Upvotes are easy on both Main and Meta sites. You like something, you vote it up.

Downvotes are trickier.

On Main down-voting a question means that the question is a poor one. Poor meaning badly written or really annoying for some reason (e.g. give-me-da-codez).

Downvoting an answer usually means it's plain wrong.

On Meta, however, many questions revolve around matters of taste (e.g. the HW question). When voting on answers to such questions, I want to be able to push down the suggestions that I disagree with and promote the ones that I think are correct. But I don't want to hurt people's reputation by doing so.

Downvoting on Meta isn't really saying "your answer is stupid and wrong"; it's more like "I prefer we do it the other way". The whole site is basically meant to discuss matters of social preference, etiquette, do's and dont's, etc.

In Main most people wouldn't downvote an answer just because some other answer is better. People generally accept that there may be different solutions to a problem and feel comfortable in letting upvotes alone decide on the most popular one.

In Meta, on the other hand, there might be groups that really care about some issue and would like to see it solved in a particular way. And, in case meta replaces UV, voting on answers would really be voting on preference more than correctness.

Should downvote semantics on Meta be different than on Main?

Perhaps the system should not deduct reputation points if your answer gets downvoted, thereby allowing/encouraging more free downvoting.

  • Actually upvotes in MSO are a problem as well, at least on questions, as you can't tell if the vote is indicating that it's a good question or agreeing with opinions expressed therein. Aug 18, 2013 at 18:32
  • unbelievable.its such a nice post
    – user249473
    Jan 31, 2014 at 11:28
  • possible duplicate of What is a meta for?
    – gnat
    Oct 10, 2014 at 10:31
  • 1
    @gnat now how is a question from 2009 a duplicate of a question from a week ago? Oct 10, 2014 at 15:31
  • 2
    @AssafLavie this doesn't matter, see Should I vote to close a duplicate question, even though it's much newer...
    – gnat
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:16
  • "But I don't want to hurt people's reputation by doing so." You can't and won't with downvotes, by design.
    – bjb568
    Sep 16, 2015 at 23:08

10 Answers 10


Now that Meta Stack Exchange is the only Meta site that maintains a separate reputation, I thought that this question should be revisited.

The problem with Meta-rep is this: while reputation doesn't mean the same thing on a regular site as MSE, it still affects what you can do on the site. Downvotes take reputation and upvotes give it. But reputation is still how you get privileges. And that's a problem.

At this moment, I've got about 970 MSE rep. If I post a number of suggestions that I see as perfectly valid, but the people on MSE don't want to see adopted, I lose a lot of rep. It's not necessarily that the ideas are bad; all it would take is that they were not… accepted among the community. And thus, simply by adding ideas to the site, I'm pushed farther away from greater privileges.

Indeed, there have been some MSE conversations that I've been reluctant to even consider bringing up, in part for these reasons. Questions about what forums are, what SE is, whether forums still have a place in a post-SE world, how best SE-style sites should build a community, the nature of a SE-based community vs. a forum, etc. My views on these issues would certainly be … controversial and in some ways antithetical to the prevailing wind of the people on MSE.

So if I were to talk about them, I lose rep. Not because I'm right or wrong, but simply because of the general feelings of the collective of people on MSE.

And that would be fine… if rep didn't give me abilities. The ability to create tags, to cast close votes, to see the up/down votes on a question/answer, unreviewed edits, etc.

For regular SE sites, reputation is a relative measure of the actual worth of the person. A person who has high rep has contributed significantly to the site. And thus, this person is more deserving of powers over the site. On MSE, this is not the case.

So my suggestion is this: leave the rep the same, but make MSE privileges based on the privileges you have for the highest rep site on your account. Since MSE is effectively shared (it's the default discussion place for Stack Exchange), it makes sense that being a member in good standing for any Stack Exchange site would transfer over. So if you are a 10,000 rep user of Super User, you would have the same privileges on MSE.

  • 1
    But what you describe is actually a good thing. Once you have about 2k meta rep, you no longer care that you will lose privs etc. It acts as a slowing mechanism. By the time you have a lot of meta rep you know how things work. You will word your suggestions better and will know what has already been beaten to death a ton of times. Seems to me you were describing a feature. 6 months later, what do you think? Jun 21, 2012 at 16:49
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    @Kate: I still haven't brought those subjects up, and I have 6K rep. Granted, I'm not sure if I believe in MSO as a place for actual meaningful discussion at this point. Jun 21, 2012 at 17:07
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    @KateGregory in saying "By the time you have a lot of meta rep", you seem to demonstrate that you missed Nicol Bolas' point. The time it takes to get a lot of meta rep is dependent on this issue! ...and the way things are structured now is strongly biased against anyone who might want to stand for an initially unpopular but ultimately beneficial position.
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 16:41
  • @A.M. It will take a long time to get meta rep if you start out by proposing things (in questions or answers) that people are likely to disagree with. If you start out non controversially (answering questions of fact instead of opinions about what we should do) you will accumulate enough rep not to mind downvotes, and can then branch out into opinion. My point was in fact that opinion is not a wise first move on meta. Jun 18, 2013 at 16:56
  • @KateGregory If there were many fact-based questions I could act on, I certainly would, but what I mostly see is questions of opinion. That is even reflected on the "voting is different" page I have seen linked to in so many places: "Votes on meta are generally used to express agreement or disagreement with a particular idea, rather than indicating the quality of research or factual correctness of a post."
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 17:35
  • 2
    ...and in the few cases where someone is looking for a fact, a new user is unlikely to know it (or the question gets marked as a duplicate, because of the maturity of this site). I wish there were some obvious uncontroversial but substantive ways to contribute, but I am not seeing them.
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 17:37
  • 3
    This is exactly why I'm afraid to post on meta. May 19, 2017 at 8:32

The route most people will come to Meta is:

  1. Use Stack Overflow (or other stack exchange site) for a period of time, see good questions and answers voted up and bad ones voted down.
  2. Notice a bug or feature they think would be good.
  3. Go to meta.
  4. (Possibly research whether it’s been suggested before)
  5. Post a feature request (possible that they’ve carefully researched and worded carefully).

I came down this route and at this point expected some or all of the following

  • Disagreement
  • Agreement
  • To be ignored

However what I got (admittedly in addition to disagreement) was being downvoted to oblivion, I reworded and reworded my question, trying to make it clear and polite but the downvotes continued. Someone eventually pointed out that votes are different on meta, but a first impression sticks and that first impression was that "Meta is deeply deeply unfriendly."

The meta FAQ does mention that votes are different. But I doubt it will occure to most people that Meta and stackoverflow have different FAQs.

The section in which I whine about how people were mean to me has now ended, now I attempt to suggest some solutions:

  • Separate out votes for/against a feature request from the normal vote up/vote down. [This probably requires much more developmental effort than I imagine and is probably not worth it]
  • In meta down votes don't lead to a negative reputation, this would make downvotes feel less like you've done something wrong. [But this then causes the problem of what about questions that are poorly researched or stupid]
  • Encourage a cultural change in which if you disagree with a suggestion (that is none the less well written and researched) you upvote one of the disagreeing answers (or make one yourself if there isn't one). [Clearly people are free to vote as they see fit but at present the FAQs actively encourages downvoting things you disagree with].

P.S. Is this a meta meta question?

  • 1
    +1 for the solution of putting downvotes in the answers. I had thought of that and am thinking of putting up a proposal for that, but I worry about being downvote-hammered by people attached to the status quo. Also...more +1s for all of the valuable points in your "white space" question, to compensate for your reputation being on the line with a completely reasonable question.
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 16:52
  • @A.M. Thanks, appreciate the support, meta is certainly a rough and tumble enviroment, let me know when you post your proposal, I shall certainly support it Jun 18, 2013 at 17:24
  • 1
    I have posted a few proposals already (and in some comments about those I actually do bring up the voting problem), but I am hoping for those to get some more upvotes first. I want to wait until I at least break 200 (for the +100 to other SE accounts) before I risk being downvote-hammered on this, my highest-rep account.
    – A.M.
    Jun 18, 2013 at 17:45
  • Really like your quote here and this is spot on: "The meta FAQ does mention that votes are different. But I doubt it will occure to most people that Meta and stackoverflow have different FAQs." I came here a while back, made a post and got severely downvoted, taking it as "you idiot that was a really dumb suggestion"
    – atconway
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:46
  • I disagree with downvotes for the whole "you look like a droid; we don't allow droids here" mentality in general. In other words, while some downvotes make sense to me on the main sites, most of the time I disagree with the principle and believe that your disapproval should be expressed simply through your approval of something different. (On Meta, create an answer that disagrees with a question and upvote the answer.) So, I agree with your suggestions—but only in a limited sense because I don't like how downvotes work in the first place. Apr 30, 2018 at 14:19

Down-vote on meta == i don't like your avatar...

Should down-vote semantics on Meta be different than on SO?

Naw. As with SO, reputation is influenced much more by up-votes than down-votes. You're gonna need to be desperately unpopular to really be hurt by 'em.

  • 1
    Nobody could possibly dislike my doughnuts avatar, so i'm fine with that. Jun 28, 2009 at 17:26
  • 4
    Those are donuts? Oops... I thought they were flowers! runs off to revert downvotes on all Assaf's posts
    – Shog9
    Jun 28, 2009 at 17:28
  • 2
    I like this answer, but I don't like your avatar. So I decided I'm not going to vote this up, or down. Or maybe it's just because I'm out of votes for the day. Jun 28, 2009 at 17:31
  • 2
    Well I'm living proof of how much it can affect a user on meta, I'd have more of a chance to recover what rep I lost as a new user if it was possible to find more problems with the site to be fixed or just a better way of doing things but is it really worth it for a new user like me who suggests 1 thing and gets reset bk to day 1 so can't even upvote other users posts anymore because a small group of people didn't like my idea. I'd have to say it's pretty clear to new users why down-votes shouldn't be used on meta or at least it should be used like it is on SO.
    – Myzifer
    Jan 28, 2011 at 10:37
  • 3
    @Myzifer: You made one very unpopular suggestion, and as a result were temporarily prevented from showing your support for other suggestions. Surely that makes sense? As for "a small group of people" not liking your idea... yes, only 11 people down-voted it. However, no one up-voted it. A show of minority support - three up-votes - would have more than counteracted any effect on your reputation from the majority disagreement. That you didn't even get one vote says a lot about how poorly you justified your request - learn from that!
    – Shog9
    Jan 28, 2011 at 18:54
  • I know this is older, but I logged in today thinking more about how to contribute to meta & not just SO. My problem in the past was the issue of misunderstanding down votes here and taking offense. I really wish for new folks with new ideas that are used to the culture of SO, could have a better introduction here. I also agree with @Myzifer As a newbie it's like One strike and your out & that's tough. Especially in an arena that should encourage new ideas from all. I hesitate to engage & make the perfect suggestion instead with the potential to be downvoted heavily and have no abilities.
    – atconway
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:44

I view rep here as different. It means nothing about you, your trust, or your knowledge. But I'm not sure what it does mean.

I vote up a "question" when I think it raises a good, valid point or suggestion. I vote up an "answer" when I think it provides a good solution to the "question". I vote down when I don't think it's a good idea or it's a subpar solution. If I don't vote, I don't have an opinion (I don't care, it doesn't matter to me, I'm not sold yet).

  • 3
    I think the rep score on meta has something to do with the level of addic^H^H, ahem, enthusiasm with regards to SO / SF.
    – Jonik
    Jun 30, 2009 at 20:31

In August 2013, the Help Center has been changed to show the following official statement:

Like normal Stack Exchange sites, Meta allows members to vote on questions and answers. For most posts, votes reflect the perceived usefulness: well-written, well-reasoned, well-researched posts tend to get more attention and more upvotes. Highly-voted and frequently-linked posts may become part of the community-curated FAQ or codified as part of the site’s Help pages.

Unlike normal Stack Exchange sites, Meta invites the community to discuss, debate and propose changes to the way the community itself behaves, as well as how the software itself works. 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.

(This does not cover voting on answers.)

  • I missed this clarification, thanks for drawing my attention to it. Aug 18, 2013 at 16:35
  • Does "disagreement" with a FR suggest a passive or active opposition? "I think this would provide no value and would rather effort be put to something else" or "I think this would provide negative value and would oppose doing it even if there is nothing else to do"? -- IMHO the first case (passive) should be denoted by no vote and only the second (active opposition) by a down-vote. One person's "not caring" shouldn't cancel another "I want that".
    – BCS
    Dec 16, 2021 at 19:13

I think downvotes on meta are just saying that you do not agree. But that can turn into people downvoting a lot.

Since opinions cant be wrong, just misinformed.

I think we should go easy on the downvotes to start with.

  • Spam
  • Offensive answers
  • etc

Should be things we obviously flag (or downvote if we feel so)

I think the answer is to turn off downvotes and make the flagging feature better fleshed out.

Like sorting flagged items lower than non flagged items and showing visually if the item is flagged.

  • 2
    I agree. But I don't want to hurt someone else's rep because I disagree with him. Hence, the suggestion to make down-votes rep-free. Jun 28, 2009 at 17:24

There's a lot of confusion here and I think it is going to be hard to enforce consistent behavior, especially because people are now downvoting the question if they don't like it.

The Help center sentence On posts tagged feature-request, voting indicates agreement or disagreement (quoted in Arjan's answer) contributes to the confusion because it suggests you should only downvote the question if that applies. We would have to look at the tags before downvoting the question.

The confusion is totally unneccesary if we adopt this behaviour:

  • A question should only be downvoted if is is spam, offensive, very badly written etc. Like we do on all sites.

  • If you disagree with the contents/idea/suggestion write an answer why. Then people can upvote the answer to signal disagreement.

  • Upvote an answer if you think it is worth asking.

With that change, the help text sentence can be dropped too.

Note that I have not been talking about reputation until now: I don't care. I only want the confusion gone.

  • So questions should only contain up-votes? That wouldn't make it very clear, does it? And how to indicate you agree with the answer that brings out some concerns while you like the feature requested? Jul 13, 2015 at 10:22
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    @Patrick 1. Well written questions would indeed only get (not 'should') upvotes. 2. That wouldn't make it very clear is only the case if you insist that upvoting=agreeing (which is exactly what I suggest we take out). 3. An answer that brings out objections will also contain the core yes (but..) or no (because..) and that's what you vote for. Disagreeing with parts of an answer can be done in a comment, or with large disagreement, by formulating a new answer.
    – Jan Doggen
    Jul 13, 2015 at 11:04
  • The help center text isn't there to tell people how they ought to vote; it's there to explain to new users how the majority of the community already tends to vote. It's descriptive, not prescriptive.
    – Servy
    Jul 13, 2015 at 12:57

Why isn't it enough promoting the suggestions you like? If the others stay on a low level, it is shown what the majority thinks without downvoting. If they rise also, you have to live with that.

  • Then why have down-votes at all? Jun 29, 2009 at 4:07
  • 2
    Yes, exactly. You do not need them here. Jun 29, 2009 at 6:51
  • I agree. And downvotes could still be used for questions or answers that are very poorly written, offensive, or completely off topic. Apr 30, 2018 at 14:27

Reputation in this site means pretty close to nothing.

If you disagree, downvote, preferably with a comment, and if you agree, upvote. It's not really a big deal as far as reputation goes the loss of 2 points.

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    Reputation does have one very concrete meaning (or corollary), i.e., the elevated editing & moderation privileges. For example, it slightly irks me that currently I can't fix tagging on questions here on meta...
    – Jonik
    Jul 1, 2009 at 10:26
  • 1
    It means a great deal to anybody who has a low reputation. If somebody new keeps getting downvoted, they will never gain any privileges. Even if somebody has a large amount of reputation, the principle itself seems wrong. (And, no. I'm not going to downvote you because I disagree with you—despite you actually asking me to. That's my whole problem. For me to downvote you would mean I was hypocritical.) Apr 30, 2018 at 14:24

On meta a downvote means "I'm jealous because you're right"

  • 12
    2 jealous people read this post.
    – bobobobo
    Jun 25, 2012 at 4:51
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    People treat this seriously, no need for that kind of sarcasm. May 28, 2013 at 11:52
  • 1
    It's sarcasm with a point.
    – bobobobo
    May 28, 2013 at 15:24
  • I find that, more often than not, downvotes seem to be based on a personal reaction (somebody who is insecure or playing a social game) than because of merit. So, I think your statement actually applies to downvotes everywhere—to a degree. (It's a kind of sarcastic meta meta point.) Apr 30, 2018 at 14:31

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