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Why does downvoting an answer costs 2 reputation points while doing the same on a question not?

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In short, questions aren't what we want. We want answers. Great answers actually.

To get great answers, we need great questions. The bad questions should die a horrible death. And they can only die that death if people downvote them. And people don't like downvoting when it costs them money reputation.

So, why don't the same rules apply to answers? Because we can't have people manically downvoting all the possibly great answers for the fun of it. Judging the quality of an answer should be done carefully, the reputation cost incentivises that.

A much better explanation of this is also available in the blog post Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand.

  • Surely we can detect such excessive down voting and deal with it accordingly. I don't see why we need the rep loss for that – Ivo Flipse May 19 '13 at 23:09
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Jeff initially proposed this in May 2011: Should downvotes on questions be “free”?

Since the community agreed, the proposal was implemented soon thereafter. The rationale behind it is that a question & answer site needs good questions to survive—or at least be more efficient at telling the good from the bad questions—and that removing the cost of downvoting questions would get users to vote more.

Perhaps we should institute a new policy: every time you forget to vote a great question up, or a bad question down — a kitten gets it!

The follow-up blog post is here. It talks about optimizing For pearls, not sand and the value of good questions, which basically comes down to incentivizing (I hate that word) you to downvote the bad stuff.

That’s why we’re determined to keep question quality high, even at the cost of refusing a little sand. It’s true that you can’t have Q&A without questions, but having the wrong sorts of questions is far more dangerous. The fastest way to kill any Q&A site is to flood it with low-quality questions.

  • It is possible (I've seen it) to provide a good/Great answer to a poor question. So, poor questions have their place... they can always be edited and improved. But not (usually) after they have been heavily downvoted or closed (rather than edited) because there is little incentive to do so, and reopening a closed question is harder than it should be. IMHO it is better to improve poor questions, instead of downvoting/closing. Also, some questions are Great questions, but simply off-topic for the site. These can also suffer heavy downvotes/closing rather than more sensible migration path. – Kevin Fegan May 20 '13 at 10:28
  • That's basically what Parkinson's law of triviality says. Vague and trivial questions can inspire (seemingly) good answers, but still this is not the kind of question that's encouraged. If only not to feed the help vampires. I agree with you that the process of reopening can be improved. If you happen to see a question closed that'd be a great fit on another site, don't hesitate to flag that—any negative score will be removed when migrating it. – slhck May 20 '13 at 13:13

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