This bit came up in chat the other day:

more discussion needs to happen on meta regarding question x and how to make it better

A quick search can find it, but I'm not going to link it to bring up the full context and discussion in chat - because I do want it to be rehashed here.

Occasionally in chat, we will find a question that should get reopened. We discuss it there, figure out the edits necessary, make the edits, and muster the reopen votes. On one hand, this is great - we get a question modified and reopened promptly with what is probably minimal drama. On the other hand, it means that this activity is within chat.

Chat is great and all (I like it, I'm often there), but its search sucks even more than the main site search does, and it isn't obvious for the situations where there is a meta issue that does have a question and answer.

A counter point to this is that with chat we can get things done with great experience. However, it also means that one sees the same group of people doing things (closing, editing, opening). We are not moderators, we are active reviewers. People in chat only discuss posts that they are interested in at that time - rather than ones that the rest of the community may be interested in getting fixed and reopened.

So, here's the question(s):

  • Is meta a good place for "how to fix a post?"
  • How do we get people who are not chat regulars to participate in doing this on meta?
  • How do we get more people trying to fix questions (on meta?) so that they can be reopened?

As a note, I'd rather this not veer off into the tangent of what is on or off topic, or what constitutes too broad or opinion. If there is a or that is being asked about why its closed or down voted, please, take that into a different meta question.

  • 2
    experience of broken-windows-review at TWP meta looks worth studying. As for the chat, did you consider establishing a dedicated room to discuss question improvements? Whiteboard seems to scroll too fast to conveniently support substantial, focused, long term efforts
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 12:12
  • 1
    @gnat while it is something to consider, past attempts that I've been involved with for a persistent, focused, chat room on Programmers.SE have ended up with the room getting locked for inactivity. With the "please, come talk to us in chat - this is an interesting question, just not a good one for Q&A" rate somewhere near 10% (if that), I'm not sure how well a "lets fix this question in chat" engagement rate would be.
    – user40980
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 17:08
  • agree there is a risk of a dedicated room dying of being inactive for too long. Although, if this initiative gets "official" moderator support, we can try to get them regularly check and unlock (like it currently works with elections room)
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 17:12
  • ...if there's moderator support, we can even get unlock by request, by using custom flag on the question to be improved asking to unlock the room
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


My personal 2 cents... stop downvoting people who post on meta trying to get questions fixed.

That's what stopped me a while back from doing it. It became such a chore to constantly feel like I'm fighting for something that none of the active users wanted, and to always be downvoted for my efforts by the same group of users.

We may not always post meta questions the way you'd like it formatted, or we may voice opinions that you disagree with in the question itself, but simply downvoting questions like this only discourages users who are trying to improve the site's content.

Instead consider posting an answer explaining your disagreement, or upvoting an existing one. Or possibly even upvote the user for bothering to take the time to come to meta in the first place to try and fix the question (try to leave a comment if you do this, or upvote an existing one).

I still lurk in the meta site on occasion, and often see people getting downvoted for asking for help improving a question, or why something was off-topic.

Also in regards to question #2, this was posted a while back that sounds related : How can we get more people to participate in P.SE meta?

  • I was once told that the understanding in meta is that the questions are supposed to be much more academic and down votes mean you simply disagree and not that your plight is useless. I wholeheartedly agree with your answer (+1) but I am curious if this means there should be a change in perspective, or if many people new to meta simply don't understand this nuance and find it hostile. Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 18:55
  • @DavidCowden Voting on meta should be the same as it is on normal sites, except in the case of [feature-request] tagged posts. But that isn't actually what happens. Too many users just say "voting on meta is different, votes = I agree/disagree", and that's what newbies learn and pass on to others. While it is true that voting based on if you agree/disagree is one way to vote on meta questions, it was never meant to be used for all of meta.
    – Rachel
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 20:26

Update: this chat room has been established with primary focus on question closes, reopens etc.

Given that chat appears to work more or less fine, I think it makes sense to continue using it. Additional benefit is that chat messages can't be voted down, this addresses concerns mentioned in another answer.

  • A limitation of chat worth keeping in mind is that users with rep under 20 can only read it. But meta has this limitation too, it is lower (5 rep) but still. I don't know a good solution for that, so to keep things simple I will simply assume users having sufficient rep to participate. For users with insufficient reputation, the only reliable approach to communicate seems to be in comments under their posts, optionally moved to dedicated chat room.

A drawback of current approach that I am particularly uncomfortable with is that Whiteboard room scrolls too fast. Few hours out of chat and I will most likely miss mention of the post I could be interested to improve. Chat pings that take me a while to reply are inconvenient because my reply to these lands in a totally changed context. That's not good. In fact, that's very bad.

Apparent solution for this appears to establish a dedicated chat room focusing strictly on question improvements. This is just the way I would want to have it, except that there is a risk that room gets frozen due to inactivity.

One way I can think of to deal with room freezes is by using moderator flags: if one finds that room is frozen, they simply flag the post they want to discuss and ask moderator to unlock. Unless moderators indicate that they would decline such flags I am going to assume below that this way will work.

If we pick dedicated chat room approach, it would be worth to check the way how SO close reviewers approach this. In brief, they have a room and a cross-linked meta post. As far as I can tell, most activity goes within room, but they also sometimes update / bump the meta post when needed.

Given that their gig runs fine for almost a year, we may probably learn something from their experience. (Some might find it ironic to learn from guys that seem to act in somewhat opposite direction but I honestly don't care:).

All in all, I think the dedicated chat room is the way to go (coupled with dedicated meta post, like of SO close reviewers). This doesn't mean though that meta is to be avoided.

Technically, meta provides much richer platform to support complicated improvements and in-depth discussion, it can offer better visibility and powerful meta effect. Meta is less likely to be blocked by corporate firewalls etc. Lower barrier to participate (5 rep instead of 20 for chat) is also a benefit.

As demonstrated by broken-windows-review at TWP, meta can be successfully used to improve questions if done right. This experience also looks worth studying, especially because purpose of review at TWP is very much like one we discuss here: their primary focus is on salvaging and improving the questions.

  • "there is a risk that room gets frozen due to inactivity" -- based on recent experience, a solid way to lower that risk seems to be to have such a room focus not only on reopens, but also on closes / deletions. Combined activity so far seems to be sufficient to avoid freezing (not surprisingly, given that similar approach appears to be working pretty well for SO CV Reviewers room)
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 7:11

I think the problem here mainly arises from the fact that there is so much disagreement. For example, even within this one question we have several viewpoints:

  • Establish a chat room
  • Post on meta
  • Don't post on meta
  • Use an existing chat room

My two cents is this: Over on Worldbuilding.SE we've just established a Sandbox exactly for this purpose, taking our lead from PPCG.SE's sandbox. I think a Sandbox is a pretty good way to do this: people who don't want to see questions for improvement don't even have to look at the sandbox, but people who do can help out, and it's easy to find help when you want it. We're also looking at a separate answer sandbox on Worldbuilding, but this is a separate discussion.

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