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I am of course aware that voting on Meta is different than on the main site, most particularly in the fact that it does not have any rep impact. Recently though, I've begun to wonder if everyone interprets upvotes and downvotes on Meta questions the same way.

Some things I think it could mean:

  1. I like or do not like this question. My upvote means I think this is something we should discuss, something that matters. My downvote means the opposite. (this is what I always thought it meant)
  2. I agree or do not agree with this question. My upvote means I agree with the asker? My downvote means the opposite.
  3. And of course - I like/dislike the asker of this question. Which I suppose always plays a role.

Some specific examples of where I am confused by the community's voting include this question and this question, which I believe represent 2 and 3 respectively. Are there other possible meanings? What does an upvote or downvote on a Meta question mean to you?

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    All of the Above. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 2 '13 at 22:39
  • I'd contest your claim about the spoilers post. It's incoherent, IMO, and -4 probably under-represents the people who think (1) applies and it's not the end of the world. – Matthew Read Apr 2 '13 at 22:52
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    @MatthewRead Oh, I'm pretty sure (3) applies to pretty much any post by Retrosaur in recent days. Not necessarily as the primary reason, but surely one thing to tick off a downvote where it would otherwise not be given. – user98085 Apr 2 '13 at 23:06
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    @FEichinger Yes, I could have picked various questions from that stable. I chose this one because the voting could be for any of the above reasons, and hence the confusion. Surely I just hurt my brain trying to understands what votes mean, but as they are one of the primary ways we show consensus on the site - it seems worthwhile to at least discuss what they mean. – EBongo Apr 3 '13 at 0:29
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    @FEichinger - I agree. Whilst some of Retrosaur's posts have been a little out there lately, I didn't find anything wrong with the spoilers one. It seemed to be a reasonable suggestion, which I upvoted and then answered. On that post in question, my suggestion received +5/-1 votes, whereas the question received +3/-6. Seeing as I agree with Retrosaur's suggestion (and stated as much in my answer), It would seem that people voted on the person, not the policy (a problem in most democratic politics everywhere IMHO) – Robotnik Apr 3 '13 at 5:55
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    @Robotnik I downvoted Retrosaurs question because it was unclear and incoherent. I didn't downvote your answer because it is clear and concise and contained. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 3 '13 at 13:41
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz So in short, you're voting based on grammar and formatting, and not about the actual content of the post. Sounds more to me like "I don't have time to read Retrosaur's post, but because it's Retrosaur, I'll downvote" – senpai Apr 4 '13 at 15:13
  • @Retrosaur No, I downvoted because a first grader could've made what they were asking for more clear than you did. I still have no idea what your original question was calling for other than "It should be different somehow." – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 4 '13 at 15:42
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz That's the problem with users like you. You expect TL:DR questions, rather than reading everything I wrote. – senpai Apr 4 '13 at 17:38
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    @Retrosaur No, we expect you to be coherent. If you can't expend the effort to explain yourself, you can't expect us to expend the effort to understand what you're saying. – Frank Apr 4 '13 at 17:43
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    Perhaps you could insult each other about the spoilers question on the spoiler question's post. Or even better, not at all. I don't know if you're saying LP wanted a longer question or a shorter one, but neither of those have to do with coherency. Downvoting something that is unclear is what downvoting is for. – user9983 Apr 4 '13 at 18:13
  • How is my English unclear? Are you suggesting that I switch to another language that he can understand? Show me something from my questions that shows "uncoherency" – senpai Apr 4 '13 at 18:35
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    @Retrosaur I'm not the one who downvoted due to incoherency. – user9983 Apr 4 '13 at 18:50
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    Can I get in on this? I like to get mad about stupid things too. – Sterno Apr 4 '13 at 19:35
  • Based on the comments, on both this question and the answers, and the current top-voted answer, I feel that the community prefers the 'anything goes', 'no guidelines or whatsoever' approach to voting on Meta. AKA "mob rule". – galacticninja Apr 5 '13 at 7:46
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Voting on meta questions can mean any number of things.

Reasonable

  • Agreement or disagreement with a position put forth in the question.
  • Indication of whether or not the topic of the meta is worth discussing.

Silly

  • Personal opinion about the asker. (I downvote everything Wipqozn posts)
  • Based on what day of the week it is. (Tuesday is double downvote day)
  • Whether or not they had your favorite ice cream that day. (I love cookie dough, upvotes for everyone!)
  • Downvoting a competing answer even when you agree. (I want all the glory)

The only common rule is, people use their votes as they please. We can make all the rules and standards we like, but we have no way to enforce them.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't care! We should still encourage people to learn what responsible voting means (i.e. the first two methods) because otherwise, meta becomes meaningless.

  • And while main site votes are intended to reflect the useful/clear/etc. metrics, these things come in to play there as well. Votes are private and as long as you don't tell anyone you're abusing the system and you don't serial vote, you can vote any way you like for any reason you like (like you've said). – Matthew Read Apr 2 '13 at 22:49
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    I am tempted to downvote because it's Tuesday. Because @#$* Tuesdays. – Raven Dreamer Apr 2 '13 at 23:16
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    @OrigamiRobot I like the edits you've made to your answer. Assuming good faith is fine with me, that's why I'm directing this question more towards active users who discuss site policy (ie users who participate in Meta), rather than all Arqade users at large. Hopefully users who are confused about how they should vote on Meta questions find your answer and resolve to use their votes reasonably going forward. You may say I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one.... – EBongo Apr 4 '13 at 12:45
  • Well it's not Tuesday, have a +1. – Batophobia Sep 5 '13 at 20:51
-2

Despite the practical nature of Origami's answer, I thought I'd do a little research an see what I could find on other Stack sites related to this question. I did not find any satisfying discussion of Meta questions specifically, but I did find this response from Grace Note about proper reasons to downvote questions. I believe it is straightforward and applies here:

Remember that the ultimate reasoning behind a downvote is "This question is unclear or not useful" ...

While I recognize the fact that no one individual can be forced to use their votes in a certain way, I propose that those of us that understand the site policies agree to use the above as the guiding principle for Meta question voting. Just like other agreed upon site policies like close rules for and list questions, I believe this policy can feasibly be enforced if the majority of active Meta users can agree to behave this way (even though some random individuals will act however they choose).

I propose that we standardize on this behavior, so as to make voting on Meta questions mean something tangible. I think trivializing what it means by saying "it could mean anything" just becomes an argument to ignore it or get rid of it all together - and I don't think that is something that folks who take the time to vote really want. I'd also point out that voting on the main site feels (at least to me) much more in keeping with the above policy, so this seems an achievable goal.

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    Good luck "standardizing" any kind of group behavior. – Invader Skoodge Apr 3 '13 at 12:38
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    Trying to enforce voting behavior when the whole thing is anonymous anyhow is an impossible task, and one I don't feel that there is any reason for. People are always going to assume there are vendettas against people or whatever, because drama is more interesting than someone just not agreeing with a thing. There is good reason for vote anonymity and trying to standardize it and make rules and force people to behave your way doesn't make sense. – Ash Apr 3 '13 at 15:50
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    Downvoted because your avatar reminds me of Zalgo text. – Sterno Apr 3 '13 at 17:33
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    Changed to upvote because it's a Wednesday and I just had some carrot cake. – Sterno Apr 3 '13 at 17:34
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    Downvoted again because other people did and I like to follow what my peers do. – Sterno Apr 3 '13 at 17:34
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    I only upvoted these comments because I can't downvote them. – user9983 Apr 3 '13 at 20:19
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    So I get that people don't agree with my answer (see - I can tell that from the voting). Can anyone respond to the points of a) Voting without meaning devalues voting altogether b) We "standardize" on other site policies involving anonymous or semi-anonymous "good faith" behaviors c) Stack has a definition of a downvote and I've quoted it. – EBongo Apr 4 '13 at 0:58
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    The answer you quote is about voting on SO, not meta. In the end, voting is even meaningless on the main site because there is no forced policy. You literally can't standardize it. Assuming good faith is the only thing you can do. – user9983 Apr 4 '13 at 4:10
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    Like I mention above, I like the edits to your answer. I refuse to believe that voting is meaningless in aggregate - since it is the foundation we build all site policies on. I do accept that any one vote can be meaningless - but that's why this question is titled "What are downvotes on a Meta question supposed to mean?" - not "Does every downvote on a Meta question mean exactly the same thing?" . I agree that the answer to the latter is pretty obvious - No. – EBongo Apr 4 '13 at 12:49
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    @EBongo I've come to realize that meta votes don't matter anyway, other than to take the temperature on an issue. You can raise some topic on meta, get a large majority support on your answer, and when it comes time to implement whatever it is on the main site, that won't mean a thing. It really comes down to whoever casts the close and reopen votes. Here's another case where people can argue all day, but only the close/reopen votes will end up mattering. – Sterno Apr 4 '13 at 19:40
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    @Sterno Well, yes and no. For the record I upvoted your question about when to move forward since I found it "useful and clear". Your second example to me proves site policies do matter - because badp deleted those closed questions before the community could vote to reopen them - which I would have campaigned for, and it seems you would have to. Why did badp do this? Site policy, decided on Meta. That sequence of events stemmed from a Meta question that certainly "mattered". Clearly other questions with strong backing get less traction, but sometimes... – EBongo Apr 5 '13 at 2:27
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    @Sterno I'll also continue my Lennon reference. Perhaps I'm crazy enough to think that we can combine our votes and form a coalition of the sane. If enough people use their votes the way they are supposed to, the fact that a few didn't wouldn't matter. I hope some day you'll join us... and the world will live as one... – EBongo Apr 5 '13 at 2:33
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    Upvoted for fighting the good fight. – galacticninja Apr 5 '13 at 4:19
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    @fbueckert Any good political organization has an attention-getting name to rally behind. However, I know you're well aware that I'm campaigning for common sense, a general positive attitude, and new user outreach. Anyone that wants to campaign against those positions does not seem to be advocating very rational behaviors to me. That said, just because you ideologically identify with a political party does not mean you have to straight ticket vote (though I'm sure they like it when you do). – EBongo Apr 5 '13 at 10:56
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    @EBongo It's not that we're campaigning against those positions, it's just a moot position to begin with. The ones who would agree to join your "coalition" are the ones who already vote responsibly. Everyone who votes for silly reasons will continue to do so. – user9983 Apr 5 '13 at 12:14

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