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The meaning of down-votes in meta vs. stackoverflow
Change upvote/downvote tooltip on meta sites

I've been concerned about some of the bias I see on in meta communities on SE sites. I think this answer does an excellent job of outlining the the cause of the problem, however it doesn't offer a solution.

We've taught our users that downvotes are negative. This question provides a good summary:

On SO down-voting a question means that the question is a poor one. Poor meaning badly written or really annoying for some reason (e.g. give-me-da-codez).

Down-voting an answer usually means it's plain wrong.

On Meta, however, many questions revolve around matters of taste (e.g. the HW question). When voting on answers to such questions, I want to be able to push down the suggestions that I disagree with and promote the ones that I think are correct. But I don't want to hurt people's reputation by doing so.

Down-voting on Meta isn't really saying "your answer is stupid and wrong"; it's more like "I prefer we do it the other way". The whole site is basically meant to discuss matters of social preference, etiquette, do's and dont's, etc.

The problem with this is the majority of the SO community is not meta users, and they don't realize this difference.

I see two problems coming from this:

  1. Proposals that make the MSO group happy, but not the larger non-meta group happy (such as cleanup efforts to get rid of popular questions that don't conform to site guidelines) have a skewed vote count. The meta users are quite happy up and downvoting their preferences, however the larger non-meta group only votes up what they like. They don't vote down. The end result is we are unable to tell if a proposal actually has community support, or if it only has meta-community support.

  2. The 2nd problem is that it drives away new meta users. I doubt you see this much on SO, but I see it a lot at P.SE. If someone posts something that goes against what the meta-community thinks, the question gets downvoted harshly, and the user feels like they've failed somehow.

    For example, the very first meta question I posted was asking about the possibility of implementing some kind of poll-of-the-day option to P.SE. It was downvoted, and even though it was explained to me that downvotes simply mean users disagree, it still made not want to participate in meta for a year or more afterwards because I felt I had somehow done something wrong.

There are two solutions I can see for bringing the two communities together so that we get a real view of what the community wants:

  1. Change the voting system on meta so it matches what the majority of the SE community is used to

  2. Put something on meta's main page or next to vote arrows that clearly says Voting is different on meta, and actively encourage users to use their down votes. (Perhaps this could be related to another proposal for putting a brief description on meta for new users?)

Personally, I'm in favor of #1 since I view it as a constructive approach, not a destructive one. There's nothing wrong with negative feedback, but there is something wrong with simple negativity with no explanation. Even now, years later, when my questions/answers on meta are downvoted I feel like I've done something wrong. And personally, I don't like to vote down other people's suggestions unless they are wrong, because I feel they're entitled to voice their opinions without being attacked for it.

I think it is a much more welcoming solution to downvoting would be to post an answer/comment disagreeing with the question, and let it gather upvotes.

It is far better to have an answer posted disagreeing with the question to gain a lot of upvotes, than the question itself gain a lot of downvotes. This is because instead of providing negative feedback to the person asking the question, you are now providing positive feedback which actually answers the question.

But regardless of my opinion, can we please either make both voting systems match, or implement something that makes it absolutely clear to any user that the voting systems between the two sites are different, and that users should be using their downvotes.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Diago, kiamlaluno, ChrisF, phwd, Cody Gray Mar 15 '12 at 3:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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@Diago It is not a duplicate because it is suggesting a solution, not asking for the difference –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 16:58
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Not knowing the community and posting up insane ideas also are signs the question shows no research effort –  random Mar 14 '12 at 16:58
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@random And your point is? I didn't post this without a lot of thought and looking into many other meta questions. I am more active on P.SE meta than I am here, and I see the current voting system on meta driving away new users all the time. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 16:59
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@Rachel Actually it is. Even the FAQ states that voting on FAQ is different, and requesting changes to a system that has been working for more then 2 years the way it is, when your question clearly shows you haven't researched the topic, is actually frustrating and a waste of time. –  Diago Mar 14 '12 at 17:00
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@Diago The current system might have been great before there was an established meta community, however now that there is an established meta community, I see it driving away new users. Perhaps you don't see it so much on here because of the sheer number of users, but I see it all the time on the P.SE meta site –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:01
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@Rachel I don't think it's the down votes scaring people away, I think it is the amount of ridiculous requests, as well as the fact that people can't handle negativity or accept that things aren't going to change no matter how they insist, or the fact that they cannot make a convincing argument or point, that scares them away. The whole front page is either complaints about a closed question, or complaints about some imaginary problem that suddenly needs to be solved because the site is not what people want it to be. It even scares me away. –  Diago Mar 14 '12 at 17:04
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@Diago I'm speaking from personal experience. My first meta post was downvoted (and I agree that using the current voting system, it should have been downvoted). Because of this, I did not use meta for over a year, and only started using it because I had some strong objections to something. In addition, I see many new users asking why their meta post was downvoted, and then I never see them again. What's wrong with upvoting an answer that is against the question instead of downvoting the question itself? It would provide positive feedback that answers the question, instead of negative feedback –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:09
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@Rachel If they don't come back, they definitely don't have a vested interest in making SE a better place. The FAQ clearly defines how you should approach Meta, and the people we want on meta, is the people that shrug off the votes and focus on the argument, problem or change they want to see. However at some point you also have to accept that the majority does not agree with you, and that at the end of the day, the final discussion about change lies with the SE team, based on community feedback. –  Diago Mar 14 '12 at 17:13
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@Diago I would disagree with you there. I am definitely interested in the SE sites, particularly P.SE and SO, but there have been many times in the past when I have been frustrated and ready to leave the sites entirely because of the intolerance and aggressiveness of meta users towards people who don't think like them. This proposal is an attempt to make SE a better place for everyone, and is based on what I have witnessed in a smaller meta site. You're entitled to your opinion, but I am hoping that some day SE will see that the current meta voting system is more destructive then constructive –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:20
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@Rachel To be honest Robert's answer clearly explains the crux of the issue. It is the reason down voting questions on Meta is free, and to be honest, spend enough time on meta and you learn to understand what the SE team is trying to achieve, and actually, with time, come up with real solutions to real problems. Not make believe one's to non issues. –  Diago Mar 14 '12 at 17:24
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I'm torn. On the one hand, I'd like to see new users treated better; on the other hand, such coddling might serve to encourage and increase the crap, horrible feature-requests and complaints on Meta. I think Robert summarized the issue perfectly –  Adam Rackis Mar 14 '12 at 17:29
    
@Diago I wasn't actually aware that downvoting on meta is free, so thank you. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:35
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@Rachel: I admire your courage –  user150926 Mar 14 '12 at 17:41
    
Rather than joining the other 4 people who pulled out a link that you included in your question, and then voted to close as a dupe, I found this other question that seems to more accurately capture the spirit of your proposal. Personally, I very much disagree that the workings of Meta should be changed to align with the main site (your proposal #1). That could be partially because I'm a member of the "meta" crowd you talk about, but I also think the system works well to indicate community approval. –  Cody Gray Mar 15 '12 at 3:55
    
It is completely bonkers for sending a downvote to be free, but receiving a downvote not to be. If we have already said that downvotes speak to the idea, why are we punishing the person?? –  A.M. Jun 18 '13 at 16:26

1 Answer 1

Meta is a gauntlet, a crucible for ideas. If your idea can survive the pounding, it might be a good one.

The cold, hard reality is that most ideas and suggestions for improvement are non-starters, for a variety of reasons. This is true in life, as well as Meta. The ability to provide negative feedback is a valuable tool for sorting out the good ideas from the bad ones, thereby freeing up time and mental energy to focus on the good ideas and implement them.

Civility and politeness are very important qualities, qualities we take very seriously. But so is honesty and intestinal fortitude, and changing the way votes are used to spare people's feelings is essentially dishonest.

See Also
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/02/listen-to-your-community-but-dont-let-them-tell-you-what-to-do.html

share|improve this answer
    
Well said. Especially the last part. –  Diago Mar 14 '12 at 17:18
    
I was hoping your link for most ideas being bad would point here - +1 nonetheless –  Adam Rackis Mar 14 '12 at 17:25
    
Thank you for giving it some thought. I agree that there are many bad ideas on meta, but when a user doesn't fully understand how the meta system works and is in the minority, getting a ton of negative feedback on their question instead of a straight answer is far more destructive then constructive. I think either both meta and main sites should have the same system, or there should be something noticeable warning the user of the differences before they post. SE was built to be run by the community, not by a subset of the community who share a similar mindset. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:33
    
Just thought of something else: If the only reason for using downvotes on questions is to separate good ideas from bad ones, wouldn't that be easier to do if you could view a list of ideas based on how many upvotes they got, and not view a list of ideas based on upvotes-minus-downvotes? I feel upvotes-minus-downvotes shows a skewed point of view that favors the existing meta community, and not the actual SO community –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:37
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@Rachel: It is the users' responsibility to get educated. If they jump into the deep end without learning to swim first, there are (and should be) consequences. When I first encountered Stack Overflow, I was very careful about asking my first question; I spent a couple of days just watching and learning before I made my first attempt. It never occurred to me that people might just jump in without even checking to see if there was water in the pool. –  Robert Harvey Mar 14 '12 at 17:39
    
@AdamRackis Nice link :) Now don't you think it would be far more constructive to have everyone upvote the answer stating that idea is a horrible one, than to have the user downvoted so many times? I am guessing we won't see him again. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:41
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As to your "something else" comment, you're still conflating positivity with results. You can't; positive mental attitude is something that is cultivated from within; you can't confer it from the outside. If you try to do so, you're hurting people's personal growth, because you are witholding the truth from them. Negative feedback is not a bad thing; most life processes (cellular chemistry, etc) wouldn't work at all without it. –  Robert Harvey Mar 14 '12 at 17:41
    
@Rachel - in a perfect world, maybe. Honestly though, dealing with downvotes on bad ideas comes with the territory Having said that, I wouldn't mind seeing an auto-comment pop in the question after -5 or whatever votes explaining that voting on meta is different, and that you shouldn't take it hard –  Adam Rackis Mar 14 '12 at 17:42
    
@RobertHarvey Yes, users should educate themselves on the site before posting, however I think if we expect them to educate themselves separately about the meta site then it's our responsibility to make them aware that they need to get educated separately on meta. I, and I'm sure many other users, assumed that meta worked the same way as the main site. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:45
    
@RobertHarvey I agree that negative feedback in itself is not bad, but straightforward negativity without an explanation is harmful. –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 17:48
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Possible Duplicate =P –  jadarnel27 Mar 14 '12 at 17:49
    
@jadarnel27 Thanks for the link :) I love the idea posted by the OP there to get rid of downvotes on questions that only contain the tag [discussion] out of the 4 required tags. This would help discussion topics that have a lot of support to float to the top, and wouldn't scare away users who are just trying to discuss a topic with the meta community –  Rachel Mar 14 '12 at 18:00
    
@Rachel You're welcome! I was attempting to humorously point out that Robert had verbatim copied his answer from that question =) But, I'm glad I was able to guide you to another relevant discussion on this topic. If you look through that OP's recent (and mostly heavily downvoted) posts, you'll some other interesting thoughts. –  jadarnel27 Mar 14 '12 at 18:54

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