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The FAQ is inconsistent:

  1. What is reputation? states:

    The primary way to gain reputation is by posting good questions and useful answers. Your peers will vote on your posts, and those votes will cause you to gain (or, in rare cases, lose) reputation:

    Are upvotes and downvotes different on meta? states:

    On Meta Stack Overflow, voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness.

    These statements are contradictory: how can "posting good questions and useful answers" result in votes that "will cause you to gain (or, in rare cases, lose) reputation" if voting here does not indicate "quality or helpfulness"?

    At very least, the FAQ should be corrected one way or the other.

  2. What is reputation? also states:

    Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you; it is earned by convincing your peers that you know what you’re talking about.

    Again, this is inconsistent with the idea that votes "express agreement or disagreement". The following would be more correct:

    Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community agrees with you; it is earned by making popular suggestions.

    Whilst having answers accepted and earning bounties could arguably still fit with this definition, it somewhat falls apart with reputation adjustments from other means: offering bounties; accepting others' answers; casting downvotes on answers; having suggested edits approved; and associating an account.

  3. It's unclear to me whether reputation here should carry the usual benefits (which it currently does):

    Furthermore, downvotes can lead to a post ban. Do we really mean to say that people who make a number of suggestions with which the community (overwhelmingly?) disagrees should be banned from posting further on MSO?

    There's a proposal not to penalise MSO downvotes, which could go some way toward alleviating these bizarre outcomes.

I'm aware that there is a proposal to set MSO rep according to rep earned elsewhere in the SE network, which I think is imminently sensible.

My proposal here is an interim measure: simply fix the FAQ so that it's consistent and explains the purpose behind a reputation on MSO (which I don't really understand, especially given the lack of such on the child meta sites). The privileges page should be updated at the same time.

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Of note: from what we know automatic post-ban rules are far more relaxed here on Meta than on SO. It would be hard to hit one. And you might want to take not of the (ultimately) planned separation of Meta SO and Meta SE: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124015 –  Bart Oct 23 '12 at 14:03
    
Regarding why MSO has reputation and other metas don't: MSO has existed since before there was a meta-site system, so it was just set up as a normal site. Because it also serves the role as meta for the entire network, not just for SO, it would be a little awkward to associate it entirely with SO. This is eventually going to be addressed by splitting the current Meta Stack Overflow into a ordinary meta for Stack Overflow and a separate Meta Stack Exchange. (The rest of your post will probably be relevant to Meta Stack Exchange.) –  Jeremy Banks Oct 23 '12 at 14:04
    
Meh. Meta is inconsistent about reputation. No FAQ entry is going to fix that. The split Jeremy mentions will hopefully bring more sanity. (BUT IF I LOSE MY REPZ THERE WILL BE BLOOD IN THE STREETS) –  Pëkka Oct 23 '12 at 14:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The FAQ is not incorrect. Votes on Meta work as they do on any other site. I vote up and down as I would on any other site...

...plus agreement and disagreement. And that's where the "problem" comes in. Meta (for better or worse) has a second meaning tagged onto upvotes and downvotes. Making them possibly somewhat ambiguous in some cases. So correcting the FAQ "one way or the other" would in essence not correct it.

As for agreement and trust, those are not all that separated. If you have good ideas on Meta or bring up relevant issues, one could argue that you gain trust via the agreement.

As for bans, from what we know the rules are far more relaxed on Meta than they are anywhere else. So running into a ban is a lot harder.

All in all, though it might seem to be somewhat confusing, I don't think there is a whole lot that needs to be changed. The big take-away for me in the beginning was the following:

Meta-rep means f*ck-all. Don't worry about it. Ultimately (unless you consistently post drivel) it will go up over time.

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The primary way to gain reputation is by posting good questions and useful answers.

This is correct, even on Meta. That's the crux of it; even on Meta you're supposed to post good content. Good content on Meta still gets more upvotes. The only difference is that if you post a good suggestion everyone happens to disagree with (which is...quite rare) you'll lose a small amount of reputation.

Note the use of primary. Looking through my own posts, in my opinion, I have primarily gotten reputation by posting good questions or suggestions (good measured by others' opinions via voting) or useful answers. I have not earned much reputation from useless statements people happen to agree with like "Stack Overflow is the Bee's Knees!" Just because people agree with you doesn't necessitate upvotes on MSO. You can still have a terribly formed or useless post I otherwise agree with, and I'll probably either fail to vote or downvote you.

Also note the "often" part of this statement:

On Meta Stack Overflow, voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness.

I down vote a lot of posts on MSO because of a lack of quality or helpfulness. Voting on meta is not exclusively "yay/nay", and this idea generally shouldn't be hammered in people's heads. Yes, sometimes it's different, but it's not exclusively different.

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Understood. But then, at very least the FAQ should change "often" to "also". –  eggyal Oct 23 '12 at 14:16

The FAQ says that voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not that voting is only used to express agreement or disagreement.
That is not in contrast with the other sentence, as the only way to gain reputation on Meta Stack Overflow is still posting good questions, and useful answers. In addition, you gain reputation if you don't ask for feature requests few other users agree upon.

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