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

  • upvotes are +10
  • 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.

  • 50
    I like this, but I would raise the weight for users with reputation > X.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:02
  • 17
    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. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:21
  • 17
    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 Mod
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 10:02
  • 10
    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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 10:49
  • 124
    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
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 0:42
  • 26
    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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 13:25
  • 26
    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 20:26
  • 13
    Doesn't the EULA state that the rep points remain property of stackoverflow? Commented Jul 24, 2009 at 3:05
  • 20
    It isn't a game. It is a question and answer site.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Aug 1, 2009 at 21:10
  • 11
    Any news on when this will be happening?
    – jjnguy
    Commented Aug 11, 2009 at 13:29
  • 15
    Downvoters should be forced to write a comment telling why is the downvote. This would help with this "tactic downvote" thing. Commented Aug 27, 2009 at 3:19
  • 10
    @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
    Commented Sep 25, 2009 at 23:28
  • 6
    @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. Commented Dec 17, 2009 at 16:20
  • 11
    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 Commented Dec 20, 2009 at 1:45
  • 14
    Declined?! Darn, I was genuinely looking forward to this change Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 1:54

42 Answers 42


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.

  • 6
    I agree with this.
    – michelemarcon
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:19
  • 85
    And this might also reduce the number of people who down-vote all answers that aren't their own
    – a_m0d
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:58
  • 13
    Yes, -5/-2 sounds like a reasonable trade-off. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 11:10
  • 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 :) Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:15
  • 75
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 21:43
  • 9
    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. Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 15:48
  • 14
    @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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 16:28
  • 4
    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
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 2:26
  • 2
    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
    Commented Sep 14, 2009 at 14:41
  • 5
    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
    Commented Sep 25, 2009 at 18:02
  • 18
    maybe the -2-1 cost for downvoting is void if you supply a comment?
    – Kevin Peno
    Commented Nov 5, 2009 at 8:06
  • 5
    @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. Commented Nov 7, 2009 at 18:13
  • 3
    @Kevin & statenjason that will lead to the comment: I don't want to lose any rep.
    – johnc
    Commented Dec 22, 2009 at 4:51
  • 1
    @lagerdalek. True, but you'd see who was doing the downvotes.
    – Gary
    Commented Dec 22, 2009 at 6:05
  • 4
    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?
    – user50049
    Commented Mar 16, 2010 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.

  • 55
    "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 Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:39
  • 17
    +1 for the rep points get returned
    – a_m0d
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:59
  • 7
    @Jeff, that's pretty much irrelevant. Your rep will get recalculated maybe 2 or 3 times in a lifetime.
    – Perpetual Motion Goat
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 10:29
  • @finnw: there's no guarantee of that. I for one would prefer to see them happen more often...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 21:56
  • 2
    "how often" moved here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7954/… Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 22:31
  • 3
    +1 for the rep points get returned Commented Jul 23, 2009 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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 15:20
  • 3
    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 17:41
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 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
    Commented Feb 8, 2010 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.

  • 43
    I like the idea that A down vote costs a bit more if you don't enter a reason. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:39
  • 1
    See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/…
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:44
  • 21
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:02
  • 3
    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. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:07
  • 10
    @Bill, I disagree. I think you'll find more "asdfasdfasdfasdf" comments. Why leave the home keys?
    – devinb
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:20
  • 31
    @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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:22
  • @Jon: That's a good recommendation. I'd never read it before now. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:48
  • 7
    And if that keeps up, we'll need to be able to downvote comments, as well. Commented Jul 21, 2009 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. Commented Jul 21, 2009 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 Mod
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 21:41
  • 1
    @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 Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 at 4:47
  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 27, 2009 at 17:31
  • 4
    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. Commented Jan 28, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 13:59
  • I think this is a fantastic idea...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 14:05
  • 12
    why can't we do both of these things? Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 14:12
  • 1
    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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 15:31
  • 7
    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 15:40
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 16:10
  • 6
    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 16:29
  • yes indeed, I think it's better to up-vote the others than to down-vote below 0 (IMHO)
    – fretje
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 17:52
  • 6
    @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
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 at 11:52
  • 4
    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
    Commented Aug 12, 2009 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.

  • 12
    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. Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 12:21
  • 2
    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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 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
    Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 6:46
  • @Ether, they aren't both worth ten, upvotes on questions only earn +5.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 13:29

Having had a few months to think about this, I'm no longer sure it's a good idea, for two reasons.

  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.

  • 2
    +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
    Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 2:13
  • 5
    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. Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 2:32
  • 13
    Downvotes go from being cosmetic and psychological to weapons of war. May be some people should stop worrying so much about reputation?
    – perbert
    Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 3:59
  • @voyager we have created a monster -- but a monster for GOOD! right? right??? Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 4:07
  • @Farseeker: See stackoverflow.com/users/76337/john-saunders. 819 downvotes. Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 4:09
  • 2
    @John if only others were more liberal with their rep :) Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 5:02
  • Not even -5/-2 for questions? Commented Mar 19, 2010 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.
    – peterh
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 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 :)

  • 3
    +1 for the < 25 reputation point.
    – Alex B
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 17:00
  • 7
    +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
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 17:10
  • There are some people who wouldn't mind certain users losing a large portion of their rep. Commented Aug 13, 2009 at 17:09
  • Whether I'm one of them that's a different question. Commented Aug 13, 2009 at 17:09
  • 7
    Spam/offtopic questions shouldn't be downvoted but closed / flagged as spam. Commented Oct 9, 2009 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
    Commented Oct 9, 2009 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. Commented Nov 21, 2009 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. Commented Jan 14, 2010 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
    Commented Jan 15, 2010 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
join Users u on t.UserId = u.Id
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       
workmad3        -264  6243       
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       
Brad Wilson     -232  8417       
Rich Bradshaw   -232  5318       
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            


  • "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.
  • 5
    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) Commented Jul 20, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:38
  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:40
  • Do any of these have more than 1k rep? ( It might be useful to display their current rep in another column ) Commented Jul 20, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 21:40
  • ... Also who would be affected the most, if the penalty for casting a down-vote was increased to 2? Commented Jul 21, 2009 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/… Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 1:31
  • 1
    Great info!
    – jjnguy
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 18:36
  • 4
    -436? I'll get over it. Commented Nov 3, 2009 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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:31
  • 7
    @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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:34
  • 12
    Jon: There's a good chance if the weight was increased, Rich would spend even more rep downvoting people :)
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:04
  • 3
    @Jon: I can see the number of down-votes available increasing as your rep increases.
    – pgs
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:52
  • 3
    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 .
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 14:03
  • Looking at Sam's impact query, Rich B is not in the list of most affected users anyways. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 7:54
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 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
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 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
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 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.

  • 8
    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
    Commented Dec 17, 2009 at 12:36
  • 7
    I think recalcs should be more frequent, like maybe once a month, so they don't shock as much. Commented Dec 17, 2009 at 12:37
  • 6
    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
    Commented Dec 17, 2009 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). Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 19:36

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.

  • 5
    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
    Commented Nov 3, 2009 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
    Commented Nov 3, 2009 at 22:52
  • 3
    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. Commented Nov 4, 2009 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. Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 0:55
  • 3
    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
    Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 8:50
  • 3
    @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. Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 13:32
  • 2
    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. Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 14:12
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 17:47
  • 3
    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
    Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 17:52
  • 1
    @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. Commented Nov 5, 2009 at 3:34
  • 3
    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. Commented Nov 5, 2009 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. Commented Nov 21, 2009 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. Commented Jan 28, 2010 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
    Commented Aug 3, 2010 at 12:41

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


| 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.

  • 4
    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
    Commented Mar 18, 2010 at 23:30

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.

See also Earning Reputation for Poor Questions

  • 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.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Feb 11, 2010 at 14:54
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Feb 12, 2010 at 10:26
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Feb 12, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 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?

  • 1
    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
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 19:59
  • @pi I'd have even more satisfaction for downvoting
    – juan
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 20:03
  • @Downvoter me too! However, your rep would really suffer.
    – alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 20:17
  • @pi, not mine... people I downvote... (do you get notifications? you should choose a username with at least 3 characters)
    – juan
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 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
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 20:37
  • @alex, that's not true, the downvoter would still get a -1
    – juan
    Commented Mar 11, 2010 at 20:00
  • 2
    The only shameless part is, that this is still not implemented yet. Commented Mar 11, 2010 at 20:09
  • 1
    I knew you'd understand me @john
    – juan
    Commented Mar 11, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 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
    Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 17:15
  • That would indeed be a good idea.
    – Martin
    Commented Aug 3, 2010 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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Aug 11, 2009 at 18:46
  • 2
    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
    Commented Sep 25, 2009 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
    Commented Aug 3, 2010 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
    Commented Nov 14, 2010 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.


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
    Commented Sep 25, 2009 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
    Commented Oct 24, 2009 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. Commented Aug 19, 2009 at 14:11
  • 1
    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
    Commented Sep 1, 2009 at 20:56
  • 2
    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
    Commented Sep 5, 2009 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.

Just curious, of all of the down votes in the system, how many of those down votes were cast in the same thread as the down voter had a submission? n other words, what percentage of the down votes were cast by someone who also had an egg in the basket? I ask because I've seen a few more "tactical" down votes occurring where it was obvious that the down votes happening due to some competition for the highest position in the thread.

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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 7:39

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.


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.

I'd also like to see downvotes on answers scale like this

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 23:59
  • whoah. "tactically downvoting"? is there "strategic downvoting" also? :)
    – user132619
    Commented Jul 31, 2009 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.


Why not make upvotes and downvotes a sliding scale instead of fixed amounts?

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.
  • 6
    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) Commented Jul 20, 2009 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. Commented Jul 20, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 15:33
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 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. Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 20:32
  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 17:29
  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 15, 2009 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.

  • 2
    +1 for the test phase - perhaps with results?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 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 Commented Jul 21, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 14:27
  • And the equilibrium is at rep 2, you lose 3, the other loses 3
    – akarnokd
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 14:34
  • 2
    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. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 14:58
  • @Somebody: your -1 was sill -2 rep for me, try it later, in the test phase :)
    – akarnokd
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 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


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
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 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?

  • 7
    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
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 9:52
  • 1
    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. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:01
  • 1
    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. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:06
  • 1
    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 =:) Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 10:20
  • another concern about this method is: what to consider a final score? answers still get votes after months...
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 14:16
  • Just because your answer gets some downvotes does not imply that it is wrong. If the OP selects the post as being the answer, I don't think the up votes or down votes the post has received matter. I personally like the +15 for accepted posts and think that to some degree it could be higher...
    – RSolberg
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 16:08
  • @Simon Wouldn't upping the downvote penalty to -5 reduce the confusion you've met?
    – chakrit
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 17:39
  • @chakrit: An answer with 27 upvotes and 38 downvotes would still have earned 80 reputation but have a score of -11. You'd have to have a 1:1 correspondence between reputation score and votes.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 21:11

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