# Downvoting vs voting to close on Meta

It's perfectly legitimate to downvote posts here on Meta with proposals one disagrees with — but looks like nowadays some people vote to close just because they disagree with proposal.

A couple of examples: I find closing this proposal as off-topic and especially this perfectly legitimate discussion of tags as 'primarily opinion-based' (sic!) wrong and sending a wrong message.

• (Tangentially: I also find downvoting unpopular proposals that already have score -5~-10 again and again... unnecessary, at least.) – Grigory M May 26 '14 at 11:09
• For the former, let me point out that this is a discussion, not an actual proposal. Maybe you're right and we should let dead discussions die, but on the off chance that someone will come in a year, or five, and just bump this for no actual reason (and these things do happen), maybe it's good to close discussions like that; and when the time comes consider them in new threads. As for the second thread, I suppose that should be closed as a duplicate, rather than "primarily opinion based". Finally, to your comment, I disagree with that part, because I feel it counters the way meta should work. – Asaf Karagila May 26 '14 at 11:30
• (Maybe I should point out that the closure of the second question was initiated by its OP which chose that closing reason.) – Asaf Karagila May 26 '14 at 11:31
• @Grigory: On your tangential point, I think that if you disagree or agree with a post, you should cast your vote regardless of how upvoted or downvoted it is. Telling people not to downvote posts with moderate negative vote totals skews the results. – Hurkyl May 26 '14 at 14:40
• Another tangential point is that the phrase "perfectly legitimate" has some history on meta, and triggers a rather negative reaction from me (along the lines that the mafia are "perfectly legitimate" businessmen). I don't know if I'm the only one with this reaction, though. – Hurkyl May 26 '14 at 14:43
• @Hurkyl I'm not aware of this history. This wasn't intended as any kind of reference — only one more sign of my bad English, perhaps (please feel free to edit). – Grigory M May 26 '14 at 14:48
• I've also noted this trend, and it seems quite recent. I think that closure should be reserved for questions that are actually off-topic or disruptive - I have no problem with old discussion threads being occasionally dumped. After all: Aren't the majority of meta discussions opinion-based in some sense? – user61527 May 26 '14 at 14:52
• ... and more than $-8$ to keep it off if it gets upvoted later. – Hurkyl May 26 '14 at 17:46
• @Asaf I am not completely sure what you mean by "it counters the way meta should work." How should it work and in which way is massive downvoting necessary to this end. For instance, why "should" a discussion be put out of sight just because eight more users saw fit to express a negative opinion on it than did express a positive one on it. Actually, since this mechanism is in place IMO everybody downvoting to such territory would better think more than once about what they are doing. And, this is even more true for vtc and still more for delete. (IMO, both were better 'mod only' on meta.) – quid May 27 '14 at 23:05
• My "answer" is written in a general way, but I can say that I have also noticed recently some voting on meta that I thought was odd. If any user were causing problems with meta posts, I believe the solution is to rely on the moderators, rather than downvoting and deleting the posts; that has the unfortunate property of hiding the extent of the problem if the problem involves a large numnber of posts. – Carl Mummert May 28 '14 at 1:54
• @Hurkyl the feature can be sometimes desirable for example for actually offensive things or spam. I am not sure what you mean by "inflating the vote total". The idea is refrain from further downvoting, so fewer votes would be cast. If you mean that the score would be higher due to this and this would be "artificially" achieved by this proposal than you should first explain what is the natural way of voting and possibly present an argument that this is way it presently is. It seems some people believe voting to be freer on meta means vote however you like, including ad hominem. – quid May 28 '14 at 10:36
• @quid: Vote totals are supposed to measure something. We presumably don't wish to measure how many people looked at a post when its vote total was less than -X, so insisting that people not cast downvotes on such posts (or insisting that they cast pity upvotes) reduces the correlation between the vote tally and anything we could possibly wish to know. – Hurkyl May 28 '14 at 12:22
• @quid: I'm not being imprecise: I'm being broad, deliberately so. I assert my comments aren't limited to the utterly obvious things like "how many people who have read this post are for or against its contents". Would you care to suggest any information you would think is useful that would be obtained by asking people not to downvote things they think should be downvoted? Your original rationale (you don't want to hide posts) is irrelevant in this thread of discussion; I feel you are being contrary for its own sake. – Hurkyl May 28 '14 at 17:35
• @quid: Since you seem not to have noticed, your last few comments have been following up on this quote of mine: If we decide that moving a question off of the main list (it's still visible from the "questions" list) is not what we want on meta, I would rather that be fixed by disabling that feature, rather than through artificially inflating the vote total. – Hurkyl May 28 '14 at 18:33
• @quid: Not even the utterly obvious things? And I notice you have still avoided giving any reasons why you think people shouldn't downvote questions if that was decoupled from question visibility. – Hurkyl May 28 '14 at 18:47

I believe that part of the purpose of the meta site is to allow us to discuss opinion based questions -- such as this very question. I think that it is very rare that a question on meta should be closed only because it is opinion based.

I also think we should be slow to close, downvote, and delete questions simply because they are unpopular. Another purpose of the meta site is to have a record of these discussions. They aren't "controlling" - opinions can always change. But older discussions do show the community opinion at a certain point in time. Questions that are deleted are very difficult to find later, even for users who have enough rep to view them.

• I don't agree with lumping together "downvote" with "close" and "delete" - downvoting is exactly the right thing to do with something you disagree with on Meta. – Brilliand Jun 3 '14 at 20:13
• @Brilliand not everything is amenable to simple disagrement being exprssed via a dv. Moreover, it does happen not rarely that voting goes in the opposite direction than strictly logical dis/agreement with some post as written would suggest. More often than not rather approval and disapproval are expressed (as opposed to dis/agreement). But I agree that one should not lump the notions together. See, already it is not clear if I disagree or agree with your comment, it is half/half. Also, a comment cannot be dv, and this asymmerty is also a problem on meta if voting is as you promote. – quid Jun 5 '14 at 14:16
• @quid I wouldn't consider a comment a proposal to be voted on - answers suffice to express a position that doesn't strictly match yes/no to the question (or a position that does, even, since any resolution to a question should be an answer). On that note, I should probably write my own answer, since it doesn't look like Carl will be changing his in response to my suggestion. – Brilliand Jun 5 '14 at 15:28
• @Brilliand: I meant the three as a package: I think we should be slow to "close, downvote, and delete" questions, because it is good to have a record of questions that were merely downvoted. – Carl Mummert Jun 5 '14 at 16:26
• @Brilliand your comment seems pretty unrelated to mine. But, I am aware of the fact that not few on the network have a view around downvoting that is dogmatic. – quid Jun 5 '14 at 17:39

I saw a similar question on another meta site a while back: A Close Vote is not a Super-Downvote. Please don't use it as one

While that question is about the use of close votes on the main site, and this is about the use of close votes on Meta, I think the same principle applies.

Voting to close isn't exactly a democratic process - it's a moderator tool, requiring only a small number of people to agree. Closing or deleting should therefore only be used to eliminate questions that should never have been asked - a suggestion that is simply a bad idea should be downvoted instead, since downvotes accumulate in a linear way and can more accurately reflect the community consensus (especially for people who have enough rep to see the upvote/downvote counts).

Also, as Carl noted, the "primarily opinion-based" close reason does not seem appropriate for Meta. This has been discussed before on another site's meta: Aren't discussions on Meta often opinion-based to a certain degree?

In summary: Most questions on Meta are primarily opinion-based. Most of them do not deserve to be closed. There is such a thing as a Meta question that is too opinion-based, but it would have to be a question that could not reasonably result in a decision, because it is about opinions, not about what should be done. I would suggest reserving that close reason for that type of useless question.

• In one recent situation, it was the case in many users' opinions that the questions never should have been asked. But, because the community acted so efficiently to hide them, and because it is so difficult to find deleted questions, an unfortunate result is that the scope of the problem becomes hidden. So the particular situation makes a difference. – Carl Mummert Jun 5 '14 at 16:20
• Separately, this site is not Stackoverflow, and the practices here are often quite different than there. You are a complete newcomer on this site... it may be better to participate for a while, and learn this community's culture, before participating too heavily in meta here or telling more regular users here to "Please reserve that close reason for ..." in an authoritative manner. – Carl Mummert Jun 5 '14 at 16:21
• Dear Brilliand, thank you for your answer (in particular, for sharing a link to that question). – Grigory M Jun 5 '14 at 16:45
• @CarlMummert Fair enough. I've removed that statement from my answer. Though, I would suggest that the metas have more reason to be alike than the main sites do. – Brilliand Jun 5 '14 at 16:48

One possible purpose for a close vote on meta is to shut down unproductive bickering

• Most arguments on meta take place through extensive comment threads, which are completely unaffected by closures. Moreover, such closures don't seem to do very much to prevent arguments from reoccurring in the future. – user61527 Jul 14 '14 at 4:07
• It is a bit of a speculation; I don't actually know if anyone does it. It wouldn't fully stop things, but it does prevent some of the ways of keeping the discussion going. And closing is a prerequisite to deleting. And if nothing else, it does offer some peer pressure against the creation of topics that provoke unproductive bickering. We'll hopefully see if anyone things that people do do this soon enough; much safer to upvote an answer than jumping in with the wolves to give a reason for the close vote. – Hurkyl Jul 14 '14 at 4:13

I think that in some respects, the amount of space available on the server might need to be kept within certain bounds. Also the difficulty in finding questions to answer for helpful users, or users looking to help, can increase with the amount of questions to wade through which are bad questions.

I have personally only been using this site for a few days, I gave an inexperienced answer to a problem, and then asked two bad questions (again down to not thinking things through properly). At one point I couldn't even ask any more questions.

So if these bad questions and bad answers were being assessed as no longer needed on the site, it would actually make me happy, as I would appear to be less of an idiot!

On the other hand, as an educational tool, sometimes users have commonality of difficulties. So maybe splitting the site up into different levels of understanding on some topics may be helpful. Hopefully I've made some good suggestions and points here.

• Re: the amount of space available on the server: all deleted posts remain on the server, as is every edition of every edited post. (Yes, those are some large databases). Storage space is not a consideration. The signal-to-noise ratio in what is visible on the site is important. So yes, deletion of bad answers/questions from the main site serves a purpose. However, this is less so on meta, which is the point of discussion here. – user147263 Jun 3 '14 at 20:44
• By the way, I am curious: how did you get out of the question block on the site? It's not often that we hear from people who met with this block and then overcame it. – user147263 Jun 3 '14 at 20:46
• It appeared on my community bulletin. Sorry about the argument of data storage. It was part of the tangent my mind was travelling along to get to the difficulty in finding answers/questions point. I also apologize for confusing meta with the sub section of the site I most visit. However, I do think that there are some transferable points of view from one to the other. – Darren J M England Jun 3 '14 at 21:01