I recently saw a comment by Shog9 saying that he disagrees that downvotes are different on meta
This surprised me, as I find almost everything Shog writes to be well thought out and correct, however this statement goes against what I thought was true about meta voting.
The meta FAQ says:
Are upvotes and downvotes different on meta?
Voting here works a bit differently from other Stack Exchange sites. On Meta Stack Overflow, voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness. Please don't be concerned if you receive downvotes – members of the community may simply disagree with your bug, feature request, support issue, or the nature of the discussion.
When I asked Shog about his comment, he was nice enough to leave me this reply, linking to some MSO posts I had not read before:
@Rachel: see my answers here and here - down-votes are different insofar as the posts are different - but it irritates me to see folks whose crappy posts are down-voted being told to just ignore it because "hey, this is meta". Helping folks learn to improve their work is just as important here as it is on any other site. – Shog9♦
Jeff's downvoted but correct answer here also helped me understand:
While "I agree" and "I disagree" is one way that votes can be used on meta, it is not the only way.
So yes, Shog is right that for some posts, votes on meta should be no different from votes on the regular site. And the FAQ is also right in that for other posts, voting is different and is meant to express agreement/disagreement.
This makes sense to me now (after 2-3 years of SE use and 50k+ network rep), however based on the number of meta comments I see quoting the FAQ entry about meta voting differences, the number of MSO posts like this one, and the number of downvotes to well-written questions merely seeking to understand the SE sites better, I don't think the FAQ entry about meta voting is clear enough about when meta votes are meant to be different from regular votes.
So I'd like to propose this section of the FAQ gets updated to make it clear when voting on meta should be different from regular votes, and when it should be the same.
I'll leave the actual text change up to someone that's better at writing than I am, however here is the summary of my conclusions after browsing meta a bit:
Any post (question or answer) that proposes a change (such as this one) should be voted on based on agreement/disagreement.
Any post not proposing a change, such as posts seeking or supplying information, clarification, or understanding, should be voted the same way you would any other post. Are they well written? Do they show research effort? Are they useful? Clear? etc.
As an example, a question asking "Can we reopen this question?" would be voted based on agreement/disagreement because it is a proposal, while a question asking "Why was this question closed? I thought it was a great question because of xyz" should be voted on the same way you would vote any other question, not based on if you agree/disagree with what the OP wrote (to agree or disagree, post an answer stating your position and why, or upvote an existing answer).
Similarly an answer that says "I think we should leave this question closed because of xyz" should be voted based on agreement/disagreement since it is a proposal, however an answer stating "Your question was closed because of xyz" should be voted based on it's correctness and usefulness.
And last of all, Meta votes should not be used for things unrelated to the post itself, such as how well you like the user, their username, a comment the user made elsewhere, etc. (I've meta comments explaining votes for each of these reasons before...)
We can't force users to use their votes responsibly, however we can provide a better set of guidelines explaining how meta votes are meant to be used.
Please update the meta faq section on vote differences to make it clear when voting on meta should be different from regular votes, and when it should be the same.