I just got on the wrong side of the reputation stick on the Gaming SE, by asking a question against their specific flavor of FAQ and policies. It got me to thinking, and I wanted to ask whether the system works well as it stands, or if there might be some changes worth the doing. I chose to have the discussion here because I feel much more comfortable on this SE (thanks folks for making me feel at home :D) and because I feel like I am a much more credible expert on RPG topics, so I can discuss the system with the ramifications here.
I'm not sure that downvotes adversely impacting reputation is a good idea, for a few different reasons.
- Firstly, and on the basest of levels, receiving a penalty stings. The intent of the penalty is to make people stop and consider posting before they do, and that's understandable, but at the same time, honest mistakes happen. I asked a question that, familiar with this SE, I didn't think was ruled-out. Someone posted a comment saying it would likely be deleted, and posted a link to the FAQs. I saw it was listed, deleted the post, but by then, I already had gotten a downvote (I'm pretty sure it was actually the person who left the comment, but no matter). I lost two reputation, and am left with a very sour taste in my mouth. I don't think I deserved to be chastised, but I was. And at this point, I'm honestly not sure I'm going to ever go back to Gaming, because I don't think I agree with their policy. If I had simply received the comment, I'd be much less upset about the whole thing (2 rep is a lot when you're at less than 20). I think the system probably works fine for veterans who should know better, but the system currently seems to punish new members, and possibly cause them to leave the community.
- Secondly, I'm not sure that degrading my reputation when I downvote is a good thing either. In dealing with my frustration on Gaming, I asked a question on their Meta, and got linked in to the discussion on Game Recommendations, and why they flatly don't allow them. The post I saw with the most rhetoric (here), has a lot of good things to be said about quality, and motivation. Trying to maintain a high-quality repository of information is certainly admirable, and seems a worthy goal of these sites. However, in attempting to maintain quality of the site, I have to choose between degrading my reputation (let alone that of someone else), and just ignoring the question altogether, which I've done until now. Most of the time, I've been selfish, and just not worried about the community as a whole, and maintained my personal number. That's not good for the community.
It is important for you to mean it when you go to downvote a question. However, it also seems counter-intuitive to penalize yourself to make the community better. Would it be possible to refund voters' reputation if a question dips negative? Would that be worth the doing? It allows for active members to work as a community and help police things that may not actually need to stay on the site, from a quality perspective. Flags, to my understanding, have to do with whether a question adheres to the rules of the site, not the value of the question.
Lastly, is there a way to put in a window of "noobie-protection" where downvotes don't decimate their reputation? The community is active enough that within 10 minutes of my first post, I had a comment welcoming me to the site. If my post had been less than acceptable, I'm sure that welcome would have been a suggestion on either how to improve it or to take it down (if it was really unsalvagable). Could we rely on that to help correct new members, as opposed to the Reputation Stick as it stands now?