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I'm pretty new to meta, so ignore this if it's a stupid question...

I was wondering if meta should sort answers by the number of votes cast. Because on Meta, votes represent agreement or disagreement a view that has 1000 downvotes is probably more significant than a view with no votes, 10 downvotes, or even 100 upvotes.

Also, +40/-40 (which I have actually seen, although now I forget) is clearly more significant than +10/-3, which would rank above it.

There might be a reason to hide unpopular views, but I have the feeling that the "hide low vote posts" applies more to non-meta sites.

TL;DR Meta should sort posts based on number of votes cast (upvotes + downvotes) rather than score (upvotes - downvotes) because votes represent community interest, either positive or negative rather than quality of post.

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    So something with 20 downvotes should sort higher than something with 15 upvotes?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:19
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    Yes. Because something with 20 downvotes demonstrates that the community hates it enough to downvote it 20 times and that demonstrates that it is of greater interest -- defined generally positively or negatively -- than something with 15 upvotes
    – k_g
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:22
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    So a spam answer at -5 should sort higher than a 0-score answer?
    – Doorknob
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:23
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    Downvotes are not at all an indication of the community's interest. Downvotes mean "this isn't useful." We sort non-useful things to the bottom because the community said they're not useful, and thus they're not worth looking at.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:23
  • @animuson Oh I see. I thought it was different on Meta.
    – k_g
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:24
  • @k_g I've long expressed my opinion that the agreement/disagreement thing should not be mentioned on Meta because it is just a cover-up for the real reasons why users are voting on posts - an easy way out of explaining what's really wrong with a post. Votes rarely ever mean just agreement/disagreement.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:27
  • @animuson I see. So I guess the votes on this post mean that it's a bad question :'(. Oh well, I'd had this idea for a while; now I know why it won't work :-).
    – k_g
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 3:52

2 Answers 2

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The standard sorting is "best answers first." Meta's interpretation of that may be a little broader (since "best" here typically means "most agreed upon"), but the theory stands.

If, as in your example, an answer has a thousand downvotes, that answer has been deemed "bad" by the community, so it's unlikely to have any further effect on the community as a whole. Yeah, I'd definitely read an answer that has a thousand downvotes, but only out of curiosity. There's no need for the system to natively support that by default.

The two ways I can see this being handy would be:

  • If there were another tab on all sites, for number of votes cast.

    But this is an edge-case, and realistically, most questions don't get enough answers to warrant a whole feature devoted to that.

  • If there were a way to ignore downvotes in post scoring for sorting, as is typical for meta polls.

    But this is also pretty rare, and if I'm really that keen, I'll just look manually. A significant majority of posts have downvotes speak to their quality, particularly since any one user only gets one vote per post, so this would not be useful very often.

In general, I think it's an interesting idea to optionally extend the sorting behaviors, but it's just not really worth it in a majority of cases. Our current system works very well for floating good content to the top, the fact that meta's definition of "good" is different is irrelevant.

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So a -50 answer that says

I think all votes should be made public, because I hate anonymous downvotes.

should outrank an eloquent +45 answer that says

Votes should remain private because <foo, bar, baz>. (insert good answer here)

?

Typically, the highest voted answer represents community consensus. Sorting the answers any differently would obscure this purpose. Furthermore, very very obviously low quality answers would outrank good but not excellent answers that just haven't got many upvotes yet.

This is also unnecessarily confusing. Why would downvoting a post, to symbolize that you disagree, have the effect of ranking it higher?

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