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Are there ways of formulating a question title so that it will be more likely to be of no interest to anyone who would be likely to be displeased by the body of the question?

  • @divibisan I don't think that it would need to be as extreme as prevention. It's more a question of strategy to make the question seem uninteresting to those who are predisposed to resent the idea of people reading various trains of thought, questioning things that they have been indoctrinated to accept (or, if not accept, at least keep quiet about). – Ren Eh Daycart Oct 29 at 2:06
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    I'm not sure what exactly you are asking here (in the body of your meta-question): how to write a partisan body with a neutral title? That's probably not a terribly useful approach to begin with. And what does that have to do with your [meta-]question title? Are you trying to illustrate this kind of disconnect here? – Fizz Nov 2 at 2:25
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One of the 1st principles in writing, as such, is to be mindful of who your audience is.

The most important principle when being judged by votes (in any setting) is to remember that voting is an emotional response.

Let's assume, for the sake of example, that you are being strictly pragmatic about wanting to have a positive vote count. Then the positive vote count is your highest priority and you are willing to sacrifice both accuracy and integrity for the sake of upvotes.

The moderators and the frequent users will insist that the rules of the site attempt to ensure accuracy because they do. But the rules are not likely to be followed to the letter and they realistically cannot be designed to ensure that the site is purely informative. If for no other reason then that different people learn differently. So simply being informative can only be the base line for your questions. It can still attract huge downvotes.

Which brings you back to the question of "how" (rather than "why") would you attract upvotes? The emotional responses to politics can be divided into 3 basic possibilities:

  1. Someone will love you for asking the question. E.g., a question which underlines accomplishments of their favorite politician or their self-identified group.
  2. Someone will not care about your question. E.g., a question about a politician they never heard of in a country with which they have no interactions which asks about actions that don't touch on universal human concerns.
  3. You trigger someone's fight or flight response by asking a question which, if answered in the way you suggest, would mean that their favorite politician or their self-identified group would merit a push back. Downvoting is a very cheap way to fight. So if you trigger fight or flight, in anyone who is not self-aware at the moment they read your question, they will downvote.

If you want to be purely pragmatic about the upvotes, read more questions and answers which have very high or very low vote counts. Try to find questions with decent quality and low vote counts and questions with low quality and high vote counts. This will let you figure out what is likely to trigger responses (1) and (3) above.

And then, when asking your own questions, try to make sure you do not evoke response (3) in the majority of the users of this site and try make sure you do evoke response (1).

Edit. Let's make this meta-meta. Let me demonstrate it with comments to this very answer.

One of the comments this answer received was

That may be effective in practice (though there are plenty of people with lots of rep who post high quality, non pandering content) but we really shouldn't be advising new users to be bad members of the community and to post low-quality content

This user clearly stated that integrity of the site is important to them. They also stated that they don't want to consider examples of the site failing to have integrity as indicative of the site as a whole. This shows that this question has triggered their fight-or-flight. Their in-group was "under attack." They downvoted this answer.

Here are two possible responses:

  1. this is not an advice. It's information. One could view it as a critique of partisanship if one were to prioritize honesty over upvotes. I never said it was impossible to be both accurate and liked. Because the question wasn't about that. It was about how to avoid being accurate and being disliked at the same time.
  2. this is not an advice. It's information. One could view it as a critique of site if one were to prioritize honesty over upvotes. I never said it was impossible to be both accurate and liked. Because the question wasn't about that. It was about how to avoid being accurate and being disliked at the same time.

The two responses differ in just 1 word. But the first response attacks what the user already told us he hates (partisanship). While the 2nd response attacks what the user views as his in-group (this site).

One should expect that the 1st response would be better received.

  • It sounds like you're proposing that people deliberately write partisan questions in order to get upvotes. That's certainly a way to manipulate the rep system in your favor, but it's bad for the site and against the stated purpose of this site – divibisan Nov 1 at 20:01
  • @divibisan no, I take it for granted that this is the only way to gain upvotes in large numbers. If you disagree, then as much as this is circular reasoning, your happen to be part of the "in" crowd here. I am answering the "how" question... not the "why" question. I also said that following this advise will mean sacrificing accuracy and integrity. – grovkin Nov 1 at 20:10
  • That may be effective in practice (though there are plenty of people with lots of rep who post high quality, non pandering content) but we really shouldn't be advising new users to be bad members of the community and to post low-quality content – divibisan Nov 1 at 20:12
  • @divibisan this is not an advice. It's information. One could view it as a critique of partisanship if one were to prioritize honesty over upvotes. I never said it was impossible to be both accurate and liked. Because the question wasn't about that. It was about how to avoid being accurate and being disliked at the same time. – grovkin Nov 1 at 20:22
  • You do know that on Meta sites, downvotes signify disagreement? If you write something, you should expect that not everyone will agree with you, and if you're on Meta, that means the are expected to downvote it. – divibisan Nov 1 at 20:53
  • @divibisan and yet you downvoted despite arguing that what I said was accurate. – grovkin Nov 1 at 21:13
  • @grovkin As divibisan has already said, there is a difference between "behavior X occurs in practice" and "we should encourage behavior X". One can agree that something happens in practice while still holding the opinion that it is a bad idea to actively encourage people to engage in it. It's like saying "in the real world, a lot of people do meth to feel good. So if you want to feel good, you should do meth." Do you not see the severity between "it happens" and "let's make it happen more"? – zibadawa timmy Nov 3 at 11:35
  • @zibadawatimmy i didn't encourage anything. if i described how a lock could be picked, that information could be used by thieves. but it could also be used by police to see if a lock was picked during a robbery. either way, simply being the one who describes a method for behaving in a certain way does not make one into someone who is encouraging such behavior. – grovkin Nov 3 at 15:08
  • Re "voting is an emotional response.": It's possible a user's emotion might be in accord with their reasoning. And their reasoning might precede and be the cause of their emotion. – agc Nov 7 at 7:57
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To the specific question in the body: probably not. There aren’t many questions here, so there aren’t many ways to keep certain people from reading your question.

As for your bigger question: politically motivated votes are an unavoidable fact of life here. You can try to minimize it by trying as hard as you can to ask your question in good faith – that is: minimize bias (even if it’s true), avoid making judgements or arguing a point, and write your question in a way that accepts that all answers could be legitimate.

The answers to this question might be helpful: A full and objective description of good faith?


You write:

It's more a question of strategy to make the question seem uninteresting to those who are predisposed to resent the idea of people reading various trains of thought, questioning things that they have been indoctrinated to accept (or, if not accept, at least keep quiet about)

I think you might have a misunderstanding about the goal of this site. Your questions have been long and detailed, but they have read more like short essays (with a question tacked on the end) than real questions. People tend to react poorly to questions that feel like they’re pushing a point of view or that seem as if the author just wanted to share some information.

If you want your questions to be well received, you need to give up on directly pushing a point of view with them. You can draw your readers attention to a situation, or make a more open, good-faith question and then provide a self-answer that is more opinionated (though you should be hesitant about accepting your own answer).

  • "politically motivated votes are an unavoidable fact of life here. You can try to minimize it by [...] avoiding making judgements or arguing a point, and write your question in a way that accepts that all answers could be legitimate." --> What about situations where the bias is in the response to the question, and the question is clear and neutral, but involves grappling with issues that cross traditional subject-area boundaries, so that the question can be labeled as off-topic in each limited subject area? – Ren Eh Daycart Oct 29 at 2:25
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    @RenEhDaycart What do you mean by "cross traditional subject-area boundaries”?Do you mean areas covered by different sites, like Politics, History, and Skeptics? Or different subject-areas within politics? – divibisan Oct 29 at 14:53
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    @RenEhDaycart Generally, the recommended option is to divide your question up into manageable chunks that can each get a clear, specific answer. You can even ask these parts on multiple sites and link them together if needed. But the model here just doesn’t work well with really broad questions that need a well researched essay to answer. If there’s no way to split up your question into manageable pieces, you might get a better answer if you ask it somewhere else, unfortunately. – divibisan Oct 29 at 14:56
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Are there ways of formulating a question title so that it will be more likely to be of no interest to anyone who would be likely to be displeased by the body of the question?

Generalize

As an asker, the easiest way to avoid down votes is to avoid controversy. If something is controversial, try to ask it in neutral terms, asking about a more general case rather than a specific case about a recent politician.

Explicitly state what sort of objective answers you're looking for

Always ask yourself first if a question can be answered based on facts and references. If that requires answerers to use specific references, e.g. polling data when asking about public opinion, make that explicit in the question.

Asking why UK voters voted Brexit may yield down votes, asking what reasons Brexit voters have given for voting Brexit seems more neutral even though serious answers to the first question follow the same principle as the second.

Keep it simple

Try to formulate the essence of your question in one sentence and use that as the title. If the spirit of the question doesn't fit in one sentence then it's probably too complex. That doesn't mean the subject is too difficult, but it can probably be made more concise or be split into separate questions.

In the body of the question, keep the actual question short. If you want to elaborate, use headings for different purposes but ensure it's clear where the question is (e.g. a heading at the end ##Question: <question here>?)

Elaboration under preceding heading can be done for at least two reasons: including research that is relevant to the question and a short motivation why the question is relevant.

Since people don't like to read much if they aren't sure they're interested, it's essential to keep those paragraphs short. You see a lot of links to articles, one sentence on why article is relevant, then a short quote and a link to the article. If users are interested, they can read more, but it's not necessary for understanding the question. This also shows the asker has done some research and if there are contradictions or questions then they often spark from something in those articles.

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