I wouldn't get too discouarged, BBB. You've always seemed to enjoy publishing here, in one place, news you find relevant, even if those articles don't always generate a huge discussion. Now, the volume of these threads means certain people not interested in them, particularly those on the right, are going to give them a thumbs down, if only to remove them from view so as to navigate more easily.
There have been many threads about the thumbs up/down. I think what's gone unnmentioned is the connotation of the word "reputation" on the user profile. While the arugment about voting down simply to remove threads from view makes sense, "reputation" is indeed a loaded word, particularly when placed in such proximity to "questions answered," right? The implication being that newbies or one-time users coming here simply for advice may click on a profile to help guage the credibility of the poster. Thus, a fully competent regular whose "reputation" has been "damaged" simply due to the nature of their posting habits (say, for example, someone who likes to start trivia threads) may not be taken seriously as a result.
Or take H2O Man, aka "The Least Annoying Person Ever." He certainly risks losing his Water Crown to archenemies Gary Slusser and Andy CWS, as poor souls with defunct water softeners will click on his profile, see his paltry "reputation" (the result of his idiotic participation in politics threads) and defer to the advice of the other water dudes.
In sum, I don't believe anyone who says they use the thumbs up/down soley for navigation purposes is being completely honest. Unless their own reputation is below average. Yet I think it is a factor to be taken into consideration. And, on the bright side, I think everyone is a little trigger happy, myself included, since it is a new feature. I guarantee thumb activity will sharply decrease in the next few months.