I found this post on SO's meta site, and since the question was about meta participation on P.SE, I thought I'd post the same question here.

What can we do to improve meta participation on P.SE's meta site?


5 Answers 5


Link meta in comments more frequently

For example, if you are closing a question, provide a meta link with your comment on why the question was closed, and point them to either an existing meta question which explains why their questions was closed (or better yet, one that tells them how to revise their question to get it re-opened)


Add some kind of description about what Meta actually is on its home page

As it stands now, a user's opinion on meta will be shaped by what questions happen to be on the front page, and if the user doesn't find any of those questions interesting, they're likely to assume the site is uninteresting and not come back

We might need to get the SE team to help us with this, but I was thinking a small banner or box on the sidebar explaining in a single line what the site is and what it's for, like Q&A site to discuss programmers.stackexchange

I know I first came to meta by clicking the link next to the FAQ at the very top of the page, and the questions all looked way over my head so I just left, satisfied that I had at least seen what the link was and thought it was for people who ran the site, not me.

This could be similar to the "Welcome" notification people see when they visit Meta without having logged in.

enter image description here

  • That already exists, every time a new user comes on Meta they are prompted to read the Meta FAQ.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 18:00
  • @YannisRizos Hrrrm I've never noticed it. Just to test, I went to some other SE sites I have an account on but have never visited their meta, and none of their metas prompt me to read the FAQ
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 18:02
  • 2
    Well, you're right. There is a note but it only appears if you aren't logged in. I've included a screenshot to your answer, because I think it's very close to what you actually want, with the only difference that it should still be visible even if you are logged in.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 19:54
  • @YannisRizos Yes, something like that would be great :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 20:29
  • I know that for new SE sites, there is a banner telling them to visit Meta. Especially private Betas.
    – Dynamic
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 23:37

Few suggestions:

  • Use same "downvotes" rules here than on the main site. I'm sure that most people, even if they know that the downvote here hasn't the same signification, feel it like a personal mini failure. Most people don't like it.
  • Be more kind with newcomers. There are some "strong" user group here that are far too aggressive in my point of view. It's like entering in a small pub, and get everyone in the pub look at you. Sometimes, when I see how people are treated here, I feel annoyed for them. Some posted once or twice, and will never come again, ever.
  • Let others talk. Some users here seems to have an opinion on everything and want to share it every time. Sometimes, it's better to let other write a bit.

I will conclude by telling you that, since very few users are participating here (usually the same group), there is a very high meta bias in the discussions that take place here. Therefore, nothing here can be taken as the voice of the community.

This is problematic.

My 2 cents.

  • 1
    Totally agree, and +1 for pointing out meta bias. I always suspected it existed but was willing to entertain the thought that it was just me. I definitely agree that we are scaring away new users who don't think like the existing group, and I feel it is making the meta community much smaller and less diverse, which is harmful to the site. :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 12:59
  • Pierre, regarding "meta bias" I wonder if you have seen this answer at MSO? Section named The split between the SO and MSO communities (aka. the "meta police") sounds pretty close doesn't it?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 14:26
  • @gnat: yes, thanks pointing it out, some effect of the problem is described in that MSO answer.
    – user2567
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 14:36
  • 1
    Pierre that answer relates to a very specific SO centric issue, that we don't have (at least not on that scale). However we were quick to adopt the same compromising solution as SO. Although I strongly believe that no one will prefer deleting the whales than preserving them as locked historical artifacts, no one other than gnat seemed to bothered to do the minimal effort required to salvage these questions (so far - I'm vaguely optimistic).
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 16:14
  • I have absolutely no idea if the split you are implying exists. I'm fully aware that not that many people participate on Meta P.SE, if you check the MSO question Rachel linked to you'll see that I started the discussion. However, my main concern is not that people don't visit Meta, or feel unwelcome, or similar vague uncertainties, but that they don't actually contribute, other than discuss ad nauseam. We missed a great opportunity for a contest, when we had full support by both the mods and SE. We managed to get the blog, but... Well you are part of the blog team, you know.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 16:21
  • 1
    @YannisRizos The answer you linked is great, although I would disagree that this is a SO-only issue and think the issue is definitely is here on P.SE as well. I believe the suggestions Pierre has put forwards would go a long ways towards improving meta participation, particularly being nicer to people who are either new, or have opinions opposite to yourself. Personally, I've been ready to quit this site (and the blog) many times over the lack of tolerance and outright aggression I've seen on meta.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 17:32
  • 2
    @YannisRizos: the most interesting part is not about deletion (I think it's not the subject of this post anyway), but the behavior of too many users here on meta that I believe, contribute to the desertion of the area by others users. Those that we want to spend more time here.
    – user2567
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 19:47
  • This puts as in an awkward stalemate: I need evidence to be convinced that "the behavior of too many users here on meta that I believe, contribute to the desertion of the area by others users", but for you to provide such evidence you'd need to single out individuals, which I find highly inappropriate, and I'm sure you do too. So let's leave it at that: I am not convinced. I did abandon Meta for a while because of certain behaviours, however I don't believe that it's as important an issue as you seem to think it is. However that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, there always is.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 19:58
  • I think your first point is a bad idea for meta, it should be a place of discussion and a way to find consensus, so voting meaning agree/disagree makes sense. what should be done is make that difference more obvious, changing the alt text on votes in meta might help, but I'm not sure that is entirely possible. Your other points are true though.
    – Ryathal
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 14:14
  • I've been thinking about what you said about meta downvotes, and I think you're right. The original meta voting system was fine back when there wasn't an established meta community, however now that there is, I think it is driving away many users who are not used to meta and that think differently from the existing meta community. I've actually made a meta question about it. I'm sure it's going to get downvoted, but I hope to raise more awareness that this is an issue
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 16:57

Make the meta link more noticeable and inviting in the FAQ.

The current description tells you to go there if you're looking for "excruciating detail", which doesn't sound fun at all.

What if I need more help?

If you’re looking for excruciating detail, our meta-discussion site hosts a section of constantly evolving frequently asked questions that document everything about the site. Or, maybe you’d just like to learn a little more about us?

Perhaps we can change this to something more inviting, like this:

Have more questions about the site?

Come visit us on our meta discussion site for more Q&A about how Programmers.StackExchange works, or to provide us with feedback about the site. You can even participate in community events such as our blog! View the meta FAQ for more info.


Stop being so aggressive with downvotes on questions

New users don't understand why their questions are getting downvotes. We've trained them to think of downvotes as negative, so when they ask/answer something and it gets downvoted, they think that they are doing something wrong.

The very first meta question I posted was asking about the possibility of implementing some kind of poll-of-the-day option to P.SE. It was downvoted, and even though it was explained to me that downvotes simply mean users disagree, it still made not want to participate in meta for a year or more afterwards because I felt I had somehow done something wrong.

A much more welcoming solution would be to post an answer/comment disagreeing with the question, and let it gather upvotes.

It is far better to have an answer posted disagreeing with the question to gain a lot of upvotes, than the question itself gain a lot of downvotes, because then you are providing positive feedback which actually answers the question instead of negative feedback to the person asking the question.

Basically what I'm saying is, use comments/answers to answer the question, not up/down votes.

In addition, I'd prefer to use votes to see how much support an idea has, not have it show a skewed sum of people who upvote - people who downvote. If I didn't have as much rep as I do now, I would have no idea if a question has 100 upvotes and 100 downvotes, or simply no votes at all.

You may or may not agree with me on this, but I feel that it is too easy to drive away people with different opinions. If someone posts something contrary to what the active meta group believes, the question will get a lot of downvotes and end up driving the user away. This makes the meta community smaller and less diverse, which I feel is worse for the site.

  • 2
    New users don't understand why they're getting downvotes. Then they should have read the Meta FAQ more thoroughly. It's a very small document, and voting differences are explained sufficiently. I completely disagree that we are obliged in any way to compensate for people taking votes personally, they are comments on your post not you. Different opinions are fine, handholding every person who comes to Meta is not. Meta is our tool for shaping the site, and people should be ready to accept criticism at any time.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:30
  • @YannisRizos I realized I didn't clarify that I was talking about downvotes on questions only, not answers, and have edited the answer slightly. I've been on meta for quite a while now, and have never looked at the meta FAQ before a few days ago. I think many new users don't look at the FAQ to find out about how downvotes work because they assume it's the same for all SE sites
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:33
  • I think many new users don't look at the FAQ to find out about how downvotes work because they assume it's the same for all SE sites That's the problem, people not reading the FAQ, not the downvotes. Let's solve the actual problem...
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:39
  • @YannisRizos I'm open to suggestions :) I mean, you could popup the FAQ when a new user tries to post a question, but they're just going to click past it without reading it to post their question anyways.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:42
  • And why exactly do we want these users to stay around? I'm not saying we should drive them away, I'm just asking why should we care, if they don't care enough to RTFM...
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:50
  • 3
    @YannisRizos Because this site is run by users, not an small group of elite SE gurus. If you want a user-run site, you have to accommodate for new users
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 17:58
  • 4
    @Yannis..When have you visited any website and read the FAQ. Expecting mew users is do this is crazy. Website need to be designed so NO MANUAL IS NEEDED.
    – Morons
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 20:15

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