Seeing the recent discussions on the voting system (too many to link them all here), I think I've found the main source of confusion here: mixing the quality of a question with its "on-topic" or "off-topic" status. While in a real, live SE site off-topic questions would by definition be "bad" and thus they would be downvoted and/or closed, this is not the case for Area 51, where off-topic examples are as important as on-topic ones, if not even more. I think these two concepts, relevance and on-topicness, should be decoupled.

The Area 51 site is the only known (for now) Stack Exchange site whose voting systems works differently from the other ones, as a question can be voted in two different ways (on-topic or off-topic), but both kind of votes will give it (and its author) a score boost; this is not the most intuitive way for it to work, as people will tend to mark it as "on topic" or "off topic", but will often neglect the fact that by the very act of doing this they'll be raising the question's relevance as an exemplary question for the proposed site, and the author's reputation at the same time.

In order to make things more clear and usable, ease finding good and relevant questions and have users' reputation actually reflect their contribution to the community, I thus propose the following voting system for Area 51 questions (which are actually answers to site proposals, but let's not dwelve in this too deeply, as there lies madness):

  1. Any submitted example question will have, besides its present on-topic/off-topic voting options, an upvote/downvote option similar to those already used on all other SE sites.

  2. The on-topic/off-topic votes will tell what the proposal followers think about the question's role, while the actual votes will tell if they judge it a good or bad question.

  3. On-topic/off-topic votes will NOT affect the reputation of the question author; only actual question votes will.

  4. Any user will be free to vote as many times as it wants for on-topic/off-topic statuses. I don't think it will be needed to limit upvotes/downvotes, as this has never been a problem on other sites; but, should this be needed, it could be done easily and without limiting the "brainstorming" phase of site proposals.

I think this could totally solve the problems we've been experiencing.

Here's a preview of how this voting system would look like:

New voting system preview

I feel it's a lot more intuitive than the current one.


I feel it's a lot more intuitive than the now current one, too.

The original voting system has been changed, and I just feel the new one is a turn for the worse; and, judging by comments and discussions all over this Meta site, looks like I'm not the only one with this feeling. I still strongly believe the system I'm proposing here would be a better way to manage Area 51 voting, for three main reasons:

  • Up/down voting would work exactly like it does in the real, live SE sites; people already used to them would immediately know what upvoting and downvoting mean.
  • It would make absolutely clear whether you are expressing your thoughts about the on-topic/off-topic status of a question or its quality and relevance as an example for the proposed site.
  • It wouldn't limit people's ability to classify questions as on- or off-topic, thus helping in the definition of which questions a site should allow or not.

Another one of the many problems this voting system would solve is also the "vote on your own question" one; the question author could freely state if s/he thinks the question is on- or off-topic, without of course being able to upvote it.

  • 2
    Are you familiar with meta.stackexchange.com/questions/52168/… ?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 12:07
  • 5
    Yes, and I don't think it's a good solution; see my answer there.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 12:11
  • 2
    Similar to the off-the-cuff idea I had this morning. I think it's a good one, although I'm now starting to wonder if the "top question" voting could simply be deferred to a second stage; let the first stage be entirely about brainstorming, whet people's appetites, and have the next stage be about pruning. That's how almost every successful project works in the real world anyway.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 13:52
  • That was actually my first approach; but if the SE team wants to do both things at the same time in the first phase, then I think it's a lot better to do it in a less limiting way than the one they're currently planning.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 13:53
  • 1
    This still does not help the massive amount of information to process in order to cast votes. Its like finding 10 answers to upvote on a SO question that has 300 seemingly good answers. It takes longer to select 'the best'. I would recommend extending the time allowed to take back an up or down (quality) vote to 24 hours. This gives people plenty of time to absorb all of the submissions and refine their votes accordingly.
    – user50049
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 14:14
  • 1
    Additionally, there are quite a bit of distractions on area51, especially when a topic you follow is getting a lot of submissions. Finally, at this rate, everyone will have 10k on area51 soon and the value of their 'commitment' to launch a site would be artificially inflated. We need the down vote :)
    – user50049
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 14:17
  • 1
    @Tim: I don't think that you'd need rate-limiting for the secondary "interesting/boring" style votes. People aren't going to "upvote" every question that's on-topic. UI issues aside, I think I would cast about equal votes to "exemplary" and "meh", regardless of on-topic/off-topic status. The problem is that we're trying to combine the orthogonal concepts of relevance and quality into a single vote, and it makes no sense. Probably most of the questions on Stack Overflow are relevant but not particularly good or interesting (except to the person asking/answering).
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 15:15
  • Ok, now I'm officially curious: why exactly this post would be "too localized" ?!?
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 0:16
  • To downvoters: if you don't like this proposal, could you please explain why, and why do you think the current system is better? Downvoting without any explanation isn't really helpful.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 0:44
  • BTW, who made this community wiki?!?
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 7, 2010 at 16:38
  • 1
    @Massimo: You did, by editing it 12 times.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jun 7, 2010 at 17:59
  • @Aarobot: D'oh. Didn't know that happened automatically...
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 8, 2010 at 9:49
  • Can the CW status be removed once it kicks is?
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 8, 2010 at 21:16
  • 1
    @Massimo - No. By editing it so frequently you are indicating that it's an evolving question, and thus better suited as a wiki everyone can edit, and no one gets additional reputation for.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jun 10, 2010 at 8:20
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about Area 51, which has its own meta discussion area. Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 7:08

4 Answers 4


I like this because (obviously) it mirrors the existing sites.

My concerns:

  • it doesn't solve the "meh or off-topic" problem, and might make it worse. I think that if I saw a subjective question next to that widget, my first response would be to downvote it, not mark it as "off-topic"

  • it still seems like the most obvious questions will end up at the top. Forcing me to pick the 5 best on-topic / off-topic questions made me actually think about "what would make a good proposal?", but with this I would just upvote a lot of questions.

  • About the first concern: of course you still will have to think a bit differently than when using a standard SE site, because in Area 51 off-topic questions are welcome, as long as they help clarify a site's scope; this is unavoidable. but I think this makes a lot more clear if you're classifying a question or judging its relevance.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 7, 2010 at 16:34
  • About the second concern: I think choosing five questions is something that can be easily done where there is only a dozen of them (and not always that easily, anyway), but it becomes a lot more difficult when there are tens; also, if a new interesting question comes up later, with the current system you have to revoke a previous vote in order to vote it...
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 7, 2010 at 16:37

I think your proposal has some merit and does speak to the premise that was raised in another question's answer that "artificially rate-limiting an activity won't get people to do it better, only less". However, I do have a concern that while your proposal is quite logical, that it may have a human factor "usability" issue and whether new users would be confused by the two axis of voting. For example, would people be inclined to down vote good off-topic questions perhaps!?

In any case, I think the new Meh voting option as a third choice (on-topic, off-topic, or Meh) essentially accomplishes what you want to do in your system:

  • on-topic = the on-topic choice & the one up vote
  • off-topic = the off-topic choice & the one up vote
  • Meh = neutral to topic & one down vote

Perhaps your main issue at that point is simply the on and off topic vote limiting!? I suppose the notion of whether or not vote limiting is actually needed with the "one of three" voting system is a valid question....food for thought.

  • 4
    This "Meh" thing just looks a lot less intuitive to me than a two-axis voting.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 13:41

The voting on area51 must necessarily be different than on the other sites.

By "mixing" the two very different styles of voting, I suspect we will end up with even greater confusion, especially since one axis is utterly useless during the proposal phase. There is absolutely no reason to be voting on the question itself, and since the question consists only of a title it won't even be similar to how that question might be voted on a real stack exchange site where the body gives the "real" question, while the title is merely a brief descriptor for the real question.

I just don't see the reason for the up/down vote. The on-topic, off-topic, and meh votes are exactly what's needed to define the site.

Please don't add clutter to it, especially clutter that makes people think, "Oh, it's just a normal SE site with up and down voting."

It's not. It's completely different.


Oh, well, it's useless to bother anymore, I suppose... looks like community feedback was not so needed before implementing the new voting system, after all.


Let's just hope I'm wrong here... but yet, nobody seems to be actually caring :-/


At least there's some discussion going on, finally :-)

  • 2
    Use comments and edit the question to provide updates. Don't post non-answers as answers.
    – Gnome
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 9:55
  • @The Cat: I had posted this one (and was going to accept it, too) out of frustration after the voting system changed without taking into account the actual community feedback; I'm sorry for this... but the fact remains, nobody from the SE staff actually said a single word about this proposal here (yet), not even "we just don't like it". I've not accepted this "answer" yet only because I still hope that somebody actually cares.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 11:43
  • This is a community site, they are not obligated to read every post, and indeed can't, especially when you only give them a couple of days for the currently most popular and changing topic (Area 51).
    – Gnome
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 12:13
  • I read your post, I generally agree and find it an interesting avenue to explore, as I imagine the other dozen upvoters did. If you think you're not being heard, that's not the case, and I only wanted to help you improve it (did you delete the other answer I seem to remember?) rather than have it accumulate noise.
    – Gnome
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 12:16
  • @The Cat, no offense taken.
    – Massimo
    Commented Jun 6, 2010 at 12:52

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