So, many of us probably know now about the new voting system that was (somewhat drastically) put into place recently for Area 51. Although the changes were meant to clarify the purpose/process of voting, there are one or more people who don't seem to get it regarding the "not a good example" option.

For example, this proposal has 74 of 221 questions with at least one "not a good example" vote (and sometimes that's all they have). That seems quite excessive. I disagree with many of them, as they should have probably been voted "off-topic" instead.

I think removing the -1 penalty for this was a bad idea. One or more people appear to be abusing it. Maybe someone is bitter about the vote reset and this is their way of showing it. Or perhaps they are annoyed by the limit of 5 on-topic and 5 off-topic votes per proposal, and voting as "not a good example" is an alternate way to shove things they don't like lower on the list when they are out of off-topic votes.

  • 1
    I completely agree: there should still be a -1 penalty for these votes. They're equivalent to a downvote on SO.
    – Shane
    Jun 29, 2010 at 11:52

5 Answers 5


For any given proposal, you get only 5 OT votes...

But you get 50 NaGE votes. Per day!

I think it's pretty obvious what sort of voting is being encouraged here... After all, if they wanted you to wade through 100+ questions and only vote on 10 of them, they'd have just left voting limited to OnTopic/OffTopic.

I kinda suspect proposals were hitting the threshold for promotion to stage 2 a lot faster than was originally expected, and this is intended to slow things down.

After reading David's answer, I took another look at the proposal you link to... There are 200+ questions, and only 11 followers: if only followers vote (not a given by any means, but I would expect the majority of votes to come from people interested enough to follow...) then the majority of questions won't get any on-topic votes at all! Worse, new followers will have these scores of existing questions to wade through before voting or posting their own questions - a brutal thing to task them with, and a duty most will likely shirk. With this in mind, I suggest that heavy NaGE voting is all but necessary, at least for the time being, in order to whip these question-heavy proposals into shape, lest they soon find themselves with the requisite number of followers and an impossibly broad pattern of votes on far, far too many example questions.

I suspect that, if the system is to work in its current form, you will need to be far, far more generous with your NaGE votes.

  • 1
    +1: Exactly what I just discovered myself (and added a mention of in the question). Maybe it's also a quicker path to a Civic Duty badge? Jun 5, 2010 at 5:32
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    This is doubly a problem because NaGE gives -2 to the question author with no penalty to the voter. Jun 5, 2010 at 6:53
  • 4
    @Kyle: a penalty to the voter would just make this whole thing even stranger. As I note above, the use of NaGE votes is obviously being encouraged, in that they have a higher cap than any other vote on A51 (or any other vote on any of the other sites!) A rep penalty for use would directly conflict with this - note how few down-votes are cast on S[OFU] because of this.
    – Shog9
    Jun 5, 2010 at 15:16
  • +1 Isn't the proposal process supposed to encourage the users to quickly kill any bad examples and highlight the good on/off topic suggestions. That's part of the process to creating a clean/narrow definition of a site. I agree with this answer. Give people the incentive to remove bad examples and replace them with better ones. Jun 21, 2010 at 20:54

Whether or not there's abuse, there's a major incentive problem:

The combination of limiting both the questions one can submit and the number of "off-topic" votes that others can cast, while leaving the "meh" votes unlimited and without penalty disincentivises posting good, boundary-defining "off topic" questions.

If you happen to nail it (and it's a lot harder to "nail" the off-topic than the on-topic, since by definition, you're aiming for that contentious realm where some people do want them included, but our target experts don't), you might get one of someone's precious "off-topic" votes. But you're a lot more likely to get "Meh" votes from folks who do want that topic included, since by definition, there should be some. Or who think it obviously shouldn't be included. Or who are trying to get to 300 votes. Or who think a later, but similar example better exemplifies the idea for that boundary definition.

I expanded this thinking here.


I don't see any evidence of abuse here. Off-topic is reserved for exemplary off-topic questions. These questions are supposed to define something meaningful about the bounds of the site by their non-suitability. And, as you say, the votes are strictly limited. In practice, I interpret that to mean that something should only be voted off-topic if it is contentious and borderline.

Questions that clearly don't belong shouldn't be voted off-topic, unless they are canonical examples. For example, there are perhaps a dozen astrology-related questions on that proposal. One of them is sufficient to demonstrate that astrology is not tolerated. All the rest are noise. They are not good examples.

This logic makes almost everything 'not a good example' or 'meh'. This brutal culling of questions, coupled with much more conservative positive voting, seems to be the intention of the process.

  • If you have 10 similar questions, what's to stop each of 10 people from picking a different one as 'off' and the rest as 'meh'?
    – Rosinante
    Jun 5, 2010 at 13:03
  • 2
    @Rosinante: well, that's a potential problem with the system even without the 'meh' votes. If 60 followers all vote on 10 questions and all post 5 questions of their own, it's possible that the votes will be too spread out to identify the OnT/OfT questions.
    – Shog9
    Jun 5, 2010 at 15:21

I think this is a good discussion, because we may need to tweak parts of it a bit. For example, I think 50 / day was too high, so we'll drop it back to 30 to be consistent with the trilogy. We may also need to make it less of a rep penalty if it's getting used a lot. However, I don't think we've seen enough evidence yet to conclude that it's not working.

There was a related bug, now fixed, which is that Meh / Not-a-good-example votes were only supposed to sort the question to the bottom if it got at least 3. After fixing it, that proposal only has 7 / 221 questions that have gotten enough meh votes to drop it to the bottom of the list, which doesn't seem unreasonable.


If the system is supposed to work somewhat analogously to Stack Overflow...

  • great example! (either way) would be an upvote (+rep to poster)
  • bad example! would be a downvote (-rep to poster, -rep to voter)

I think this makes sense to anyone used to any SE site, and I'm really confused why it doesn't work this way.

  • And how would you show if it is a good ontopic or offtopic example?
    – perbert
    Jun 8, 2010 at 15:30
  • @perbert: I don't follow. I'm not suggesting those two be combined, "either way" (between those two) you vote would be analogous to an upvote.
    – Gnome
    Jun 8, 2010 at 16:55

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