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Why is down vote on question not -1?

If someone downvotes a question, the question asker loses two points. If someone downvotes an answer, the answer provider loses two points. Those downvotes are the same in absolute terms, but a much greater penalty for questions relative to what an upvote gives (2/5=40% vs. 2/10=20%). Why is it set up this way, and should it be changed (either to -1/-2 or -2/-3 or something similar)?

It seems unfair to give someone the power to penalize a bad question more than a bad answer. Let's say I like a question. The most I can give it is 5 points, but someone else's opinion weighs against mine considerably if they down-vote. Now let's say I hate an answer. The most I can penalize the person for providing it is 2 points, but someone else can over-rule 5 who think like me with a single click.

Tried searching for this to no avail, but wasn't quite sure how to search, so apologies if it's been asked already.


As explained by Bill the Lizard in this answer :

You're talking about two different things. The +5 for a question upvote is a reward for asking a good question, but the -2 for a downvote is a penalty for asking a bad one. They want to encourage good answers more than good questions, so answer upvotes are worth more. But they want to discourage bad questions just as much, so the penalty for downvotes are the same.

  • I agree that they're different. But it seems to me that the relative weighting is important too, because that's what affects individuals' incentives to participate. Plus, as JeremyBanks's link noted, questions get fewer up-votes. So overall there are far fewer incentives to ask good questions, it would seem. Jul 26 '11 at 17:57
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    @gsk3 The incentive to ask a good question is that you will obtain the answer you are looking for.
    – Marcelo
    Jul 26 '11 at 18:01
  • 3
    Even here on Meta, if you're going to copy someone's answer, please at least leave a link for attribution. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/97799/… Edit: Thanks. Jul 26 '11 at 18:08

I expect that the main reason for why it's like that is historical: Originally, upvotes on questions gave +10 as well, and the situation was symmetric. At some point it was decided that this was giving too much weight to questions (I don't recall the details of what motivated the change), and the up-vote behavior was altered to the current +5, while the down-vote behavior was left alone.

Furthermore, when the up-vote change was implemented there was a mass recalculation of reputation to apply the new scoring retroactively, which led to people who gained most of their rep from questions with a mixture of up and down votes losing a lot of rep. So it's safe to say that the disparity was known and accepted.

In general, I'd guess that this reflects an overall trend toward emphasizing the value of answers over questions. For instance, particularly in the early days of SO and to a lesser extent still, some users would ask a bunch of low-effort, mediocre questions, gain net rep from up-vs-downvotes, and end up with a great deal of reputation compared to someone who spent more time and effort writing a few good answers. It was judged (correctly, I think) that the latter case adds much more value to the site.

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