When you see meta questions like this, you quickly realize people are missing the point of submitting model, exemplary questions as a way to define a site. This is not a race to build up content for the site. This is not a race to mediocrity. Dumping a bunch of questions into a proposal wholesale does it a terrible disservice. These are supposed to be those rare, intriguing questions that tells the first-time expert "Wow! This is the place for me."

Same goes for voting. You shouldn't run out of votes. There simply aren't that many exemplary questions in these proposals. You are rewarding the wrong kind of behavior.

If you are running out of votes, don't vote for everything!

There is a very real potential that the "top voted" on- and off-topic questions might also turn out to be the most mundane, vanilla questions. It's a classic Bike Shed Example problem: people will give disproportionate attention to trivial examples.

A Guide to Area 51 Questions

When voting, consider carefully your three options:

  • This is a GOOD, exemplary on-topic question, or
  • This is a GOOD, exemplary off-topic question
  • And please, please, please—this is important—don't forget the third option!

The Meh Vote™

In other words... Don't vote on a so-so question at all! The "Meh Vote" is an expression of apathy—regardless of whether it is on- or off-topic—indifference, mediocrity, or boredom. That is the only way to keep obvious or mundane questions from becoming the top-voted questions defining your site.

This is all covered in the FAQ...

What makes good on- and off-topic questions?

The questions on your site say a lot about the community. To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site. Your goal is to make it clear that this is a PRO site.

  • Ask real, expert questions.
    We want you to capture the moment that plumbers feel when they look at PlumberOverflow and say, "Whoa! That's my kinda site!" On a site about plumbing, there are 200 easy plumbing questions, and they've all been asked 100 times on other sites. Don't suggest questions like "How do I unclog a drain." Instead ask, "If you run 2.5 GPM through 50 feet of 1/2" galv pipe, how many psi will be lost to friction loss?" Remember, the pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!
  • Off-topic questions are important, too.
    They define the very outer boundary of a site. The ideal off-topic question is one that will likely be asked, but should be considered off-topic, nonetheless. Avoid posting silly, off-topic questions that do not help define the site.
  • When voting, focus on your site.
    Don't worry about whether a question might be asked on another site. Your goal is to make the best possible site for this community.
  • Excellent clarification, thanks! (I see you are the man for your job)
    – juan
    Jun 1, 2010 at 21:30
  • 16
    What about having a "meh" vote (of some kind) instead of simply ignoring them? That would help communicate to other voters that this question is definitively mundane instead of simply overlooked. If the Meh Vote™ is so important it should be emphasized as such.
    – fbrereto
    Jun 1, 2010 at 21:33
  • @fbereto: +1 :) Jun 2, 2010 at 2:54
  • Your FAQ link points to the wrong place. It points to area51.stackexchange.com/#questions when it should point to area51.stackexchange.com/faq
    – raven
    Jun 2, 2010 at 19:35
  • @raven Fixed with the proper url and anchor. Jun 2, 2010 at 19:53
  • 1
    @fbereto: Strongly agree! Not voting and explicitly voting "Meh" really are two different things. Jun 4, 2010 at 5:03

2 Answers 2


The list of questions on any given proposal is just too immense to examine them in a breadth or depth first fashion. That is to say, people can't be expected to examine all of the potential questions prior to voting.

What it seems like we're being asked to do is look at any single question and decide "Is this a shining example .. ok wait, hold that thought, let me see if something else shines even more ... ok wait, hold that thought, let me see if something else is even better!"

I don't know how you're going to fix that by changing how we vote (or how the questions are presented) .. but it will be interesting to see how you try :)


I thought you were trying to define the site by having everyone vote on all the questions.

Making the third choice will be hard, since by definition they are all either on or off-topic.

Edit: @fbrereto, has a good comment, how about a third vote option for apathy or worthless or boring, etc., or maybe just a button that says This Question Sucks.

  • Think of it as... You are selecting the best (exemplary) on- and off- topic questions; maybe those that will end up in the FAQ to define the site. Jun 1, 2010 at 22:59
  • @Robert, OK, guess I'll have to remove a lot of votes then to clean it up. Jun 1, 2010 at 23:59
  • This is all still very new to all of us. There may be a few false starts. That's why it's called a beta. We just have to work our way through these issues. Jun 2, 2010 at 0:03
  • 1
    It said these votes define the site. Reading between the lines says "vote liberally". Jun 2, 2010 at 2:57

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