Now I know that this has been discussed on Meta.SO, and that poll questions are rather unpopular here on SE. However this request is slightly different, in that it refers only to Meta sites.

There are many situations in which a community may want to poll its users on a Meta site. For example, we have here several questions that call for proposals, feedback and suggestions:

These are just a sampling of the ones that go on here and I am sure that other Meta sites have similar questions.

I think that the way these questions are handled now is very inefficient, and could be made much better.

My suggestion is to create a new type of question: a Polling Question or just a Poll. This question could behave in different way than other questions. Some of the ideas that have come up when I discussed this with @IsaacMoses♦ and @msh210♦ are:

  • Polling questions should be only on Meta sites.
  • Perhaps they should only be asked by mods.
  • In the case of proposal calls, accepted proposal answers could be marked as completed and implemented. These could also be hidden or collapsed by default, keeping the noise low, (instead of deleting them, which keeps noise for users that can see deleted posts).
  • In the case of proposal calls, the ability to sort by status.
  • Perhaps answers could have titles, and the answer body would be minimized until clicked on. This would solve the space problem on poll questions that garner lots of feedback.

These are just the ideas that came up after talking about it for a few minutes. Any feedback or suggestions are welcome.

I realize that the status quo is actually quite nice here on SE, but I feel it could be better.

  • I've now alerted an SE employee to the existence of this post, and hope it may therefore get looked at sooner by someone who can decide on it.
    – msh210 Mod
    Feb 5, 2012 at 17:49
  • 2
    In my defense of "Perhaps they should only be asked by mods.", I wasn't a mod when I posted this.
    – HodofHod
    Mar 1, 2012 at 20:09
  • 2
    @HodofHod Oh the irony: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/636/759
    – Double AA Mod
    Jun 12, 2012 at 4:47
  • @DoubleAA :D...
    – HodofHod
    Jun 12, 2012 at 4:54

1 Answer 1


The story you're telling yourself is that this "polling engine" will only be pulled out in the most useful of circumstances. There may be really, really limited use cases where this might be beneficial… but my concern is that, if we implemented something like this, it will become a hammer looking for nail.

Wikipedia has a really good article about how Polling is not a substitute for discussion. For establishing policy, polling is often used as a crutch to stop discussion.

Here ye here ye. Here are your only choices as I see them. Pick from the following and I'll use this "poll" to make it law.

On meta, users don't typically just want to simply to cast ballots without some sort of discussion. If a solution is well presented and not all that controversial, the best ideas will float to the top. A straw poll is often the work of one or more users trying to bulldoze their ideas through the limited audience of meta: "What? You won't implement my idea? Let's make a "motion" and call for votes on this right now and see what my confederates think?"

It's nice to think such a tool would never be used like this, but I've seen it happen too many times. A polling engine becomes a poor substitute for establishing a true consensus. Sometimes it's hard to reach a consensus without it, but that's okay. People come around to good ideas. When a true consensus is reached, it will be evident by the discussion. The voting mechanism of meta works enough like a polling mechanism to rout out the best ideas anyway.

As for the "what periodicals do you read" example. We just don't do those types of questions here. Adding them to meta or labeling it a "poll" does not make those questions any better.

  • So don't call it a poll, and don't allow "What periodicals do you read?". I'm not saying there shouldn't be discussion, and any user can certainly answer with their own submission. At the very least, I'm asking for there to be implemented a simple way to reduce noise and clutter on meta questions that will receive lots of (all valid) feedback, some of which will become (as they are dealt with) no longer (as) relevant.
    – HodofHod
    Mar 1, 2012 at 20:08
  • @HodofHod: That's fine though. They can be deleted, or closed, or simply ignored - it's not all that unusual for an implemented suggestion to be useful as a reference much later on, when the underlying issue comes up again in some form, and having them findable is nice. The software is designed to make active discussions float to the top of the front page while still making older ones findable - consider how MSO has remained (mostly) usable even while tens of thousands of discussions have accumulated...
    – Shog9
    Mar 2, 2012 at 2:39
  • @shog9 "Mostly" being the key word there. :) For answers, closure is not possible, deletion prevents low-rep users from using them as references, and ignoring them leaves noise in the thread. None of those is as nice or as elegant as a small button saying "some answers have been dealt with and are hidden, click to show", or some such.
    – HodofHod
    Mar 2, 2012 at 2:51

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