A year ago, Jeff added a paragraph about how downvotes on meta are different to the FAQ.

That's a step in the right direction, but people still frequently get pissed off by Meta downvotes (because of course, no one ever reads the FAQ). Newbies will feel personally attacked; some will withdraw and hate Meta from then on, others will complain, but either way this frequent misunderstanding adds an amount of completely unnecessary drama to whatever discussion people are having.

I realize there is a culture of being "initiated" into Meta and you either get the culture here or you don't, and that's okay to a point, but Meta is supposed to be the capital of a huge Q&A network, and needs to be more open to those who don't get it.

MSO should show the FAQ message explicitly, on a separate page to first-time posters when or before they post their first contribution, similar to the "did you do your homework?" page on SO proper.

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    Resist urge to downvote and explain...
    – Oded
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 18:50
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    +1. Unfortunately this is the part when some seasoned meta users swarm in and state that newbies not reading the faq is their own fault. Commented May 13, 2012 at 18:50
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    Replace the arrows with the words "yea" and "nay" Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:00
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    I feel the conflict here is one of wanting to preserve our little slice of heaven but at the same time welcome new users into our enchanted forests... It's a delicate balance.
    – Lix
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:14
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    Just a half thought, so I'll leave as a comment (anyone can feel free to take, clean up and post) - maybe have some sort of div show up next to a negative score on a question posted by a relatively new user??? Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:17
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    What about replacing them with thumbs up and thumbs down characters?
    – Oded
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:20
  • Y U remove my newly created drama tag, random? That hurt, man.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:25
  • This season the network executives are going for more dramedy, police procedurals and reality TV.
    – random
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:27
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    I like dramedy. I want the taxonomist badge for that one.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:30
  • I'd support this for site metas too, not just MSO
    – Zelda
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:21
  • I had posted something similar here, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/117389/…
    – nawfal
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:22
  • "no one ever reads the FAQ" - correction: badge nerds who want "Analytical" read the FAQ. Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:42
  • I'd like this addition! Thank You Very Much Pekka Commented May 13, 2012 at 21:00
  • Does dramadery have one hump or two?
    – Rosinante
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 15:01
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    @ThomasShields. counter-correction: badge nerds who want "Analytical" will visit every section of the FAQ, no requirement that they read it...
    – Ben Lee
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 18:45

3 Answers 3


Well, first off... I don't actually buy into the idea that down-votes here are different. I think folks wish they were different, wish that Meta was a warm and safe place, free from the criticisms that lie in wait for them outside in the cold, cruel world of Stack Overflow...

And I have a rather hard time being bothered by folks who jump in suggesting changes without bothering to think about the reasons for existing behavior, or consider the consequences of doing what they suggest.

But I do agree we could do more to encourage folks to do a bit of research first. Particularly for support questions, where down-votes seem the most cruel and unnecessary.

I doubt that an interstitial page explaining down-votes would help much though. A better solution would probably involve making search results more relevant and visible between the time when they start asking their question and it actually going live on the site.

With a bit of creativity, this could also provide a venue for short-circuiting ban laments and programming questions...

  • "I doubt that an interstitial page explaining down-votes would help much though" - I'm a bit torn on this, personally. On the one hand, anyone who comes here to post a rant without thinking that it'll be negatively received is likely not the kind of person who would read such a page. On the other hand, I have seen people who respond more positively to being informed that down votes are different. But on the foot that's going to stand in for a third hand, I agree that the down votes aren't really any different.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:34
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    Well, they sometimes Meta votes are different. I've seen people post perfectly well-worded, well-researched suggestions that the community simply didn't agree with. In those cases, downvotes do mean disagreement and not a criticism of the post's quality. This should be made super extra clear so Meta doesn't unnecessarily lose potential valuable members. They come from a site where they've been conditioned to regard a downvote as something that means "your post sucks. You need to improve it." and it doesn't always mean that on Meta.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:39
  • @Pekka Assuming we're referring to feature requests, if I have a reason to down vote, I do want the OP to improve their post to address my reasons for disagreeing with the request. Otherwise, the suggestion is "not useful" to me (the down vote tooltip about not showing any research is a little heavy-handed, granted). But, I know people are typically not inclined to see it that way, so it's largely a matter of perception.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 21:29
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    @Pekka: I'm not saying voting on meta isn't occasionally - or even often - contrary to the instructions on the arrow-tips. I'm saying folks vote for stuff they like / against stuff they don't like everywhere, in spite of what they're advised to do. The reasons for disliking stuff do tend to be different on meta, but that's more because of the nature of what's posted. I'm not sure there's a way around that: no matter how well-researched, if you show up and suggest that SO should have, say, a pay-wall... Then you're probably gonna catch flack for it.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 0:42
  • @Shog look at a question like this one, for example. It's just been asked so I can't say which way it'll go, but... The user's motivation is great, he sees something that he feels is handled the wrong way. He wants to help. But I might still downvote the suggestion because I don't think it would work. Now have five people decide that at the same time, what will be the result for a Meta newbie who has never received a downvote in their life? They'll think, "what a bunch of dickheads", and leave. Because to newbs, a downvote conveys, YOU SUCK
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 23:50
  • There are... things you can do... to a post like that, @Pekka, to improve its reception. If you're so inclined... Let's not forget that some of the highest-ranked questions include some dodgy ideas that are simply well-expressed and explained. I think fixing on the down-votes here on Meta misses the real value of encouraging folks to hone their skills.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 5:21
  • @Shog yeah, I see what you're getting at. But that is a huge paradox then. Do I upvote the suggestion because I like the OP's style, or do I downvote it because I disagree with the suggestion? What if a dodgy idea gets 243 upvotes - even though the community consensus is against the idea! - and the team ends up implementing it? If anything, this calls for a separate "agree" / "disagree" vote after all...
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 15:47
  • @Pekka: this is why I prefer posting critical answers over simply down-voting. And also why SE doesn't blindly implement everything that gets up-voted... ;-)
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 15:55
  • @Shog yeah. But voting then really isn't a measure for what the community thinks at all. In neither direction...
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 15:58
  • @Pekka: voting is - at best - always a rough measure of public opinion. People vote for all sorts of reasons, and I'm sure you and I could suggest things and get "support" for them via up-votes where the same suggestion written by someone unfamiliar with the local style would get down-voted into oblivion. This is really what I've been trying to get at: it's not worth pretending votes here are "different" because they're different only as the topics and... Well, and as the voters are different. Voting on MSF is different in a different way; voting on Meta.Gaming is also differently different.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 16:14

The fact that people still complain a lot about downvotes here proves that they rarely read the FAQ. That paragraph added to the FAQ is great, but it's not being read. Would it be too difficult to make it prominent to first-time users, as a pop-up type message. Similar to how first-time users are asked to choose a best answer, but only once.

Yes, it is confusing that someone trying to help the site gets a bunch of downvotes. I guess it would be quite frustrating, especially if the poster spent over 30 minutes formulating the post. I always thought the silent treatment works better, if we could collectively agree to let it alone rather than downvote...

As for the original post, yes! We can reduce the noise this way, so then why not?


The first part of the tooltip still says it clearly:

This question does not show any research effort

That could mean they've gone in swinging in and slapping all these turkeys around without bothering to even glimpse at any of the duplicates and masters that have already been trodded through.

Knowing is half the battle, and dragging yourself pants down across the tiles when you don't have the decency to check the atmosphere is showing no research effort.

They also fail to realise spending a little more time on any of the SE portals will avail oneself to the norms and bratwurst not so crazy things they're trying to push or suggest as brilliant for being a long standing member who only registered and started using the site a few days ago.

Downvotes on Meta aren't really that different. It's just that due to the hot and steamy traffic more people have a greater chance of seeing the food on the plate and will downvote accordingly.

Do people complain and cry in the shower, feeble on the luxurious of stank when they're covered in the spunky wash of all the upvotes?

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    Should I run this through Google Translator first? Erm, I think what Pekka means is that the tooltips on Meta should say "I agree" for an upvote, and "I disagree" for a downvote.
    – user102937
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:06
  • People want all their Meta requests to be showered in upvotes and never told they're worthless, already old ground, or plain stupid
    – random
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:08
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    never told they're worthless, already old ground, or plain stupid -- glad to see Pekka wasn't off base with his "being initiated" analogy. Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:10
  • If people want to complain about not being able to read things they've willingly skipped over, we can't be coddling them all @ada
    – random
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:12
  • No one reads the tooltips now, may as well make this request explicit in changing the arrows to be more in your face instead of another page that is skimmed @rob
    – random
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:13
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    @random - you're absolutely right. Rather than making an honest effort to make a few things more clear, let's leave everything as is, and when newbies complain, people like you can insult and berate them. Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:13
  • These users just barge in. If they point out that they've done at least a skim read of the FAQ, then we can work from there. @ada
    – random
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:17
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    There are plenty of "undesirable" users who barge in, and the current system does a great job of taking care of them. I think this request is meant for more honest users who just don't understand how meta works, and haven't read the faq (hell, even't I haven't read the faq) Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:20
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    "Do people complain and cry in the shower, feeble on the luxurious of stank when they're covered in the spunky wash of all the upvotes?"... Phrases like this do not belong on ANY SE site, not even on meta.so Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:42
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    Of course they do belong. I disagree with the contents of this answer, but Meta would be a poorer place without random's style.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 20:11
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    There's nothing wrong with a little style, but this goes a bit far. Users who make an effort but don't have strong English skills could be confused. New and casual users might think they (or others in the conversation) are being dismissed, or even made fun of. This would be questionable coming from a regular community member, but from a diamond? Moderators should hold themselves to a higher standard. (Hmm, who should I notify... spinning the wheel... @Pekka!)
    – Pops
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 17:21

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