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We all know that downvoters on TGO and any SE site are a fact of life that has to be accepted. Unless there is a pattern of serial downvoting, complaining is pointless, and can sound whiny.

However, Meta is different. The whole point of Meta is discussion about problems, or at least perceived problems, on the site, and the participants are almost exclusively frequent users of the site.

Thus, it is important for downvoters to give a short explanation of why they downvoted; if not, how can the discussion be furthered and the site improved? I have no problem with users seeing a question or an answer on Meta, saying "meh" and moving on without voting or commenting. But a downvote is a lot stronger than "meh" and explaining it, even with one word, is a service to TGO. For example, you think the Q is about something so trivial it should not be discussed, downvote and comment "trivial problem" or some such.

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    Downvoted without comment. Oh, wait, Doh! – Olin Lathrop Oct 4 '18 at 12:12
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While it would be great if people did leave explanation of downvotes, if there isn't one, we already have a default position as to what it means:

Generally there is the tooltip message:

  • For a question - This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful
  • For an answer - This answer is not useful

And additionally on meta for a feature request or similar, upvotes are generally counted as agreement and downvotes as disagreement.

So if someone means one of those, then it is very easy not to leave a comment - which can also avoid the negative behaviours @Charlie mentions.

In addition to the two types of voting, there's some useful information about meta in general on the What is meta? How do I use it? page in the Help Center.

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    This is actually incorrect on meta. Votes on meta mean agreement or disagreement. Yes, I know, the hover text is wrong. – Olin Lathrop Oct 4 '18 at 12:14
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    I have added the two words "on meta" to clarify - but no, they don't just mean agreement or disagreement. The hover text is a good guideline. – Rory Alsop Oct 4 '18 at 12:37
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As the help center says, voting on meta is different (and more complicated). Part of it is the same:

Like normal Stack Exchange sites, Meta allows members to vote on questions and answers. For most posts, votes reflect the perceived usefulness: well-written, well-reasoned, well-researched posts tend to get more attention and more upvotes. Highly-voted and frequently-linked posts may become part of the community-curated FAQ or codified as part of the site’s Help pages.

and part of it is specific to meta

Unlike normal Stack Exchange sites, Meta invites the community to discuss, debate and propose changes to the way the community itself behaves, as well as how the software itself works. 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.

It is this extra part that makes things confusing. I never know if I should up vote or down vote a well researched question about a feature request that I do not want. Things get even more confusing when people start applying this meta specific voting style to any posts that a yes/no or agree/disagree answer can be given.

While I get confused about which way I should vote and sometimes get confused about what votes mean, I don't think we should require people to elaborate. Meta is different and if you are confused about what the voting means, you can always ask in the comments.

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On meta, votes indicate agreement or disagreement, unlike on the main site where they mean you need a bath, are a living brain donor, and that a recent ancestor of yours was a chimpanzee. Note that no rep is gained or lost due to votes on meta posts.

A downvote therefore says "I disagree". Sometimes that's all that needs to be said.

It is certainly nice to explain more why you disagree, or what part specifically you disagree with, but just saying "I disagree" is still valid and useful information.

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