I asked a question why should I lose rep points when I downvote what I consider a wrong (or otherwise inadequate) answer. My question was donwvoted with the usual answer, ooh no, how would we stop serial downvoting otherwise? (I even proposed I should gain reputation points, for providing service, when I downvote someone's answer, but that was just for emphasis.)

While I understand that the idea of gaining points for downvoting may not find much support, I am nevertheless unhappy with the rules accepted at present.

I think I should not lose points for downvoting. As someone else wrote in a similar question
"Reputation is hard to earn, and if it's deducted every time I downvote, then I'd just stop downvoting altogether, I suppose."
For me personally, even if it is just one point!

Isn't there a solution that would simultaneously allow for:
(a) prevent/deter serial downvoting,
(b) does not punish the downvoter by taking rep points away?

Here is my attempt.

A downvoter would not lose rep if they cast only one downvote per day.

Any subsequent downvote (by the same downvoter, the same day) would result in the loss of one reputation point.

I very rarely feel the need to downvote:
Only when the answer is factually incorrect, and misleading. One allowed downvote per day (with no rep lost) would be plenty for me. If I am so obsessed with a couple of what I might find incorrect answers, I could wait a day to cast my second downvote.

There are obvious variations, e.g. even reputation gain one point for the downvoter, for the first downvote any given day, then no gain no loss for the second downvote, then loss one point for the third downvote, loss of two points for the fourth downvote, etc. progressively.

Perhaps the most conservative change of the rules (resulting in least disturbance, and least amount of recalculating points if done retroactive), yet satisfactory to me
(it just plain doesn't feel right that I should lose points when I am convinced that I am voting down what I consider an obviously wrong answer)
would be, as suggested above, to allow a user to cast one downvote per day with no reputation gain or loss, and subsequent downvotes by the same user the same day bringing one point rep loss (the same amount of rep loss as accepted at present).

Is my attempted answer correct? How could it be improved? If wrong, where did I go wrong?

I got some feedback from the comments below (thank you @postmortes).

My question could also be aimed at finding the right balance between several (at least three) things:
(i) The amount of reputation that a user gains when their answer is upvoted,
(ii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when their answer is downvoted,
(iii) the amount of reputation that a user loses when they downvote someone else's answer.

(Similar balance could be sought for up or downvotes on questions, but I prefer to focus on answers here.)

In my opinion 10 points for upvoted answer is good, it is significant, as it should be, and I have never had any issues with that. (At present, 10 points upvote for a question, I was more comfortable with 5 points, but again this is another topic, I would prefer to stay away from that for the moment.)

The amount of 2 points loss (for the answerer) for a downvoted answer is inadequate and insufficient, in my opinion. It promotes quick and wrong answers, as the gain from an upvote far outweighs the loss from a downvote. There are plenty of users, at least that is my impression, that would post inadequate answers, and plenty of users that would vote up such answers without reading them carefully and making sure that (1) they are correct, and (2) they are relevant and do answer the question asked. (Such rushed answering and upvoting may happen soon after a question is posted, and before it goes down the stack and may then be forgotten.) Such an imbalance between 10 points for an upvote, 2 points for a downvote promotes, in my opinion, a proliferation of poor answers. (Let me also add that a user who posted an answer with three upvotes and one downvote may simply choose, consciously and comfortably, to do nothing. The most likely result of this is that they would keep their net gain of 28 points, the question and answer will be forgotten (and never deleted), and they would have no incentive whatsoever to either correct or delete their wrong answer.)

I find that there is an imbalance between the one point reputation deduction for a user who downvotes an answer, and two points reputation deduction for a user whose answer is downvoted. (Assuming I cite these numbers correctly.)
One may argue all this is insignificant (why bother discussing one or two points), but on the other hand to me one point is quite significant in comparison to two points. If I downvote someone else's answer, they would shrug it off (if they already got a few upvotes, deserved or not), and I would lose one point, which is quite comparable to two points, and I would not have an easy way to make up for this point (unlike the user with the wrong answer). So, I would be punishing myself, losing a point, and the user with the wrong answer will be laughing at me, even if they lost two points, because their net gain was (at least) 8 points.

My answer: I would not bother to downvote. Presumably "others" (more responsible or braver than me) would downvote anyway, and as a result that answer would eventually sink. Looks like "others" may not be as stingy as I am on casting downvotes, so my concerns may safely be ignored. But, I am not convinced. I do find that there is a gross imbalance, as indicated above! I wonder what would happen if: (*) there was no punishment for the user who casts a downvote, or at least no punishment for just one downvote in 24 hours, and (**) a downvote would bring a more substantial loss of points to (the user with) the downvoted answer.

The argument goes that there are serial downvoters, crazy downvoters, and we should protect MSE and ourselves from them. So, on average most people are crazy, and we need to take crazy counteractions. Well (if that is indeed the argument), that doesn't make sense to me, I do not think that people in general are crazy, and I do not think that MSE should follow rules that allow for the promotion of poor answers, or that discourage downvoting, or does not put appropriate weight and significance to downvotes.

To be at least somewhat specific, I got started on this today after I found a question with three answers, the most upvoted of which (3 upvotes minus downvotes, if any) is what I find incomplete, and incorrect (and should not even be considered an answer that addresses the question at all). I made comments pointing out the mistake, I got an inadequate comment back, I posted more comments, and I got no more comments back (even if I see that user was active recently ... not that they should put any priority on answering my concerns). That user has 109,443 reputation, so presumably a reputable answer. I believe I know what I am saying, when I say their answer is wrong.

Why should I lose points for voting a wrong answer down?

I bring up here one of my comments from below, to make it more visible:
... whether I have any use of my reputation is irrelevant. Reputation is for pride, I can't use it to buy apples from the store. It hurts my pride when I have to pay, with my reputation, to be able to say the truth, that I find a particular answer wrong. Whether you consider pride to be something good or bad is another question. I do not want to feel like I am doing something bad, or something wrong, when I downvote. But, if I am punished, then it ought to be bad, doesn't it? Why should I live with this mindset, that I am doing something bad, when I am not?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It seems like you feel reputation is critically important, but you never explain why in your suggestion. Since there's a stance that having reputation grants you the ability to downvote, it might be worth explaining what the benefits of having all that reputation are, bearing in mind that it's easier to accrue rep than it is to lose it (excluding issuing bounties) $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes What is easy or not is irrelevant. I find it unfair that I should lose points, when I consider my downvote (to someone else's wrong answer) to be service to MSE $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, ignore the easy part then. The rest of my comment still stands :) $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @postmortes Easy or not, and whether I have any use of my reputation is irrelevant. Reputation is for pride, I can't use it to buy apples from the store. It hurts my pride when I have to pay, with my reputation, to be able to say the truth, that I find a particular answer wrong. Whether you consider pride to be something good or bad is another question. I do not want to feel like I am doing something bad, or something wrong, when I downvote. But, if I am punished, then it ought to be bad, doesn't it? Why should I live with this mindset, that I am doing something bad, when I am not? $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ That clarifies things for me a little, thank-you :) I look at it differently, I'm afraid, so I don't think I can help. I can't downvote (which punishes the asker, not me) unless I have earned the reputation to do that -- I retain my pride in my downvoting, because people have, by giving me rep, placed their faith in my ability to identify well-written and poorly-written questions and allow me to express that opinion freely. Let me know when you've read this and I'll delete my comments :) $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes I read your last comment at least three times, but please do not delete it, since the moment you do, I will forget what it was about. At one point in your comment you say "I have earned the reputation" and at another point you say "people have, by giving me rep" ... so did you earn it, or was it given to you? I guess, we are digressing to the question of what is fair or not (and it is me to blame since that is the essence of my post to begin with), and in the end the answer is that we (already) live in the best possible world, and I need not ask such questions.Yet, it bothers me :) $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, comments can stay :) Well, I have earned the reputation by writing good answers, but people have given me rep by deciding that they think they're good. I have only one instance of being giving rep by bounty, and the bountier wanted to thank me for having come back six or seven times to answer their additional questions, so I think there too I both earned and was given rep :) $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:46

1 Answer 1

  1. My understanding is that the cost of downvoting is there not so much to discourage serial downvoting as to discourage casual downvoting. It makes you think twice about whether you really want to downvote (at any rate, if the points are important to you). If your pride is hurt by losing a point, think of how it hurts to have your answer downvoted.

  2. If the recipient of the downvote takes the downvote seriously and deletes the offending post, you get the point back, so in that sense you do get rewarded for pointing out poor quality posts.

  3. When you see a wrong or inadequate answer, maybe it's better to leave a comment pointing out the error or inadequacy than to downvote. If after some time (a day or two?) the user hasn't engaged with your criticism, then it seems reasonable to downvote.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer (I upvoted it) and I agree (and learnt something, or at least I am being reminded of something) when you make the distinction between serial and casual downvoting. Obviously these are complicated issues, and I am not aware of the many angles one may look at my question, so I am grateful. Regarding (2.), I am not satisfied, I would lose points now to perhaps, maybe get them back, if/when that post might be deleted. I have not downvoted that answer yet (downvoted but retracted), and I won't vote down in a day or two. If MSE needs my downvotes, encourage them! $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ I keep going on this :) It would not hurt me much (or not at all) if my answer is downvoted once but upvoted at least once (better yet three times). It is just grossly disproportional (in terms of rep points). But, thank you anyway ... I already feel better for having someone trying to address my concerns :) $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Mirko you can flag things for moderator attention, no downvoting required you just click the 'flag' link. or even flag as not an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user645636
    Nov 24, 2019 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ @RoddyMacPhee Yes, I did already flag that answer as "not an answer" (in the absence of a "wrong answer" flag) but there is a separate question/discussion why this would not exactly be the appropriate way to act. Namely "not an answer" is not the same as "wrong answer", see math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4731/… (And, guess what, that question was asked by Gerry Myerson, who just answered my question here :) $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 24, 2019 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RoddyMacPhee besides, moderators don't seem eager to delete or otherwise edit questions, if I judge from this answer: math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4733/188367 And, if it is the community that should bring wrong answers down, my other question stands: Why should I be punished for downvoting wrong answers? math.meta.stackexchange.com/q/30933/188367 $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 25, 2019 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ What happens, Mirko, if you vote down a wrong answer, only it turns out that the answer is right, and you're the one that's wrong? Surely you should lose some points for making a false claim, but there is no mechanism available for penalizing an incorrect downvote. So what happens is, you lose a point in advance, on the possibility that your downvote is wrong. If your downvote is justified, then others may join you in downvoting, and perhaps in deleting the answer, or in convincing the one who posted it to delete the answer, and you get your point back. Seems pretty reasonable to me. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2019 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson What if...? What if it turns out that answer is not right? What if I do not vote it down, because I find it inappropriate to lose points for voting down wrong answers? What if MSE loses because I did not vote down, and as a result proliferation of wrong/mediocre answers is encouraged? I lose a point in advance... I don't like that and I won't accept it. I may or (more likely I would say) may not get my point back. What if I see a crime happening, and I do not call the police because they would first penalize me, because I acted out of excessive caution, and there was no crime? $\endgroup$
    – Mirko
    Nov 25, 2019 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ As soon as they pass a law, making wrong answers on the internet a crime, I hope you'll call the police. But that hasn't happened yet, so your analogy is really a stretch. If losing a point bugs you that much, don't downvote. The website will manage to get along without your downvote. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2019 at 9:29

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