I realize I am taking a risk by reopening what seems to be an old, hoary, and thorny discussion. However, it seems that in all the long discussions about Meta Stack Exchange reputation, what it means, and why it's separate from reputation on other sites, I have never seen a complete answer to this question:

If reputation on Meta Stack Exchange is used by the community to indicate agreement with an opinion instead of the quality of a post, why is it still tied to site privileges?

The association between reputation and privileges makes sense on other Stack Exchange sites, where reputation is a measure of your participation in the site and the quality of your questions and answers. If you contribute positively to the community your reward is increased privileges, whereas your punishment for "polluting" the site with bad questions or unhelpful answers is a loss of privileges.

However, on Meta Stack Exchange, reputation is a measure of the popularity, not the quality, of your contributions. Tying reputation to privileges means that losing privileges on the site is a punishment for expressing an unpopular opinion, and gaining them is a reward for agreeing with the majority.

My opinion:

I don't think that tying privileges to popularity makes sense as a feedback system. It doesn't really encourage quality contributions, and even worse, acts to suppress minority opinions through the threat of losing privileges. As a user with fairly low reputation, I am afraid of asking a question that may be controversial, because if enough other members disagree with me I will be stripped of the ability to vote and chat. Even if I had higher reputation, I would still be concerned that expressing a controversial opinion would cause me to lose helpful privileges like editing and viewing close votes.

The FAQ tells new users "not to be concerned" by downvotes because all it means is that the community disagrees with them. However, I think new users have every right to be concerned about downvotes, because they still mean the loss of privileges.

  • 8
    I would bet that if you phrase an unpopular opinion in a constructive way, you would be able to express it on the site in such a way that you receive enough upvotes to offset the downvotes (1 for every 5). And if the opinion is so unpopular that there is no way to do that, perhaps that is because it has either been discussed and rejected before or it is completely unreasonable. Aug 12, 2012 at 23:23
  • 2
    You'll need to exclude all the support questions if you're going to judge Meta on terms of popularity alone
    – random
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:26
  • Why do you think that reputation on MSO is exclusively a measure of popularity and not quality? Popularity is gained because that certain user posted answers (or questions) that did have quality.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:27
  • 1
    @Alenanno, because the FAQ and numerous questions about MSO rep state that reputation is a measure of "agreement," which I see as very similar to popularity. I can see that popularity and quality can sometimes go hand-in-hand, but they're not guaranteed to, and users are explicitly told that reputation is not a measure of quality.
    – Edward
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:28
  • Rep can still be gained for quality posts on Meta. With regards to popularity - you can come up with new ideas that no-one has thought of yet, or notify bugs that need to be fixed, etc. You don't have to stick to things that you think will be popular. As an example your question is yet to be down voted, despite some people probably disagreeing with it (like myself).
    – slugster
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:30
  • @Edward I don't think they're as related as you seem to depict them. And... "users are explicitly told that reputation is not a measure of quality" where is this stated?
    – Alenanno
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:31
  • "voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement"...often, not always.
    – Bart
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:39
  • 5
    @Alenanno: It's stated every time a person asks "Why is my question being downvoted?" and is given the reply "Downvotes are different on Meta.
    – jscs
    Aug 13, 2012 at 0:20
  • @JoshCaswell Saying that votes on Meta express agreement doesn't mean they "are not a measure of quality" as the OP says.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 13, 2012 at 7:37
  • 1
    Saying that votes on Meta express agreement does mean they are strongly related to something other than quality. This is a problem (says another low-rep user who is afraid to make even well-thought-out and reasonable but possibly unpopular posts).
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 15:41

4 Answers 4


Rep is generally a measure of activity on the site, with a caveat that the activity is generally rated favorably by the community. That's not really different on Meta. Post lots, you'll almost certainly get some rep due to how downvotes are weighted; significantly less than upvotes.

But what about people that have unpopular opinions?

Quite frankly, you need to either exclusively post unpopular ideas, or post a few incredibly, universally loathed ideas in order to take a significant rep hit. The few who have this happen to them seem to exclusively be either trolls or people who have really really really bad ideas. Like, "holy crap why would you even think that?" bad. I'm not ashamed to say I'm okay with those people, who also apparently never contributed good posts to the site, not getting privileges.

Let's also not forget voting isn't that different on Meta. Complete not-constructive rants still get justified downvotes. Nonsensical, zero research or off topic posts still get downvotes. Downvotes very often still mean "this isn't useful" not just "This is a superbly written opinion, I just happen to disagree with it good sir".

Finally, this argument (it's been had before) totally ignores that many Meta posts aren't solely opinion based. There's support/bug posts which are rarely downvoted because you disagree (unless it's not a bug and you're ranting/etc). Then there's feature requests, and unless you're suggesting we set the servers on fire, you'll probably be okay.

  • 16
    or post a few incredibly, universally loathed ideas in order to take a significant rep hit Canonical example: Require a comment when down voting.
    – yannis
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:39
  • 1
    "The few who have this happen to them seem to exclusively be either trolls or people who have really really really bad ideas." I don't necessarily agree. Remember: question upvotes only count as 2.5 question downvotes. So it's a lot easier to get a rep-hit from downvoting when you're making a proposal, rather than responding to one. Aug 12, 2012 at 23:46
  • 1
    @NicolBolas - A lot of it depends on approach though too. If Edward had insulted all of us and insulted Stack Exchange and ranted about how an unpopular question of his got downvoted into oblivion, and blah blah blah we all suck, then he'd be more likely to get downvotes. I think an important point here is to be constructive when posting new or even controversial ideas, and one is more likely to get a more positive (or less negative) response. :) I think that's why -- despite disagreement -- reception to Edward's question has been overall positive.
    – jmort253
    Aug 13, 2012 at 0:57
  • Look at the upvote and downvote weightings. The fact that upvotes are more powerful helps, but it is certainly not hard to imagine good ideas that would garner 5 downvotes for every 1 upvote.
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 15:47
  • This came up again recently so adding a comment here: +1 to this. In theory rep may not make much "sense" here, in practice it serves, if nothing else, as a good binary-ish indicator of whether or not a user can express opinions constructively. I believe that a user's rep primarily shows not that their opinions are popular, but that they can express said opinions sanely. Relative to privilege thresholds, the component of rep that reflects popularity of opinions is essentially negligible to the component that reflects an ability to conduct discourse on the level of an adult.
    – Jason C
    Apr 8, 2017 at 17:25

Valid point. I'm sure you've probably noticed that all of the per-site Metas (all but this one) do this differently. Privileges on per-site Metas are the same as on their main site. Also, this will be at least partially fixed at some point when meta.stackoverflow and meta.stackexchange are split into two sites.

That will still leave the main Meta (meta.stackexchange) in the state this site is in now, with downvotes on unpopular opinions potentially having an impact on site privileges. What else can we base site privileges on though? (Sincere question. Please make some suggestions.) I can't see letting just anyone vote to close questions, or edit other people's posts until they've proven they know how things work here. (And I do mean here on Meta, not on other sites in the SE network. Voting on Meta is different than on other sites, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to base privileges here on reputation from other sites.)

  • 6
    One thing I think might be helpful is the ability to more easily see how many upvote/downvotes a question has received. Unlike other sites wherein negative votes indicate a poorly thought out post, on meta the post may have 30 positive votes but negative 40 votes. This makes it display as a -10 on the question list even though there may be quite a bit of support for the post. I feel like as a force of Pavlovian training this may say to stackexchange users, "why bother even reading this?", potentially keeping other supporters from viewing the post and voting on it.
    – Conner
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:35
  • 1
    @Conner I don't really think of SE users as Pavlovian dogs. I can read at least a question title to decide for myself whether I want to read the question without being influenced by the score. Aug 12, 2012 at 23:44
  • I didn't mean to offend anyone by using a reference to our canine friends. You're certainly an experienced meta user that understands to not judge a book by its cover, but I think many people (myself included) simply by the desire to save time, steer away from -10 or less questions.
    – Conner
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:49
  • Hi @BilltheLizard, I think the reputation system here works fine. People who contribute positively to the governance of the network get more privileges, and that's how it should be. I like how some random 100K+ SO user can't just come in here and throw his/her weight around just because he/she lives and breathes Stack Overflow. The governance issues go much deeper than just simply how many questions you've asked or answered on the actual sites. In other words, to community moderate Meta, you have to actually be a part of Meta. Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    Aug 13, 2012 at 1:01

"...on Meta Stack Overflow, reputation is a measure of the popularity, not the quality, of your contributions"

It's both as far as I know, and the two aren't mutually exclusive either. Yes, you can have a well written question on meta and recieve 'dislike' downvotes, but you can also ask a poorly written/worded question and be upvoted for it's content, not it's grammar.

(Note: Good grammar sure does help, and someone will probably edit the question to fix it up anyway)

As for losing/gaining privileges, On 1 rep you can ask questions, answer them and comment. The 3 most staple things you can do on any Stack Exchange site.

Not to mention the bonus 100 rep per site for having 200+ rep on one site. Get 200+ rep on Stack Overflow, and you can now Flag, Vote Up and Edit community Wiki posts on Meta (and for that matter any other site).


Others have more or less said this, but I really want to drive the point home: this user has almost exclusively devoted his meta activity to trolling, yet still has enough rep to vote on posts.

The MSO system certainly isn't perfect, but it works pretty well, and in no way impedes interested, honest users from participating.

  • 2
    yet still has enough rep to vote on posts Not so sure that will be the case in a few hours, now that you pointed people to his profile...
    – yannis
    Aug 13, 2012 at 0:15
  • I hope not - that wasn't my intent. BTW - I just clicked over there and read this - it honestly made me laugh out loud. I'd forgotten how funny Evan can be Aug 13, 2012 at 0:42
  • He was a highly amusing troll for a while, wasn't he? But lately he's just boring.
    – yannis
    Aug 13, 2012 at 0:44
  • That just makes me angry, @Yannis. All those polite and dignified ELU users having to deal with such nonsense. Aug 13, 2012 at 0:53
  • I'm not too familiar with Evan's antics, @Yannis, but I think that nomination is pretty amusing. At least this comment tickles my funny bone: «Jeff stalked me using Google. Then he called twice to make sure I was a real person. [...] After hearing the sound of my voice he invited me to have hot cocoa with him.»
    – jscs
    Aug 13, 2012 at 6:55
  • @JoshCaswell Having gone through the process myself, I find it disrespectful to both the other candidates and the EL&U community as a whole. I find Evan highly amusing at times, and even highly productive every now and then, but I felt his nomination was mocking both the process itself and more importantly his fellow nominees.
    – yannis
    Aug 13, 2012 at 7:00
  • @Yannis: That's a reasonable point of view. He does unfortunately seem to have successfully drawn in some unwitting commenters. balpha tried to play the game with him, but that may have contributed to any air of legitimacy.
    – jscs
    Aug 13, 2012 at 7:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .