First off, I get that we should all post the most helpful things for the future sites, and not just what will generate the most rep. But we want the rep system to actively re-inforce that good behavior.
@Robert C's question here is focused on the "Meh" vote, and whether it's being abused, as well as whether we should implement a "Meh" penalty.
But the real problem isn't with "Meh". It's with getting people to want to post good, edge-testing, "off-topic" questions:
The combination of limiting both the questions one can submit and the number of "off-topic" votes that others can cast, while leaving the "meh" votes ~unlimited disincentivises posting good, boundary-defining "off topic" questions.
If you happen to nail it (and it's a lot harder to "nail" the off-topic - by definition, you're aiming for that contentious realm where some people do want them included), you might get one of someone's precious "off-topic" votes. But you're a lot more likely to get "Meh" votes from folks who do want that borderline topic included. Or who think it obviously shouldn't be. Or who are trying to get to 300 votes. Or who think a later, but similar example better exemplifies the idea for that boundary definition.
Plus, you've got to use some of your 5 total questions for a given proposal, instead of using them for an obviously on-topic question, which is way more likely to get upvotes, and almost certainly won't get downvotes.
How to Fix it:
Maybe the Meh vote should carry a penalty, as @Robert C. suggested. But more importantly, what the votes mean should be clarified:
- Great Question - clearly on-topic and exemplifies everything the site is about.
- Tough Call - this replaces "off-topic". It represents the questions that would likely get asked but are near the line. They may be just subjective enough to be closed, or just helpful enough to allow it. But they are not:
- Terrible Suggestion - this is the "new Meh", and should be used for questions that are ridiculous, contentious, exact dupes, etc.
The fundamental change is that borderline questions would be encouraged, even though you can't be sure if they're just before or just past "the line".
Note that I think we should address similar borderline questions, ("What should I feed my Dalmation?" vs. "what shoud I feed my Husky?") by encouraging people to submit and vote for questions with a specific example clearly representing numerous "type" cases: "What should I feed my [African Parrot]? (Thanks to @The Cat for improvement here.)
And it can all be done without a huge change to the current system.