While the voting system does seem to be doing a good job of killing trolls and keeping comments on-topic and well reasoned, there have been a few cases recently where downvotes have been used in less than ideal ways.
For instance, while I do realize a few of this user's subsequent comments in this thread crossed the line, I am struggling to figure out how this comment netted 19 (at the time of this writing) downvotes. It's one person stating their opinion. Sure it may not be an opinion that many of you agree with, but it's a valid opinion, nonetheless and it didn't violate any of this site's commenting policies.
I hated doing this, because I saw a lot of great readers in the batch, but everyone that downvoted that comment is now lighter some helmet stickers. We've done it for other needless downvotes and will debit stickers to others in the future for similar violations.
For this system to truly work, it's incumbent on all of us to behave responsibly and to be judicious with downvotes. As I said when I introduced the system, please try to upvote more than you downvote and don't downvote a comment just because you disagree with it.
MGoBlog has a similar voting system and during the Rodriguez era, a sort of site hivemind evolved that banished anyone for saying anything remotely negative about Rodriguez. In hindsight, that was pretty dumb and I would love to avoid a hivemind like that developing at 11W. We want diverse opinions and robust discussions and part of that is having the maturity to avoid downvoting comments that you disagree with.
If it helps, let me give you some examples:
"Jim Tressel was a terrible coach and Ohio State should never have hired the man." — On the surface, this looks like a differing opinion, but in reality, it's a pretty dumb comment for anyone that has things like eyeballs or basic math skills. Downvote away.
"Jim Tressel's offenses were frustrating to the point of not being able to watch." — Just an opinion you may not agree with. No downvotes needed.
"Terrelle Pryor did more harm than good at Ohio State." — Again, a differing opinion that you may not agree with. No downvotes needed.
I know that even the best of these systems will not be perfect. For instance, here's a top comment on a Reddit thread (karma = helmet stickers on Reddit):
As you can see, even top, harmless and relatively funny comments routinely earn a up/downvote ratio along the lines of 6:1 (in this case 121:20). The point is, some downvotes are going to happen. We'll do our best to monitor and stop abuses, but we're going to need the help of the 11W community to a) vote judiciously and b) develop thick skin when knuckleheads downvote one of your comments.
Finally, starting today, we have upped the threshold to vote to 100 helmet stickers. I hope this helps reduce some of the downvote problems we're having, but if not, we'll up it again in the future.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I'd love to hear any feedback you have.