After all this I have been banned from asking questions, presumably due to the down marks I received from this question and https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/100529/help-us-clean-up-the-android-tag/118975#118975 where the OP requested ideas to improve the android tag. You can't help but admire the irony.


My problem is:

In an attempt to squeeze meta into the standard QA model of stackexchange I believe a site has been created which slows down evolution.

Meta seems to be made of of established users and established users are more likely to be those resistant to change to a system which got them their status in the first place, new users with fresh ideas (I am not talking about myself as I haven't had any yet) take a greater hit from this down voting system as they have less rep to lose.

Any radical or unconventional suggestions are much more likely to get down voted and so there is a disincentive to make these suggestions. Some might say that the formula of the site works and I certainly agree with that to an extent but you only have to trawl the android and facebook tags to see there are serious problems which need fixing and as these are two of the newest technologies and as more hobbyist will come on board Stack Overflow it is only set to get worse.

This voting model wasn't set up for discussion and this is a symptom of trying to make something work that wasn't intended to work like that in the first place.

Should the voting system for meta be changed?


In response to Robert Harvey's point I would point people towards the monkeys in the cage. Although I agree with some of his points I also think this is the philosophy which for fills my original point about resistance to change.

Pekka's Points about Meta votes not being valued moots my point but leads to the obvious question: why do they exist and why isn't this point better documented.

On a side note I hear a lot of people saying

It's not a big problem so why worry

But problems such as duplication, noise, unanswered questions, poor question quality will most likely not be solved by a silver bullet but most likely a series of small changes which steers stack exchange away from these problems so I am not sure these answers hold water.


As commented the down voted answer which triggered this thought in my head was in response to a question requesting suggestions, to lose the very little rep I had at the time having been prompted to provide suggestions just seemed perverse. I have since discovered that both voting and discussion in general has little or no value in meta and so that has cleared that up.

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    What are the problems in the android and fb tags? Jan 13, 2012 at 17:32
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    Another way to look at it is that the established users have seen many of these ideas get brought up before and have a good understanding of why they aren't necessarily good ideas after all. What problems in android and facebook tags are you alluding to that aren't likely to get fixed due to how meta works?
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:33
  • This for a start meta.stackexchange.com/questions/100529/…, I am not bitter about getting down voted but it was a thought that occurred to me as a result of this question. Jan 13, 2012 at 17:36
  • @jadarnel27 so do you think that stack exchange voting model fits well into discussion questions in meta? Jan 13, 2012 at 17:38
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    Maybe important to note that other SE sites have free metas (and use your rep from the main site)... MSO is the only site that doesn't follow this pattern AFAIK.
    – user159834
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:39
  • @whatsthebeef I think it serves it's purpose fairly well. I don't feel particularly strongly about it, though (which is why I haven't posted an answer). Jan 13, 2012 at 17:41
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    @Pekka - your new names always make me smile Jan 13, 2012 at 17:43
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    @Adam well, sustainable farming is a hot topic! :)
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:48
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    Let's just change "votes" to "Likes". (runs away)
    – user159834
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:50
  • @whatsthebeef Your update to the question should just be a comment in Rosinante's answer.
    – Marcelo
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:40
  • @Marcelo - done Jan 13, 2012 at 18:50
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    I have seen one user who lost voting privileges due to an unpopular suggestion -- but it was easy enough for me to personally fix the problem by giving him a handful of upvotes on his answers. It doesn't come up too often because it is so easy to get reputation, even from marginal ideas. (You're at +9 on this one now, despite the majority negative voting. Just keep your ideas around this level of unpopularity and you'll keep going up! :)
    – sarnold
    Jan 14, 2012 at 2:26
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    @sarnold Funny you should say that, they have banned me from asking questions presumably because I got too many down votes. Jan 20, 2012 at 14:16
  • @whatsthebeef: You can also get question-banned by deleting too many questions or answers -- a quick skim of your profile doesn't seem to indicate too many negatives, but I don't have the ability to see your deleted posts.
    – sarnold
    Jan 20, 2012 at 23:48
  • @sarnold I don't remember deleting any questions in meta. Jan 24, 2012 at 15:56

7 Answers 7


Note that Meta voting is different. Also, the reputation gained here is not really meaningful. There are some users with a lot of rep who start 500 bounties every week just to get rid of the points.

As such, I'm not sure I see the problem in what you describe - the "voting model" is community voting, plain and simple. Established users have no more votes than all the others.
Suggestions that the majority likes get upvoted; suggestions that it doesn't like get downvoted. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Maybe "established" users are simply around more and exercise their right to vote more often, but you're not seriously suggesting that is undemocratic?

The fact that there even is a separate reputation system doesn't really make sense, I agree with you there. But it has historical reasons, and is not that big a deal IMO.

Of course, what actually gets implemented in the end is in the hands of the team, and it's perfectly possible for massively upvoted suggestions to never be implemented.

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    And massively downvoted suggestions to be implemented. Title filter... Jan 13, 2012 at 17:47
  • Interesting point about meta voting, makes more sense, but in that case on a holistic level why are votes meaningful in any stack exchange site if it isn't to collect them, why have rep in the first place? Jan 13, 2012 at 17:48
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    "Suggestions that the majority likes get upvoted; suggestions that it doesn't like get downvoted." - +1, I think that's the key here. Jan 13, 2012 at 17:48
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    Prompted me to check -- I'd be the last user on the second page (of users listed by all-time rep) without my bounties here. In other words, I agree. My bounties go indiscriminately towards things I think are good ideas and so on, as well. Rep is a tool for good!
    – user154510
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:49
  • @whatsthebeef I added a paragraph about that - it's historic reasons mainly. It doesn't really make much sense (because a lot of rep can simply mean you are agreeing with the groupthink all the time, etc. etc.) but it's not really a big problem IMO - everybody still gets to make every suggestion they want, and every suggestion has a fair chance.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:50
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    @Adam ... or massively upvoted requests not to implement a new feature (almost 70 votes twice!) to be ignored. I'm done wasting my time on feedback on new features on this network, that's for sure.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:50
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    @Pekka - your idea for quasi, sorta social networking was brilliant. It was plainly stupid for Jeff to brush you off like that. Jan 13, 2012 at 17:53
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    @Adam thanks - although I can respect that decision. Jeff has his vision and is sticking to it, and one has to admit it's worked well so far. (I think that idea will be revisited eventually, though.) It was the "please don't make my profile page look like a horrible pile of numbers and graphs" plea that was ignored and deleted twice that really pissed me off, because it was so abundantly clear the community majority was behind it - it had 70+ net upvotes each time.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:57
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    @Pekka - I remember that. So has the new profile grown on you? I actually love it. It seems like a nicely put together control panel. Jan 13, 2012 at 18:02
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    @Adam I personally don't mind it, but I mind that people from the outside (who have no connection to any of the sites) see it the same way. It's immensely useful but it looks like crap, and thus reduces its value as something to point people to. IMO.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:03
  • @Pekka - you have me curious now. Do you have a screenshow anywhere of what the old profile looked like? I don't even remember now. I'm sure there's got to be one in the meta questions somewhere... Jan 13, 2012 at 18:08
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    @Adam i.stack.imgur.com/yeLha.gif
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:10
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    @whatsthebeef can you specify what problems you mean that the current system has?
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:18
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    @Adam yeah. I wouldn't complain about it as much otherwise. Except for the nice community and improving your writing skills and all that, getting to show a nice profile with your contributions is about the only thing you get out of being on these sites. That's why it really pisses me off when they do things to that profile without giving a damn what people say
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:27
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    @AdamRackis Designs change and evolve with or without community input, and everyone understands that. I think what pissed a lot of people off is that all these discussions were simply deleted for no good reason. It makes one wonder – why have discussions and help in community building, if in the end, all the history is going to be erased (or as they like to say, stored away in a place where you can read if you have the direct link and 10k+). Jan 13, 2012 at 18:58

A few observations:

  1. Some community decisions are not debatable, such as the question-answer format that SE has provided as an alternative to forums. Suggestions that seek to make SE more forum-like or turn it into a social framework are dismissed out of hand.

  2. Other community decisions have broad consensus, established over an extended period of time, involving significant effort by all participants. While these decisions are not immune to improvement, the fundamental principles so established are unlikely to change.

  3. The veteran users are the ones who have made most of the effort to make this a better place. Their opinion, to a certain extent, should get more weight than that of new users who are not similarly invested.

  4. It is true that new users are proportionally disadvantaged here on meta, especially by the Question Asking bans that occur when a new question get severely downvoted. It is also demonstrably true that the noise level here on meta has decreased substantially since these Low Quality filters were put into place.

To new users of the site, I would say this: Invest a little time to get to know the SE network, its participants, and its norms, before making new suggestions. That time will be well-rewarded; your suggestions will be taken more seriously by veteran community members.

  • +1 I had a ton of suggestions that I didn't post here when I was a new user, and in retrospect, now that I'm a lot more familiar with the site, they were all bad ideas. It's difficult to improve something that you don't fully understand.
    – user159834
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:04
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    Very nicely put, especially point 2. I'm tired of people who have a suggestion shot down and then start complaining about a "conservative establishment" ruling Meta that is set in its ways, and just afraid of new ideas, while ignoring the possibility that there has already been a year-long struggle for consensus during which many arguments have already been discussed ad nauseam.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:05
  • @Pekka As commented the down voted answer which triggered this thought in my head was in response to a question requesting suggestions, to lose the very little rep I had at the time having been prompted to provide suggestions just seemed perverse. I have now discovered that both voting and discussion in general has very little if not no value in meta and so that has cleared that up. Jan 13, 2012 at 18:44
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    @whats fair enough. I can also see how getting downvoted is very frustrating when you are new, and maybe still struggling to reach the thresholds required to vote, to comment, etc.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:48
  • @whatsthebeef: In the sense that voting on Meta is akin to Monopoly dollars, what you say is true. I wouldn't say discussion on Meta is completely valueless; the site is constantly evolving, and discussion is still an important tool to help solve site problems.
    – user102937
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:51
  • @Robert Harvey - I was implying that discussion has little value and votes have none (although I admit that wasn't obvious). Jan 13, 2012 at 21:30

This is not a democracy. The team certainly reads questions here, and pays some attention to votes, but is not bound, even slightly. Thus, a really good idea with a lot of downvotes is just about as likely to be adopted as a really bad idea with a lot of upvotes.

So the voting system on meta has no effect at all on the velocity of evolution. The sites evolve as 'SE INC' decides to evolve them. Voting and rep on meta add up to the Queen of England: We're informed and we advise, and I forget the third.

  • Nice answer, it puts me off any discussion questions but I guess you have probably saved me a lot of time, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN! Jan 13, 2012 at 18:49
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    It's EPA, dammit! Jan 13, 2012 at 19:01
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    If community members were involved in the SE corporate policy meetings, there might be a better correlation between votes and decisions (and probably some analysis paralysis added into the mix as well). But all too often, community discussions occur on Meta after the thought process has already taken place at SE corporate. The Low Quality Question filters, for example, were put into place using tools and analysis not available to the community at large.
    – user102937
    Jan 13, 2012 at 19:01

I think your basic point is a good one, but there's a lot going on here which makes the discussion muddy.

The way votes are used on Meta is overloaded. It's often said that we use them to agree and disagree with ideas. And that's true, and it's useful. The problem is that makes it hard to reward someone (like yourself, for example), who has raised a discussion worth having, but who's point of view we may disagree with.

Communities tend to solidify over time as norms are established, and it becomes increasingly difficult to change those norms. Robert Harvey makes excellent points here. This increasing conservatism allows stability and reduces endless circular debate, but as with any form of conservatism, there is always the potential for less flexibility, the rise of a ruling elite, and the ossification of progress.

I do think meta has a problem with elitism. Groupthink and sycophancy are generally rewarded by the voting process. Whistle-blowing, dissent w.r.t existing policies, or even just good ideas that are hard to understand are often penalised. To some extent this is inevitable, just as in real life - the bikeshed problem is one aspect, and playing to the crowd for votes and support is simply classical political rhetoric.

But to some extent we get to choose. This community was founded on idealism. The original Stack Overflow community has strong meritocratic norms, because we are from a tradition of hacking, open source coding, and making smart stuff work. We're geeks. I hope we as a community can continue to resist the pressure to conform, and to express what we think freely, and be judged fairly.

It's tough to deal with downvotes, even after they are explained to you. Most people want to be liked and accepted. It's hard to make a stand when an entire community shouts you down. How many more potential meta posters out there are cowed into silence by the vocal, extrovert minority? I think the voting system we use puts unnecessary extra pressure on those people.

To all of those people: please speak out when you think something is wrong! Don't worry about the pat on the head and the votes, even though SO has trained you to fear downvotes. Focus on the real reason for Meta. Meta is not a popularity contest, despite how its participants are rated. Maybe we could and should change it. But that's hard to do. But until then, just remember that when you speak your mind, you help the community - whether you are right or not, and whether they agree with you or not.

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    +1: This harkens back to the basic idea in politics that voting for the guy who loses is still better than not voting at all. The net result is no different, but the act itself has value.
    – David
    Jan 13, 2012 at 19:03
  • The problem is that makes it hard to reward someone (like yourself, for example), who has raised a discussion worth having, but who's point of view we may disagree with. While this is true to a certain extent, whatsthebeef is at a +12 reputation overall for starting this discussion, despite the 2:1 ratio people who dislike the general thrust of his idea. My worst suggestion yet only cost me 27 points. Even the worst only lost 162 points. (Course he spent another 5000 on bounties...)
    – sarnold
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:22
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    @sarnold - Quite true. My point is that I can't both reward him for bringing up the idea, and also freely express my agreement/disagreement, using the single voting mechanism. Jan 25, 2012 at 18:31
  • Too true. In those rare cases, I'm content to leave an answer with my opinion and avoid the down vote. :)
    – sarnold
    Jan 25, 2012 at 23:09

To address just the reputation part:

Meta seems to be made of of established users and established users are more likely to be those resistant to change to a system which got them their status in the first place, new users with fresh ideas (I am not talking about myself as I haven't had any yet) take a greater hit from this down voting system as they have less rep to lose.

On questions you get 5 points per upvote, and lose 2 points per downvote.

On answers you get 10 points per upvote, and still lose just 2 points per downvote.

It takes a ratio of 2.5:1 downvotes on your question just to prevent you from gaining rep, nevermind losing it.

It takes a ratio of 5:1 downvotes on your answer just to prevent you from gaining rep.

The system is intentionally set up to keep your rep increasing even if more 70% of the users who vote on your question think it stinks!

  • Your last sentence would be more correct if you said "more than seven-tenths" rather than "more than half." If you get 7 votes and 5 of them are downvotes, you break even. So it takes over 71% downvotes to lose rep on questions. Jan 13, 2012 at 18:48
  • @Charles - edited to clarify - I meant it as "half again more dislike than like" but your percentage is easier to understand.
    – JNK
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:52

Should the voting system for meta be changed?

As an extension of your question's title, which regards "evolution of the site", the answer is definitely no.

As has been noted, with examples quoted, user reputation and feature-suggestion votes do not correlate strongly with feature implementation.

I'm going to jump out on a limb here:

Yes, voting is 'different' on Meta. But no, voting isn't really any different on Meta

The main difference is what I've already said: It has no big effect on the implementation of your suggested changes, directly.

But there are no "feature requests" on the main site.

So all that's left is this: Votes indicate how much the community 'trusts' your activity here. That's no different than any of the Stack Exchange sites. No different at all.

And yet... across all the sites, your overall reputation has very little effect on whether your posts are helpful. If you post a useful answer, it's likely to be read and considered helpful. (Note: I did not say it would necessarily be up voted/accepted). Likewise, if you post a useful suggestion here, it's likely to be considered. (Note: I did not say it would be implemented).

To address another part of your question: If there is any statistic which shows that low-reputation Meta users don't have new feature requests accepted and implemented as often as high-reputation users (something I don't doubt in the least), I have a simple explanation for that: High reputation users have been here longer, and will be much more likely to offer suggestions that will be accepted.


I agree. The problem is that people tend to look at the votes as a measure of how valid a statement is whether it's their intention or not. There are two types of people here: those that are looking for help, and those who like to participate in shaping this site and doing moderatery things.

Usually your questions aren't voted on by your average SO user, but by the people who hang out here because they enjoy doing this stuff. Over time they form opinions together and when you don't agree with them they gang up on you and down vote the heck out of your posts. Time after time they are ridiculously subjective, although they will defend themselves as being entirely objective and have each other to back themselves up.

And when you point stuff like this out then they get pissy and down vote the heck out of your posts, as you will probably witness on this very post. The more I come to this place the more I realize it's kind of a club for these guys. I can post links to documentation on the website that clearly backs my point, but if they disagree then that documentation won't mean squat and because they agree with one another they are 'right' simply because they say they are right.

Ok, I'm done ranting... you guys that I've been talking about can bring it on with the down votes now like you always do. Enjoy :)

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