It has been suggested by one of our prominent community members that the use of negative votes should be confined to demoting spam. As the individual responsible for the introduction of negative voting on FSDaily, I feel I should explain my rationale for its inclusion and provide my tips on negative voting.
To begin with, a brief explanation of how we (try to) deal with spam on FSDaily. Unfortunately, FSDaily has gained enough popularity that we have come to the attention of spammers. While the majority of spam is filtered out before it gets published and never sees the light of day some of it still slips through. To counteract this we have given our more active members access to moderation privileges. This catches almost all of the remaining spam. However, occasionally it goes undetected for a few hours before a moderator spots it. In time, our community will continue to grow and rather than a handful of moderators we will have a hundred or more. Until then the best thing you can do if you don't have moderator privileges is vote down any spam. This makes it easier for moderators to spot. So please vote spam down.
When NOT to vote down
Articles that identify news that negatively impacts free software, to me, should be voted UP. The idea is that by promoting these items we can draw attention to them so the community can be aware of what is going on and hopefully so they can react. It would be fantastic if we could see comments and blog entries in reaction to these articles but other reactions might include: writing to members of parliament or senators or contacting the companies or individuals in question.
If we vote down these stories the community will be kept ignorant and the status quo will be maintained. So please vote these stories up... not because you agree with them but rather because they need to be exposed to wider scrutiny and so people won't remain ignorant. And, please, comment so that people will know why you are showing them.
When to vote down
Apart from voting down spam, I think of the negative voting being more for stories that are: incorrect, "lame", heavily biased, poorly researched, opinions posing as fact, etc. These stories might not be spam but are not something that the community should be exposed to (except perhaps for educational purposes). I think they qualify for a negative vote as it prevents them from becoming promoted and prevents the wider community from being exposed and potentially tainted. It also reduces traffic on the sites they are hosted which discourages content of this nature from being produced.
I really think that the first person to vote a story down is obligated to explain why. The first few negative votes may go unnoticed and less savvy readers might vote the stories up. A comment will draw peoples attention to any problems with the article and that it has been voted down. This will lead to more informed voting. After all, not everyone possesses the same cynicism, skepticism, or attention to detail. Once a decent explanation has been posted, subsequent negative votes need no further explanation unless there is a separate reason that also needs to be identified.
Don't vote up (just) because you agree with an article - vote up because it should be seen by others. Don't vote down because you don't agree with an article - vote down if it shouldn't be seen by the wider community. Whatever the case please, please comment or, even better, post a blog.
Thanks for reading. I hope this helps.