Upvotes and downvotes are different on Meta, a lesson lots of users learn every day on SE. Often one's first experience with this results in "Why downvotes" or "Could someone explain why this is getting downvotes?"

Thinking out loud, but how about some sort of just in time message saying something to the effect of:

Stop right there criminal scum Downvotes on Meta are different and often indicate disapproval of a post's premise rather than attacks on you. They don't mean it's a bad question, just that others disagree.

Ideally this would be displayed only to low rep users or users with low Meta participation, and show as a non-modal information box before they post a comment on their own question containing some reference to downvoting to try and catch the "Why downvotes?" comments. This would be similar to the "Hey, your title looks subjective and is likely to be closed" notice.

I noticed the formatting help box is a nice format to offer this help:

enter image description here

Yes, users can manually explain this, but it gets tiring and it would be nice to have the system acknowledge this fact rather than leaving the asker stranded and confused until some good (non-sarcastic) Samaritan explains the system yet again.

  • When to display? And you sure people will actually read it? – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 15 '12 at 13:53
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    @GardenGnobobby people can ignore anything. This is to help people genuinely curious as to why they're getting downvotes; those who are just whining won't care of course, but they're not the ones that need help. And I laid out a suggestion of when to show it in the third paragraph and added a mockup. If we wanted to be aggressive, it could require that the help message be dismissed before you allow posting the comment, but I don't think that's necessary. – Ben Brocka Jun 15 '12 at 13:55
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    When did people start using votes differently on Meta? – random Jun 15 '12 at 13:59
  • Closely related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/132431/… – Pekka Jun 15 '12 at 14:05
  • @Pekka I personally think it should be a bit more subdued. I honestly lean more towards Random's position, but ideally this would provide some relatively quiet reassurance to users freaked out by downvotes. Freaked out by downvotes is a legitimate problem, even if "votes are different on Meta" is an oversimplification. – Ben Brocka Jun 15 '12 at 14:09
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    In before (or perhaps after, tl;dr) "they won't read it" – user1228 Jun 15 '12 at 15:12
  • @Won't we have all kinds of stuff people don't read (see FAQ), doesn't mean it wouldn't help those who do. Just In Time means it's only there for those it's relevant to, meaning it's more noticeable and more relevant. We have lots of similar JIT messages like this. – Ben Brocka Jun 15 '12 at 15:43
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    Y U dv me? U no leik me? – user102937 Jun 15 '12 at 21:39
  • Good idea, but it's got to happen before they start to post a comment on their post; perhaps if it has a negative score, a little non-modal box near the score would be best. – sarnold Jun 19 '12 at 0:56
  • @sarnold a slight animation showing the text while they start to post should draw enough attention, not sure how I feel about showing a message before they try to post since they might just be adding a normal, non-downvote related comment – Ben Brocka Jun 19 '12 at 3:02
  • @Ben, perhaps that would have been sufficient to be noticed "in the early days" -- but now so much of SO is dynamic that the page shifts around as alerts are shown even when the user is otherwise idle -- I'm less confident that an animating-in box when the user starts commenting would be noticed than a notice near the score. – sarnold Jun 19 '12 at 22:16
  • Oh, it all makes sense now. I was wondering about the -11 score on my most recent meta question, ha! Well, you helped me at least :) – person27 Sep 27 '13 at 5:14