After spending some time on Meta Stack Overflow, I realized the voting system here is completely different. The votes are used for agreement or disagreement toward the question/request and the answer itself instead of quality. However, by downvoting a post, it will also decrease one's reputation at the same time, which will result in a lost of privileges such as downvoting other's post. This behavior of the system seems to tie "how many people agree to you" and "what you can do" together. It is basically saying if many users do not agree to you, you will not be able to express your opinion and disagree with other's idea.

I don't see any logical relation between these two. Furthermore, on other Meta sites it will not affect both voter's and poster's reputation.

Voting up or down does not affect reputation. You are now free to vote purely based on post content, without worrying about how your vote might positively or negatively affect someone’s reputation score.

This makes sense because why on earth would reputation be tied with expressing opinion?

Jon Seigel in this post offered an "explanation" on why the rep system on meta SO shouldn't be changed:

... there is a penalty for downvoting, but you get upvoted more here, too, so you have more rep to work with.

This clearly does not explain why downvoting causes a decrease in reputation. In the Stack Exchange system, reputation is an numeric indicator of how trusty and experienced a user is. So does this mean a person with more people agreeing is way more "trusty" than another person with people disagree his questions even though it is a completely good question? Clearly there is something wrong with the system in meta SO, and I believe that it should be modified to remove the rep decrease when voted down, for both voter and poster.

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    This has historical reasons, as this Meta was the first Meta ever and was set up as a separate site. The SE network with its reputation-less Metas came much later. Pretty much everyone agrees the voting system doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it kinda works and there is a major rebuild planned for some point in the future.
    – Pekka
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:03
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    "The votes are used for agreement or disagreement toward the question/request and the answer itself instead of quality." ... no no no. This is sometimes the case, but most certainly not always. Even the statement in the Help Center about this has been adjusted some time ago to reflect this. See for example: Voting on Meta is not just for (dis)agreement. Update the help center to reflect this
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:06
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    @Bart - But in the FAQ it also says voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself which is very confusing to me, or even to most of new users who just went here from the main site StackOverflow... Dec 6, 2013 at 22:11
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    @Derek yes, agreed it is confusing. But it has been discussed many times already and fixing it is going to be a big change.
    – Pekka
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:13
  • @Derek朕會功夫 Sure. To quote myself "Voting on Meta is a bit of a two-headed beast.". But that doesn't mean that voting only expresses agreement or disagreement. There are plenty of votes to go around for poorly phrased, badly researched, completely incomprehensible posts or even rants. And a rep penalty for those is not all that strange. Even the banning algorithm has recently been updated to significantly reduce the outside chance that you will be banned for some poorly received suggestions.
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:13
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  • @Derek: There's nothing confusing. If there's a proposed change, voting indicates agreement or disagreement. If there's not a proposed change, a vote is based on the quality of the question or answer as usual.
    – Ken White
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:15
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    Well, it's not that black and white either @KenWhite.
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:16
  • @Bart: You're right. Sometimes a vote can indicate both agreement/disagreement and a reflection on quality. :-). I still don't think it's that confusing; at least it wasn't for me when I first started visiting MSO.
    – Ken White
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:18
  • "So does this mean a person with more people agreeing is way more "trusty" than another person with people disagree his questions even though it is a completely good question?" ... Well, yes. If you consistently come up with good, well researched ideas that are well-received by the community, in a Meta sense you have earned some of their trust.
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:18
  • That is why it is confusing - it is not that black and white since the "up/down vote" button can be interpreted as two actions: "Agreement" and "Usefulness". In my opinion if there two meaning attached to one button, why don't we just create another set of buttons, just for agreement and disagreement? Dec 6, 2013 at 22:19
  • @Derek朕會功夫 Has been proposed before. Let me find the dupe. Edit: There's this for example
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:19
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    @natan - But reputation affects privilege, which makes the user to not able to certain action, for example, downvoting and editing questions. Dec 6, 2013 at 22:23
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    @Bart - Yes, but as a personal experience of mine, the fact that not knowing the meaning of the up/downvote button when you are asking your first question here and you result in downvotes with no reason (based on the experience on SO) is really terrifying and discouraging. Dec 6, 2013 at 22:27
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    @Pëkka Lol, your name changes are magnificent :P First "I'm not Pekka. I don't know who that is." and then "I'm not Pekka, but people keep telling me I am. I don't know what to think now." and now "What? Growing an Umlaut is a normal event in a man's life." :D
    – Doorknob
    Dec 6, 2013 at 22:28

4 Answers 4


Yep, Meta rep is somewhat confusing. And not in the last place because of how it's presented to you. You have an idea for the site, and start to receive downvotes. You check your question, which is well formulated, and see your rep drop.

Luckily one of our helpful users steps in and tells you "Don't worry about it. The downvotes just mean disagreement on Meta". Somewhat relieved you take a step back and then wonder "but why am I losing privileges?".

Granted, Meta is a bit of a weird experience, mashed into a Q&A format, where discussions are still accepted and feature requests can be disagreed with. It's a bit of a historical beast. But don't worry, in 6 to 8 weeks that will all be over.

So is voting a pure agree/disagree situation? No, it's not. There are bad questions, there are poorly researched ones, there are rants and there are all kinds of "regular" shortcomings a Meta question might have, that would justify a downvote without meaning "I disagree". And I don't have a problem with those coming with a reputation penalty.

You are right however when you say that this penalty feels a bit strange for something that is purely disagreement. Ideally one could/should prefer creating an actual answer instead of downvoting, but that admittedly doesn't always happen.

So then the whole connection between reputation and community trust is gone, right? Well, no, not really. In a Meta sense, if you consistently come up with good ideas for the site, which the community likes and would love to see, you have earned a bit of their trust. Yet if time and time again you propose things that nobody likes, you might have lost a bit of it. So even for agreement/disagreement votes, the whole connection to "how much the community trusts you" is not lost.

Is this site perfect? No. Can I understand that it's confusing from time to time? Sure. But overall it does its job. And losing privileges is never great. But having participated on Meta for as long as I have, I can't help but notice that the reputation in most cases will increase, and often with very little effort.

If there is ultimately going to be a big chance to Meta, I'd love to see what it will turn out to be. But until then, I don't really see a huge need to change things.

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    I do agree your point, but I don't really agree this sentence: I don't really see a huge need to change things. A button with ambiguous meanings, even to the creators of this site as well, is a really important problem, especially when it has a great effect on one's privileges. Also, I do agree that "the reputation in most cases will increase," but it might not always be the case though. Dec 6, 2013 at 23:11
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    @Derek朕會功夫 "A button with ambiguous meanings, even to the creators of this site as well, is a really important problem" Then how would you change it? I have yet to come across a "solution" that is an actual solution and not a stop-gap measure. Most such solutions would add other levels of confusion. And as for rep not always increasing ... if you have any level of reasonable participation on Meta, it really will.
    – Bart
    Dec 6, 2013 at 23:15
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    @Derek朕會功夫 I concur with Bart's statement here. If you participate, rep will come. Its the only SE site where you can get rep for your opinion. I won't point out the specific individual, but I witnessed someone post several extremely unpopular feature requests and discussion posts as few months ago, at least 1 the ended up as the among the most heavily downvoted undeleted questions, and he recently hit 2K rep. Dec 6, 2013 at 23:36

It's true. If you suggest an idea that the community doesn't like, you will lose reputation. (Or if you ask a lazy question that's been asked a lot before, or if you come and lecture volunteers about how they're not volunteering right, or many other kinds of "bad" questions that may not feel bad to the asker.) And if you don't have much of it at that point, you may lose hard-won privileges. The result of this, though it may not have been by design, is that newcomers who've just shown up tend not to make suggestions for ways to change the entire SE system in their first week. (Or let's say, they don't do it a second time in a hurry.) Once you have thousands of rep, you don't mind losing 10 so you're willing to make such suggestions.

I consider this to be a feature not a bug. Newcomers often breathlessly announce their discovery of brand new facts that are actually quite well known. "Hey, getting a downvote hurts my feelings! I should know who to be mad at!" or "I deserve a comment explaining a reason I can argue with!" or even "I should be able to ask a moderator to reverse it if my question or answer is actually good!" etc. Typically the wording implies that nobody else could ever have thought of or considered this before.

If worry about losing some rep makes people wait a while, this is good. They will discover that there is a balance, a yin and yang, a to and fro between the desire to make all the site users feel happy and welcome, and the desire to have only high quality material on the site. They discover that the rules were not made in ignorance of whatever it is the newcomers keep discovering, but in full knowledge of them, because a different rule would mean the site wouldn't be as good. They discover in some cases that whatever they're suggesting (downvoting a question should cost rep, question upvotes should be worth 10 like answer upvotes, etc) is how the site used to work, and it was changed on purpose. In short, they learn about the system before they try to change it, and that's a good thing.

The per site metas are not the place for "let's do away with vote anonymity" or "there shouldn't be a rep required to comment everywhere" to be handled. They are more for settling what is on topic or working out tags. Suggesting a bad tag idea shouldn't take away your privileges on those meta sites, and it doesn't. But this meta is not like all the others. Not at all.


I see one good reason for rep loss for downvotes here, imagine the vast number of additional pointless questions and requests and bug reports (etc) if there was nothing to be lost...

Also, downvotes here are still for the usual things such as poor grammar, bad question in general (separate to agree/disagree) etc.

It's known the current scenario is not ideal with the votes being for two separate things.
There are already many discussions relating to ideas changing the voting system mechanism and thoughts on how to utilise the current one differently.

There is also the fact rep affects privileges. So if you often suggest poor things rather than useful/worthy, then your rep will go down, and therefore your privileges will be low reflecting what you should be allowed to access.


If anything, it's just not clear to users what downvotes mean. I frequently explain "voting means agree/disagree" on other meta sites and frequently get "thanks, didn't realize that!" responses.

Also, just an observation, even on Meta here, a question needs to have 2.5x as many people downvote vs upvote to cause a net rep loss. On answers, it's 5x. So reputation still has a built in adjustment assuming ideas are even remotely positively accepted by the community.

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