Background: There have previously been questions aimed at changing the downvote tooltips on Meta, or asking why people here downvote as well as explaining how votes are different from Stack Overflow. All of them touch on the fact that voting on Meta is, admittedly, different. However, when a user asks a question on Meta and then receives downvotes, there is often a flurry of "why was this downvoted!??" comments, like

Who is down voting and why? Please be courteous enough to state a reason specially when the question is asked with humility. In addition to that, the question itself seeks to align better with SE ethics. You are simply discouraging people like me to be a part of this community. – Raheel Khan 1 hour ago

to which other users will usually say something like:

Welcome to Meta! On this site, downvotes don't necessarily mean you've asked a bad question. In this specific case, the downvotes probably indicate that the voters think soliciting professional consultation after the fact is not appropriate. – Popular Demand 1 hour ago

Of the most recent questions, other examples of this interaction are on Can I replace an old question by editing it?, Why did my question here on Meta SO get so heavily downvoted?, and a query on comments found yet another question on interesting questions, What to do with my questions which have not been solved? and I'm feeling a bit of harassment on my questions, can i block people from my questions? among others.

Proposal: Similar to the automatic comment which is generated for a vote to close something as a duplicate, I propose having an anonymous automatic comment when the first downvote event is triggered for a given user. It could link to the FAQ, and perhaps say something like this:

Welcome to Meta! On this site, downvotes don't necessarily mean you've asked a bad question.

Instead of being left automatically by the user who voted, it could be attributed to the Community user.

In this way, new users are specifically linked to the FAQ (which, arguably, they should have read anyway) without being "turned off" by the downvotes which occur quite often on Meta. It also gently redirects them to the FAQ as a whole, which might nudge them to read it and ascertain a better understanding of the site.

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It's usually an indication that they don't generally know that asking about downvotes in comments is noise on any Stack Exchange site. –  casperOne Sep 4 '12 at 18:17
@casperOne Then maybe the automatic comment could impart that bit of knowledge as well? Given that "why was this downvoted" comment is fairly common, I think at least attempting to teach more is a valid aim. –  simchona Sep 4 '12 at 18:20
@simchona Misread the proposal, removed my comment, if we could preemptively detect that someone is asking about downvotes, then I'd like a nag dialog or prevent the comment altogether. But that's easier said than done, and not what you are suggesting. –  casperOne Sep 4 '12 at 18:23
How about simply auto-posting such a comment on a question the first time a user ever gets downvoted on Meta? –  Jim Sep 4 '12 at 19:05
Another example just occurred on… –  simchona Sep 4 '12 at 20:36
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2 Answers

I support this. (or at least some version of this).

To stop the comment section of every question by a new user being cluttered by the message, the comment could maybe be ninjad to only show to the OP, or we could even have a popup thing show next to the vote count on their question if they start attracting negative votes (something like this).

It also fits in nicely with the "Summer of Love". Joining a new community and getting immediately downvoted with no ideas why is not a nice feeling, and we should try and remove that as much as possible.

I admit myself, upon joining meta the first time I did not read the FAQ; having read it on Stack Overflow, I did not expect things to be that radically different.

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Summer of Love doesn't really have anything to do with this... –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 18:27
@YannisRizos: Making new people feel welcome and making the environment seem less hostile? –  Matt Sep 4 '12 at 18:28
Comments, it was only about comments... <sigh> Even if some people mistakenly perceive downvotes as hostile, that's irrelevant to the whole Summer of Love campaing, as honesty > niceness. The whole thing was about targeting very specific behaviours (rude/non constructive comments), and that's about it. Down voting / closing etc was never even hinted at in the blog post, other than by a few trolls in the comments. –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 18:29
The Summer of Love should be over now anyways, it's September. (And for USians, after Labor Day.) Let's go back to the B52's version. –  Josh Caswell Sep 4 '12 at 18:44
btw I don't disagree with your answer, just with that it has anything to do with the Summer of Nonsense. –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 18:55
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As you point out this is already explained in a few places (including in the FAQ!).

We do have a reasonable expectation that people will read the FAQ before pitching a hissy. If people can't be bothered to read the FAQ, or insist on crying foul anyway, there's little we can do for them. Having @Community post an automatic comment when a question goes negative seems a bit much, and I doubt it would stop the wailing.

I could get behind making the entry in the FAQ more visible/obvious (and/or generally cleaning up the template Meta FAQ itself to incorporate more of the "About" content so it does a better job of explaining what Meta is) though.

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This differs from your run-of-the-mill "read the FAQ" situation in two ways. First, by the time you arrive at a meta site, whether it's this one or a per-site meta, you must already have some familiarity with one or more "regular" sites. Meta sites have the same look and feel as their main sites, so it's reasonable for meta newbies to assume that voting works the same way in both places. –  Pops Sep 4 '12 at 18:20
Second, typical "read the FAQ" comments lead to "I don't care, I just want my question answered" replies, and non-constructive arguments. However, people often reply to "voting means disagreement on meta"-style comments with "oh, okay, I understand now, thanks for the explanation!" In other words, these comments actually work. –  Pops Sep 4 '12 at 18:21
@PopularDemand by the time you arrive at a meta site, whether it's this one or a per-site meta, you must already have some familiarity with one or more "regular" sites Well, doesn't that also mean you know there's a FAQ and that you should read it before posting? –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 18:25
@YannisRizos When I rent a car, I don't pop open the glovebox and flip through the owner's manual to ensure that turning the steering wheel clockwise turns the car to the right. I believe I know how cars work, and simply assume that the steering column isn't somehow inverted from my expectation. It's reasonable for people showing up at a new site that looks like familiar SE sites to behave similarly. –  Pops Sep 4 '12 at 18:30
@PopularDemand Yes, you don't, because you already have gone through the process of getting a driver's license (at least I hope so ;), if we adopt a similar policy I wouldn't mind people not reading the Meta FAQ (Of course that would be crazy, but it's your analogy). Even if you don't flip through the owner's manual when you rent a car, you do go through the rental contract at least once even if you've rented cars before. And you probably check the basics, level of engine oil, etc, before you drive it for the first time... (if you don't, you really should) –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 18:35
@YannisRizos: His point is that because Meta sites look identical to regular sites, people expect them to work the same way. So downvotes being different on metal is like a car where the steering wheel works differently from a regular car. –  Nicol Bolas Sep 4 '12 at 19:18
@NicolBolas It's a bad analogy, but I do get the point, and I'm disagreeing with it by using the same bad analogy. –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 19:26
@YannisRizos: How it is a bad analogy? People learn how a steering wheel works long before they're licensed to drive. So the licensing thing is a complete non-sequitor. –  Nicol Bolas Sep 4 '12 at 19:35
@YannisRizos I think the problem is that you misunderstood the analogy, not that the analogy itself is incorrect. Let me try again without the car. Say you play lots of video games at home using standard controls (learning how to use SE sites). Then one day, you visit a friend's house (Meta), and don't know that his favorite game is set up to use an alternate button layout (voting differences). If you know that some games have different controls, you might think to check them (reading the FAQ) but most likely you're just going to open the menu a few times when you want to jump. –  Pops Sep 4 '12 at 20:00
IMHO There is no "run of the mill 'read the FAQ'" situation -- Either we assume that the FAQ will be read, or we assume having a FAQ at all is a waste of time, get rid of the page, and save a bunch of time, effort, and lines of code. The "It looks similar" argument holds no water with me. Skeptics, EL&U, and sites like SciComp look the same as other SE sites, yet they have different rules enumerated in their FAQs, and they rightly expect people to have read and understood them before participating. –  voretaq7 Sep 4 '12 at 20:04
@PopularDemand A better analogy, but I still disagree with your the point you're making. I know enough to assume that the controls might be different, I'm not playing the same game and expecting default behaviour. It has a different name and a different logo, if I'm playing it for the first time, I'll check to see what button I can shoot aliens with. Even if the two games are closely related, let's say they belong on the same series, I'll still have a quick look at the controls. –  Yannis Sep 4 '12 at 20:30
@voretaq7: "they have different rules enumerated in their FAQs, and they rightly expect people to have read and understood them before participating." But they don't change the meaning of votes. A downvote still means "this is bad", not "I disagree with this." –  Nicol Bolas Sep 5 '12 at 0:05
@NicolBolas I'm sorry, but I don't see a difference - There is nothing preventing another Stack Exchange site from spawning that has the meta voting semantics. Users of that site would be expected to read the FAQ (There's even a bloody badge for it!). I have low tolerance for people who don't bother to read documentation and then complain about the way things work - this to me seems to be a case of coddling such people. I seem to be in the minority there though. –  voretaq7 Sep 5 '12 at 3:57
@voretaq7: But there's nothing encouraging it either. No site has done so, nor is a site likely to in the near future. So while one would reasonably expect the topic for posting to be different, the whole point of having all of these sites under the SE banner (besides it being closed-source) is that they all work the same way. –  Nicol Bolas Sep 5 '12 at 13:23
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