From comments here it seems that not all SO sites adopt the same convention regarding up/downvotes questions on Meta.

I'm mainly familiar with ELU Meta, where as this question illustrates, a downvote usually means "I disagree with OP's suggestion", or "I don't think whatever OP is complaining about justifies changing the current status quo".

Presumably the (current) five downvotes on the ELL Meta question Add a symbol to the user box to identify the user's first language are intended to be understood as "No, we don't want to pressure ELL users into advertising their native language any more than they can do at present".

I will be perfectly happy for ELL to explicitly adopt and endorse the convention, so by all means upvote this question if you feel the same. Or downvote it if you think, for example, that people should upvote what they feel are "good" Meta questions, even if those questions explicitly or implicitly endorse a position they actually disagree with.

Apart from that one example possibility, I shan't make suggestions myself about what alternatives to Upvote=Agree, Downvote=Disagree might be implemented, or attempt to justify using that convention here as well as ELU Meta. Let that be done in Answers that can be voted on here, so it can be clear that whatever position is adopted does indeed represent a consensus for this new site.

  • 5
    I visited SO and five other random sites and the Meta FAQs all had exactly what's in our FAQ: "Voting here works a bit differently from the main site. On Meta, voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness. Please don't be concerned if you receive downvotes – members of the community may simply disagree with your bug, feature request, support issue, or the nature of the discussion." Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 21:08
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    @StoneyB: It says the same on SO Travel Meta. But hippietrail's comments in my first link say that's not how it works in practice there, and he (she?!) says he (and by implication, others) should only use Meta votes to indicate whether "it's a good question that should be asked, never to indicate whether I agree with the asker's position". Me, I've nailed my colours to the mast here. If you have an opinion, how come you haven't cast a vote either way? Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 21:17
  • I upvoted when I posted. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 22:09
  • Was there a resolution to this? I do see in the FAQ it says, On posts tagged feature-request, voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself. Was that in response to this post? As an aside, consider creating a definitive answer and marking it as correct. That might be a good practice in general. (Perhaps that's a separate meta-post.) Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 21:49
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    @Fumble well, the bigger metas tend to attract very common duplicates such as "how can I get my account unblocked?" to the degree that it infuriates the regulars and they downvote. If we were to rationalize those votes, lack of research, just like the main site, works as the best reason. Other than that, people upvote meta posts to say they're important, even if they disagree with it. And there are usually the other incentives that also more or less exist on main site votes. All in all, (dis)agreeing is only one of the major vote reasons.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 7:55

2 Answers 2


I agree. Meta votes should be used to express agreement or disagreement. Here are some reasons why I think this is a good approach:

  1. It is very straightforward to determine the general consensus of the community by examining the number of votes.
  2. I think it would be wise to maintain consistency with the FAQ. Since the FAQ explicitly states what Meta votes are for, and since they do not affect reputation, it seems reasonable to assume that the system was designed for this approach.
  3. If votes aren't used to express agreement or disagreement, then users may feel inclined to clutter the site with comments such as "I agree!" or "That's the worst idea ever!", with no explanation or reasoning to support their opinions.
  • Those are all excellent reasons for sticking with what does appear to be the "default" position for SO in general. I particularly agree with your "secondary" point in #2 (it's designed to encourage the approach), which hadn't specifically occurred to me. Perhaps you or someone else should include some text recommending that where possible, people asking questions on meta should try to phrase them in a way that will be consistent with this voting convention. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 0:39
  • It is clearly listed as the reason in the FAQ, and I agree that's how they should be employed. The funny thing is that when you downvote on meta, you still get the popup box that say "please leave a comment if you think this post can be improved" which confuses the intent a bit, IMO.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 2:50

I like the idea of votes on meta questions being related to whether the question is a good question or not, rather than having meta questions all being disguised suggestions, with people voting up the question/suggestions that they agree with, rather than the ones which raise interesting debates.

For this reason, I think we should try, where possible, to phrase questions on meta in more of the style of a debate - with the question being an attempt to get good answers, rather than an attempt to make a suggestion or to impose a viewpoint. (see my attempt at that here: Should proofreading questions be closed as offtopic?).

By posing meta questions as questions rather than as suggestions, we end up with a better debate. We can have multiple different ELL users posting answers which might be more than just a simple "Yes" or "No" (we might have caveated "Yes" votes, for instance). It also gives ELL users the opportunity to vote and comment on individual answers.

It also allows ELL users to more clearly distinguish between meta questions that are good questions but which the ELL meta consensus opposes, versus questions that are fundamentally bad questions (for example, they are unresearched, violate SO terms, are one-liners etc).

One of the good things about the SO format is that the author of a question is of course at liberty to answer his or her own question, but I think as a matter of style, it would always be better to post these separately.

In the following slightly contrived example:

Q: Should we close spelling questions as off-topic?

A: Yes because of X

An ELL user can now really quickly downvote either the question or the answer to mean different things. A downvote of the question means "That's a stupid question", whereas a downvote of the answer means "I disagree - spelling questions should not be closed as off-topic".

  • I know you won't want to focus on a specific contrived example, but let's be realistic - people will tend to interpret any question of the form "Should we do X?" as being a suggestion ("We should do X"). Since you can't really avoid that, you may as well frame your question the second way. Or maybe as "I think we should not do X", if in fact that's your position. I think that makes sense even if you don't have a strong position - frame the question as if you do, to make it easier for people to vote meaningfully. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 0:46

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