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How can Meta be made more conducive to discussions?

If, as stated here: https://meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences,

voting on this part of the site reflects agreement/disagreement, why is it otherwise treated in exactly the same way as it is on other parts of the site?

I see a couple of problems with this:

  • Downvoting due to disagreement is rather upsetting: as a 'regular' user, I am more familiar with downvoting representing bad quality elsewhere on the site
  • Reputation here is therefore affected by subjective popularity of questions/comments, rather than objective quality of questions/comments. This seems against the ethos of StackExchange.

I do not want to delete (any) heavily downvoted questions, for reasons of archiving - my opinion has not changed and I do not consider the quality of my contribution to be bad. I think a dissenting opinion is important to preserve for the benefit of discussion.

But, from a StackExchange 'game' point of view I ought to delete badly rated questions and answers: they badly affect my rep here. So, dissenting opinions are presumably regularly removed from this section of the site (by other users).

Is this a desirable consequence?

  • 3
    haha, thanks for the irony of an instant downvote :)
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:05
  • 1
    Related: Make it even clearer that downvotes on Meta are different
    – yannis
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:19
  • 1
    Voting serves as agreement AND "this is a well researched/terrible post". You can still upvote great content on Meta even if it presents another viewpoint, or downvote stuff that's poorly written/ect even if it's not necessarily a point of contention.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:22
  • @Yannis Yes, I'm really very clear about the difference. My point for discussion is whether that difference is desirable - I would say, it prevents a fair discussion of controversial topics (including this one).
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:27
  • 5
    I see your point about downvoting being rather upsetting, and I agree the system is imperfect in that regard, but how is fair discussion prevented by it? Downvoting doesn't delete or hide a post (with the exception of questions with -8 score or worse being hidden from the front page)
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:39
  • No, but it's highly plausible that users who come to make an interesting point would likely decide to delete their own questions with a -8 score in order to maintain their rep here at a workable level (this is known and accepted behaviour on other SE sites).
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:41
  • Reputation on Meta is even more worthless than the main site. In fact, Meta Stack Overflow is the only Meta in the Stack Exchange network that has reputation, on every other Meta the displayed reputation is your main site reputation, and Meta votes don't affect it at all.
    – yannis
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:45
  • Well, I think Ronald's point about rep is still a fair one. (The fact that this site has reputation is purely for historical reasons - the younger Meta sites were created after this one, and the decision was made to not have a separate reputation there at all. I guess that's mostly a good idea.)
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:47
  • @Pekka Well not just historical reasons, Meta rep (probably) makes sense for MSO's MSE nature, you can't really expect a Bicycles.SE or Gaming.SE regular to have 3K rep on SO to vtc on MSE. That said, the dual nature of MSO is a problem, especially for all of us who don't care much for SO, but a problem that will soon be fixed (6-8 weeks, last I heard).
    – yannis
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


I see some of your points, and I agree it's an imperfect system, but try seeing it this way: one question upvote will make up for two and a half downvotes; one answer upvote, for five.

That means that with a bit of Meta participation here and there, you will see a net loss of rep only if nobody, literally nobody agrees with you. Unless you are a troll, or completely and totally at odds with everything the community holds dear, or capable of conversing only in Volapük, that is very unlikely to happen.

Look at your recent question, StackExchange heavy reliance on external scripts: you lost 18 points from 9 downvotes, but gained 20 points from 4 upvotes. So even in a controversial case as this, you have no net loss in reputation.

  • Good point about personal rep - but if a controversial discussion scores -8 because of disagreement with the status quo, it gets brushed under the carpet? That still doesn't seem right to me.
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:56
  • @Ronald it's still searchable and archived. It's just no longer on the front page. There has been discussion about this, I'll see whether I can find it.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:57
  • @Ronald meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126591/… I don't totally agree with Waffles' answer, but the guys there sure make good points in favour of keeping the -8 hiding mechanism
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 22:59
  • Thanks :) Your suggested solution is innovative; I also don't agree with Waffles' answer. Arguing that the status quo works fine because there's no observable problem is not really a good argument here. It strikes me (from the comments) that there is/should be a difference between downvoting disliked feature-requests, and downvoting open discussion topics, and that difference has been forgotten in the melee.
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:09
  • @Ronald true - on the other hand, hiding stuff at a certain negative threshold is how a democratic system of government works, too: suggestions that are unlikely to gain a majority will never be discussed in parliament (or the senate floor, or whatever). And at -8 it's pretty safe to say a suggestion has no chance of a majority. I doubt whether many brilliant suggestions have been lost that way. Most suggestions gets some upvotes, some downvotes, and if the team doesn't think they're worthy, it simply doesn't implement them. That's what happens to the vast, vast majority of ideas.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:12
  • In light of that, it doesn't really seem worth worrying overly about some controversial suggestions that have been buried by the -8 rule instead of just forgotten like so many others. At the end of the day, the discussions and suggestions we have here aren't that important. Neither the upvoted ones, nor the downvoted ones.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:16
  • Plus reporting bugs and support questions are totally neutral
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:25
  • @Pekka Perhaps - but my general point would still be that open discussion (like this) is not as comfortable or easy/lubricated as it might be, which is to the disadvantage of the site as a whole. This has been quite difficult for me to push forward with (knowing that a majority of voters currently disagree), despite your generosity and patience.
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:28
  • The downvoting/hard -8 limit might not appear to be a problem if looked at in isolation, but that doesn't mean it is a healthy part of the site. For example, people might not bother to bring up good but difficult or controversial discussion topics to avoid receiving a weight of thumbs pointing down: that's just human nature.
    – Ronald
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:29
  • @Ronald yeah, but that will always apply, won't it? People will be less inclined to make unpopular suggestions, no matter what the voting system looks like. We all want positive feedback from our peers to some extent, and negative feedback is unpleasant. No system can fix that... Only individual courage to weather negative feedback can. Plus at the moment, neither of your questions is seeing any disadvantage from the -8 rule - they both are still visible on the front page. I guess my bottom line is, it's an imperfect system, but it's not fundamentally broken IMO.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 23:41

I can see your point about the reputation, but I have two things to say in regards to it:

  • Reputation (not just on MSO) just isn't that big of a deal, and
  • People disagreeing with you doesn't necessarily make your question/answer invalid.

To touch a bit more on the last point - downvotes here on Meta can imply that someone disagrees, in addition to/in lieu of the correctness of your answer. If you feel strongly about what you've said, and you are downvoted for it, then someone disagrees. Someone else may come along and agree with what you've said/feel that what you've said was right, and upvote your answer.

Don't feel that keeping as much rep here means as much as it does in any other sites of the network. I'd only delete the question/answer if it were a duplicate, something that could be found with a trivial amount of searching, offensive (not that you'd put anything offensive, of course), or something that doesn't jive with what MSO is about.

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