The meaning of down-votes in meta vs. stackoverflow
Change upvote/downvote tooltip on meta sites
I've been concerned about some of the bias I see on in meta communities on SE sites. I think this answer does an excellent job of outlining the the cause of the problem, however it doesn't offer a solution.
We've taught our users that downvotes are negative. This question provides a good summary:
On SO down-voting a question means that the question is a poor one. Poor meaning badly written or really annoying for some reason (e.g. give-me-da-codez).
Down-voting an answer usually means it's plain wrong.
On Meta, however, many questions revolve around matters of taste (e.g. the HW question). When voting on answers to such questions, I want to be able to push down the suggestions that I disagree with and promote the ones that I think are correct. But I don't want to hurt people's reputation by doing so.
Down-voting on Meta isn't really saying "your answer is stupid and wrong"; it's more like "I prefer we do it the other way". The whole site is basically meant to discuss matters of social preference, etiquette, do's and dont's, etc.
The problem with this is the majority of the SO community is not meta users, and they don't realize this difference.
I see two problems coming from this:
Proposals that make the MSO group happy, but not the larger non-meta group happy (such as cleanup efforts to get rid of popular questions that don't conform to site guidelines) have a skewed vote count. The meta users are quite happy up and downvoting their preferences, however the larger non-meta group only votes up what they like. They don't vote down. The end result is we are unable to tell if a proposal actually has community support, or if it only has meta-community support.
The 2nd problem is that it drives away new meta users. I doubt you see this much on SO, but I see it a lot at P.SE. If someone posts something that goes against what the meta-community thinks, the question gets downvoted harshly, and the user feels like they've failed somehow.
For example, the very first meta question I posted was asking about the possibility of implementing some kind of poll-of-the-day option to P.SE. It was downvoted, and even though it was explained to me that downvotes simply mean users disagree, it still made not want to participate in meta for a year or more afterwards because I felt I had somehow done something wrong.
There are two solutions I can see for bringing the two communities together so that we get a real view of what the community wants:
Change the voting system on meta so it matches what the majority of the SE community is used to
Put something on meta's main page or next to vote arrows that clearly says Voting is different on meta, and actively encourage users to use their down votes. (Perhaps this could be related to another proposal for putting a brief description on meta for new users?)
Personally, I'm in favor of #1 since I view it as a constructive approach, not a destructive one. There's nothing wrong with negative feedback, but there is something wrong with simple negativity with no explanation. Even now, years later, when my questions/answers on meta are downvoted I feel like I've done something wrong. And personally, I don't like to vote down other people's suggestions unless they are wrong, because I feel they're entitled to voice their opinions without being attacked for it.
I think it is a much more welcoming solution to downvoting would be to post an answer/comment disagreeing with the question, and let it gather upvotes.
It is far better to have an answer posted disagreeing with the question to gain a lot of upvotes, than the question itself gain a lot of downvotes. This is because instead of providing negative feedback to the person asking the question, you are now providing positive feedback which actually answers the question.
But regardless of my opinion, can we please either make both voting systems match, or implement something that makes it absolutely clear to any user that the voting systems between the two sites are different, and that users should be using their downvotes.