Having recently introduced the concept of a '+rep' button to an online community I manage, I've noticed a couple of things. It functions as the thanks button does on vBulletin (user says 'thanks' to a poster, and the poster has a record of all the thanks they've given and received. There is a listing of who has thanked a person below a post).

Primarily it has become a way to add a voice to a discussion, without actually requiring the effort to type out a fully formed response. This brings the advantage of easily gauging popular opinions, and is a fun way of indicating good contributions to a thread.

However, is has also been detrimental, particularly during disagreements where people feel 'ganged up' on by a crowd of non-participants. Fortunately this doesn't happen too often, given the size of my community (70-100 actives), but there have still been requests to disable the feature.

I have a couple of questions.

  1. What is the best way of keeping the concept of '+rep' or thanks without letting the mechanism be abused during personal disagreements between two members?

  2. Are there any examples of such a system scaling well to larger communities? How was this achieved?

  • I'm a bit unclear on the "ganging-up" bit. Is this only a one-way "+" button, similar to Facebook's like? How does that end up getting used negatively? People upvoting disagreeing comments? – Su' Dec 27 '11 at 11:29
  • It's only positive voting, but given that the upvoters' usernames are displayed with the post, it's sometimes interpreted as akin to ganging up. Example - two opposing users, one gets the support of a select few via upvotes and the other doesn't. The user that doesn't then sees this as part of a wider trend that "everybody hates me" and leaves the community - when in fact, the upvoted post was harmless teasing etc. There's no nuance in upvoting, and I was wondering of ways to solve this. – rikkit Dec 27 '11 at 11:36

tldr the sites that have an upvote feature have the following characteristics in common:

  1. The ability for people to provide feedback on why they upvoted a post.
  2. A very good explanation on why there is an upvote mechanism, that most users understand.
  3. They all started out with an upvote mechanism, so nobody had to make a painful transition.
  4. They don't listen to the minority of the users that complain, and instead focus on what the majority thinks.

First of all, many other sited have a voting system, like stackexchange and reddit, and facebook has a "like" system that seems to be very similar. And I haven't seen to many posts complaining that they were being ganged up on because another person got more likes/upvotes than they did.

There are a few things that I think might help. In all of these sites, there is a comment feature, so people can explain why they like the post. It might help to add a popup telling them that they should also add a post explaining why they like the post they liked, so that the person who posted the post get's feedback.

Also, in stack exchange, the reputation system is very well thought out. They have multiple blog posts explaining every aspect of the system, and the reputation system integrates with everything (how the answers are sorted, your profile, etc.). The stack exchange team also makes it clear that reputation exists to help people get good answers to their questions, and that it doesn't exist to create a popularity contest. Experienced Stack Exchange users know this, and as such they usually don't get mad when someone's answer has more upvotes.

In addition, these sites began with an upvote mechanism. This means that the people in the site did not have to transition to a site with voting, as voting was always there.

Lastly, some people probably do complain. However, these are the minority. The people incharge of successful sites usually focus on the majority, not the minority.

NOTE: While this answer does not directly answer your question "What is the best way of keeping the concept of '+rep' or thanks without letting the mechanism be abused during personal disagreements between two members?", it does answer the second one, and therefore, indirectly, answers the first.


I've ran several forum communities before and the downvote had to be ultimately removed. By keeping just upvote, you reward good quality posts while crappy posts get largely ignored.

Otherwise, as you said, personal vendettas or just the simple fact of having a couple of bored people with nothing to do at any given point in time leads to mass downvoting of all posts they can find...

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