This problem just came up on a site meta: A user commented on a question,

I can't decide whether to upvote because this is a good topic or downvote because I [disagree with the proposal].

So, what should this user do?

If there's strong consensus on a meta proposal then the question will end up distinguished in rankings by vote. However, if the net votes on a question are near zero but there are a great many of them, then the question will not be distinguished by any visible summary measure.

I can think of three possible solutions to this:

  1. Add a "Total Votes" sort view to meta question lists, (which is a natural precursor to this well-received proposal to add badges for "Insightfulness" on metas).

  2. Adopt and encourage a convention that "Favoriting" a question in meta indicates that the underlying matter is worthy of attention.

And, for illustrative purposes, the last solution will appear in an answer.

  • 1
    I think it really depends on the type of question. A FR certainly shouldn't be a question-answer... but a discussion should. I think that the question of a discussion should merely state the facts of the situation without posing any solutions... leaving the solutions to the answers section so that people can actually vote on them. – Catija Jun 1 '16 at 19:20
  • @Catija - I.e., "If you want meta users to vote on whether the matter is worthy of consideration, then don't muddy the question with proposals. Those belong in the answers, where votes will indicate whether users support or disdain each solution/recommendation." That has a facile beauty to it. It's essentially an opt-in version of my answer to this. (Perhaps backed up with a little nudging for those ingrained in the old ways ;) I'm going to edit my answer to clarify that. – feetwet Jun 1 '16 at 20:04

This solution does not require any material changes. Instead we should merely change the norms for metas to, where possible, separate the identification of problems from suggested solutions. I.e., questions should only raise issues or concerns; proposals should be made in answers. That way, votes on the question indicate how much of an issue the community considers it, and votes on answers indicate whether they are useful in addressing the issue.

In other words, "Let's make metas work like regular Stack Exchanges."

Users are trained to not post answers in questions (or questions in answers) on main sites. They're trained to vote on questions and answers by "usefulness." These are core principles of Stack Exchanges and they are essential to making them work effectively. The present custom of undoing all of that training when a user pops over to a meta site is confusing and even traumatizing. Especially because the current meta customs are only customs – the vote buttons still say "useful" and "not useful," not "I agree" and "I disagree." The meta badges are the same. The sort orders are the same, and sorts tend to feature announcements rather than issues (though why people vote on announcements is perhaps a separate question). Use the Stack Exchange system the way it was designed on metas too and a lot of problems go away.

E.g., is A New Code License: The MIT, this time with Attribution Required really the worst meta question ever, while A Terms of Service update restricting companies that scrape your profile information without your permission is the best?

  • 2
    I think this is an improvement but I'm still not sure how this would work with FRs. "Can we please have ____ feature?" is definitely a question and I don't think it makes sense to change the voting paradigm on FRs ... That turns them into polls, which are problematic in their own right. Are you suggesting that all FRs should be turned into "here is the problem, how can we fix it?" With the OP creating an answer that reads "Here is my proposed solution"? – Catija Jun 1 '16 at 20:22
  • 1
    @Catija - Yes, when possible. Granted, this probably won't be a panacea. (And the "old ways" will still be around, in old meta questions if nothing else). But I just reviewed a bunch of Feature Requests and they were all amenable to the form, "I want feature Y because X." So they're isomorphic to self-answered questions: The "question" being, "I think X is a problem, or shortcoming, or could be done better," and the first "answer" being Y. (The advantage of that form being that we can see whether people care about the problem even if they don't like or care for that solution.) – feetwet Jun 1 '16 at 20:32
  • 2
    But that really turns every FR into a discussion, not a FR... the entire tag would become obsolete. Look at FRs like this one. Instead of stating what solution they would like, the question becomes "How can we better display OEIS entries in chat?" ... I guess? With the question becoming the answer... "Make it possible to onebox them"... That seems like a very roundabout way of addressing an issue. – Catija Jun 1 '16 at 20:38
  • @Catija - Agreed, no need to go through contortions to implement this solution. When a FR is of the form, "Here's something cool I think we should have/do," then it's just a FR "question." Votes on those make sense -- "useful" or "not useful?" But for all the people who come on metas or Meta Stack Exchange with FRs identifying both a problem and a solution, the custom of separating them would make more sense. There wouldn't be any, "Wait, is this downvoted because you don't think it's a problem, because you think it's unclear or poorly elaborated, or you just don't like the solution I proposed?" – feetwet Jun 1 '16 at 20:47

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