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How should we handle meta questions that ask for a yes/no answer that potentially affect the whole tex.se community and set a threshold on the number of positive (or negative) votes for a clear "yes" (or a clear "no") within a particular time frame? An example of such a question could strive to change some modalities of the moderator elections or change some parts of the code of conduct, for instance. Clearly, such changes might affect the way tex.se works in the long run, so they better be well-thought, unhasted, and enjoy a possibly vast consensus. (After all, we have good moderators now, who kick the nasty inhabitants only, and we do want to keep it that way rather than get mean bastards-of-hell moderators who kick everyone or noone, as is often seen accross the Web.) To ensure the consensus and protect the community, it is better that the community decides on this matter rather than the individual who posts a particular meta question. This applies both to the decisions that have to go to the powers in the end (to be agreed upon and, if necessary, implemented there) as well as to the decisions that don't need to go to the powers: we need acceptance in our community first.

Should we try to interpret the aforementioned votes in some way at all? If the question is edited (except improving on typos) during voting, should we declare the votes as non-binding or even nullify them? Or should this ruling prohibit edits due to typos to be strictly fair? If we interpret the votes, which values would make sense? After all, some values are likely to be meaningless. For example, 30000 votes is likely to be unreachable, though we have 138855 tex.se users as of 22:54 UTC on 2019-04-01, and 30 votes would represent only a infinitesimally tiny portion of the tex.se population.

(Just to start with, concerning the threshold, one could have a formula such as a*(number of views) + b*(all number of tex.se users) + c*(number of active tex.se users) + d*(number of active meta.tex users) + e*(number of days the [feature] tag is present) + f*(the number of days the question is alive) for the threshold, where a–f are certain constants strictly between 0 and 1 that are to be found out. The definition of the term "active" has yet to be clarified, too; opinions on both are welcome. Some rationale: the time frame should probably correlate with the vote count: the longer period of time we grant, the more votes we should ask for; one could think of a surplus of at least some f=10 votes per day on average, for instance. Similarly, if the question is [featured], it gets more attention by being linked from the meta main page, so, more votes should be asked for such questions.

In any case, the above suggestion is a parenthetical one; to enable some discusion, I intentionally neither make the formula or the timeframe precise here nor make it precise on how we will decide on this.)

Or should we better ignore such thresholds (whoever the author may be) or the whole questions altogether and consider the contents of the questions only as starting points for discussions?

Opinion answers are welcome on what the policy should be.

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    I set a thresold on my post only because Joseph asked me to. The other edits made to my question doesn't affect its sense. – CarLaTeX Apr 2 at 4:59
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    This is a website from the users for the users, paid by a multi-million dollar enterprise in the background. We users can decide who gets to be a moderator. But what is a moderator? That powerful politician that gets to make the great decisions? No! A moderator is basically just a facility manager, keeping the building and the sorroundings clean and proper. And who can kick the nasty inhabitants, if there really is a need after several warnings. Not really that great of a job. (Though you get a nice little diamond on your name patch) – Johannes_B Apr 2 at 5:33
  • How about we implement something like the Prussian three-class franchise. Decision making is no longer done anonymously by up- or downvoting a question or answer, but by adding comments and each vote is weighed by the total reputation of the commenter. All hail to egreg the almighty! – Skillmon Apr 8 at 7:48
  • @user49915 personally I don't think that a high-reputation female-profile user who was banned had bad intentions, I think that the circumstances were sub-par and the user in question got carried away (this is solely based on my own experiences, I'm not omniscient). However my comment above wasn't meant seriously and therefore remained a comment and wasn't added as an answer. I was hoping the All hail to egreg the almighty was enough to mark it as such. – Skillmon Apr 8 at 19:20
  • You're asking how to define a vote, based on the assumption that the vote has any meaning (which it does not). – Henri Menke Apr 10 at 3:20
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I'll tackle the general point first, then give my view on the specific area that gave rise to this question.

It's important to note that meta is not particularly well set up for formalised votes. As such, selection of moderators in an election does not use the meta system but rather a dedicated election set up.

In general, votes in meta are indicative and suggest a consensus on behaviour. Thus at best they tend to indicate an overall 'strength of feeling'. Where there is a strong feeling in one direction, this should be taken as a guide to behaviour, but cannot be seen as a hard line. This is by far the biggest category of meta questions: we get asked about some behavioural aspect and hope to come to a consensus. Notably, almost all of these 'decisions' are about how the community as a whole acts: thus in the end, each reader may make there own judgement on what the 'outcome' is.

The one place we have had reasonably clear meta 'voting' is when selecting representatives for TUG. Based on having some years of experience, those have been run using a two-step process in which the timeframe and meaning of votes has been extremely clear. However, that can only happen if the question is posed in advance with the knowledge of how it needs to work.


The specific question that prompted this one is Do we need more moderators?. There, the questions was 'do we need more mods' and I asked for some guideline on what would constitute a 'yes'. The reason is that a request for a new moderator election needs to come from the existing mod team (at least, that is the mechanism that is most common). Asking for a number of votes was not meant to imply a simple 'vote for this and it happens' mentality, but rather to give the existing moderators some idea of the level of feeling.

At present, the answers to that question do not strongly suggest that the community as a whole has a fixed view. At the same time, a decision to ask for an election would not itself be a major issue. Most of the network sites have more than three moderators (we had five during beta). A decision to ask for an election would give the community (those eligible to vote) ample opportunity to talk to the candidates and go through the much ore formal voting procedures that are set up. As such, to me it does not feel like a formal 'pre-election' is needed here.

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    @user49915 Sure, but for most questions about community norms, it comes down to which answer gets more votes if there are 'competing' ones – Joseph Wright Apr 2 at 12:58
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    @user49915 But other than that rather unusual case, decisions tend to be about convention, etc. ('How should we handle X' where the outcome is a suggested behaviour for everyone.) I'm really not sure anything beyond 'it depends on how many votes things get' really can apply. – Joseph Wright Apr 2 at 14:17
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It would be great if the community could decide. In reality, decisions are made by entities which sometimes get referred to as "the powers". For instance, there is a broad agreement within the community that the web layout leaves some room for improvement. However, whether or not these improvements will eventually be made does not really depend on votes, but on whether or not "the powers" are willing to implement. This means that even if your question had an answer, it will not really have immediate implications.

BTW, I cannot resist remarking that your question has a logical issue: how would we decide on a formula? Only when we have a formula we can agree on which formula we agreed on. You see what I mean?

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    +1 for the logical issue! – CarLaTeX Apr 2 at 5:03

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