I recently came across the discussion about the fate of the homework tag.

Now, before I start, let me make it clear that I agree that the homework tag should be removed.

I'm a regular user on the main site and have been for the last two year. Despite this, I had no idea that this discussion was taking place.

(It turns out that this discussion was in the featured column on the right of the main site. I hadn't seen this column until someone pointed it out to me; I usually focus all of my attention on the large, bright blue question titles on the left.)

To be honest, I found it a little scary that there were a total of 211 votes cast, and from that vote, it looks like the homework tag could be removed. The number 211 seemed really very small to me. On the main site, there are over 100,000 registered users. Now, of course, many of these have only used the site once or twice. There are 2019 editors on the main site. There are users that are able to edit people's posts. It seems that all of these users have at least 1,000 reputation; these are experienced users.

It follows that only 210 out of 2019, i.e. only 10% of the editor population voted on a featured meta discussion. Out of these 210 votes, 156 voted to remove the homework tag. That means that 156 out of 2019, i.e. 7.7% of the editor population supported the removal of the tag.

It is clear that discussions with a voter turnout of 10%, and a support of 7.7% have no popular mandate whatsoever. If a politician were elected on such figures there would be serious questions asked.

It can be argued that many of the users on the main site have no interest in what happens on meta. I would say that the reality is that many of the users on the main site have no idea that meta exists, nor what it does. It can be argued that those that don't vote shouldn't complain about the results of an election. I would say that the majority of those that don't vote, don't know that there is anything to vote about.

All modern democracies around the World strive to increase voter turnout and voter engagement. This site owes it to itself, and to the users of the main site, to increase involvement.

What can we do to improve involvement?

I have two ideas. I would like to hear yours. We could incorporate the meta site in to the main site. For example, just as we have a "questions" tab, we could have, e.g. a "policy" tab.

When Wikipedia want to raise money, they have started including drop-down banner headers. We could include drop-down banners that say something like "Want a say in the way your site's run? Well get yourself over to meta."

Anything that can be done to increase involvement in the decision making process has to be a good thing.

What ideas do you have to increase involvement in the decision making process?

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    $\begingroup$ We can delete all users with reputation below 50k points, that might help. :-P $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 30, 2014 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ A couple of tangential points. 1) I regularly visit meta, I knew the discussion was taking place, but I didn't vote, because I didn't much care what the outcome would be. Maybe there are many others who acted the same way. 2) In recent Australian elections, people have been voted into the Senate with around 1% of the vote. Indeed, in the last election, one Senator was elected with .2% of the vote. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2014 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry: Some democracy! In North Korea they have like 98% voting! In Syria over 80% voting! (In other business, I also didn't vote on the issue for the same reason as you.) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 31, 2014 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf, in Australia, voting is compulsory. That .2% wasn't .2% of the eligible voters; it was .2% of the people who actually voted. It's just a weird system. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2014 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry: I see. Most of what I know about Australian politics is from the John Oliver segment about your current king being a bit of a dumdum. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 31, 2014 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ Coincidentally, there is a similar ongoing discussion on Meta.SO: How often should I read Meta? $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jul 31, 2014 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ The only think I know about Welsh politics is that in the 2010 elections, a Welsh lady defeated a boxer from London to become Prime Minister. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Jul 31, 2014 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ The best way to increase user involvement is to have discussions about positive numbers summing to $-{1 \over 12}$. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Aug 2, 2014 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ @copper.hat or that $0.999\ldots = 1$ $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2014 at 13:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I find meta very interesting. To kill time I read these posts. $\endgroup$
    – hrkrshnn
    Aug 5, 2014 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @boywholived Well, you've been warned (by Atwood's quote below). $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Aug 5, 2014 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


There are 2019 editors on the main site.

Different methods of counting yield different numbers. During the month of July (which is conveniently about to end) only 239 users edited 5 posts or more. And many of users on this list are under 1000 reputation.

The site has just turned four years old, and the level of activity of users widely fluctuates over such a period of time. Remarkably, on the list of all-time editors two out of top five users have not been seen for 1-2 years.


Moderators used to be able to put up a banner notice on the main site, but SE took that away early last year. So they'd have to be convinced to reconsider. I do not think that banners would yield dramatically better results than Community Bulletin. During moderator elections, users get a personal inbox message telling them to vote, and very few do so, percentage-wise.

Incorporating meta:

This is a non-starter. The concept of meta separation one of fundamental SE ideas. It's right there in the first paragraph of What's Meta?

It is separated from the main Q&A to reduce noise there while providing a legitimate space for people to ask how and why this site works the way it does.

That's the point: for most users, meta-considerations are noise. They come to the site to ask or answer mathematical questions, and SE provides them the environment to do so with a minimal amount of distractions. (Well, Hot Questions are kind of distracting, but in an entertaining way). Most users naturally take the more enjoyable aspects of the site, and have no reason to want the tedious parts. "Do we really need the tag , given that already exists? and how does fit into this?" yawn yawn crickets chirping

For example, you were aware of meta for a long time, but voted the total of 7 times up to now. It seems that the lack of awareness isn't the only issue here; awareness does not directly translate into sustained interest and participation.

... which may be a good thing. Jeff Atwood's blog post on the subject is worth reading:

I am not a fan of the meta. It's seductive in a way that is subtly but deeply dangerous. It's far easier to introspect and write about the process of, say .. blogging .. than it is to think up, research, and write about an interesting new topic on your blog. Meta-work becomes a reflex, a habit, an addiction, and ultimately a replacement for real productive work. It's something I think everyone should watch out for, whatever walk of life or career you happen to have. In fact, I've come up with a zingy little catch phrase to help people remind themselves, and their coworkers, how toxic this stuff can be -- meta is murder.


If a politician were elected on such figures there would be serious questions asked.

Moderators are elected on such figures (in the latest elections, 86 votes sufficed), with no questions asked. Also, a better comparison for tag decisions would be the meetings of a local Planning and Zoning Committee. Compare the number of city residents vs the number of people who actually show up to such meetings (held open to the public).

And so goes another boring meta post... here's a parallel to liven it up a bit.

There's no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to start making a fuss about it now. . . . What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven's sake, mankind, it's only four light years away, you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that's your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I see that since I refused to give you a good deal on delete votes, you picked a post I wrote as the epitome of boredom. Well played sir. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 31, 2014 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ With a torch $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2014 at 6:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @900 I think your final quote is miss-placed. Excuse me for pulling apart something wonderful in an aloof way, but the joke here is not that noone goes to the planning office, but that the planning office claims they are publicly available when they really are not. I believe this is the point of the joke because it is preceded by Mr Dent's explanation of his hunt for the planning records for the bypass on Earth. Of course, we can try to draw parallel's with meta here - but the link isn't too hard to find. So...emmm...anyway...I feel dirty, like if I quoted Monty Python.............Ni...... $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Jul 31, 2014 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 But from the question it seems that Meta is indeed about four light-years away from some... The quote could also be a form of self-deprecating humor, in that meta regulars are compared to Vogons... $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jul 31, 2014 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @900sit-upsaday Our poetry is way better, though. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2014 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielFischer I agree. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jul 31, 2014 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ @900sit-upsaday Instead of trying to add something positive and constructive to the post, you just try to knit-pick and shoot the idea down. Why? $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2014 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @FlybyNight It seems that 12 users found something in my answer that was worth upvoting. If you haven't, I regret that, and hope that you will like the other answers to your question more. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Aug 1, 2014 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @900sit-upsaday You're doing the same again. If you have nothing positive to add, then don't bother. I made a post on meta questioning its legitimacy; of course meta users would support you! $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2014 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @FlybyNight I thought your question was asking how we could get people to use meta more, not rubbishing it. It's a good point (+1). I've actually had to do some work and stuff for the last few months and completely missed the fact this debate was going on. $\endgroup$
    – TooTone
    Aug 13, 2014 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ Despite the fact that I was busy and wished I'd seen this post I think this answer sums up the issues well (+1). I wouldn't mind having occasional inbox messages for things like this (to extend the political analogy think of it like referendums which authorities have in addition to regular elections). However I can't see the powers that be agreeing to this... $\endgroup$
    – TooTone
    Aug 13, 2014 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @TooTone I didn't intend to rubbish Meta. My point was that with such little engagement, it doesn't have the mandate to make such decisions. Just because one government is bad doesn't mean that all forms of government are bad. I simply believe that for this site to have any credibility it must have greater engagement. One thing I've noticed is that people gain very high reputations of Meta which gives them great privileges on the main site, even though their main site reputation is relatively low. This can't be right. $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2014 at 20:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FlybyNight sorry I misunderstood your comment. Re the reputations, I might be misunderstanding your comment about reputation as well, however... I think the reputation on the math meta is simply a copy of the reputation on the main site: no matter how many upvotes and accepts you get it doesn't increase your reputation on the main math site (indeed my user page on math meta doesn't have a reputation tab). $\endgroup$
    – TooTone
    Aug 13, 2014 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @FlybyNight I don't understand your "one thing". There is no reputation or privilege gain from posting on meta... which may be one of reasons few people do. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Aug 13, 2014 at 20:51

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