Meta doesn't like me; I can't seem to keep my points. How can I post better and be well-received?
What exactly is meta? Why/how is it different? What goes here?
Meta Stack Exchange is a special place for suggestions, bugs, support questions, and discussion about the Stack Exchange sites. It is the only place where more frivolous discussions are allowed. Meta is also harsh(er) to your feelings. That said, here are a few guidelines if you'd like to keep your sanity and reputation points.
Always search for your question first
Meta has been around for some time, and the fact is that most common questions/bugs/suggestions have already been answered. It's easier and less time consuming to search for your question. If you can't find it, think of different wordings and search again.
Heavily consider not requesting a new feature if you're new
Although this sounds cruel, elitist, and rude, it is innately true: the higher-reputation users have been around longer than you have and have a better understanding of Meta and the Stack Exchange sites. It takes a little while to get used to Stack Exchange and learn the inner workings and methodologies of why things are the way they are.
The reason it is very difficult to find anything trivial or sloppy on Stack Exchange is that all of the inner workings have carefully been thought through, tested, and polished. In other words, if you have no idea what rocket science is, it makes no sense to walk into NASA and start telling them how things should be.
If you still have suggestion(s), that's great! However, the best advice to you is to hold that thought, learn the ropes, eat your waffles, ride your ponies/unicorns, and then revisit us. You will have a better background and more experience to suggest. Don't suggest anything before thoroughly checking if it was suggested before.
If your idea has been suggested before but not implemented, and you think the system has changed in such a way that the original reasons for not implementing it no longer apply, see here before asking.
Consider whether your question may be phrased better as a question and an answer
If you find a problem that no one has asked about before, and you think you have found a solution to that problem, it's better to ask a neutral question that simply asks about the problem and asks for ways to solve it, and post your solution as a self-answer, rather than provide both the problem and solution in the question. This way, if your solution turns out to be unpopular, only your answer will be downvoted, not your question.
In addition, even if your answer turns out to be a downvote magnet, you can always delete it, whereas an unpopular question with multiple answers or a single answer with upvotes cannot be self-deleted and quickly drains your reputation.
Don't criticize, put down, or insult. Be constructive.
Meta's primary audience is high-reputation users who have spent hours, and sometimes sleepless nights, asking and answering questions, sometimes even pouring out their hearts over mundane tasks like retagging. If you do post anything disrespectful, you can almost count on being reprimanded. Meta is still composed of people, and as people, everyone must be treated politely as such.
Instead of being rude or disrespectful, turn those negatives into positives. Be polite and constructive and you will be much better received.
Don't post incorrect answers/comments
Just like on regular Stack Exchange sites, wrong answers get downvoted. If you'd like to keep your reputation points, simply follow common sense. If you don't know, don't pretend that you do. If you aren't sure, say so (or don't post at all).
Don't whine or complain
While Meta is a place for questions, answers, suggestions, and bugs, it isn't your mommy. Meta expects its audience to act – and post – like mature adults. If you've had your hair ruffled up, the preferred procedure is to persevere, putting on a pretension of imperturbability in the presence of perceived persecution, and carry on. However, if you really feel that a great wrong was done, or a pattern is developing, you can post it on Meta. But please, please, don't whine.
On meta, voting can be different on some questions, especially feature requests. On such questions, users often vote to signify whether or not they agree with the suggested feature, and downvotes are often used to indicate disagreement with the feature proposal rather than indicate that the post itself is of bad quality.
Remember, Stack Exchange is just a website, not your entire life
Just like any other activity, it is important to remember that life exists outside of this website. Spending days on end doing nothing but Stack Exchange is bad for your health (and we have to put up with your crazed antics). So please, remember that SE is a website, and keep things in perspective.
When in doubt...
I wanted to ask this question with a more action-specific and strategic answer being hoped for. However, based on prior experience here, that would be a shot in the foot if one vet member here saw it as a dupe of this question. Therefore, this is an answer with what I have figured out so far and my current strategy to go with most of the answer already given by rlb.usa. Please let me know what important details are missed or left out by me in the comments.
There are four ways to gain rep on Meta Stack Exchange from day 1 of signing up with the Stack Exchange sites:
- Suggest an edit that gets approved: +2 (1000 cap)
- Have a question upvoted: +5
- Have an answer upvoted: +10
- Have 200+ rep on another Stack Exchange site: +100
If you have your eyes set on improving the fundamentals of Stack Exchange (SE), here are some strategies worth considering:
Edit On Other SE Sites
If an SE site is highly active, suggesting edits is easy because typos are frequent. However, Meta.SE is not that active.
If you successfully edit 100 posts on another SE site (I recommend Stack Overflow) you should gain 100 rep on Meta.SE as long as the two accounts are linked.
The best posts to edit are those of non-native English speakers (assuming your English is decent). Just use charity to understand them and try to maintain the exact statements and style they are going for, even slang. Your translation from pidgeon English to Native English can make their post less of a headache for others who hear nails on chalk when they see bad grammar.
Beware that you can't change less than 6 characters. Weird, I know, but that one lowercase "i" can only be fixed by you when you are at a moderator's level of rep.
You also can't change too much (max characters currently unknown by me; will edit in when I find out). It's unfortunate because you could work really hard and feel like you did someone a great favor only to find that you helped too much. One possible solution I haven't tested is changing a little at a time. You don't get extra rep for subsequent edits, but you can allow all of your work to not have been in vein.
Have a markdown cheat sheet at the ready to give them some structure if they have none or to fix theirs if what they obviously intended didn't render.
Answer and Ask Questions [Difficulty: Hard]
There's an attitude on SE sites that would seem to imply that questions and answers are expected to entertain some of the voting members.
You will get upvotes and downvotes without a clear idea of why you got them. You'll see some comment about "quality" in the comments, but find it difficult to guess on what they mean by that, since you did everything you could think of at the time.
They will tell you how to feel. They will use unhelpful feedback like telling you that you are "whining" and to stop doing whatever they think that is (your best Louie Anderson impression through text, maybe?).
If it feels discouraging, you are not alone. It's a bug, not a feature, but there is also as of yet no real solution that's been accepted. Once you start writing Questions and Answers, all you can do is keep putting your best foot forward in refining your research before posting as well as improving your writing style.
I'll probably get some downvotes for calling this part out, but it's what I see from my vantage point at present. And initially, I wanted to ask this as a question.
Answers are going to be seen less by other users than Questions will. Therefore, your best bet in this popularity contest ("reputation", get it?) is to practice answering.
There are tags like discussion that are going to stand less of a chance at being hit by downvoters because they are meant to be safer spaces to post. I'm personally lost on what else would fit this description.
If you see an answer of yours being a rep suck, you can just delete it. If you see a question you wrote turn out to be a rep suck, you'll have to beg mods to close it for the down votes to stop losing rep.
That's all I got so far. Best of luck to you.