Do you deny that the system is in fact abused sometimes?
Are you convinced that the benefits of the rep system outweigh any such instances of abuse?
Yes. Almost everything can be abused, this doesn't mean it should be eliminated.
Would this not be served by a simple like/dislike or agree/disagree system
This is, mostly, already the case. The influence downvotes have on global rep is mostly superficial and very temporary, while posting each day makes the number relentlessly climb higher and higher...
Actually - I wouldn't mind a system where the only means of changing this number was by getting one's posts rated high or low.
Bottom line - I'm sure the system can be improved, but that's because it's already working quite well.
"mob rule/popularity contest"
The term you're looking for is "societal approval". It's a GOOD thing. We can be independent individuals in solitude, once in company of others, it becomes crucial to receive their feedback.
Removing the "popularity contest" from the picture just because one doesn't want to participate in it... is kinda selfish. Hell - Aristotle said that people strive for at least three things: pleasure, wealth and fame. Why on earth should we curtail the ability of others to indulge in the last?
What does downrepping represent to you? Is it "this post is abusive or disruptive" (trolling, etc), "I dislike or disagree this opinion", or either/both?
I use it for a multitude of things, though I do know what you are gently trying to nudge me into...
Here's a couple examples of what I DO NOT use the buttons to achieve:
- to rate arbitrary statements (like "I don't like ice-cream") for their own sake (I may up- or down-vote some based on their contextual hilarity, appropriateness, vulgarity, emotional and literary finesse of presentation, etc)
- to mark a person rather than the post ( while"who posts what when and where" may have an impact, I try to remain fair)
- to directly influence the overall score of a given person
- to shut down good points being raised in favor of wrong ideas (I like smart, logical people. I don't down-vote arguments (on whichever side) unless are very illogical, based on ostensibly false information or personal biases, or - finally - highly vulgar AND incorrect (in other words: the only douchebags I'm willing to put up with are the ones who are smart))
One idea that comes to mind as a possible quick-fix to reveal certain kinds of abuse is eliminating the anonymity of the current system, displaying the name and rep of each member that has rated a post up or down (separate lists).
Nah. People who get downvoted need to look into THEMSELVES. This is where they will find the culprit.
As for the issue of abuse, I'm sure this can be solved easily and automatically by requiring a game purchase before being allowed to rate, having the impact of a vote be directly related to the rep of the person casting the vote...
There are plenty of possible fixes, there no need for any measures which would ruin the whole thing.