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Questions here on our Meta site help us to determine site policy. We are generally looking for a consensus from our community, but what do we mean when we say "consensus" in this context. Is a simple majority enough?

(For what it's worth, I'm a Brit, and I can say from recent experience that 52% to 48% may be a majority, but it is absolutely not a consensus!)


The answers to the question How is consensus determined on Meta sites? on the main Meta:SE site seem to suggest that it is up to us to decide what we mean by 'consensus', here on our Meta site, when it comes to determining site policy.

So, let's address the question:

How do we determine 'consensus' here on meta when it comes to questions about site policy?

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Part of the problem with defining this is the range of questions that feature on a meta site. I've included some examples of different types of questions below; the specific questions are not intended to be of significance.

  • Would Drones.SE benefit from enabling MathJax?: for this sort of 'simple' yes/no question; probably, a simple majority would be the way forward in these cases.
  • In how much detail should we answer questions?: this type of question can attract a whole spectrum of answers; users may agree with the few that surround their personal viewpoint. Short of organising them into some form of order and taking a weighted average, it is difficult to produce an empirical consensus from this; but, they are good for getting the views of the community.
  • Should we introduce editing guidelines?: this sort of question seem to be the yes/no type, but alongside this there can also be a selection of views on what the guidelines should be.

The other problem is when to measure the consensus. For example, it is common with questions on network sites to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer to allow all time zones to be able to contribute; and it is reasonable to expect people to check meta less frequently, even if they are regularly active on here. Is a week appropriate? A fortnight?

I think that even in cases where there is a clear Yes/No answer, the site moderators will have to make the call - they should take the communities views into consideration, but ultimately would act in the most appropriate way for the site. This will probably be a little unpopular at times, but hopefully people can understand that sometimes a decision will go their way and sometimes not - and that's life!

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  • $\begingroup$ These are all good points, and show why it's important to have the discussion and get at least an outline policy agreed fairly early on if we can. Just one thing I'd take issue with: "... the site moderators will have to make the call". As a moderator on another SE site, I'd say that is a really bad idea (imo). For one thing, what happens when the mods don't agree? For another, even if mods do agree, what will happen if/when large parts of the community don't support a site policy that was "imposed" on them by site mods under those circumstances? $\endgroup$ May 12 '20 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ I see your points about the mods - and of course, this is all a bit vague at the moment as we are working with hypotheticals and may be picturing very different scenarios - but ultimately decisions have to be made, and someone will be unhappy regardless who decides. I would hope the mods would try to act for the best interest of the community (which again, is a fuzzy statement without specific examples - but I'd expect it to be guided by the votes/chat) else I find it difficult to see how any agreement could be made on divisive issues; but, it is good to be debating this before problems arise! $\endgroup$
    – Kralc
    May 12 '20 at 22:41
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I don't think we need to give clear figures like x amount of up and downvotes are required. I think we just need to get a clear idea, but most users would have to agree (around 80%).

Say we have a , if we have say 7 upvotes and 1 downvote, and an answer supporting the idea with the same number of votes, that is fine and is consensus.

Whereas we have 4 upvotes, 3 downvotes and an answer saying no with 5 upvotes etc., that is not consensus.

I don't want to set a specific figure, but it needs to be relatively clear that the community supports the idea.

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