The official policies for voting were recently changed on Meta, suggesting that voting behavior be based on the tag applied to a question:

A Proposal for More Constructive Downvoting on Meta: Express Disagreement by Answering the Question

This raises the question, though - if a question started out with a "support" or "discussion" tag and then, later, someone other than the OP comes along and changes the tag to "feature-request", what happens to the votes?

I know that, for all practical purposes, voting habits are not going to change overnight because of a policy shift, but, for those of us who care, should we stick to the OP's original tag or use the edited tag when deciding how to vote?

Case in point: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/194038/gittip-for-answers
(Not a perfect example, to be sure, but an example nonetheless)

  • 4
    people downvote if it IS a feature request they disagree with regardless of how it is tagged or what it says in the help centre. if you see this happening and it upsets you, go ahead and retag it feature-request. What matters is what it is. Tags can be fixed. Aug 20, 2013 at 20:06
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    That post you linked was just a proposal. There has been no policy shift.
    – Doorknob
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:06
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    Even without the recent changes, you can tag "How about we implement X?" with [discussion] all you want, users are always going to see that as a feature request. I'm not sure if tagging matters there for the votes, even if we do get used to the new-ish guidelines.
    – Bart
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:07
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    @KateGregory That would be the ideal case, but the new policy is that the OP's intentions and wishes, as reflected by the tag they chose, should determine whether you treat a feature proposal as a feature proposal or not.
    – user200500
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:08
  • Bifurcation? I can barely even pronounce the word properly...
    – animuson StaffMod
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:10
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    @Asad I refer you to the last paragraph of my answer (just edited in).
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:11
  • @Doorknob Hasn't there sort-of been a policy shift? Robert Harvey's proposal points out that the help center now includes the bolded text, "On posts tagged feature-request, voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself." To me, this implicitly suggests that such behavior (agree/disagree voting) outside of feature requests is not endorsed.
    – apsillers
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:11
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    @apsillers I disagree that there has been a change at all. I would assert that there has never really been (much) voting based on agreement/disagreement for questions that aren't feature requests. The problem was with people always giving the "votes are different on meta" explanation anytime a low quality, unresearched, or unclear question was asked. This confused people as they thought people disagreed with a question that had nothing to agree/disagree with. This recent shift is more about explaining how people are really voting, not changing how people are voting.
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:13
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    As much as I agree with some of what Robert says I'm going to be picky (I always am - sorry). A single question does not mean that the voting standards have been changed. It means that someone has proposed changing them and some people agree. Actually changing them means that a lot of people have to implement them consistently. Aug 20, 2013 at 20:45
  • the other question wasn't started to get feedback. Search on SO's is weak. Was just seeing if there was a discussion which I'm sure there was. The question was edited which I find really disconcerting.
    – timpone
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:45
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    @timpone The question was rather vaguely formulated and easily confused for a feature request. The editing was all done in good faith. You could admittedly have been more clear.
    – Bart
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:56
  • @benisuǝqbackwards - I'll take a turn being picky: I'm not basing my question on a single question, I'm basing it on the help-center verbiage change mentioned in that question. That's as close to a change in standards as we can get. As far as the implementation bit - I think I already said that in my post.
    – JDB
    Aug 20, 2013 at 21:11
  • @Asad the idea that "OP's intentions and wishes" are reflected (only?) "by the tag they chose" is questionable... softly speaking, and I really doubt that whatever policy, new or old, would have something like that. I think that question title and text, and to certain extent OP comments play more important role than tags, especially when OP has little experience with MSO tags.
    – gnat
    Aug 20, 2013 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


I think the more appropriate response (and I do think the help center wording should be edited accordingly) would be to say that for "feature requests, voting can indicate [...]" rather than explicitly mentioning tags.

An alternate wording, proposed by Cyborgx, that is a bit broader and covers proposals for things other than feature requests, that I quite like is:

On propositional posts, voting often indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposal rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself.

If a post is inherently requesting a feature, people tend to vote on it based on whether or not they agree/disagree with the feature. They don't go check the tags first to make sure it's not tagged "discussion". I don't think that that's wrong.

As it is, it simply encourages people to intentionally mis-tag a feature request as some other tag in an attempt to avoid downvotes. This just makes it harder to find feature requests, can give the false impression that they are asking about how the current system works rather than that they are discussing a proposed changed, and brings up the issue that you have brought up here, of what to do when the tags change. (There is also the related question of what to do when the OP changes the question from support to feature request or vice versa; it means a whole bunch of people "should" be going back to change their votes, which simply won't happen.)

If a post is requesting a feature, people are going to vote on it based on disagreement (at least at this point in time) and the tags used aren't going to change that. The meta wording should reflect that for the sake of everyone involved.

It's also important to note that the given help center verbage isn't stating what the policy is; every user has the right to vote however they want, using whatever metrics they want. The point of that verbage is to help users understand how many members of the community choose to vote, so that they can be prepared for the fact that it is (sometimes) different on meta. So it's not a matter of changing the wording and then forcing people to follow it; they can and will vote however they want. It's a matter of adjusting the wording so that it explains how people choose to vote.

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    Well... that last bit is partly true. Those guidelines are also going to shape the behavior of new users who don't know how to use their Meta votes. This policy is referred to often for the sake of confused new-comers. While no one has suggested that the policy is enforced, it is an official policy which is referenced and held with some esteem by many.
    – JDB
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:16
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    @Cyborgx37 But that's just it; it's not an official policy. It's essentially the epitimy of an unoffical policy. It's simply how some people choose to vote for a while, and over time it became more and more pervasive. It got to the point that the official wording needed to recognize that this unofficial policy existed, so that newer users would understand the site better. You are correct though that this official acknowledgement of the unofficial policy does encourage newer users to follow it, and it adds some legitimacy to that policy.
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:20
  • But it's not a good reflection of how people vote, nor do I understand how you could read the title of that post and think that the OP was meerly trying to better reflect how users currently use the system. The point of that post was to suggest a change in behavior. People currently vote to express agreement/disagreement with the post. That's how people use their votes, whether the question is a feature request or not.
    – JDB
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:35
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    @Cyborgx37 Correct; I suppose I should have said that the official sources attempted to explain the unofficial voting policy. I agree with your analysis that it fails to adequately describe it, which is why this answer is actually proposing a fix to address that exact problem.
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:38
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    My point was that singling out "feature requests" (tagged or not) is not a good reflection of current behavior. Users use votes to express agreement/disagreement on discussions too (case in point: meta.stackexchange.com/q/182189/191410). Mentioning "feature requests" at all is confusing - it sounds like voting behavior should change based on the type of question, rather than trying to explain how many users already use their votes.
    – JDB
    Aug 20, 2013 at 21:12
  • @Cyborgx37 I did indeed mention that such voting on discussions happened, although I find it to be less common. I agree that there may be wordings even better still to describe how the meta community votes, although trying to condense it to just a few lines is hard. Do you have a proposed alternate wording? I'm very interested to hear what you've got.
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 21:18
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    "On propositional posts, voting often indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposal rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself."
    – JDB
    Aug 20, 2013 at 23:38
  • Sure, that sounds good.
    – Servy
    Aug 20, 2013 at 23:56
  • Given my (now clarified) understanding of the agreed-to role of the help center and FAQ, I think this is a good change. I would go further, though, and try to cover hypothetical propositions as well. It seems to me that in the current culture, if a question is centered around an unpopular proposition, even if the question is an honest "what if?" asked as neutrally as possible, it is subject to disagreement votes. Aug 24, 2013 at 16:28
  • Similarly, rather than suggesting that tag type or the nature of the question provides any kind of protection against such voting, I would make a point of saying that any idea or opinion expressed in any MSO post, no matter the context, is subject to downvoting based on disagreement. Aug 24, 2013 at 16:36

Well, shucks - I was gonna write a big long rambling answer here, complete with a delightful story involving a trip to the DMV and interactions with a petition-taker while there...

But Kate Gregory already answered. Succinctly. In comments.

So I'm just gonna quote her:

people downvote if it IS a feature request they disagree with regardless of how it is tagged or what it says in the help centre. if you see this happening and it upsets you, go ahead and retag it feature-request. What matters is what it is. Tags can be fixed.

A feature-request is still a feature-request if it's tagged [support] or [discussion]. Bugs are routinely tagged [support] - and vice-versa! If we didn't know how to recognize and re-categorize this stuff by now, it'd have all fallen apart years ago.

Vote on the question, not the tags.

  • Shog, speaking about mis-tagged bug reports, does it make sense to re-tag this as bug instead of feature request? I explained my doubts at Whiteboard and asked for advice, but suddenly figured that you are likely best qualified to clarify that :)
    – gnat
    Aug 21, 2013 at 10:03
  • I hope you understand the source of the confusion, though. There are few things as "official" as the help center (not even mods can edit it) and the current verbiage sounds very prescriptive: "On posts tagged feature-request, voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself."
    – JDB
    Aug 21, 2013 at 12:36
  • At one time, I suspect that would've sounded more descriptive, @Cyborgx37... Meta originally replaced two different systems: a discussion forum, and a place where you voted for features you wanted to see implemented. It's a bit of a hack, but we mostly kept that behavior for features and bugs. But since we didn't make that clear in the FAQ, folks gradually forgot (well, new folks joined and didn't learn) - hence all the Eeek! over the help page edit.
    – Shog9
    Aug 21, 2013 at 17:26
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    Not really a bug, @gnat - it's working as-designed, the design is just... not ideal... for some scenarios.
    – Shog9
    Aug 21, 2013 at 17:27
  • @Shog9 understood, thanks. Your review is helpful as usual :)
    – gnat
    Aug 21, 2013 at 17:36

Since the policy indicates that votes of agreement/disagreement should only be expressed on questions tagged as feature request (i.e. reflecting a request that a change to the system actually be made), then existing votes for any other question type would be based solely on question quality. As such, transitioning to feature request should not invalidate those votes. In particular, the typical transition of a question from discussion (i.e. where the OP is only seeking information/ideas/dialog) or bug to feature request wouldn't be a problem in this regard.

Transitioning in the other direction, from bug/support/discussion to feature request would admittedly be problematic, but I contend that it is relatively rare and could either be forbidden or require moderator approval. Note also that if the referenced proposal to factor out any suggested feature changes into the answer portion is adopted, it leaves the question itself to only describe the problem/need. As such, it's not clear special policy for these questions is still required, as it's typically the change proposals that are controversial.

I understand that many and perhaps even most people here feel that any tag type, or FAQ or policy can't and shouldn't affect voting behavior and that people can and will vote however they want. They think FAQs should basically document the predominant behavior in this respect and that, in particular, the unique "downvote whenever you feel like it" culture, supported by the unique "downvotes don't cost any rep" rule, is important to be preserved/protected. That's certainly their right, but hopefully they won't object to others who wish to collaborate on, promote and follow policy as an evolving prescription of behavior in this regard.

  • 7
    help centre doesn't set policy. It tells readers what has been observed. "should only be expressed" does not fit with that. And questions being tagged support or discussion but actually being feature requests happens all the time. All. The. Time. Aug 20, 2013 at 21:14
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    Oh great, so now everyone will just use [discussion] or [support] tags as a magic downvote-immunity badge. There won't be any feature requests, and then what have we accomplished? Certainly not making the site any better. Aug 21, 2013 at 9:48
  • Well, it'd make our jobs at SE a lot easier, @Cody - fewer feature-requests to decline!
    – Shog9
    Aug 21, 2013 at 17:29
  • @KateGregory Thanks for the comment. I understand now that the help center was just trying to document behavior and didn't intend to set policy. As I said above, though, changing a tag type "to" feature request isn't a problem in terms of interpreting votes, if there was any kind of convention that agreement/disagreement voting should be limited to feature requests. My comment about "relatively rare" had to do with changing "from" feature request. Do you happen to know how frequently that occurs? Aug 24, 2013 at 16:50
  • @CodyGray Do you really think there wouldn't be any feature requests under this scenario or even far fewer? Aug 24, 2013 at 16:53
  • Not that there wouldn't be questions requesting new features, but that none of them would carry a [feature-request] tag. People would tag them [discussion] instead, in hopes of avoiding downvotes. Aug 25, 2013 at 9:38
  • @CodyGray When I said "feature requests", I indeed meant "tagged as feature requests". Assuming the dev team (whoever that is) didn't go ahead and implement something that was tagged "discussion", I can't imagine people wouldn't submit "feature requests" if they really wanted it implemented. And just to calibrate, do you consider the question I asked at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/193762/… to have been a feature request? Aug 25, 2013 at 21:35
  • I might have been exaggerating a bit. There might be some feature requests still, tagged appropriately, but mainly from those of us who don't care about rep. And I mentioned somewhere else, in an answer to one of your questions, that I think the categories are fluid and don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out which category a particular question falls into. I don't think it's important. I just evaluate the question being asked. Everyone wants all these rules. I just don't see the point. What problem are we solving? Aug 26, 2013 at 8:16
  • @CodyGray The main problem I'm concerned with solving is the fact that downvoting questions for disagreement causes many people to want to withdraw or stop asking questions, particularly those which challenge the status quo. As for "rules", I think they are a natural complement to the many rules that are in place and enforced through the SE/MSO software. BTW, I'm still interested in whether you think the question I asked was a "feature request", either in it's current or original state. Aug 26, 2013 at 15:32
  • Sure, that's natural. We want people to hesitate and think twice before posting feature requests that challenge the status quo. There is often a very good reason for why the status quo is the way it is. There's been a lot of debate about fundamental site policies in the past, and most of the regulars here have been around for all of that. We've fought in the trenches, and we've thought and overthought about the way things are and should be. And more importantly, we like the way the system is. We fought for it. We think that's what makes us great. Aug 27, 2013 at 8:51
  • That is not to say that we are actively trying to prevent people from sharing novel suggestions. Of course not. But we do want people to think long and hard about suggesting things that go against the whole design and spirit of Stack Overflow. Just like anywhere else. I mean, do you have to be kind of thick-skinned to participate in Meta? Sure do! But that's a good thing. And Meta participation is optional. Not everybody likes it; some people really do. There's a need for everyone. All of us wasting time here are not answering questions on the main site; others do that while we're debating... Aug 27, 2013 at 8:52
  • about how to best structure the site to allow them to do their thing (although a lot of us are also regular participants on main). Yes, rules are great on the main sites, but they are rather relaxed on Meta. It keeps sane, and it also is the only way that our slight abuse of a Q&A site is going to work. I mean, really, Q&A is not ideal for feature requests and discussions and management issues. But it's what we've got, and we make it work. It requires some flexibility and understanding, but experience says is works pretty darn well. I've been downvoted plenty of times, but I got over it. Aug 27, 2013 at 8:54
  • I continue to participate anyway, even though I have lots of unpopular opinions. I continue to share those unpopular opinions, even if nobody wants to hear them anymore. And I know when to eventually shut up, because I've been completely overruled by the community at large, not just a handful of my opponents. We hash all this ugliness out here so that we can keep it off the main site. It's why Meta rep is separate from main: because it's even more meaningless. I don't just Meta users based on their rep, even less than I do on main. I didn't think less of you when you showed up with 100 rep. Aug 27, 2013 at 8:55
  • I don't know if you're going to believe that or not, but all I can do is tell you it's true. And I'm pretty sure it's true for the overwhelming majority of us Meta regulars. Truth is, we get most of our rep by posting answers that reiterate the company line, things we all agree on, like spam is bad. And upvotes are good. Etc. We get lots of downvotes and rep loss from our unpopular and controversial ideas. If you want to play the game, you can do the same thing. But you don't have to play along, either. There's room for all types of participants. Aug 27, 2013 at 8:57
  • And no, I don't really think that question you're linking to is a feature request. Regardless of how it is tagged. But I still think it's worth a downvote because of how profoundly I disagree with some of the premises/assumptions of the question. I'm not rating you, I'm not rating your ability to write; none of that makes any sense. I am expressing my opinion about issues that I think are profoundly important. We are all quite opinionated here, otherwise we wouldn't be here! Things you say/assume/imply in that question seriously grate me; the constructive way for me to react is to vote. Aug 27, 2013 at 8:59

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