It seems we have a problem. Specifically, a downvoting problem.
Early in the private beta, I asked Should this be a high-voting site? which received (relatively speaking) massive community support. A passage from the accepted answer on that question seems to have gone by largely unnoticed, however:
Downvotes are also important! Sometimes answers have problems, sometimes questions have problems. One of the most important things for a new Stack Exchange site is attracting experts. The number one thing that turns off experts is noise. If someone has a lot of experience, and takes a look at our front-page, we want them to immediately think "That is an interesting question," or "Oooh, I was just struggling with that, let me share my knowledge," not "Wow, ok. What a bunch of amateurs. Seriously, 10 upvotes? Did any thought go into that?"
It appears that most people are only, or almost exclusively, voting up. Voting up quality content is great, but we also need downvotes for bad or "not useful" content.
When I look at the moderator Analytics data, the specifics of which cannot be shared in public, there are peaks and valleys on the graph of upvotes, whereas the downvotes barely register on the graph when viewed using the same scale. This Analytics data tells me that in the past 28 days, of all votes cast, about 97% were upvotes.
Stack Exchange Data Explorer allows looking into database dumps. Some aggregate statistics for all sites say that we, on average, vote up posts 48.5 times for every downvote cast.
Another SEDE query tells us that on average, with 10079 posts (not including deleted posts) each post on average receives about 5.40 upvotes and 0.16 downvotes, for a 34x ratio. This agrees well with the Analytics data. Note that this actually means that on average, less than one post in six is ever downvoted.
What is perhaps even more alarming is that we actually have a substantial number of deleted, upvoted answers. I used the search feature to get a list of all deleted answers with a net vote score of +1 or higher. At the time of writing this, it returned 35 hits. Expanding the search to answers voted net zero and higher and deleted, it returned 263 hits. That is, out of our some 10,000 answers, a full 2.5% or so was deemed bad enough to be delete-worthy, but were not deemed "not useful". I occasionally come across answers when simply browsing the site that have been deleted by someone other than the owner, but which are not negatively voted.
Content curation requires both upvotes and downvotes. It's how the Stack Exchange Q&A model is able to consistently produce high-quality questions and answers that actually match each other.
This leads to my questions:
- Why aren't people downvoting more? If the content is bad enough to warrant outright deletion, surely it is bad enough to warrant a downvote as well; but there can also be plenty of content which warrants a downvote but not a delete vote. Delete votes are not super-downvotes, just like close votes aren't super-downvotes; the actions are separate for a reason.
- We have a highly active community on this site, which is great. What can we do to encourage that community to actually exercise the downvote button more?
Keep in mind that a downvote isn't permanent; it gets locked in a few minutes after being cast, but even once it has been locked in, if the post is edited (by anyone) then the vote can be retracted and even reversed.