I have read a similar question on this meta in regards to users mitigating another users downvote, solely based on believing something shouldn't be a $-1$. I dislike this, since these users are unlikely to believe the question deserves to be $+1$ they merely think it should be equal.

You are not making the question equal

You are giving the user bonus reputation. The amount of rep they lost for the downvote $=2$, the amount of rep gained for the upvote $=5$. I see a bad question and downvote it for showing no research effort at all, e.g. here and someone feels bad for two downvotes, and upvote the question. Now both of our downvotes have been mitigated and it has a net gain of $1$. This upvoters opinion of the questions worth is greater than the opinion of the two downvoters. I don't understand this.

My question is: Is there a better way to handle reputation change of up and down votes? Is there a system that doesn't allow a user to become more trustworthy (which is what reputation is as claimed by the system), based on poor questions that defeat the purpose of the website.

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    $\begingroup$ I was one of the downvotes for that question. Even aside from the issue of reputation, I too was surprised that three people decided that it was so good that it merited upvoting, thereby suggesting "we want more questions like this." Really? $\endgroup$
    – user169852
    Sep 10, 2014 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/2234/… $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2014 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is a problem. If someone asks a question that gets three downvotes and two upvotes, this amounts to a net gain of +4 points. But they probably feel bad about it; the website is clearly telling them that they asked a bad question. So there's really nothing to worry about. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2014 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ I could swear that when I first joined it was written somewhere that questions should be evaluated on its own, contextless, etc. I got the idea from that portion of text (which I can't locate) that voting as a function of other users votes is against the rules, alas people do it. $\endgroup$
    – Git Gud
    Sep 16, 2014 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they like negative numbers in general, but don't like seeing them in certain contexts, like their bank balance, or as the rating of a perfectly on-topic question where the asker made some forgivably amateurish mistake. By the way, have you ever seen "pity upvoting" for a spam question? $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2014 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertSoupe That second comment is a straw-man that I will not touch. I will note, the down-vote arrow states "This question does not show any research effort...", and here, no research effort was shown. I dare you to type in the name of his question into the search bar "Derivatives and calculus", enjoy defending THAT. $\endgroup$
    – user142198
    Sep 18, 2014 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Committingtoaname I think Bob's second comment is a perfectly valid point. What does happen to a spam question? It probably gets downvoted and closed in the blink of an eye. That same treatment should not be used for a kid who just wants someone else to do his homework for him. I'm not saying give the kid the Fields Medal, but don't begrudge him some tiny net point gain either. $\endgroup$
    – user153918
    Sep 18, 2014 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @AlonsodelArte It is a strawman: 'If the question was really so bad, it wouldn't warrant pity' The problem is having the belief that you should be the decider of the questions score. I once lived with roommates a long time ago, we had to vote on whether the household wanted something or not, and everyone voted normally. But their was one couple in the house, even though one of the people certainly didn't want it that much, their partner did, so they voted 10. This is a problem. $\endgroup$
    – user142198
    Sep 18, 2014 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe Bob put forth a straw, but he and Alonzo suggest we put things in perspective. If I'm counting correctly, on September 10, Christian gained 25 points from upvotes and lost 12 points on downvotes. And from the 11th to an hour ago, he lost another 8 points, plus I downvoted just now just for the hell of it. Assuming my calculations are correct, Christian's net gain for his poor question is 5 points; he can't upvote, downvote or even comment! (Except maybe through one of those "answer-comments," but that's another can of worms). What he can do is log off, go outside, get some fresh air. $\endgroup$
    – James47
    Sep 18, 2014 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @James47 Thank you for putting that into perspective! $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2014 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Committingtoaname Take it from me, having a wife who expects you to vote the same way as her is not all it's cracked up to be. How many people lived in that house? Five? That couple as a voting bloc could certainly make problems for you. But on this website, for every pity upvoter there's at least ten knee-jerk downvoters. $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2014 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ As long as there are people like you on here, @Committingtoaname, this will always be a very minor problem. The $+5$ for an upvote and $-2$ for a downvote is probably the best way to balance things. $\endgroup$
    – Mr. Brooks
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Alonso: Why not? (in reply to "It probably gets downvoted and closed in the blink of an eye. That same treatment should not be used for a kid who just wants someone else to do his homework for him.") $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @AlonsodelArte Tangential but important: spam posts should be neither downvoted nor closed. They should be flagged as spam. Each flag carries an automatic downvote, and six flags delete the post and deal a penalty to the author (-100 rep, and speedy progress toward IP-based ban). The guidance from SE is that nothing else should be done to spam posts, so that the signal that goes to automatic spam fighting system is as clear as possible. [Other kinds of activity raise suspicion that it's some unpopular post on which spam flags were used improperly.] $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:53

4 Answers 4


The linked question is not that bad. (It might be a duplicate, but I don't know of which question.) Reading the definition of derivative and finding it opaque, one can reasonably ask: is there a practical way to tell when such a thing exist? This sort of question can arise at any level of mathematics: later on, someone will find the definition of weak derivative similarly opaque, and naturally ask: how would I find if such a thing exists for some concretely given functions?

At the very least, the question ranks above other derivative-related questions of the sort

"Calculus help please! Can anyone help me with this problem?? Find all points where $f'(x)=0$, and enter the numbers separated by commas. Please help I'm lost. Thank you very much in advance."

I prefer to keep my downvotes for the latter kind of questions. I did not downvote the one you linked to.

Is there a better way to handle reputation change of up and down votes?

The idea of increasing the weight of downvotes was discussed on Meta.SE, and eventually dropped. I think $-2$ is fine. Users tend to take downvotes seriously anyway; perhaps too seriously.

Counter-upvotes (aka "pity upvotes") can be annoying, as mentioned here, for example. Don't let them discourage you from downvoting low-quality questions. Even if someone upvotes in compensation, the question will remain on my radar (i.e., on my Review+ Page under "newest questions with a downvote"). I go through this list periodically with down/close votes, edits, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ I actually agree with the 'dropped' link. It probably shouldn't be increased. But I do agree with Qiaochu in "A minor gripe$\dots$" linked in the comments, it would be nice if users voted based on their own opinion, not on a basis that they know what the actual score should be, and will try to balance it to there 'just world'. Review+ looks interesting, I will try it out. Thank you for your response. $\endgroup$
    – user142198
    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:55

There are two conflicting views on the purpose of upvotes/downvotes.

view 1: The purpose of voting is to reward or punish users, or

view 2: The purpose of voting is to objectively evaluate the quality of content on the site.

Usually these two views lead to similar voting, but in some situations (like this) they are incompatible.

I prefer view 2.

  • $\begingroup$ I also prefer view 2. Unfortunately, the rep system is flawed in that it does not match the two views. But we cannot fix that. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2014 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert, when you say it is flawed because it does not match the two views, what do you mean? $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2014 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ objectively, good luck when everyone is being subjective and altering the count intentionally!!!!! $\endgroup$
    – Joshua A
    Sep 23, 2014 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ For me it is clear: The purpose of voting is to evaluate the quality. Almost the only thing the voting manages is rewarding and punishing users. $\endgroup$
    – yo'
    Oct 23, 2014 at 20:11

No, the current system is perfect for the current culture on this site.

Suppose they add a dialog box asking users to justify upvotes. Such a box could have an option that says "I'm countering a downvote" and a message saying such upvotes are discouraged.

But then they'd have to have one like that for downvotes, too. One of the options would be "I'm a petty, vindictive jerk."

As James pointed out in a comment, the net gains for poor questions turn out to be rather small and will generally not make the user trustworthy enough to gain even such basic privileges as commenting.


Well, just simply don't downvote below -1. It doesn't help anything and anyone:

  • either the question is impossible to improve: then simply close it

  • or it's only somehow bad and can be improved: simply leave it at -1, more downvoting won't motivate the user to improve it, it will more likely make them angry, unhappy, depressed, ..., they will delete the question instead of getting the feeling that improving the question is a solution, go on an improve it

  • or it's spam: yes, downvote it, flag it, delete it etc. because it's spam (but we don't discuss spam here, only bad questions, right?)

Once the question gets only one downvote, you won't have many people "reverting" the downvotes, and a large portion of the problem will likely disappear.

Last but not least: remember that rep points is to SE reputation the same as IQ is to intelligence: only a stupid number with very little to express, and I don't see how couple points is ever significant.

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    $\begingroup$ (1) Questions downvoted once are upvoted back to zero on regular basis. Stopping at -1 makes return to 0 quite likely. (2) Questions reaching -4 or lower are removed from the front page, which does help its appearance. (3) "they will delete the question" -- problem solved, then. (4) My votes are not a function of what other people thought of the question; they express what I think of it. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Sep 19, 2014 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Thursday ad 3) You don't care about the people who didn't manage to ask a perfect question. I do. $\endgroup$
    – yo'
    Sep 19, 2014 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Thursday: Not to mention that some users are campaigning to upvote negatively voted posts. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:45

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