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From time to time, people complain that unpopular suggestions on Meta get effectively censored by downvoting: questions with a net score under -7 vanish from the front page. Most recently Nicol Bolas:

The problem is that, on polarized topics, fast mass downvoting can quash any idea that is not popular with the most active members. After all, the most active members are the ones who are most likely to be online and see it. If a bunch of MSO regulars see it and downvote it, it goes away.

now, I'm not sure I agree there really is a problem here. Most -8 suggestions I've seen were beyond saving, no matter how long it would have been on the front page. By and large, I think the system works.

However, it's impossible to deny that the existing vote count on a feature request prejudices people, and there are some really bizarre voting patterns from time to time - ie. it sometimes feels like there's a fair portion of people who won't actually read a contribution before voting on it; much less think about it. Also, the -8 "censorship" will always be an argument for those who claim things aren't entirely democratic around here.

Hence my suggestion is this. On Meta, give new feature request some protection for the first 24 or, better, 48 hours of their existence, namely:

  • do not push them off the front page because of their downvotes, or raise the downvote threshold

  • show a 0 instead of the request's vote count. When the users clicks on the 0, they see a "vote count visible in x hours" banner.

  • If a question gets closed, it loses all protection immediately.

for the truly harmful content, some other mechanism could be used for quality control: For example, closing a question could remove it for the front page. Really egregious suggestions are usually shut down as "not constructive" anyway.

What good I think this would do:

  • It would recognize the poll character that these feature requests have.

  • Suggestions going against our Meta groupthink have a fair chance, and can no longer complain about unfair treatment.

  • People would be further encouraged to think before they vote.

For this to work, any rep gain or loss would have to be hidden for the first 24 or 48 hours as well - otherwise you could see how the question is doing just by looking at the OP's reputation graph. - or not, as suggested by Michael Mrozek: if somebody really wants to find out how the question is doing, let them troll the OP's profile. Just hide the vote count from plain sight, which probably also makes it much easier to implement this.

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I'm almost sure this has been suggested previously, but I couldn't find it. –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 20:42
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What to do with reputation of OP? –  om-nom-nom Mar 22 '12 at 20:43
    
@om awww, good point. Rep gain or loss would have to be withheld until the 48 hours are up - otherwise, you could see from their profile how the request is faring. –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 20:45
    
@Ben actually, it doesn't matter. But I've felt that this proposal is not full without a clarification of that aspect. –  om-nom-nom Mar 22 '12 at 20:46
    
@om-nom-nom, I've deleted my comment I misunderstood you –  ben is uǝq backwards Mar 22 '12 at 20:48
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I think that earlier versions of this request are for all questions on the main site. Side question: why are [feature-requests] special? Surely at least some [discussion]s are also subject to the same pressures? –  dmckee Mar 22 '12 at 20:54
    
@dmckee fair point about discussions, although feature requests are the one thing closest to voting IMO. I don't get your first sentence though? This request was never about the main site –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 20:56
    
@Pekka I think he referred to your comment –  om-nom-nom Mar 22 '12 at 20:57
    
"I don't get your first sentence though?" Sorry, I meant that I also believe the "hide votes for a period" suggestions has been made before, but that it was not specific to meta nor differentiated by tag. –  dmckee Mar 22 '12 at 20:58
    
@dmckee I see, thanks. Yeah, that could be –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 20:59
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Reddit does something like this; they show a bullet point instead of the score for the first few hours. 48 hours seems a bit long, and hiding the OP's rep is probably unnecessary (if people really want to stalk the OP's profile and track rep changes to determine the score, let them; the point is to stop people from piling on to a post when they notice an extreme score) –  Michael Mrozek Mar 22 '12 at 21:16
    
@Michael good points... and I assume doing it like you suggest would make it really easy to implement! No huge investment in developer time.... –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 21:19
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I'd be more supportive of the 24 hours. 48 seems a bit excessive. –  animuson Mar 22 '12 at 21:51
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(As an aside: the score of -7 already is slightly more relaxed on Meta sites; on main sites questions with a score of -4 or lower are hidden. And related: How does Stack Overflow determine for how long to keep a question in the main page?) –  Arjan Mar 22 '12 at 21:53
    
@animuson - not everybody visit SE every day –  Lazy Badger Mar 23 '12 at 3:03

1 Answer 1

You know, here is an incredibly awesomely asked question with no facts to back it. And do you know what happens? 13 people upvote it.

I am totally for amending the system to better work for a feature requests. In fact, if you look at community tracker I don't even allow downvotes on feature requests and you get a limited pool of "active" upvotes. Personally, I MUCH prefer that system as it forces people to think more and be frugal with the feature votes. I also hate the do no work "anti vote".

From all my meta history, well asked feature requests OR requests with plenty of data to back them up, get lots of upvotes. If you think something else is happening, please back it up with a question list.

Additionally, the only way to totally stop any "rich get richer", "poor get poorer" prejudice is to hide vote counts on a permanent basis. Something we clearly do not want to do. I don't see the 48 hour, let's complicate the system to solve an imaginary problem, solution that appealing.

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...I favorited it to follow the discussion, not to personally annoy you (I haven't voted yet) –  Michael Mrozek Mar 22 '12 at 21:58
    
Ill scratch the favourite thing ... its not relevant to my point –  waffles Mar 22 '12 at 21:58
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This new auto-update thing is amazing. Watching this answer flash overly quickly between 0 and +2, very funny... –  ben is uǝq backwards Mar 22 '12 at 22:01
    
@Ben: I was just wondering "what the hell is going on!?!?!?" –  animuson Mar 22 '12 at 22:02
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Limiting votes is a very interesting approach. I would totally be in favour of that over this suggestion. It would also change the meaning of an upvote from "hey, good data (and/or) nice idea and well written (and/or) I like the OP (and/or) the idea is bad, but he means well" to something that I really, really think should be implemented. A vote would become an active investment, and what people don't actively invest in would simply wither away. If the team is open to doing something like this, please do it –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 22:03
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Waffles - so what will happen to this then? Will you be putting that idea of yours into a feature request or discussion of your own? –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 22:18
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@Pekka ... if I were channeling Jeff, he would say that my "solution" is also imagineering (though for me it is the most appealing part of uservoice) ... I think we should scour meta to see if it was suggested before, I will also bring it up with the team. –  waffles Mar 22 '12 at 22:21
    
@waffles yeah. I can't find anything in that direction on the first 10 pages of the search I just did... Maybe feature requests need to go back on uservoice? That would be fun. Just thinking aloud.... Another thought, one very simple and radical solution that comes to mind would be simply massively limiting the number of votes available on Meta. To, like, five a day or so. Seeing as Meta rep is supposed to be meaningless anyway, and there is a Meta.SE/Meta.SO split coming up eventuall, that might not be completely inconceivable, would it? I'll think some more later and maybe start a request –  Pëkka Mar 22 '12 at 22:27
    
(@animuson, see New Feature: real time updates to questions, answers, and inbox -- and votes, and commenting...) –  Arjan Mar 22 '12 at 22:41
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Down-voting feature-requests is my favorite MSO feature. I could live with a limited number of up-votes (as long as I could retract them at-will without having to edit each one first), but there are an unlimited number of stupid features, and hence an unlimited number of down-votes required. –  Shog9 Mar 22 '12 at 23:25
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@Shog fair enough, fair enough. Limiting the times one can say "no" isn't a great idea, true. Still, I find the idea of making feature votes a special investment really intriguing. Because right now, an upvote doesn't cost me anything. It could be just an upvote because something is well written. Hence, it is essentially meaningless when defining the quality of a feature request... a more Uservoice style voting process (maybe even without anonymity?) might change that a bit and make voting more serious. But I digress, and should go back to my Uni paper and my red wine. :) Nighty night! –  Pëkka Mar 23 '12 at 0:22
    
@pekka: Everything you say about upvotes is true, but it's not as if upvotes are the only way to judge the merit and/or community support for a feature request. Since Meta is still a Q&A site, people can still (and are encouraged to) post answers justifying their support of that particular feature. That says a lot more than an upvote anyway. (I actually have been wondering recently if votes should be unlimited on Meta, which is quite the opposite of the direction you're going. But maybe I just feel the same way as Shog, that there are unlimited stupid features and I need more downvotes.) –  Cody Gray Mar 23 '12 at 0:59

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