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The tooltips on all sites, including Meta sites, currently read as follows:

  • Question upvote: "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear"
  • Question downvote: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful"
  • Answer upvote: "This answer is useful"
  • Answer downvote: "This answer is not useful"

This does not fully represent how voting works on meta sites, which leads to confusion and frustration among new users unfamiliar with Meta voting culture when they receive downvotes.


This was originally proposed (and declined) a bit over 10 years ago and has come up again every so often since then.

Per Can we re-request features that were declined a sufficient while ago?, I'd like to revisit this, for a few reasons.

First and foremost, it's clearly a well-received request: the proposal itself is at +197, the answer agreeing is at +126, and Jeff's answer declining it is currently at -56 (making it the 17th most downvoted MSE answer of all time).

Second, the meaning of votes on Meta sites has become pretty well established among regulars: agreement/disagreement with feature requests, bug reports, and the premise of discussions.

Finally, the Stack Exchange network is much larger than it was 10 years ago: expecting people to know that the tooltip on the downvote button is a bit misleading and to look somewhere else for the full explanation just doesn't scale. It's an extremely common occurrence to see posters comment asking, to quote an example from a recent poster from Meta.SO, why downvoters are "classifying this question as not showing 'any research effort,' being 'unclear' and/or 'not useful'."


As far as the actual text of the tooltip, I'd suggest something a bit broader than the simple "I agree"/"I disagree" that was proposed in the original request. I do agree with Jeff that that would be too limiting. I would suggest something along the lines of "This question is unclear, not useful, or I disagree with what it suggests" for the question downvote tooltip.

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    The question is, is this voting system actually actually useful? One can agree that a discussion is a good discussion worth having but disagree with the points raised there. I've often argued that the voting system should be split into two, with one set of votes being the normal votes that are only to be used to indicate post quality, and another set used to indicate agreement/disagreement (which don't affect rep in any way). – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 5 at 0:42
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog Wouldn’t that allow people to spam troll feature requests though? – Ekadh Singh May 5 at 2:18
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    @EkadhSingh Troll feature requests won't be well-researched. What I was thinking of was, feature requests along the lines of "this is a valid problem, but the wrong way to solve it", i.e. those for which one would (bother to) post a counter-answer. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 5 at 2:48
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog I see, that’s a pretty good idea. It would also solve the problem of somebody asking an unpopular feature request and getting a question ban, which is quite annoying IMO. +1 (also, you should make this in to a feature request post, hopefully you don’t get downvoted for the irony though.) – Ekadh Singh May 5 at 2:50
  • If anything, it doesn't need the word I in it. I vote on content. Now here comes my non-nativeness as a hurdle, I can't come up with a fitting alternative. Maybe: ... or doesn't support the goal/vision of the site – rene May 5 at 8:15
  • Maybe : ... or will not be an improvement over current practices – rene May 5 at 8:28
  • This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear. – wha7ever May 5 at 17:45
  • Would that also apply to meta.se or is it only for per site meta ? All in all, misunderstading it at first is understandable and usually fixed nicely in comments and all is good. I'm very unsure this is worth the added complexity nor that it would prevent any argument about voting on proposal at all. I mean, those willing to change it are already those knowing it, the others are either learning it somehow or just ignoring it because that goes against their conception. – Tensibai May 6 at 13:37
  • Two ways of saying something is crap (or good) will just result in people using both for the same purpose. – Kevin B May 6 at 14:42
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I don’t think there is a tooltip that would apply to every sort of post on a site’s meta.

Sometimes I upvote questions on metas because I think the discussion is a valuable discussion to have even though I disagree with what is expressed in the post. Sometimes I downvote a post on a meta because it is a rant and not constructive even if I sort of agree with the underlying issue.

No tooltip wording is going to solve the underlying problem, which is that the mechanisms that work well on the main site are often ill-suited for the discussions on meta sites. It would be better to remove the tooltips entirely than to argue about how to twiddle the wording of them. Anyone using a touch device won’t see those tooltips anyhow, so education about how meta sites work is still the better (although annoying because of the recurring nature) option.

Another option would be separating proposals that are asking for community feedback from discussions, similar to the way moderator election questionnaires have been reworked so we’re not shoehorning them into a format that was difficult to make work for that purpose. Making proposals more formal might not only solve the “what does a downvote mean” issue, but could also enforce a “proposal/option to vote on/discussion” type structure.

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    That's what I keep coming back to (I spent a lot of time thinking about how it could be less situationally-ambiguous). I kept coming back to needing to change the tooltips based on the moderator-only tags (discussion, feature-request, bug, support, faq) - it would be really useful to be able to tweak them individually (both questions and answers). That's kind of high on the complicated scale for complicated implementations, but it sure would be nice. – Tim Post May 6 at 18:22
  • @TimPost In general we only need a different meaning for votes on posts requesting community feedback on a proposal. If we had a way to post a proposal that was different from a discussion, that would be ideal. I wouldn’t get rid of voting in discussions, because it’s nice for users to be able to make a negative or positive reaction known without adding a lot of words, but the tooltip is fine for that sort of voting. – ColleenV May 6 at 18:27
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Downvoting on "Question" - GUI proposal

I think that down-votes are more important as they can give the users asking the question the opportunity to work on their question to make it more suitable for an answer. It could also indicate that this is not the right place to ask this type of question.

I can imagine that down vote list could be dynamic, site specific or even generated based on tags used in the question. This proposal not meant to define a one and only possible solution. It is only a presentation of a concept.

Stack moderators could contribute in accepting or modifying list of available down-vote buttons. Users could collaborate and make a proposal to add or change available options.

Consider the following GUI modification:

Enter image description here

This approach gives the person asking the question much better feedback on how he/she can improve the question or if he/she should continue to try to find the answer on this particular site.

This solution would also give better guidelines on when the down-vote should be used and when a short comment describing the issue with the question would be more appropriate. At the same time this do not force anyone to comment when down voting a question. Down vote would become self descriptive so in many cases the comment would not be necessary. In most cases users not to care to live a comment anyway when down-voting. This approach could solve this issue.

Constructive and clear criticism should be always welcome. Informative criticism will allow improvement.

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  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog I have read the explanation however in my opinion it was aimed towards forcing comments on downvoting users. The above proposal is only making downvotes more descriptive and informative to the users asking questions, so they have better understanding on how they should improve on their question (nothing more). It still could be a relevant proposal which not collide with the accepted answer in the question that you have referred to. – DevWL Jul 10 at 22:48
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    Your proposal is already mentioned in the third bullet in the question: "downvotes should be accompanied by a comment selected from a drop-down menu". Much of the same reasoning applies: they'll just click on a random reason to save time. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Jul 10 at 22:57
  • I noticed "Downvotes should be accompanied by a reason selected from a drop-down menu" I don't see good reason why this was included to this set. – DevWL Jul 10 at 22:57
  • Ok so it is because users would randomly pick the downvote without taking a short moment to select the right reason. Not sure if that would be always the case. Perhaps sometimes this would happen but in that little amount of work needed it actually could work as expected. – DevWL Jul 10 at 22:59
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    You need to at least put “other” or “something else”. Also, every reason you put on that list validates it as a proper reason to downvote something. For example, I don’t downvote questions because they are unclear, I vote to close them because that is more constructive. I would be opposed to encouraging people to downvote questions simply because they were asked on the wrong site. – ColleenV Jul 11 at 16:14
  • @ColleenV "other" could also be an option. I can imagine that down vote list could be dynamic, site specific or even generated based on tags used in the question. This proposal not meant to define a one and possible solution its only a presentation of a concept. I will make it more clear by modifying my answer. – DevWL Jul 11 at 17:29

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