background March 19, 2010

Important Reputation Rule Changes

In the next few days, we will be rolling out two important changes to the way reputation works on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, and Meta. We’re letting you know now so you can be prepared. Item the first: question upvotes will now grant only +5 rep instead of +10.* There is no change…
Avatar for Jeff Atwood
Co-Founder (Former)

In the next few days, we will be rolling out two important changes to the way reputation works on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, and Meta. We’re letting you know now so you can be prepared.

Item the first: question upvotes will now grant only +5 rep instead of +10.* There is no change to answer upvotes. This will apply retroactively to all users.

Why?

  • While we value good questions (and asking a great question is absolutely an art), we want to explicitly encourage people to provide the best possible answers. Without people interested in providing good answers, the questions are moot. We know that answers have more intrinsic value than questions, and the reputation balance should reflect that.

  • The question asker already enjoys a substantial benefit beyond reputation gain from upvotes on their question — namely, they get great answers to their question! Thus, the asker shouldn’t need as much reputation gain.

  • There are a few users who ask hundreds, sometimes even thousands of questions. Over time, these users generate a fairly sizable reputation entirely through the tiny trickle of upvotes gained by these questions. In a sense, we want to discourage question asking a little bit, and make sure that people who ask questions are doing it for the right reasons and not to generate reputation.

In other words, we’re rebalancing a bit to favor answers. Based on the existing data in the trilogy, I believe this will be a positive change for everyone. For more discussion see the meta topic.

Item the second: after casting 300 votes, you cannot downvote non community wiki posts at more than a 2:1 ratio. Now, before you get up in arms, realize that this will affect very, very few users — on the order of about 6 users out of 100,000+ on Stack Overflow.

Why?

  • We already discourage downvoting by making downvotes cost -1 rep to the casting voter. But there’s nothing else in our policy about downvoting. Well, we are now going on record with a public policy — it is not community friendly behavior to cast an extreme number of downvotes. The ill will generated by long term, mass downvoting has a disproportionately large effect — to the point that it starts driving out friendliness and replacing it with bitterness, discontent, and ultimately vindictiveness.

  • We still want people to cast downvotes, of course, but in reasonable moderation, and typically only in cases where they feel strongly that the content needs a downmod — for example, if the post is actively harmful or needs extensive improvement.

  • If, after casting 300 votes, you can’t find one single thing worth upvoting for every 2 things you’ve downvoted, I humbly submit that you’re not trying hard enough.

Voting was already asymmetric — you gain the ability to cast upvotes at 15 reputation, but do not gain the ability to cast downvotes until you earn 100 reputation. Upvotes are +10 (and now, +5 on questions) while downvotes are -2 to the poster and -1 to you. And bear in mind that this new 2:1 ratio only applies after you’ve cast 300 votes and gotten the Civic Duty badge, and community wiki votes are completely immune to this ratio.

These coming changes also mean that every user will (eventually) get a full reputation recalc, so if you’re wondering why your reputation changed over the next week — here it is.

  • on Meta, the value of a question upvote will still be +10
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