I thought the SO web sites were essentially governed according to the communities needs and wants. Sure doesn't feel like it sometimes.

Wasn't it Jeff that said "We don't run StackOverflow... you do!"? That sounds like it's meant to be a pure democracy, not a monarchy.

I would like to request that votes determine whether features are done, and in what order.

  • 2
    Because there's probably also a lot of people who disagree?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 7:25
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    @Ivo: Especially Jeff :-). Monkey is talking about high voted features.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 7:27
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    @John - A feature can have 30 upvotes or more, it's nothing compared to the amount of people who do not come on meta, or simply who don't care to downvote. Examples like the comment timer showed moreover that the majority of people who would vote it are intensive users of meta, which is an even smaller group, compared to a large panel of trilogy users, and who have different expectations for this feature. So 30 upvotes is sometimes really nothing compared to the amount of users on SO, for example.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 8:38
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    I think you're taking the quote pretty far out of context. It's from the reputation section of the FAQ, where Jeff is talking about site moderation. From a moderation point of view, he's given quite a few of us quite a bit of power. In that sense we do run the site. Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 14:39
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    The problem with the quote is that it lends itself to be taken out of context. The 'run' verb can be interpreted in many ways.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 16:26
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    It's not a democracy, it's a benevolent dictatorship. Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 17:06
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    i'm not convinced it's all that benevolent... ;) Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 17:28
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    this post should be on meta.meta.stackoverflow.com :-)
    – naivists
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 17:48
  • there is no meta.meta.stackoverflow.com, only Zuuuuuuuuuul... Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 18:04
  • At least there should be post saying way it is not being done on item like meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37466/… rathern then just ignoring it. Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 15:17

7 Answers 7


A Stack Overflow designed solely by consensus of the masses would be, well... phpBB.

Seriously, a design by committee is a horrible design. Generally, all great products are the vision of a few people and you have to let those few people guide the product direction to keep it on track.

Soliciting feedback and feature requests from the users is a great way to bring in the ideas but, ultimately, it has to be the product designers who decide how to proceed. Otherwise, there is no central vision.

A vote is not a binding contract that the developers should follow blindly. Voting adds weight to the feature requests. The more people who like the idea, the closer the developers will take a look at it.

For those few requests that receive high votes, the developers will certainly take notice and either implement the feature... or not. But at least the voting draws enough attention to the issue to cause the decision makers to look deeply into the discussion and see what issue the users are really trying to solve... and, more importantly, whether it is Stack Overflow's place to solve it.

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    Agree. Although not being transparent on the criteria used to handle user feedback is bound to create conflict.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jan 28, 2010 at 3:19
  • But what if the users understand the vision of the few people better than they do?
    – endolith
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 5:49

I would like to request that votes determine whether features are done, and in what order.

Well, I would like to request a pony!

Votes do strongly influence features we develop, and we try to complete as many of the high voted items as possible. Heck, see for yourself:


Now compare with declined:


However, it is unreasonable to expect that every highly voted request will be implemented. We don't always agree with the requests. Some people want us to build a big truck, while we would prefer to build a series of tubes..

  • I guess either way works - I thought the truck/tubes reference might be funny though Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 8:01
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    It's your marketing haunting you: "We don't run StackOverflow, well, no, actually we do run StackOverflow"
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 8:46
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    In a way, the pony example is good, I'm sure that a feature request involving ponies and waffles would get upvoted a lot, just because we're on meta, if it was quite fun.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 13:31
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    So... if we get you a pony, we can have any feature we want?
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 17:16
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    what about waffles? i could make you waffles... Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 17:30
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    I think we should build a sports truck! Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 20:10
  • I'm responsible for one of those rep-pumps (I mean, feature requests :) ), and I upvoted this. I may disagree with some of the decisions, but this explains the rationale very well.
    – John Rudy
    Commented Jan 21, 2010 at 5:53
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    At this point, the top three "completed" requests have 499 total votes, whereas the top three "rejected" requests have 501 total votes. Besides, if you just explained why you reject requests that would really rather help.
    – RomanSt
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 10:51

I've already said it in a comment here

We don't run StackOverflow... you do. Except when we don't agree, of course

More seriously, I think that Jeff and co. know the following:

  • Users don't have all the data points devs have to make decisions
  • Users don't always have the same motivation as the devs do
  • Users don't know what time is available to do tasks
  • Users do not do this for a living

Also, another relevant criteria is how to define high voted. What do 10 votes mean on Meta? Does that mean that most people want it? Or just that a vocal minority wants it heavily? That's another thing to consider I wouldn't know how to solve, really. I've seen that features with 80 or 100 votes (which are most likely really wanted) tend to get status-planned and completed after a while.

Now, I've also already said that a public roadmap would alleviate some of this issues, making development more transparent and probably would make people happier. I don't know why that isn't being done though.


Because as much as "we" are running SOs, it's "them" who are developing.

Don't mix between the two


There are far more highly voted requests with status-complete.

The search shows 219 questions tagged with both feature-request and status-completed:


Compared to just 127 questions tagged with feature-request and status-declined:


That doesnt even include questions that are marked as deferred or planned.


I would like to request that votes determine whether features are done, and in what order.

What is popular is not always a good direction to take the site in.

For instance, there are a fair number of people that would like to be able to respond to an answer - ie, threaded discussion, or threaded comments, but that would detract from the main thrust of the site - questions and answers.

While the users define the community Jeff and Co. get to define the interface. The community can suggest changes to the interface, but if it doesn't mesh well with the intent of the site then it's unlikely to be implemented regardless of the community desire.

That being said, if you were able to get your idea voted up thousands of times, I'd be very surprised if Jeff turned it down, and that would only require a small fraction of the community.

Lastly, if you can get them to implement your feature, implement it yourself. For instance, Jeff was very reluctant to make a meta website or a place to discuss SO for months. It wasn't until shortly after someone else took it upon themselves to start a discussion board that Jeff relented (not wholly for that reason, but it was a consideration) and created meta.so.

There are several projects revolving around monitoring rep/vote/etc changes in real time, and while they have created the users/recent envelope, these projects still flourish because SO doesn't provide as much detail as some people enjoy.

I expect someone to add some social networking features to SO - allowing you to 'friend' other users, see their real-time activity feeds on multiple sites, etc.

Once the SO api comes out you should start to see greater interest in having one site that aggregates all three SO sites, but tied in with your accounts to you'll only see questions from topics you're interested on in each site. Eventually the API will allow posting questions, answers, comments, and voting and some people will never visit so - they'll merely be using their individual aggregate interfaces.

As these services start, though, you'll see many of those features being added as native features to SO.


I do wonder how this will develop over time, though. As the site becomes older and in a sense 'stale', and more dogma develops, people naturally become more entrenched.

I just wonder whether what may be reasonable requests/ behaviours will be denied because of a growing institutionalism, rather than anything to do with the ideas themselves. c.f. The issues with Wikipedia as it's grown bigger and older.

Just speculation, but it seems that what usually happens.

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