Low-quality posts are a constant annoyance (which is why it constantly comes up in Meta and chat.)

The problem that I see is two-fold:

  • It costs you rep. to down-vote a low-quality post, which (like it or not) is a deterrent

  • It costs the person receiving the down-vote relatively little.

To illustrate the problem with an extreme example, allow me to paint a hypothetical picture. Suppose someone asks a question about the accuracy of a claim in Scripture. Suppose then that a non-Christian posts an answer to the effect of "Scripture is a fairy tale" but the answer is not blatant enough to warrant deletion. Now suppose a couple of sympathizers up-vote the answer. The person answering now has +20 reputation on the site. If 9 Christian experts, moderators, etc. were to down-vote the answer, the person answering still walks away with an increase in reputation, and the 9 down-voters are penalized!

My Proposal: A down-vote should cost the person posting at least as many points as an up-vote would earn them. That way, if a person is consistently posting garbage, the person will lose reputation and privileges over time, instead of gaining reputation and privileges over time as with the current system.

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    This was proposed on Meta.SO and unfortunately status-declined: meta.stackexchange.com/a/42763/214929 – El'endia Starman Mar 31 '13 at 2:22
  • I have some sympathy for this, but only half of it. If anything the cost should go up with the effect, not down. -2/-5 instead of -1/-2 is something I considered suggesting a long time back, but for the reasons outlined in my answer I don't actually think it's necessary. – Caleb Mar 31 '13 at 18:47
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    I strongly disagree, that's how I got all my rep on Software Engineering ;) – Peter Turner Apr 1 '13 at 15:32
  • Don't forget, an answer that does not attempt to answer the question can be flagged as "not an answer". – Jeff Wolski Apr 2 '13 at 3:13

I don't think such a measure is necessary. The tools we have are already pretty well balanced in this area.

Remember that even if a poster making low quality posts can go up in rep, there are other factors. Their overall score will show quite readily that what they are doing is not appreciated. The down votes create a negative stigma that is usually a more powerful deterrent than just the -2 rep.

If both these factors are not enough incentive to shape up, we have ways to escalate the matter. Posts of all sorts can be deleted, and with moderator intervention people can be suspended for continuously posing low quality or off-topic work.

Finally, to any expert who is a regular contributor here, the -1 cost of housekeeping should be trivial. Even used many times a day it is an insignificant factor. It is even returned if the post is later deleted. The benefit on the other hand is very real and the abuse it discourages should not be taken lightly. Even at some personal cost people are still tempted to use it outside its intended purpose.

Also you do know that down votes to questions are already free right?

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    I did not know two things: downvotes on questions are free and -1 rep for downvoting on an answer is returned if it is deleted. Thank you for the post – fгedsbend Mar 31 '13 at 18:42

I partly agree with you and partly agree with Caleb.

My worry about users gaining positive rep although they continuously post cruddy stuff is that they will still eventually gain privileges. These are the kind of uses who should not gain privileges. They will likely misuse them.

For me -1 is a deterrent. Sorry, Caleb, I'm cheap with my rep. I have actually only downvoted three times on this site, excluding meta because that doesn't count against you.

-2 for a bad post seems a bit too low because of the 5x disparity you mention. As long as you get 1 up vote you can suffer 5 downvotes. That makes me not worry about posting poorly myself. However, on the other end, if it were one-to-one rep allotment, I would be very wary of posting answers that might get downvoted because they are not mainstream (coincidentally, I think there is a slight problem with this on this site; good answers outside of mainstream being downvoted and mediocre to poor answers inside of mainstream being upvoted).

So maybe -2 is just about right, maybe not. I think I would be willing to see it bumped to -5 for a while and see what happens.

Really outside of the question for SE staff, though. They are not going to change it. Already been petitioned and rejected, as El'endia pointed out.

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