As I was doing my daily browsing today, I noticed that one of our questions had been reopened. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, for we have improved a question to be acceptable to our standards.

Unfortunately, in this case, the question is still completely unacceptable. It was closed, and on the brink of deletion. I even waited until the question had gotten the closed text before casting my delete vote. When the question was originally closed, a comment was left to inform the user of his options to get it reopened.

The resulting Meta was created, and I took responsibility for expressing my view on why the question was not acceptable. I even spent a good chunk of time trying to help the user reword it into something we could keep. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

I couldn't help but notice that there's no dissenting viewpoint on that Meta question. None at all. That doesn't strike me as good form. A question got closed, gets a Meta, an answer justifying the close and enough support to merit at least minor community consensus. And yet, we have users casting votes against that consensus, without providing a viewpoint.

This isn't right. If a Meta's been made, and you disagree with the actions taken, there needs to be a dissenting viewpoint on it before you go casting that reopen vote. Tell us your reasons, and let the community judge its merits. Once the dust settles, we can take action on whatever viewpoint the community deemed most worthy. But casting a vote without providing your input just makes more work for those of us trying to keep the site neat and tidy. You're actively working against site policy when you do that.

In the end, five more people are needed to close the question again, and now those votes will be nullified. All it could have taken was a single dissenting point of view on the existing Meta. Would your post have gotten downvoted? I don't know; it would depend on how people agree with your points. Who knows? Making a case for a question you feel should be reopened can maybe garner enough support to ensure it does. But that case needs to be made, first.

Yeah, Meta's a bit of a bloodbath sometimes. Downvotes don't matter, though; no rep is lost, and all that will happen is a spirited exchange of ideas and opinions. But we need those dissenting opinions. Not only does it give us an idea of how parts of the community feel about things, but it's a hell of a lot more productive than requesting a meta and then being conspicuously absent once it DOES get made. And it's also needed if you feel the site is moving in a direction you don't like.

Give us your input. We might not agree with it, but we can certainly listen, at least.

So, in essence:

  • Closed question gets Meta, no dissenting viewpoint, no support for reopening, cast vote for reopen anyways = bad.
  • Closed question gets Meta, dissenting viewpoint, consensus does not agree with reopen, cast vote for reopen anyways = ehh. Respect from me for providing your side, at least.
  • Closed question gets Meta, dissenting viewpoint, no support for reopening, no vote cast = good.
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    I suspect there are people voting on the review queue who don't read the meta at all, which is where conflicts like this arise. – shanodin Oct 15 '13 at 3:17
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    @shanodin And that's going to happen sometimes. But this specific question has a comment informing people of the Meta. Indeed, we strive to inform viewers that the question is under discussion. I see no reason why we couldn't have gotten at least one of the reopen voters to post their reasoning as to why it should be open. – Frank Oct 15 '13 at 14:54
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    @fbueckert - I always get caught up in the review queue, because I vote to reopen, then decide I want to leave a comment, but once youve actioned it the page loads the next item in the queue. Perhaps the review queue should prompt for a comment upon voting to reopen? – Robotnik Oct 15 '13 at 21:03
  • I usually skip/reject reopen votes if I don't see an explanation as to why it is being reopened. – deutschZuid Oct 17 '13 at 23:26

In the end, it's not the Metas that count, it's the votes. Metas are optional and not really enforceable when it's a specific question rather than a matter of adopting a site-wide policy.

This is good. This is the site functioning as intended. We're not supposed to have a lengthy process of conversations and arguments to sort the site content into good questions, bad questions, valid and invalid questions. The entire point of the very existence of the Stack platform is to avoid lengthy discussions. Instead we vote: the sum of the votes, over an appropriately-long timescale, determines these thing for us independently of individual opinions.

We don't have to have a side-band consensus-determination social system of arguments, when we already have an automatic consensus-determination system coded right into the site. We shouldn't have a side-band system. Creating a side-band for deciding whether close votes should be cast or whether the votes are "valid" would completely undermine the value and function of the site.

It sucks when one's own opinion appears to have support, and then the votes say otherwise. Thems the breaks.

On the other hand, votes keep happening, and that's also part of the expected process. This question will probably simply get closed again. Eventually, equilibrium will be reached and it will stay either open or closed.

Meta is for discussion. That meta was for explaining the problems with the question, in an attempt to help the asker fix it. In the end we failed to fix the question. At least, in our opinion we failed to fix the question. Our opinion, no matter how well argued, does not earn us extra votes though, and it shouldn't. Now it's up to other citizens to take responsibility for judging that question. Our job is done.

Edit: As of 1 hour after this meta question was posted, the post had been reclosed. As of 15 hours after this meta question was posted, the question had been deleted. Other people can take care of the site too.

A lesson I brought here from my time editing and adminning on Wikipedia is relevant and useful here and now:

Don't Panic

It's easy to get caught up in an emotionally fired up argument over something that is so important that it must be fixed immediately. [...]

Remember, there are few things on [Arqade] that won't fix themselves, either because someone else sees it or because it's not actually a big deal.

We have lots of volunteers. If something is actually important, it will get taken care of.

  • 5
    While I think it would be nice if people would post their dissenting opinion, I fully agree that it's not meta that counts... it's the close/reopen votes. I've long said that meta votes are pretty much meaningless except as a means of peer pressure, and that a lot of times your meta vote really only matters if you have 3k rep to back it up with a close/reopen vote. – Sterno Oct 15 '13 at 14:17
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    @Sterno And in the normal course of business, I'd agree. Not when the asker specifically asks on Meta about it, though. That's the whole point of this area of the site. If no one listens to it, what use does it have? – Frank Oct 15 '13 at 14:48
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    @fbueckert That meta question was a "why?" not a whether. It served its "why?" purpose just fine. It didn't gain any force as a "whether" question. Meta discussions don't replace votes, though they can organise voters. This one didn't do that. Or hasn't yet—it's still too soon to say what this question's fate is. – SevenSidedDie Oct 15 '13 at 15:01
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    @fbueckert Like I said, it serves as peer pressure, or at least a chance to convince people that you're right. For some topics, it's basically a brainstorming session to figure out what the best approach to a problem would be, where no single answer is necessarily right or wrong. Or, in rare cases, it lets the moderators step forward and enforce a change based on what they perceive as community consensus (such as with ITGs). But participation is not required to cast close/reopen votes. I mean, it is literally not required. The system doesn't enforce it, and therefore neither can we. – Sterno Oct 15 '13 at 16:09
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    @Sterno And hence Meta is utterly useless. What good is it having the ability to discuss reasoning if no one pays attention to it? It's a soapbox with zero audience, which I don't think is the point of Meta at all. – Frank Oct 15 '13 at 16:11
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    @fbueckert I wouldn't say useless, but not as useful as you'd like. I'll link again what I linked above, wherein I was sadly awakened to the fact that at times, Meta is indeed meaningless. I'm not saying I necessarily like it that way, but rather that it's the simple reality of the situation. The system isn't built to support what you're suggesting. In fact, your entire post is simply peer pressure to get people to leave a dissenting opinion. For some people, it might work. Others will never read meta and continue to cast votes as they wish. – Sterno Oct 15 '13 at 16:13
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    Another way of putting this is: Is there some action you propose is taken against people who ignore your suggestion, don't read/comment on meta, and still cast votes? If not, then obviously it's all peer pressure based. If so, it would require some sort of system change that seems unlikely to ever happen. For the record, I'm all for peer pressure in cases like this. Maybe a better term for it is "community consensus building". That's the purpose of meta, so it's not entirely meaningless. But when a topic is controversial, it's close/reopen votes that will win the day, not meta discussions. – Sterno Oct 15 '13 at 16:17
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    @Sterno Then we shouldn't allow challenging closures at all. The point of it is community consensus. Which this specific question flew in the face of. If Meta is for, "Post here to challenge, but ignore it if it doesn't agree with you", then we might as well lobotomize this entire section. Because it does nothing but frustrate those who are trying to follow policies as best they can. – Frank Oct 15 '13 at 16:20
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    @fbueckert The question in question is not nearly as clear-cut as you make it out to be, so it wasn't actually "flying in the face of consensus". As currently written, only the most vigilant will interpret it as a software rec. And, meta is not for "post here, but ignore it if it doesn't agree with you." It's equally not for "post here to override the voting system". Meta is for discussions about the main site, nothing more or less. Sometimes those discussions will mobilise people to vote a certain way, sometimes not. – SevenSidedDie Oct 15 '13 at 16:57
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    @fbueckert As for following policies and being frustrated, we are not supposed to be able to execute policy as individuals. We aren't a democratic autocracy (as much an oxymoron that would be), we're a meritocratic democracy. We still only get one vote each, and the execution of policy is intended to be an emergent property of the system. No one person is supposed to be able to impose policy. (Mods being the exception, but still having circumscribed authority they are not autarchs either.) – SevenSidedDie Oct 15 '13 at 17:00
  • @fbueckert In the end, the reason this is going the way it's going is that the meta question was never built as a community-consensus discussion. It was one user asking why it was closed out of confusion (not some kind of formal challenge of the closure). That question was asked, and answered, as a conversation between two people (with scant interjections from four others), and the meta was done. There was some attempt to make the meta into consensus-building, but it never attracted much attention and therefore it failed to mobilise a consensus. – SevenSidedDie Oct 15 '13 at 17:02
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    Would like to give you an extra +1 for the most recent edit (Don't panic) - Wiki editors gain +1 approval from me automatically. – shanodin Oct 15 '13 at 21:17

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