Say you're a 50k rep user on SO who, while active on MSO, only visits MSE when discussions or feature requests affect SO itself. If all you ever do is comment and vote on MSE, you can easily run yourself out of rep... thereby losing your voting voice in matters that affect your site.

How would MSE be impacted if its privileges, like those of site-specific metas, were driven by main-site participation rather than its own rep system, e.g.:

  • Your aggregate rep across the network
  • Your maximum rep from any site across the network*

What would privilege distribution look like? Potential problems?

*It may be worth discussing how we could normalize for rep pool disparity between sites.

  • Define main site activity, and how to accumulate from these fairly balanced please! Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 22:12
  • 4
    @πάνταῥεῖ canon's provided two example approaches in the question. What's left to define?
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 22:15
  • 4
    probably it would be dominated by Stack Overflow folks even heavier than it is now
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 22:25
  • @gnat Well, there's MSO already. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 22:29
  • 11
    What is the problem you're trying to solve? I understand that this is a bit of a thought experiment but can you explain what you are trying to achieve/avoid? What does coupling MSE rep to something other than local participation address?
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 22:43
  • Your suggestion wouldn't be fair to users who derive most of their network rep from contributions to Meta. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 20:54

5 Answers 5


Let's start with some goals1 for a reputation system on this site. IMHO, a network-wide meta site should...

  1. ...allow all sufficiently-engaged2 members of any site to vote indicating their agreement or disagreement on proposed feature changes to the software.

  2. ...allow the site to be self-moderating to roughly the same degree as any other site, without favoring one site's topics to the exclusion of others.

  3. ...reward any member who takes the time to assist other members in using the software, working together effectively with their peers, or improving the software itself.

1These may not be your goals, but I think they're reasonable ones.

2Intentionally undefined; should be > MINIMUM_REPUTATION.

Now, let's see how various approaches stack up...

Current status: MSE has its own reputation, privilege levels, respects association bonus

  1. Anyone who has earned the association bonus (earned 200 points on at least one site) can vote up and down here. No one else can vote unless they earn at least 15 rep (upvote) or 100 rep (downvote) by asking or answering questions on this site. In practice, this means...

    • 2,253 users have earned up-vote privileges on MSE, without having earned the association bonus on any other site
    • 772 users have earned both up-vote and down-vote privileges on MSE, without having earned the association bonus on any other site.
    • 127,987 users can both up-vote and down-vote here due to earning the association bonus on Stack Overflow, without having earned it on any other site.
    • 71,686 users can both up-vote and down-vote here due to earning the association bonus on a site that isn't Stack Overflow, without having earned it on Stack Overflow.
    • 287,365 users can both up-vote and down-vote here due to earning the association bonus on multiple sites including Stack Overflow.

    I'd argue this is pretty balanced; the majority of users able to vote here have some experience on more than one site.

  2. Flagging follows from #1 - if you can vote, you can flag. Close and reopen voting privileges must be earned on site; to see where these voters allegiances may lie, I decided to look at which sites other than MSE they've earned reputation on:

    User has profiles on Close/Reopen voters 
    -------------------- ------------------- 
    SE Only              8                   
    SO and SE            534                 

    Notably, no one with close/reopen privileges here has only earned reputation on MSE and SO.

  3. This is the only option that really satisfies goal #3.

Aggregate rep method: all sites' reputations summed up

Given you start off with 1 reputation per site where you have an account, a naive implementation of this would allow anyone to vote if only they took the time to create 100 accounts first.

Let's pretend we're not naive, and count only the reputation you earn on each site. This also discounts the association bonus, which would allow you to quickly gain close/reopen privileges by the same method once you'd earned 200 rep on any site.

  1. First thing to consider here is that a LOT more people will be able to upvote than will be able to downvote. This is true for most sites, but notably isn't currently true here on MSE. Out of a whopping 2,294,999 potential voters, 1,511,639 of them would only be able to upvote. Broken down further...

    User has profiles on UpvoteOnly FullVoters 
    -------------------- ---------- ---------- 
    SE Only              433888      93727      
    SO and SE            153199     321512     
    SO Only              924617     368287     

    Again, this only looks at sites where each user has earned some reputation, excluding both the initial +1 and any +100 for the association bonus.

    As in the current system, the majority of folks with full voting privileges would have some experience on multiple sites. Unlike the current system, upvoters would be skewed heavily toward Stack Overflow.

  2. Again, the flagging privilege is the same as the upvote privilege - so, skewed toward SO. Using the same approach as above, but now considering the close/reopen privilege, we get:

    User has profiles on Close/Reopen voters 
    -------------------- ------------------- 
    SE Only               4917                
    SO and SE            51115               
    SO Only              11854               

    As with the current system, this is a fairly cosmopolitan group. It is, of course, MUCH larger.

  3. As your reputation is strictly based on things you do elsewhere, there's no reward for assisting users who can only participate on this meta.

Maximum rep

  1. As with the previous approach, this results in a lot more upvoters. Here's how that breaks down by site:

    User has profiles on UpvoteOnly FullVoters 
    -------------------- ---------- ---------- 
    SE Only              434123      89364      
    SO and SE            164737     290458     
    SO Only              924177     368812     

    ...And, again, folks with upvote privileges are dominated by those who've only participated on SO.

  2. Same story for flagging, here's the breakdown for close/reopen votes:

    User has profiles on Close/Reopen voters 
    -------------------- ------------------- 
    SE Only               4506                
    SO and SE            45872               
    SO Only              12237

    Still pretty balanced.

  3. Again, nothing in this rep system encourages participation here.

Potential advantages

The biggest potential advantage to either of these approaches is the massive increase in potential voters. If we're discussing a feature that stands to affect a lot of low-rep ( < 200/rep) users, right now most of 'em can't vote - they have to try to persuade, with their words, like some sort of writer. Under either of these systems, hundreds of thousands of additional users would be able to vote to show their support, while somewhat less than half of them would also be able to vote to show their disapproval.

Potential problems

The biggest potential problem with either of these approaches is simply the raw volume of voters on Stack Overflow.

The second-biggest potential problem would be the massive skew between upvotes and downvotes. When considering agreement or disagreement, this could be an issue.

The smaller potential problem... Is that it becomes even less enticing to actually participate here. Because there's no reputation, because voting is skewed toward SO, because the only people who have to participate here are rank newbies who can't post on any other meta... And employees.

  • 7
    There are two privileges I'd like that IMHO shouldn't be tied to rep here: ability to see vote counts and deleted posts. On a meta site, were decisions are made, the vote split is important data. And it's not unusual to follow links around and end up at deleted posts on MSE. As a 10k user on multiple sites with plenty of experience handling post deletion, it's annoying not to be able to see those. (Note, only talking about seeing here, not about casting delete/undelete votes)
    – muru
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 2:52
  • 2
    @muru Well, seeing vote counts on any SE site, regardless of your reputation, is just a userscript away: "View Vote totals" without 1000 rep
    – Makyen
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 3:20
  • 1
    @Makyen indeed, and that's all the more reason to just make that feature available to everybody on MSE
    – muru
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 3:27
  • 1
    It may not be as big a problem as you say it is if SO users become a heavy majority. One could argue that since they (I'm not active on SO) make up such a huge part of the SE network, they should have a proportionally huge say in things. I can't see SO users making changes in MetaSE which demean smaller sites. Proposals here shouldn't pertain to only one site , so your origin site (place where you have highest rep) doesn't make such a big difference, IMO.
    – user392547
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 4:53
  • 1
    It's a bit tricky, @Chair... Before we split MSO off from what is now MSE, it was nominally "the meta site for Stack Overflow and the rest of the network" - the idea being, what's good for SO is good for any other site too. This isn't terribly wrong... But it also means that stuff that isn't relevant to SO - for example, MathJax - tends to get the short shrift.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 5:07
  • @Shog9 SO users on MetaSE will probably not care much about mathjax. But they wouldn't disrupt/silence/downvote a discussion here by the physics and math people, right? Has that happened before?
    – user392547
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 5:13
  • 4
    Intentionally? Rare. But... Which feature requests do you vote for: those you understand and can use, or those only relevant to others?
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 5:20
  • I don't think that MetaSE sees a steady stream of questions like other popular sites: there're only 4-5 questions per day on the Newest questions tab (maybe some are deleted, but that's irrelevant). So even if a MathJax post doesn't get too many votes, it's not going to disappear from the recent questions list too quickly. SE employees/community members who are interested will still see it.
    – user392547
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 3:38
  • Doesn't the association bonus only let you down vote two answers here before you need to earn MSE rep? But as Catija shows below, this isn't a big problem in practice. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 14:26

If your goal is to prevent users with the downvote privilege from losing it, it would seem the simpler solution would be to get rid of the cost to downvote answers here. This meets all of the goals without making any major changes to the reputation users here already have.

That said, I asked Shog how many of these users there are who you describe... people who have accounts here with only the association bonus and have downvoted two answers and have exactly 99 reputation. You know what he said?


There are 139 users on MSE who've earned the association bonus as their only rep on the site, and now sit at 99 due to downvoting answers.

I think it's a great idea to look into problems on sites and find solutions for them but this doesn't actually seem to be a problem here. There are so many ways to get one reputation point - edit something, post an OK question or answer to get an upvote or two... just like earning any privilege on any site but it's easier here because you get two answer downvotes just for having 200 reputation on one of the other network sites. On most sites, you need 125 reputation - something local.

It's actually interesting... So much network-relevant discussion happens on MSO (particularly recently) that I'm actually in the opposite situation. I'm having to put in effort on Stack Overflow by suggesting edits just to be able to downvote answers on Meta Stack Overflow. I'm not there yet, but I'm doing the work because it's important to me. Now, once I get it, I won't lose it since there is no rep cost for downvoting anything on MSO but making that slight change here actually brings this site more into alignment with all of the metas... there's no cost to downvote.

But again, 139 users are in that position. "Charging" for downvotes on answers is generally considered a way to encourage thought before casting them. Removing that cost comes with its own concerns, which should be considered, too... but not here.

  • 2
    Strictly-speaking, you can always lose suggested edit rep on SO if whatever you edited gets deleted... Talk about frustrating...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 4:08
  • 1
    Yeah, I've had that happen at least once.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 4:12
  • I think the cost to downvote adds important signal to the voting. Without it, "meh, -1" and pile-on, bandwagon votes mix with "I feel strongly enough about this I'd be willing to spend my own rep" votes. I think we should add a cost to down-vote questions too. That might even help with the "being more welcoming" push...
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 20:21

I'd argue that reputation on MSE reflects your ability to navigate MSE.

Your aggregate rep across the network

Seems simpler here. Chat displays it, though it dosen't have the fine-distinctions between reputations a regular site. The problem is, from experience and some users I've had to interact with - its entirely possible to have middling reputation and get how things work, or have high reputation, with a very very poor knowledge of how things work, other than very specific, reputation centric aspects of the site.

Oh, and SO.

Your maximum rep from any site across the network*

Which means someone like me, whose rep is mainly in one site, has more rep than a multiple 10ker Or even someone with 90K on say 2 sites. It dosen't reflect the broader impact a user might have on the communities. I'd argue its manifestly unfair that someone like Monica, who's a 30k+ user on multiple sites have less reputation than me cause she has a broader impact than I am.

A weighted average/score of some sort, based on site size might be fair, but eh, its a lot more complicated than "get on meta, post, get rep". And that's a strength of the status quo. It reflects a specific aspect of participation- meta and dosen't disadvantage users on smaller or lesser sites


What would privilege distribution look like?

We can't tell, unless there are more potential privilege models beyond the site association bonus are (experimentally) implemented.

Potential problems?

Some potential problems:

  • Knowledge about the policies of a specific site doesn't automatically fit well for knowledge regarding network wide policies
  • Some features are just site specific, and won't scale well for SE network wide, thus voting for them applies independently of site specific knowledge
  • The MSE realm affects general moderation concerns or problems, particular site problems might differ and need the particular context. Thus the experience with a particular site isn't actually relevant.

I disagree with the premise here. No one is losing their voice, as anyone can post an answer.

Moreover, "If all you ever do is comment and vote on MSE" and you lose your privilege here as a result of lack of participation, then that is fine with me.

Participation is a requirement for privilege, and simply kibitzing shouldn't get you very far. More users should participate, and I would strongly argue the inverse situation has a stronger need than the one addressed here: users should lose their privileges if their annual participation consists of only voting and commenting.

Clearly, un-engaged users poking around commenting on whatever strikes their fancy has caused problems at Stack Exchange. It would make more sense to require users to actually contribute to the site they are on in relative time periods to maintain privileges.


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