea of beta-ing scoring system changes on meta, even though I'm pretty sure that since I'm apparently much more controversial here than I am on StackOverflow itself, my reputation will be instantly wrecked (low as it is anyway). – Kyle Strand Apr 26 '13 at 19:36

I would only change the value of the UpVote to only +2 when the Question/Answer is below zero.

Examples:

-------------------------------------------------------------------
| Downvotes  |  Upvotes  | Rep (New system)  |  Rep (Today system) |
-------------------------------------------------------------------
3             2            -2                 14
1             3            20                 28
4             4             0                 32


This way the poster do not gain any rep unless there are more people thinking that the post is right than the people who think is wrong.

• Yes, this is one of the big problems on SO -- upvotes are not weighed the same as downvotes, so controversial posts that have a net < 0 score can still amass lots of reputation for the poster. – Ether Mar 18 '10 at 23:30

So here's the problem with changing the reputation.

You want people to post on the site, even if they are not totally right. It should be ok to make mistakes and have other people correct you etc. If you get down voted a couple of points for making a mistake, that should be ok. It's a learning process. Should people be punished for making a mistake, maybe a little as a way of saying, "Hey, you made a mistake, please try and fix this." By making it higher, really what you are starting to tell the community is, "Don't be stupid, don't make mistakes about what you are posting, and don't waste our time." (wow sounds a lot like usenet). In the past, the tenet of the site was always been to be able to ask any question no matter how simple. If I remember back to the first podcasts it was always about people not having to RTFM. People need to be able to post mistakes to learn.

The point of the "game" (site) is to get people to participate and play. If people are mightily punished for trying, the immediate response is going to be to not use the site which will ultimately cause it's demise. The scoring system shouldn't be targeted towards the upper posters on the site, it should be focused on keeping the average programmer interested and coming back. The people who maybe kind of often get down votes, and try and post useful information and get some up votes too. Right now, you need only one up vote for every five people who think you made a mistake. Losing points does a lot more to someone's ego (that's what the points boost) than gaining points. Most programmers aren't experts at what they program, but they try. The reward vs. punishment factor directly affects how much they are willing to try (the greater the punishment, the less they will). There are what 9 million programmers, but there are only 400 people with a 10k + rep. Does there really need to be a greater gap between the top posters and people who ask a lot of questions to try and learn?

The amount of points lost by the recalculation isn't really that important in the big scope. It's about the person who maybe logs onto the site and asks a question or posts and answer and quickly realizes that the community suggests that "non-experts need not apply" and goes away to pay 10 dollars a month to get his questions answered elsewhere, because at least he doesn't feel dumb there. To be successful, these are the people the site needs to focus on retaining. The site is kind of like Communism, to work it has to benefit the masses.

• You don't have to be an expert to ask a decent question. You might have to put more than 15 seconds into writing it, but a fair number of people do manage this. And for the ones that don't... Surely the lame answers from people who couldn't figure out what was being asked are a bigger blow than a few lost reputation points? – Shog9 Nov 3 '09 at 22:08
• I have to admit that my heart sinks every time I see my rep go down by two and I click through to see what answer someone downvoted... It's like someone stepped in my flower garden or kicked my puppy. – Ether Nov 3 '09 at 22:52
• Some people can't write well. Some people have English as a second language. As far as I can tell Atwood's entire dev-days talk was on that, so we should punish them for having difficulty? Based on your response, you think that only experts should answer questions? People who make mistakes should be punished for trying and clearly pointing out to them they have the wrong answer, instead of nudging them in the right direction? Having a higher down vote tells new users (and existing ones) that stupidity isn't tolerated and people who try and stretch what they know should go elsewhere. – kemiller2002 Nov 4 '09 at 0:48
• What's going to happen is that non-experts will stop posting answers, because the reward of getting an "atta-boy" won't be worth the potential bad feeling they get when several people serially down vote them for making a mistake and their rep drops 50 points for making a mistake. Why would people use a site that doesn't make them feel better about what they know? There are a large number of people who don't post on sites, because they aren't confident enough to do so. If SO is supposed to become the place where only the super smart people answer questions, ultimately, it will fail. – kemiller2002 Nov 4 '09 at 0:55
• You predict: "What's going to happen is that non-experts will stop posting answers" ...but then ask, "Why would people use a site that doesn't make them feel better about what they know?" ...So, which is it? Who are you afraid of scaring off: the people who don't know what they're talking about, or the people who do? Or are you just trying to beat up a strawman by putting words like "experts" in my mouth... I'm not an Expert, I'm certainly not "super smart", but i do know this: All that is required to get up-voted is the correct answer to a single question. – Shog9 Nov 4 '09 at 8:50
• @shog9 you have a 22 k rep, you've posted 453 answers, and you have the JavaScript specialist badge, that kinda puts you in the expert category. The site needs to be geared towards the programmers who quite frankly, don't know a lot about what they do. Occasionally they get upvoted, sometimes they get downvoted. You have to encourage them to come back and keep trying and that encouragement is affected by the reward vs punishment factor. Changing the down vote count won't encourage them to post better answers, it will encourage them to stop posting at all. – kemiller2002 Nov 4 '09 at 13:32
• The punishment button (or the downvote arrow), is a much more powerful behavioral tool than the reward button. It has to be very heavily weighted against especially considering the facts that almost everyone can use it, and it can be applied to any question or answer someone doesn't like whether it is deserved or not. – kemiller2002 Nov 4 '09 at 14:12
• @Kevin: I've answered a hundred or so JavaScript questions, and the ones that got up-voted are almost universally the ones that I put a bit of time and effort into researching. My off-the-cuff answers are usually eclipsed by someone else who knows more or put more effort into it... And that tells me the system is working - it's easy to make wild guesses, or parrot common knowledge without backing it up, but what use is that? An unhelpful answer is bad enough, but a up-voted answer can discourage the posting of additional, potentially-helpful answers - surely we don't want that! – Shog9 Nov 4 '09 at 17:47
• And yes, I understand that down-votes can be discouraging, but they can also be a push in the right direction, and why shouldn't we motivate users to put some effort into their answers? JavaScript answers are an example of something that is usually very easy to test (if you're using SO, you already have a browser open - just open a new page and run the script!), and yet i frequently see code in answers that won't even parse, much less work. How does encouraging these answers help anyone? We should strive for quality over quantity, rather than rewarding users for merely spamming the site. – Shog9 Nov 4 '09 at 17:52
• @Shog9 You are absolutely right, the site should not encourage absolutely wrong answers, but the site can't discourage people trying to post the answer they think is correct. Not all questions are black and white, answers are may have a varying degree of correctness and although it may not be correct, it's a step in the right direction. The obvious response is to maybe not down vote it, but that can't be controlled by the system, because it really depends on who is reading the answer. The only way for the system to equalize this is to minimize the severity of the down vote. – kemiller2002 Nov 5 '09 at 3:34
• The problem is that eventually if the down vote rep loss is high enough, many people will look at a question and think about posting the right answer but won't because they are "afraid" of the consequences of posting something that is incorrect. The counter to this is that people should make sure what they post is right, but many people don't have the motivation or time to do so. Some questions will get answered by someone, but others won't which detracts from using the site. The less people who try and answer questions, the more questions which will go with no real answers. – kemiller2002 Nov 5 '09 at 3:42
• @Kevin - I would postulate that if someone is so heavily negatively affected by down votes that their contribution to the site is clearly not of any value. Quite likely, good riddance. – Lawrence Dol Nov 21 '09 at 19:38
• Totally agree with this. Sometimes you don't know or remember 100% what the right answer is, but maybe want to still provide a pointer. It may not be the best answer, but you're trying to help. Then you get down-voted anonymously. That's happened to me several times, and man is it annoying. – Brian Moeskau Jan 28 '10 at 14:52
• Well I am one of those new user. Currently at nine answers, two down, one accepted but not up-voted. So what should I make of it. A bit I feel like Kevin described, why answer at all if there is only punishment and no praise to be gained? As about the “expert” part: I have 25 years of experience in the business. I am an expert. I got my down-votes for being slightly sarcastic from time to time. As for “learning”: I could learn to be less sarcastic in my answers - but for that there need to be more praise. – Martin Aug 3 '10 at 12:41

I believe that instead of changing the weights of down-votes an alternative solution could used for the reputation.

Basically instead of using every vote on the question/answer for the reputation the "vote balance" could be used.

For example if user has 4 questions:

    Vote balance    up-votes    down-votes    reputation earned
Q1:      1             1            0                +10
Q2:     -1             0            1                 -2

Q3:      1             3            2                +24 (+30 -4)
Q4:     -1             3            4                +22 (+30 -8)


I believe that the fact that Q1 earned +10 reputation and Q2 -2 is not an issue for anyone. The problematic ones are Q3 and especially Q4.

So instead of counting each up-vote/down-vote for the reputation, we could consider the overall vote balance of a question. That would eliminate the problem the Q3 and Q4 created in the current setup.

The same situation would look as follows

    Vote balance    up-votes    down-votes    reputation earned
Q1:      1             1            0                +10
Q2:     -1             0            1                 -2

Q3:      1             3            2                +10
Q4:     -1             3            4                 -2


It think that would be more fair than changing the weight of the down-votes.

• So you are indicating that a downvote should carry as much weight as an upvote, 10 rep or 2 rep depending on whether it's above or below 0? A single downvote could cost me 10 rep, and a single upvote may only be worth 2 rep. Two downvotes or two upvotes that swing the question across the line are worth 12 rep total (6 rep each)? I can't say I'm convinced. What is the advantage over the current or proposed systems? I don't understand how this is more fair. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Feb 11 '10 at 14:54
• @Pollyanna - I think it is more fair because you earn the reputation based on the value of the Q/A (vote balance) as opposed on number of votes on the Q/A. It believe that this number represents the value of the Q/A to the community. I think it is logical to expect when seeing a question with reputation +1 that this earned someone 10 points, and the one with -1 earned -2 points. It is quite strange that someone can gain reputation on a question that has a score of -1 which could currently be a case (see Q4 in the example above) – kristof Feb 12 '10 at 10:26
• @Pollyanna for example if you look at the question that I posted meta.stackexchange.com/questions/35763 It has been closed as a duplicate and has a vote balance -1, and you now what, it actually earned me 14 points of reputation: +20 for 2 up-votes and -6 for 3 down-votes, I think that's wrong and that I should have got -2. Changing the weight on the down-vote will not eliminate the phenomena of earning reputation on answers that have score below zero. If even you apply -5 for down-votes I would have ended with +5 points here (+20 -15). – kristof Feb 12 '10 at 10:38
• I think your solution is spot on and handles it rather elegantly. A community of users that have heavily voted on a question/answer that has say 12 upvotes and 11 downvotes means the community is divided on that contribution so overall it should get just the +10 your solution would give, rather than +98. – neutral Jul 16 '10 at 4:32

So... when is this coming?

Is there some worry this will generate unwanted behavior somehow and that's why it's being postponed?

• It's coming in 6-8 weeks, haven't you heard? All joking aside, this really needs to be implemented. It would really help the community out. – alex Feb 4 '10 at 19:59
• @pi I'd have even more satisfaction for downvoting – juan Feb 4 '10 at 20:03
• @Downvoter me too! However, your rep would really suffer. – alex Feb 4 '10 at 20:17
• @pi, not mine... people I downvote... (do you get notifications? you should choose a username with at least 3 characters) – juan Feb 4 '10 at 20:30
• @Downvoter You'd also lose an extra point for each downvote given. Some (few) users would really lose quite a bit of rep. Honestly, I don't really care much for rep, so I wouldn't mind losing a few hundred points. I can't change my name: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/38257/…. – alex Feb 4 '10 at 20:37
• @alex, that's not true, the downvoter would still get a -1 – juan Mar 11 '10 at 20:00
• The only shameless part is, that this is still not implemented yet. – Ladybug Killer Mar 11 '10 at 20:09
• I knew you'd understand me @john – juan Mar 11 '10 at 20:14

I agree with the idea of increasing the weight of downvotes. If that goes in, I would also like to see a way to let the downvoters be made aware that the post has been updated to reflect their input. If on my 'Recent Activity' page I was alerted to modifications to answers that I downvoted, I would have the opportunity to go back, review and maybe even un-downvote if I thought the answerer redeemed him/herself.

• +1 on the un-downvote point... people needs a second chance to be good... otherwise, wouldn't it just defeats the purpose of the incentives? – chakrit Jul 25 '09 at 17:40
• This would work well if coupled with an extension of the vote change window after an edit has been performed. If I downvoted a post, and then it was edited, I should have the opportunity to revise my vote, even if I don't get to the post until the next day. – Ether Oct 24 '09 at 17:15
• That would indeed be a good idea. – Martin Aug 3 '10 at 12:43

I think the downvote mechanism should encourage useful feedback.

So how about the voter gets -3 when they downvote unless they either:

1. Comment on the answer/question that they're voting down.
2. Vote on someone else's comment.

If they did either of these things the voter would only get -1 rep.

This would encourage useful feedback on downvotes. It might also discourage downvoting where the reason for the downvote is trivial.

I know that the one thing that I always want to know when I get voted down is why?

• This would be very helpful. There are also cases where one person's answer is simply outdated, and they get downvoted for being wrong. This happened to me yesterday. I received a downvote, and even though the guy left a pretty generic comment, I was able to go back and forth with him and fix my answer. It would also be nice if more people would go back and revise their votes once an answer is corrected. – rob Aug 11 '09 at 18:46
• For point 1, I could just add any junk comment to avoid the penalty. There's no way of enforcing that the voter leaves useful feedback. For point 2, there may not be another answer yet that deserves an up vote. – Dan Dyer Sep 25 '09 at 18:12
• @Dan: true. But that could be easily sorted by requiring that you make an comment which us up-voted. A form of meta moderation like /. got it. – Martin Aug 3 '10 at 12:46
• @Dan Dyer - for (1) yes they could, but then they'd at least reveal themselves as idiot downvoters. TBH I don't think it's that wide spread. For (2) I mean comments, not answers - it's so if someone else has already summed up your downvote reason you don't need to repeat their comment. – Keith Nov 14 '10 at 11:41

I always thought you chose the 5:1 ratio on purpose. Psychological studies show that we are impacted far greater by negative things than positive ones. I've heard that marriage councilors often say the magic ratio is 5 positive things for every one negative thing. I know I definitely feel down votes more than up votes and as such I thought the ratio was perfect.

Disagree. I've always voted with the understanding that it hurts only a little. I've never felt bad about down-voting something I just didn't feel I liked. Increasing the penalty would discourage me from down-voting at all.

I have wanted to down-vote something twice in a row though, and found I can't. Considering I pay for each down-vote, I felt that I should be able to say: this is really bad. So, there'd be 1 down-vote = -2:-1 and 2 down-votes = -4:-2. You could limit it there, or let people keep going.

Now I tend to vote without regard to the cost to myself really, it's something I forget about until after the "this is not worth reading" feeling has passed and my vote is cast. Then I notice, oh yeah, I lose a little for down-votes. That might have to be made more obvious if you're increasing the cost, or changing the limit.

Definitely the rep-recalc is something of a "yikes" that could really leave people feeling stung. So that's one big reason not to do it.

TBH, I'd rather prefer to see the -1 on downvotes go, maybe also only for people with more than X reputation. That could encourage a lot more people (incl. me) to actually use the feature, because at the moment I feel like I'm getting punished for trying to keep low quality answers/questions down, which is why I rarely ever downvote something. (and yes, it's just one small tiny friggin point and I have plenty, but still, it feels like a punishment against me or asking me to "pay" for something that has no value to me)

• Completely agree. At present down-voting doesn't seem worth it. – Dan Dyer Sep 25 '09 at 18:21
• But the nice thing about having more rep is that we have more rep to spend on downvotes. -1 isn't very painful when one has thousands. – Ether Oct 24 '09 at 17:00

I think it shouldn't make a difference how many down votes and how many up votes there were, but that number on the side. If I get up voted 3 times, and down voted once, there would be a 2 on the left in between the arrows that let you vote up or down. It should get considered as 2 up votes, so 20 reputation, not 3 up votes (30 rep) minus 1 downvote (2 rep lost). So I think if the number is positive, it should be num × 10 reputation gained, if the number is positive, num × 4 lost (or maybe 5). The so basically a down vote in the positive area makes you lose 10 points, but you just gained those points so I think its fair.

• I don't think it's right at all. Recently I had a day, when each of mine answers was downvoted w/o any explanation or justification. So just because those were good answers (that is they were upvoted first) I would lose more points! that makes no sense what so ever. On the other hand only few points would be lost as a consequence of spam or an inflammatory post. – SilentGhost Aug 19 '09 at 14:11
• How would few points be lost as a consequence of a spam post? If there are only down votes, it would be no different then the current system. – mk12 Sep 1 '09 at 20:56
• And if you got 1 downvote after multiple upvotes, or just one, you would still never lose any reputation points from what you originally had... I don't think you understood my suggestion. – mk12 Sep 5 '09 at 16:52

Overall, I think this is a good idea. -2 for a down vote in the grand scheme of things really is not a big deal and by increasing the down votes to -5, there begins to be a little bit of pain.

If I were to answer a question and then have a few other folks come in and answer similarly, they could actually inflict some harm on my reputation score while lobbying for position...

Maybe the cost for a down vote should not be refunded in this situations? Should the down vote cost increase to 2 points?

• On the other hand, downvotes are more likely cast on threads where the caster has also posted because this is likely to be a topic with which they are familiar or active. – Stewart Jul 23 '09 at 7:39

Some users end up down voting an answer simply because they don't like the advice given by the answerer. Adding more weight would probably make these people think twice before doing so.

I think a downvote on a question should be -5 and downvote on an answer should stay -2.

If the goal is to prevent people gaming the downvote system by asking lots of silly questions with the hope of sympathy votes, you can just adjust the points just for question asking.

1 -2
2 -2
3 -3
4 -3
5 -4
6 -5


So starting with the 6th downvote, each downvote is -5

Some effort has already been put into encouraging feedback with the down vote. Could this be an opportunity? Perhaps a system where "Anynomous" down votes count the old way, but if you want to "be on record" then your down-vote counts more.

What about some form of dynamically adjusting system, where people that are downvoted more are cheaper to downvote, as they are more likely to be trolls, and conversely, those that downvote a lot find it increasingly expensive to downvote?

Note I don't propose an exact solution - it is far too tricky!! :)

It really is a question of finding a dynamic balance between upvote, downvote, downvote-cost. There's an implicit upvote cost by way of limited votes per day.

It's an interesting dynamic, and one could evaluate more dynamic approaches than just assigning certain weights.

What opinion does one have of people that have a 1:1 ratio of up and down votes? Rather than consider whether they are independently minded, free spirited, against the conservatism of the middle - maybe one might consider whether they are more likely to be acting in an antisocial manner?

Whatever carrot/stick alteration you make to the system will change the nature of the equilibrium. This is because there are advantages to tactically downvoting people.

It is pleasant to design a community website like this that rewards and reinforces positive social behaviour and by neglect implicitly suppresses the antisocial. Reddit does very well in this regard also.

On that website and this one, downvotes are sometimes more important in the role they play in suppressing unpleasantness, it generally gets pushed to the bottom of the page or disappears behind a "click to expand" tag.

The big problem with downvoting however is the perverse reward, in that it pushes your answer to the fore.

Maybe there is an argument to say that people that have answered a question cannot downvote competing answers on that question.

• Would I be allowed to downvote and then post? (e.g. if there's a wrong answer, you'd want to post a correct answer...) If so, the italicised implementation seems a little pointless. – Margaret Jul 21 '09 at 22:44
• Good point, it would make voting maintenance tricky. Also, to be fair, it would lower the quality of voters by excluding contributors (many of which are talented people) from the electing pool. – user131831 Jul 21 '09 at 23:59
• whoah. "tactically downvoting"? is there "strategic downvoting" also? :) – user132619 Jul 31 '09 at 18:45

I think part of the problem is that the effect of voting is +10/-2, but the number next to the question/answer is +1/-1. Say an answer gets 2 upvotes and 5 downvotes, they've gained 10 rep, but it their question/answer is at -3, so it's unlikely anyone else will vote it down unless it's trolling. Don't really know how you'd tackle that short of subtracting .2 for each downvote and then rounding.

I am a moderator over at gamedev.net and they use a similar sliding scale system for user rating. If the voter has a much higher ranking than the user he is voting for then the vote can have a large positive or negative effect. If the difference is small or about the same then the effect of the vote only small. If the difference is negative (a user with a low rating upvoting or downvoting a high ranked user) then the difference could become almost negligable.

Such a system has several side effects.

• The spread of ranking becomes smaller. You need many, many more votes to get to e.g. 25K ranking because most of the votes will come from lower ranked people.
• Well respected members gain more influence. By having a higher rating their votes carry more weight. High ranked members are in a better place to promote good behaviour or downvote undesirable behaviour (that's how they got the high rating in the first place). Their votes will cause other good people to float to the top more easily.
• New, low-ranked people cannot start a voting block (e.g. recursively up-voting each other) because they all have similar low rankings so the net effect isn't that great. You need votes from high ranked people to really gain reputation and that's harder to do.

There is a big downside though:

• Recalculating rep becomes harder. You will not only need to measure the up/downvote itself but also the time at which the vote was made and the ranking of the voter at the time of the vote.
• this is a complex scheme that could only exist on a forum for game developers, methinks :) also I am deeply uncomfortable with a scheme where one user's vote counts "more" than another. Even though I'm a moderator, my vote is the same as yours... (well except for spam, offensive, and close, but you know what I mean) – Jeff Atwood Jul 20 '09 at 13:10
• Point taken. But I think that the premise of high rated users carrying more weight isn't unreasonable. If someone like you or John Skeet thinks some answer is a fantastic answer then I would value that more than when just three John Doe Randoms think the same. – Sander Marechal Jul 20 '09 at 18:55
• I thought rep measured how much the community values that individual, so giving them more wight on vote casting doesn't seem so radical. – perbert Jul 21 '09 at 15:33
• @voyager - as I understand it, rep is only a system-generated value that is dependent on how much you use the system, not a measure of community trust. There are a number of users on SO who are building sizeable reps by contributing nothing to the community other than asking fairly trivial questions that they are too lazy to look up on Google. I wouldn't want them to have more voting power – Joe Schmoe Jul 21 '09 at 16:13
• @Joe: The problem you describe could actually be prevented by the above system. In the above system you could get many votes from trivial answers and still not get much ranking if the high ranked people didn't vote for you. – Sander Marechal Jul 21 '09 at 20:32
• No matter how many mediocre programmer you put into a software project, they can never produce work that matches the quality of a single great developer. I think it applies here to some extent... Having this system would "silence" the crowd when one who really knows the stuff comes along. Its like when you came up with a great idea to be greeted with a bunch of naysayers. And the scale needn't be a harsh one Havn't tried it but I think putting just a 0.2 vote differences between those with the highest rep and lowest rep may just be enough to get this effect and not cause a heavy rep stir. – chakrit Jul 25 '09 at 17:29
• I like this idea, but I think that if it were implemented it should be based on the tags the user has won badges in. Someone who only knows C# and Python can hardly speak authoritatively on Cocoa and Fortran, for example. – Kaji Dec 15 '09 at 9:46

If you are doing this, please have a test phase, lets say a week, before finalizing.

There could be several schemas implemented, but I'd to express my idea:

Downvoted loses -2, downvoter looses -1 by default (same as now). If the downvoter feels, that's not enough, he could offer 2, 4, 6 or 8 rep of his own, and the system subtracts the half of it from the downvoted, e.g:

I downvote somebody (-1) and offer 6 additional rep (-6) for an extra. The target receives -2-3 = -5 rep.

Its a bit more complex to implement, I admit. Unfortunately, I can't prove any of its properties.

• +1 for the test phase - perhaps with results? – ChrisF Jul 21 '09 at 11:12
• interesting idea, but in your case the downvoter would lose more rep than the downvoted. I think this would discourage the use of this feature – Nathan Koop Jul 21 '09 at 14:00
• True, this is why I said I can't prove anything about it. Unless, there is a way to test it too. I thought, as in real world, you could put your own reputation in line when you think the other is completely wrong. – akarnokd Jul 21 '09 at 14:27
• And the equilibrium is at rep 2, you lose 3, the other loses 3 – akarnokd Jul 21 '09 at 14:34
• Normally this is the kind of change I think they should test out in meta first, but I don't know that voting patterns on meta are close enough to voting patterns on the main sites for it to be effective in this case. – Joel Coehoorn Jul 23 '09 at 14:58
• @Somebody: your -1 was sill -2 rep for me, try it later, in the test phase :) – akarnokd Jul 25 '09 at 18:33

Sliding Scale Based on Voting Record

I'd like to see some kind of sliding scale that would reduce the weight of people who are super downvoters (Just IMHO, I give less weight to the people that seem to downvote a lot - YMMV of course!).

Some scale like

2-ln(1.3*dn/(up+dn))


gives a range with a nice long tail, but the exact parameters can be tuned as desired.

95% 5
75% 3
50% 2
5% 2

• This might steer people away from downvoting, which I don't think is a good idea. New people would then avoid downvoting which is what (with upvoting) makes the system works. – chakrit Jul 25 '09 at 17:23

I like the idea of increasing the effect of down votes to -5. (Also I'm for increasing the cost to -2).

As an alternative suggestion; How about the rep received for an answer (or question) is calculated from final score rather than from each down and up vote. (I'm not sure about this, just an idea I'm throwing out there)

Let me explain by example:

An answer that gets 4 up votes and 1 down vote current will get +40 & -2 rep, so +38 rep overall. If instead you calculate from the finishing score which in this case is +4-1=3 so the rep given overall is +30.

The reverse situation: An answer that gets 6 down votes and 2 up votes (for sympathy maybe). currently will get -12 + 20 so +8 overall. This seems rather wrong, the answer is clearly bad, so why are they getting positive rep. If we calculate from final score, that's -6+2 = -4 final score. Which gives rep of -8.

This way, down votes to an already up voted question have the effect of removing a full 10 rep. However up votes to an already down voted question only have the effect of returning 2 rep.

What do people think?

• No, I disagree - why should each downvote on something where the balance of people think it's incorrect be worth -2, but the downvote on something where only one person thinks it's correct and 10 people think it's correct be worth -10? That's effectively what you'd be doing - giving more power to downvotes on a correct answer, and less power to downvotes on an incorrect answer. – Jon Skeet Jul 20 '09 at 9:52
• Like I say, not sure about it myself, just thinking out loud really. I see it more as calculating rep from the overall community opinion as opposed to giving more power to down votes on a correct answer, but I suppose that is in essence the effect that it would have. Perhaps a scheme like this would work better if the same rep was given for negative or positive final scores. – Simon P Stevens Jul 20 '09 at 10:01
• maybe I'm just too familiar with the current system, but this doesn't seem to pass the "don't make me think" test.. I hesitate to add a bunch of complexity to 'fix' things. – Jeff Atwood Jul 20 '09 at 10:06
• As a fairly recent newcomer to this whole universe of SO et al,I can say that initially I found the rep system mildly confusing.I was quite surprised that the rep given was per vote rather than from final score, & the implications that a answer with a -ve score could produce positive rep.It seems odd initally that the displayed score and the rep don't have a direct relationship.Perhaps displaying the rep instead of the score would make it clearer.The more I think about it,the more I like it the way it is.I'm for changing the values like you suggested,but don't mess with the system,it works =:) – Simon P Stevens Jul 20 '09 at 10:20