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I was wondering what the proper etiquette is for posting a link to meta to discuss whether a question is off-topic. It seems to me that this can be used as a way to limit up votes on a question. I understand the point when a site is in beta to discuss what is off-topic, but why should/shouldn't a link from the original question to the meta discussion be in the comments?

I can see some advantages to posting a link from the original question (that might be considered off-topic).

  • It encourages people who do think a question is off-topic to follow the link to meta to discuss why it is off-topic (removes a step).

I can see disadvantages to posting a link from the original question's comment section.

  • It will discourage people from voting a question up, even if they might approve of it.

Is it even necessary? People who are interested in "is this off-topic" can always search by [off-topic] tags in meta. I understand a link from meta, linking to the original question in the main site (otherwise, they wouldn't know what "off-topic" question was being discussed). But, it seems unnecessary to link in reverse.

share|improve this question
Anybody who understands meta should understand that if there is a disagreement about the relevance of a certain question, then there is more than likely an audience who feels the same way and another audience entirely that feels it is relevant. People should also understand that just because some other people think this way, they shouldn't have to. – Mystery Feb 15 '12 at 3:36
@Purmou, I of course understand that. I was trying to understand the relevance of linking to meta discussion within the original question. – user1873 Feb 15 '12 at 5:32

Linking to a meta-discussion topic on a post that's directly affected by the discussion is a great way to:

  • Include the people affected by any consensus reached on meta into the discussion
  • Advertise the meta-discussion site, not comments, as the place to discuss the site's scope
  • Be completely transparent about what's going on the site

That it might discourage someone from voting the question up is a largely academic concern: I've never seen anyone attempt make that argument and people can vote for whatever reason they want. Divining why individuals vote (or opt not to vote) is like coming up with a Unified Theory of Cat Herding: things people like get up-voted regardless of any on-going meta discussion. The meta discussion even sometimes helps a question gain popularity due to increased exposure.

A more concrete issue that affects numerous sites is the perception by some who get their questions closed that there's a cabal who decides what stays open and what gets closed in secret. Any time that myth can be dispelled (like by linking to a meta discussion between real people) is a huge boon.

Thumbs up to linking to relevant meta-discussions, all the way.

share|improve this answer
I can understand 1), but 2) seems to be more appropriate is a response to someone else's comment that a question is off topic. (ie. To inform someone who is using comments inappropriately). 3) also seems dubious, as you can clearly see when someone votes to close, or down votes. I wonder if stack exchange has any numbers for some statistical analysis to see the average number of votes up/down before someone comments with a link to meta "off-topic" compared to after "off-topic" comment. – user1873 Feb 15 '12 at 3:34
@user1873 Statistical analysis is fine for some things, but there's something to be said for experience. In the 2 years I've been active on Stack Exchange, this is the first time I've seen anyone raise the concern that linking to a meta-discussion causes upvotes to stop. Linking to relevant meta-discussions is standard practice throughout the network and has caused pretty much no controversy whatsoever. – user149432 Feb 15 '12 at 3:42

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