I am newer to the SE community so forgive any naivete. I suspect this is a recurring issue, but I regularly come across users whose reputation continually increases despite many incorrect, or incomplete, pseudo answers (answers that dont contain references, list equations without explanation, a single picture, etc.).
By observation, this type of poster gains reputation by answering a lot of questions poorly. In many cases, their answers are not overtly incorrect (deserving downvotes) but seem to target lower quality (homework type) questions, hoping to receive a statistical percentage of upvotes from incomplete, pseudo answers. I actively downvote incorrect answers when I feel qualified to do so- While downvotes do discredit these answers, they hardly discredit the poster or deter incomplete, opportunistic answers.
For example, an [unnamed-user] answered 67 questions in 14 days, earning +27 votes and -25 votes (net +2 votes)- this results in a net +550 reputation.
This practice exploits the fact that a single upvote offsets 5 downvotes! In my opinion, it undermines the system and deflates the reputation of legitimate users. In other words, (from the perspective of a new user) their answers carry more weight, as reputation should reflect the communities endorsement. I argue that:
- Their reputation carries authority that misinforms
- Opportunistic answers perpetuate low quality questions
- They might gain authority to 'vote to close', etc.
Is this problematic? How is this currently addressed?
I should note that the [unnamed-user] was placed on temporary suspension (presumably independently of this Meta post). In this light, and combined with dissenting opinions of long term users with valued perspective, I am convinced that the current system naturally responds to abuse.
That said, I'd like to clarify my position regarding the spread of misinformation with respect to reputation and voting.
The problem with that is that science is not a democracy. You shouldn't judge an answer by the number of upvotes or downvotes. That's letting other people do your thinking for you, and for all you know they're colluding and gaming the system. You should judge the answer for yourself, and follow up on the evidence and references and explanation
In my opinion, this (and similar) sentiments misstate the larger problem. Certainly, science is not a democracy! However, when an OP asks a question (good or bad), they don't know the answer. Incomplete answers (correct or incorrect), undermine the OP's (and the community's) ability to learn and objectively evaluate the answer. In effect, incomplete answers place additional weight on the democratic process (via reputation and consensus). In that sense, they 'misinform' simply because they are not adequately explained.
Similarly, if the OP does not feel qualified to evaluate an answer (often the reason the question was asked), they will likely defer to reputation. Reputation carries weight, especially for trivial questions with accepted physics: Whose answer would you bet on, @JohnRennie or @OneRepPoint?
We might discourage this practice or expose it by:
- Increase downvote reputation losses by some agreed amount?
- Introduce a visible statistic (such as Upvotes/Downvotes, Votes/Answer, etc)?
- Negate reputation awarded when a question is closed, etc.(to prevent opportunistic answers and reduce incentives to answer homework like questions)?
These are large system changes and as @dmckee notes, NOT likely to happen.
What changes are possible within Physics.SE?