While the reputation system is really helpful creating an automatic moderation and hierarchy, it also often appeals very rewarding to the human brain to see those numbers going up and gaining more freedom and power on the site. In this system it is obviosly necessary that it's easier to gain reputation than to lose it. Therefore, upvotes gain more reputation than downvotes cost.

In my opinion, this highly rewards controversial answers with often strong opinions, which get a lot of upvotes and downwotes. While such answers often aren't of high quality, they tend to award their authors with privileges. In my case, not my answers with high quality but rather the mediocre ones are those which gave me the most reputation, due to their controversional tendencies.

So my question is: should (if it's possible) the reputation system be changed to prevent this? (for example, only rewarding reputation for the combined value of up- and downvotes)

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    In particular, I think that this might be more of an issue on a site like Politics than on technical sites. – nick012000 Jan 29 '20 at 2:09
  • Of course, it's only relevant on SEs with th potential to controversial answers – miep Jan 29 '20 at 6:56
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    Eh, there are controversial answers on technical sites as well, you should see just how we like a good tab vs spaces flame war. – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Feb 4 '20 at 12:36

It's not just a matter of the rep differential between upvotes and downvotes. Poor-quality answers that agree with the biases of a significant percentage of people often receive highly positive scores.

This is a well-known and long-standing problem with the Hot Network Questions list. Sites that have controversial topics (such as Politics, Skeptics, etc.) often, if not usually, see upvote turn from meaning "This is a good answer supported by good sources" to meaning "This answer agrees with my biases" when a question hits the Hot Network Questions list. The problem is that there's a flood of people coming from other sites. They can upvote due to the association bonus, but they can't downvote because it requires having at least some rep on that particular site. This massively biases votes on such answers toward upvotes and can very quickly drown out the downvotes from regulars on the site for a poorly-supported answer.

I suggested some possible ways to address this problem in an answer on MSE around a year ago and I'm certain I wasn't the first, but nothing has been done about it since that time, as far as I know.

  • Thanks for the input, I never realized this. I totally agree, the Association Bonus is a real problem here. – miep Feb 3 '20 at 7:11
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    The HNQ is always a problem as it leads to rep by luck, but imho in this case it's not especially bad, as not a lot of questions and answers are affected. What seems to me to be a bigger problem is that even obvious trolls with overwhelmingly negatively voted answers can still gain enough rep to access privileged functionality, even without the HNQ. – tim Feb 3 '20 at 20:02
  • @tim It's true that that's possible, though, honestly, I'm not sure that I've ever seen it myself. I have seen that happen for users that ask a lot of poorly-formed and poorly-researched questions, but I don't recall having seen it for obvious trolls posting answers. But you spend more time here and on Skeptics than I do, so you may have seen some cases I've missed. If an obvious trolling answer gets deleted (which, IMO, it should,) then they lose any rep they've gained (or lost) from it, right? Incidentally, deleting massively-downvoted answers is how some SE employees have MSE rep > 1. – reirab Feb 3 '20 at 20:05

Let me cold-shower you by saying that any changes to the reputation system are highly unlikely to take Politics.SE into account. The MSO rules boffins that may have some pull with the company/staff generally don't come from this site or care much about it.

As far as I know it's not possible to make local changes to such rules, and they probably don't see a compelling reason to bother adding such a feature.

There was a sort of preliminary community discussion when question upvotes were re-scored, for example, but only because the plan leaked before being rolled out. But the MSO votes went against the company, so to speak. So even the MSO boffins had little if any say in that, apparently. They apparently also discussed the issue on the [private] SO moderators' forum (not meta) and that was quoted as the "community" discussion by some company reps.

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    I think the general consensus of MSO/MSE has been that the company hasn't been listening to them for years now. The last few months in particular seem to have generally confirmed that opinion, especially culminating with SE firing a couple of the few employees that generally were regarded as listening a couple of weeks or so ago. – reirab Feb 2 '20 at 5:08
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    That's all too bad, but it doesn't address the Q. as such. Parody Q: "Is this Rolex expensive?" A: "Doesn't matter, you're broke!" But questions about the comparative attributes of a problem can be very useful even when there's no present remedy. – agc Feb 22 '20 at 18:53

If you think a controversial answer is going to be "rewarded", then rather than just downvoting, leave a comment explaining why the answer is incorrect and of poor quality. If you've tried that, and it doesn't work, then I think you have a valid complaint.

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    Commenting leads way often to a kind of "it's a fact that (insert political or other direction) is bad/stupid/inferior/etc..."-reply. – miep Feb 3 '20 at 7:08
  • @miep that'd help establish that the poster of the answer is just opinioning. – Andrew Grimm Feb 8 '20 at 0:53

Aren't controversial posts too rewarding?


If you value diversity of opinion, minority opinions should be rewarded.

On partisan topics, some people will vote partisan. They will upvote the answer they agree with, and downvote the answer they disagree with.

Not everybody does, but some do. Among them are high-reputation users.

Under the current rules, those with minority opinions are still able to earn reputation and gain some influence, as it takes five times as many downvotes as upvotes.

If we make it impossible to earn reputation with contrary views, the end result will be that the top reputation users all have the same view.

In that case, a few users suppressing minority views will result in deletion of all posts they disagree with. On a small scale, this already happens at the moment; Luckily there are still some with a different view that are able to undelete those posts. But with your proposal, this would be much harder.

Once there is nobody with a contrary view with high reputation, the site will have effectively become an echo chamber. Which is something we don't want to evolve into.

Therefore, for the sake of diversity of opinion, it's a Good Thing (TM) that controversial answers earn some reputation.

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    I think this is broadly right; see every topic ever on reddit for examples. – Dan Scally Jan 29 '20 at 12:39
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    You don't seem to realize that delete votes are used as a patch-fix to the present system. If you hope that delete-undelete wars are the fix to the fix... you're probably going to end up disappointed. – Fizz Jan 29 '20 at 14:55
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    Shouldn't answers be fact-based, not opinion-based? – PlutoThePlanet Jan 29 '20 at 15:15
  • @PlutoThePlanet: usually, the problem is with the question, but it does take some forethought to see that an issue is going to have different answers from different corners of the political ideology/opinion spectrum, and so to e.g. split a question into several that take that division into account. (E.g. "what are the arguments for X" and "what are the arguments against X" instead of "is X good or bad") – Fizz Jan 29 '20 at 15:19
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    @PlutoThePlanet The problem is that in politics, there is little agreement about facts (and if there is agreement, it tends not to generate any questions). One person's fact is another person's opinion. For example, think about the question "Has Hunter Biden profited from his father's being VP?" Both "No" and "Yes" are claimed to be fact-based, which cannot be true at the same time. – Sjoerd Jan 29 '20 at 16:50
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    @Fizz You don't seem to realize that delete votes are used as a way to suppress minority opinions. The delete-undelete wars are a fix to that - I wish they weren't necessarily. – Sjoerd Jan 29 '20 at 17:02
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    Frankly the question you linked to is a bad question in my book (and I'm one of two downvotes on the question), because it's phrased (potentially) as a (hidden) motive question. You've interpreted it exactly like that and answered it with what you thought was their hidden motive. So yeah, agreeing on the hidden motives of people is always going to be trouble... there's actually a close reason for that. – Fizz Jan 29 '20 at 17:12
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    @Sjoerd This question is different from the claim you make in that post. Do children inordinately benefit from their rich/influential parent's name? Yes. The answer is yes. This is a situation that is incredibly distasteful to "the left", but often tolerated in the "mainstream" as a compromise. Whereas on "the right", it is "bad" when it benefits people you dont like, and good when it benefits people you do like. You dont seem to have questioned the far more direct nepotism of Trump's family and his political allies' children all being paid to "advise" him with taxpayer dollars. Facts matter. – Tal Jan 29 '20 at 17:38
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    This seems like a controversial answer; I shall upvote it. – Chloe Jan 31 '20 at 2:53

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