To make your opinion known on MSE you need both up and downvotes. Given at the moment you need 125 rep to downvote on this site, the voting patterns will be skewed positive because not everyone is active on the site.

This is to be expected for regular Stack Exchange sites as you are expected to be involved in the community before you are deemed knowledgeable enough to be part of the community voice. However, MSE is different because you are voting for the entirety of the Stack Exchange network and you shouldn't need to be active on MSE itself to have a voice on changes to the entire network.

This is especially important for questions like A New Code License: The MIT, this time with Attribution Required because it will effect every network to do with coding at all. This was brought up in this highly upvoted answer.

I would suggest reducing the rep required to downvote on MSE down to 100 (or 101) rep. This is the amount you get for the site association bonus. This is given once you achieve 200 rep on any network site and shows that you are active in at least one community. I think this would be the perfect use of the association bonus in showing that you are a member of the Stack Exchange community.

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    I think this question only exists so you can get the rep, right? ;) Happy down voting.... – rene Jan 14 '16 at 20:41
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    @rene Not just because of that :) – muddyfish Jan 14 '16 at 20:41
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  • So let me get this right... You want to have the right to voice your opinion on this site, for doing diddly squat, simply because you have the association bonus on other sites? – Quill Jan 14 '16 at 23:09
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    @Quill - Wait, are you saying that members of the greater Stack Exchange community who visit the network-wide meta infrequently are not welcome to voice their input until 'proven worthy' here? Because I'd have to disagree with that sentiment. Why would SE bother featuring Meta SE discussions on every site's sidebar if they don't want input from people that "aren't part of 'The Club'"? – Robotnik Jan 15 '16 at 7:02
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    @Quill Yes! Are you saying users of SE network sites should not be able to express their opinions on features and discussions about how the SE network as a whole works, which could affect how every single SE site works? – kjbartel Jan 15 '16 at 13:06
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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/273082/284991 – falsarella Feb 18 '16 at 12:00

10 Answers 10

up vote 40 down vote accepted

As of right now, this is done: the "vote down" privilege is awarded at 100 reputation here on Meta Stack Exchange.

This should allow folks with the association bonus - or those who earn 100 reputation by participation here - to downvote questions as much as they wish (particularly important for feature discussions). It does limit downvotes on answers, since those reduce the voter's reputation by 1 point for each downvote - if you want to continue downvoting, you'll need to actually earn some reputation.

It also means you can't just show up and troll the place non-stop and keep downvoting, since if your posts get downvoted you'll lose the ability to downvote others (unless you also participate constructively in other areas).

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    Every time a limit or milestone is revised, my mind screams that THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I wonder why it wasn't this way since the beginning. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Oct 22 '16 at 10:29
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    @M.A.R. It was that way in the beginning, actually... In August 2010, you could downvote on MSO with 101 rep. (I used my once-only answer downvote on this.) I don't know when this changed or why. – Gilles Nov 18 '16 at 19:52

My take on this is thus:

There is a significant disconnect between SE.Meta and site Metas.

  1. To be able to effectively participate on a site Meta, you only need to be active on that site.

    To be able to effectively participate on SE.Meta, you need to be active on SE.Meta.

    This is an extra barrier of entry.

  2. Active participation on a site Meta (which includes downvotes on other people's posts - and getting downvotes on your posts) does not endanger your reputation (and therefore participation tools).

    Active participation on SE.Meta can take away participation tools. (Even if you just expressed an opinion that people happened to disagree with).

    This discourages full participation. No lowering of privilege requirement will take this problem away.

My solution: remove the disconnect.

  1. Set SE.Meta reputation for privilege purposes as the highest of site reputations across the network. It's like a logical OR of all Meta privileges.

    This will allow anyone active on SE network participate in discussions that affect the whole SE network (which is the definition of SE.Meta).

  2. Disable reputation changes on SE.Meta, just like any other site Meta.

    This is consistent, and encourages free expression of opinions.

Obvious problem with this solution

  • Immediate and huge increase in people wielding moderation tools of varying severity on SE.Meta.

On one hand, those are tools people are already accustomed with on their own site and in theory should be disciplined enough to use them by their site's moderators and community.

On the other, the moderating culture of SE.Meta may be different from SomeSite or SomeSite.Meta.

The only solution to that would be clearly fleshing out the moderation principles of SE.Meta and make sure that people are aware of them.

It may also require more community moderators for the SE.Meta.

  • This is basically the same as I said in this other feature-request. I completely agree. – kjbartel Jan 15 '16 at 12:55
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    Incredibly unlikely we'd ever change it to inherit the highest reputation: meta.stackexchange.com/a/230484 – animuson Jan 15 '16 at 16:48
  • This is an appealing solution but.... it's sooo much easier to just change the threshold on MSE than to try to make MSE keep in sync with all sites in the network to track every users highest rep. – David Fullerton Jan 15 '16 at 17:05
  • @david Any such change won't eliminate the point 2 of disconnect, and it won't allow anyone below 200 rep somewhere to vote at all. – Xan Jan 15 '16 at 17:07
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    @Xan True, we could also take away rep penalties on MSE – David Fullerton Jan 15 '16 at 17:08
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    @DavidFullerton Perhaps rather than tracking the highest site-specific rep per user, it would make sense to use the total network-wide rep per user. That to me would make perfect sense for a site that's so central to the network. Users would have privileges based on their overall contributions on the network. – Alex A. Jan 15 '16 at 21:12
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    @AlexA. This unfortunately doesn't work with the association bonus. You have as much network-wide reputation as you have accounts at that point. – Xan Jan 22 '16 at 23:42

I think this is a good proposal.

In my related question, How should low-reputation MSE users express disagreement with a (proposed) network-wide change?, I already raised the concern that voting is skewed due to the different levels of reputation combined with the association bonus.

There are a few options which were mentioned already, most derived from Adam Davis' answer, all applying to MSE only!

  • Lower the downvote reputation to 101. Problem here is that you only have one downvote when you use your association bonus, so this one is not very useful.

  • Lower the downvote reputation to the same level as upvoting. This at least makes it fair, voting-wise. The problem is that only a few edits could give users the privilege to downvote, which may harm the site. The association bonus can make that even worse.

Suggestions to fix the concerns are welcome.

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    You only have one downvote on answers (questions are unlimited), but yeah, needs addressing – Clive Jan 14 '16 at 22:47
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    @Clive good point. Still one downvote on an answer breaks this feature. – Patrick Hofman Jan 14 '16 at 22:48
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    Yeah agreed, kinda needs to be unlimited both ways to actually address the imbalance I guess – Clive Jan 14 '16 at 22:49
  • Is this answer actually addressing / suggesting something, or are you just listing the possibilities? – Quill Jan 14 '16 at 23:10
  • a 2nd attribution bonus based on a higher rep threshold. (already suggested over here -> meta.stackexchange.com/questions/252690/…) – Kevin B Jan 14 '16 at 23:12
up vote 23 down vote
+500

I can fully agree with this proposal, and I hope this pic can tell why:

The numbers are recorded either when you vote as anonymous user, or click the downvote without required rep (getting "Thanks for your feedback..."). Honestly speaking, the numbers on the previous announcement don't shock this much though: 126/-20.

Unfortunately, the team can just decide your proposal a non-issue for the reason they can access the feedback, but it would be really great to allow expressing the opinion "aloud".

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    While was typing the answer, another downvote and ten anon/low-rep downvotes. – nicael Jan 15 '16 at 19:27
  • Just curious what the anon-feedback on the original post was. – user213963 Jan 15 '16 at 20:04
  • @Michael 126/-20 - I've mentioned it. Though those are quite low numbers (not to say about the numbers of downvotes, but about both), so I think it could be erased or just be shown for a certain period (selecting day/month/all doesn't fix it and it has "day" selected by default, so probably something doesn't work). – nicael Jan 15 '16 at 20:06
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    If I happen to have this query I recall that I wrote... data.stackexchange.com/meta.stackexchange/query/220020/… (and if that query is correct), then the anon score was +7134/-638. – user213963 Jan 15 '16 at 20:09
  • @Michael Hm, then those numbers are definitely only recent and dunno how to fix. Still, I think the feedback for the newer post is probably correct. – nicael Jan 15 '16 at 20:11
  • The current anon score that you show is probably correct (and too fresh for the database dump to have picked it up). The first proposal one is probably also correct (that +7k kind of surprised me - but I do recall how widely circulated the post was on HN and /r/programming and the like - the "yea, something needs to be done vote."). – user213963 Jan 15 '16 at 20:12
  • I think showing the anonymous/low rep votes to all users would be more helpful on Meta.SE than elsewhere, especially for controversial/high profile posts. I also think that is a better solution to the "disenfranchisement" problem than lower the requirements for down-votes. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 20:52
  • @Erik Why is it better? Why do the users with association bonus have less right to express the disagreement via real downvotes and this way we have the votes separated? – nicael Jan 15 '16 at 20:56
  • It is better in the sense that they can feel like they're being heard to a degree and see that others are or aren't expressing a similar view. Of course it going to be skewed because people will now get 1 normal vote plus n anonymous/sock puppet votes.... Overall I still think that answers and up-voting answers you agree with is more informative and more helpful than blind down-votes. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 21:06
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    How do you get the anonymous user feedback count?! – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jan 15 '16 at 21:38
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    @ᔕᖺᘎᕊ There's a link for pro users ;) – nicael Jan 15 '16 at 21:39
  • ahh I see it: i.stack.imgur.com/95V4x.png Thanks!! :D – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jan 15 '16 at 21:45
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    @nicael: Pro users? – Werner Feb 18 '16 at 20:37
  • @Werner I mean, it doesn't seem to be linked from anywhere. – nicael Jun 4 '16 at 17:11

User Disenfranchisement

When a user notices a featured Meta.SE topic in their own site's sidebar that impacts them, and they click through to Meta.SE, a significant number of them, regardless of their expertise in their subject and site, cannot show their disagreement with the change by downvoting because they have not already participated in Meta.SE enough to downvote.

Evidence

The results of this user disenfranchisement are clear. You have announcements with an upvote/downvote record of 594/124 while the highest voted response is negative towards the proposal, and has 629/26 votes.

It is then trivial to assume that because the main post's votes are largely positive, there must be significant support for the proposal, when the reality is that there is significant unhappiness about the proposal, but we've disenfranchised users so they are unable to express it appropriately. Further, we cannot simply assume that the 629 negative cancel out the 594 positive and assume half the people don't like the proposal because it's possible to vote positively for the proposal, then after reading the later discussion changing one's mind and being unable to change their vote on the proposal until someone edits it (they certainly can't edit it!).

Work-arounds

While there are some work-arounds, such as hosting discussions on individual metas and trying to bring those responses to the table, as well as upvoting the negative responses in the hopes that people they trust pay attention, this is inadequate. In such cases people still assert that there is more positive support for such a proposal than negative disapproval.

Meta is murder different

Meta is actually another Stack Exchange site for experts about Stack Exchange, and so it makes sense to have some bars for participation in terms of how new users can contribute and gain reputation.

As you notice, though, there are things discussed here that have significant, direct impact on other sites.

Further, downvotes on Meta are often used to indicate disagreement - in the same way we originally used Uservoice to prioritize features and express agreement and disagrement. To some degree it's a priority queue, but it's terribly unbalanced if the vast majority of our users can only put positive pressure on change proposals.

Conclusion and recommendation

Down-voting should not be tied to the high level of reputation currently required - you don't need Meta.SE expertise to evaluate the usefulness of an idea to you or your site. On a regular site you vote according to truthiness, but here you vote according to usefulness given your perspective/experience.

Meta.SE should lower the bar for downvoting, making it equivalent to upvoting.

Because there is still a 2 rep cost associated with downvoting, this will still be self-limiting, and prevent significant abuse. Once a person downvotes significantly, they will have to also participate in other ways to continue to downvote.

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    I think the -2 rep cost for downvoting should be removed on Meta.SE so a user who has downvote privilege can cast as many votes as desired. Meta.SE is as much about opinion as it is about expertise (about SE) and everyone has opinions and may want to disagree with a number of proposed changes even if the person doesn't actively participate on Meta.SE. – xxbbcc Jan 15 '16 at 15:40
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    If I'm active on SO, proposals on Meta.SE that affect SO will still have an impact on me, even if I don't actively participate on Meta.SE so I would want to downvote any number of them freely (if that's how I feel about them). – xxbbcc Jan 15 '16 at 15:41

The problem is real

I have some personal sentiment for this issue, as I got out from between this rock and hard place myself not too long ago.

Keep in mind that there are many users that are high rep on many sites, not just one. I'm above 1000 rep on four communities and above 500 on an additional six. That means I'm trusted on ten communities to downvote appropriately. If that's not a decent representation of the SE network I don't know what would be.

Here's the problem with this pickle. Even with an association bonus, you have to post if you want to gain the downvote privilege. I suppose you could edit, but that seems a strange way to earn rep in any decent amount or timeframe.

Now you come in to MSE to check out a post that says the whole network will be affected with some proposal. You don't like, and you probably have decent reasons. But you can't vote on it! You're trusted on more than 10 other communities across the network to downvote, but somehow you're considered not trusted here.

Your only recourse is to make an answer saying you don't like the idea and list a few reasons. But if it happens to be an unpopular idea, your answer will be downvoted, making your situation even worse. So now you're annoyed and don't even want to bother next time. You're at a point where you don't even want to suggest anything because it may be downvoted, hurting your chances to have an equal opinion even further. This reinforces the already skewed opinion and disenfranchises new MSE but SE experienced users from participating.

And if you're clever enough, you just find a niche in this cronyism and exploit it. In other words, you make duplicitous posts that you don't necessarily agree with just so you can earn the rep to have the luxury of being honest in the future.


Ideas to fix it

I think it is clear that the current system is not as good as it should be. I'm not sure how to make it better, but in the case of already being trusted with the downvote privilege on multiple SE sites it makes little sense that those users cannot be trusted here.

I realize it would increase the complexity of the situation, but rep on MSE is useful and should certainly not be put away. The higher rep privileges like Mod tools, should distinctly belong to trusted users of this site, regardless of their trustworthiness on other sites. So adjusting the downvote privilege to a lower rep threshold does make some sense. In the least, it should be equal with the upvote privilege.

But a thrash of downvotes on MSE can be pretty harsh. It's hard to watch your rep take a 30+ hit just because you made one unpopular feature request, especially when you only have 101 rep in the first place. And getting 15 downvotes is not really that uncommon.

Again, I'm not sure the best way to fix this, but it is certainly entry prohibitive, even for seasoned SE users, who are really the people you want on here regularly, not those goons with 10K rep on MSE and only a nickle's worth everywhere else.

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    No one denies that Meta can be a harsh, and frustrating mistress. If you want something then you have to fight. I know I've had to fight in the past. I don't think you need to resort to "cronyism" in order to gain rep. Also I disagree that honesty is always highly unpopular. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 20:43
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    @Erik I did have to, so you're wrong about at least one user. Also, I didn't mean to say that honesty is unpopular. I meant to say that if I honestly hold a position that is unpopular, I will be punished here for voicing it. That's not a problem if you have plenty of rep, but if you just came in with a 101 association bonus, it sucks pretty bad. – fredsbend Jan 15 '16 at 21:02
  • I'm sorry you felt the need to pretend to agree with something so you earn rep. Meta can certainly feel like a shouting match. I think that is frequently because people are passionate about SE and smart reasonable people can disagree strongly about what is best for the SE network. I don't think making it easier for more people to down-vote will make Meta.SE a more welcoming or constructive environment. In essence I don't think encouraging/facilitating more down-votes really fixes any of the problems I've seen or heard about on Meta.SE. At best nothing changes, at worst they're magnified. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 21:15
  • @Erik You are right that the weak and simple suggestions I've made here won't fix the underlying problem that users highly trusted across the network are not trusted here. It's not really a big deal that I had to do that, but it is stupid. – fredsbend Jan 15 '16 at 21:25
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    The system of MSE is geared towards conformity and keeps users trusted on other sites away from central control until they are trusted here which often means they have learned to fit-in: In order to gain rep a user trusted on other sites has to gain reps on MSE by meeting the taste of the in-group. At the same time, he will often be surprised to learn, that he looses rep quickly even on discussions since downvoting on MSE is disagreement and doesn't cost the voter. Beware: the system might evolve and change? – gwr Mar 17 '16 at 15:39

I like the general idea behind this, but I'm not sure it's the right implementation. For most use cases it would work fine but I can think of a few edge cases where it might backfire.

  • The 100 rep bonus comes for having 200 points anywhere on the network. One of the reasons the downvote privileged comes in above this mark is that people behave differently on different sites. Because downvotes are disruptive in a way that upvotes generally are not, we want some show of good faith on a particular site before we let people downvote. Unfortunately I know of a lot of participants who are constructive enough on one site that are suddenly trollish every time they flip over to some other particulars site. I probably notice this a lot as a moderator on 2 religion sites. It's a very real phenomenon.

    I realize you are making an exception case out of Meta SE and I see the grounds for this, but I suspect that M SE is as much or more likely to attract activity from this sort of person as the religion sites are. Some people make great participants on SO or SciFi or whatever but just don't get how the network works. Giving these people privileges to vote in a way that affects the whole network before they have demonstrated some modicum of understanding of network issues seems unwise to me.

  • It would be very easy to lose. Let's say you arrived from SO where you have 13k reps and want to vote on a network issue. Let's also say you do understand how the issue impacts the network and are not just an anti-establishment troll as in above. Let's say you posted an opinion on any topic ever and got one downvote. Suddenly your downvote privilege is gone. Does that mean your opinion shouldn't count? I don't think so.

To mitigate these two eventualities I would propose a different network rep based privilege. For example, if 10k rep on any site should net you some extra power on Meta SE that you would normally have on your site's meta anyway. Even 2k on any site —which is where you earn edit privs on per-site metas— might be a reasonable place to extend this to Meta SE.

What is being proposed in the OP is a drastic measure motivated by the licensing debacle and the disconnect between the SE and the community.

I kind of agree that some voting changes are necessary. Yet, management-wise, I feel that SE has been committing blunder after blunder having no means to test their far-flung proposals on a small chunk of the community.

Thus, I draw attention to my feature request of 10 days ago proposing that SE should listen to site mods before attempting to change the rules of the game.

It is also evident that SE could improve internal oversight, maybe hire management consultants to fix systemic issues, and a real lawyer, but that's a matter above my pay grade.

I don't think that 125 rep is a significant barrier when you consider the 100 point association bonus. People can up-vote answers that express their position right away, and they can post additional dissenting answers if needed. The current system encourages people to be regular contributors to get the privileges which is a good thing.

The main benefit to reducing the limit for down-votes is it allows users who don't participate on Meta regularly down-vote questions. That doesn't result in a net benefit IMO.


I understand the current interest in this is mostly driven by the licensing debate. I'm not really a fan of the proposal either, but I recognize that:

  1. Stack Exchange is a benevolent[citation needed] oligarchy.
  2. While some issues are more important than others, I think people should be generally invested in the system to have a larger voice in the discussion. While the rep system has its problems it is a rough measure of general investment.

As such I'm comfortable with the thought that not everyone is going to be able to express their frustration with a down-vote.

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    "...and they can post additional dissenting answers if needed". This doesn't solve the problem of wanting to downvote the original question. Also, I tend to think that creating dissenting answers is subject to the Fastest Gun in the West problem. Oftentimes, I find that by the time I want to write an answer, there is already an answer saying pretty much the same thing. A low-rep user can upvote it of course, but not downvote the question. – Thunderforge Jan 14 '16 at 22:51
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    @Thunderforge then you up-vote that answer, and there isn't a problem. The core value to Meta is the conversation not really the votes. – Erik Jan 14 '16 at 22:58
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    No, since the score is even used in discussions from SE staff telling the incredible post score... – Patrick Hofman Jan 14 '16 at 23:06
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    I tend to agree with this answer - while I don't object to letting more people downvote (goodness knows we can never have enough downvoters), as someone who spends a lot of time reading meta I'm a lot more interested in a reasoned rebuttal to a proposal than I am to silence and downvotes. Often times I've seen ideas posted multiple times before someone ever bothers to explain why it's bad; it doesn't matter if it's obvious to regulars, if we can't communicate we're just gonna spend all our time dup-closing. Related: meta.stackexchange.com/a/194090 – Shog9 Jan 14 '16 at 23:06
  • @PatrickHofman Try to convince an optimist that the glass is really half empty. I think that just goes to show that a reasoned response/answer is better than a blind vote because votes can easily be misinterpreted. Also, the 85% comment was edited out quickly due to the response, and it has been made clear IMO what that number really represented in highly up-voted answers. – Erik Jan 14 '16 at 23:17
  • Except posting dissenting answers from the popular opinion leaves you with downvotes and lessened rep. You can't downvote, so you suggest answering, but answering against the popular opinion just makes things worse. – fredsbend Jan 15 '16 at 20:01
  • @fredsbend Kind of. One up-vote still cancels out 5 down-votes rep wise. I posted a dissenting answer on a question, have a negative post score, and have a net gain of rep from this post. I didn't post to gain rep, but it shows that a net negative voting score doesn't mean you lose your ability to participate. Plus you can always delete a very unpopular post if you want and regain your lost rep. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 20:04
  • @Erik I've written my own answer here and expanded on the idea. Yes, upvotes offset downvotes, but you can't continue in that pattern without risking a posting ban. You must submit to cronyism if you want to gain rep here. – fredsbend Jan 15 '16 at 20:30
  • @fredsbend To my knowledge deleting your highly down-voted answers is encouraged, and even has a related badge. I don't think a posting (answers) ban is a likely outcome for the vast majority of users. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 20:45

Down votes should be for moderation. They don't really work well for measuring opinons.

The problem with new license question is that it isn't really a question. It's an announcement that happens to have been typed into the question box. Downvotes are meant to mean "this is a bad question," not "I disagree." If the SE team had asked an actual question, it would have looked more like this:

(103) Q: Should we screw up the license?

(125) A: No, of course not!

(13) A: Sure, go ahead!

This way, users would express their opinion by voting for their preferred answer, instead of by downvoting the question. One other advantage: The question would appear higher on the page, as a question of this importance rightly should.

Basically, the rep limit should stay the same unless the site is truly incapable of handling non-questions like this, in which case it should be possible to express disagreement given sufficient rep on any site.

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    This doesn't really answer the question of whether the rep requirement should be changed for down-voting. – Erik Jan 15 '16 at 0:09
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    Did you post this on the wrong question? Might wanna lead with your opinion on the question at hand, with suggestions for polling elsewhere (we rarely ever run polls; much prefer persuasive arguments.) – Shog9 Jan 15 '16 at 0:27
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    Do you understand how voting works on Meta? Votes are often used specifically to show agreement/disagreement on meta. – Catija Jan 15 '16 at 3:14
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    I agree. That announcement was really an answer that should have been phrased in the form of a question. – Alex Trebek Jan 15 '16 at 7:00
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    I would downvote this but I don't have enough reputation! – BigJoe714 Jan 15 '16 at 14:54

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