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I have been downvoted on 5 answers this morning, the downvotes occurring in a batch with no comments left. The obvious conclusion is that some user decided for whatever reason to pick on me. Can you suggest some simple checks, heuristics or algorithms that can be put in place to help eliminate this sort of negative StackOverflow behaviour.

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UPDATE

As pointed out by @whuber, there are algorithms in place to detect serial downvoting. This instance of serial downvoting was recognised and reversed. Hurray for algorithms

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  • $\begingroup$ @abaumann This happened on CrossValidated so maybe the people here need to address it. I asked for some statistical or other solutions and CrossValidated is the palce to get such answers. Therefore, I am happy to leave it here. To be honest, I don't care about points but I do care about bad etiquette. Almost makes you want to stop contribuing - which would be a shame $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ Martino, are you aware of doing something recently that could potentially piss someone off? Sometimes people get critics or downvotes too personally. Or, have you been participating in some discussion that could make someone think that it was YOU downvoting or criticizing? $\endgroup$ – Curious Oct 10 '14 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ This belongs on meta.stats.stackexchange. However, Stackexchange has an algorithm to detect serial voting (up or down) like this, so I'd be very surprised if this wasn't automatically reversed very soon. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 10 '14 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Curious - no, I tend not to get involved too much. I have a day job ;) $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Glen_b Great, if there is an algorithm in place then this will be a good test case. I will report back when my reputation is intact! $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ @martino Of course that's only going to happen if it really was one account and over a short period of time. If three different people downvoted (or a number of other possible things happened), it (correctly) won't reverse that. If your suspicions are correct, you should likely get your reputation back (I think the script only runs once a day, it may take a while); if not, nothing will happen. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 10 '14 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ (In the meantime, I just searched through and upvoted one of your answers, so there's no net loss in the meantime.) $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 10 '14 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ The SE team reports that the downvotes in question have now been invalidated. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 13 '14 at 15:50
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For reasons I hope are obvious, (1) these "simple checks, heuristics or algorithms" are in place and (2) their details--even their nature--are not publicized.

When you think you have been a victim of "revenge" or "serial" downvoting, please do not post the usual "why the downvote?" comments. Instead, flag one of the downvoted posts and use the "Custom" reason to explain your concern. A moderator will look into it.

Note that moderators do not have any powers to change votes. We do have the ability to contact users privately about such voting (there is a standard e-mail template for this behavior--it's not uncommon, alas). We can also contact the SE team directly with a request to look into such things. The team always responds, but it can take a few days. Any high-rep user also has the ability to compensate for untoward downvotes by (1) adding their own upvote (if they hadn't done so already) and (2) offering a bonus to make up for the lost reputation and to provide explicit public support for a particular answer.

In this particular case (rather than waiting for the automatic mechanisms to kick in) I have confirmed these downvotes and learned who made them; that they are the first and only downvotes made by one user; and I have contacted the SE team to investigate it.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying and taking action. I have no problem with downvotes but this appeared to be a really obvious case of unreasonable behaviour. $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 15:03
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I think you'd be well advised to look through discussions on SE Meta. I have bumped into numerous discussions which raise the issues you raise and others linked; I have never searched for more.

But the bottom lines appear to be three-fold:

  1. Some changes in reputation are automated, driven by automated attempts to spot unacceptable behaviour.

  2. If someone is downvoting in a nasty way, then among those there are mechanisms to spot that and if need be discipline or remove that person, in which case your reputation should be corrected in due course

  3. A great deal of thought has gone into how to handle this and it is only "reputation", not reputation (win some, lose some).

So multiple downvoting, as it appears to you, is not necessarily evidence of individual nastiness or spite. So the obvious conclusion isn't quite so obvious.

EDITS (1) in reaction to helpful comments may make some comments below seem mysterious.

EDITS (2) in reaction to @whuber's reply, which is naturally definitive.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Nick. I believe when a user is removed than this is the reason recorded against the removal of points. If a downvote is recorded then this is due to downvoting. If I click on a user name I see all their answers and could easily downvote a bunch of them in a short time. I do not mean to be negative but equally I would be surprised if a single user had upvoted all those answers in the first place, they are fairly diverse question subjects. So, my question still stands, can you offer some solutions to prevent this type of behaviour - whether it occurred in this instance or not $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ Nick, I'm afraid your explanation of automated downvotes is wrong. If automated routine would undo some of the upvotes, it would certainly appear as "unupvote" instead of a downvote! $\endgroup$ – Curious Oct 10 '14 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @NickCox I am confused now - when I lose points due to a user being removed then that is the message I get the following e.g. "-30 21:08 removed User was removed (learn more)" and "learn more" link points me to stats.stackexchange.com/help/user-was-removed which states "All the reputation changes from a single user's deletion are rolled into a single event in the reputation page labelled "User was removed"." It was with this in mind that I asked the question. $\endgroup$ – martino Oct 10 '14 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ OK; I think you should edit your question to make that clear; you evidently know more on that detail than I do. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 10 '14 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Curious A vote (up or down) simply disappears after it is reversed. One's reputation summary will reflect a net (loss or gain) as a result. It works pretty much the same way as when a downvote on an answer (which costs you one point) is reversed when that answer is deleted by the user. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 10 '14 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber, thanks for your note but it doesn't invalidate my argument that it the downvotes couldn't be caused by the automated SE process. $\endgroup$ – Curious Oct 10 '14 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @curious I haven't been able to discern any such argument in your previous comments, nor can I determine what explanation of Nick Cox's you are criticizing. Thus I am not offering any kind of counterargument; I am only trying to supply helpful facts about the subject. Although it is true that there are circumstances in which the "Community" bot does issue downvotes, it will never do so wholesale on old posts, which is what happened to martino. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 10 '14 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber The earliest versions of my post are not visible on Meta, even in Edit history. This is no doubt a side-effect of its migration from the main site. My main hypothesis originally was that apparent downvoting was a side-effect of someone leaving the forum and their votes being removed too. This was what curious was reacting to, if I understand correctly. Your investigations appear to show that the explanation lies elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 10 '14 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Nick. I had indeed checked the edit history, thinking that @curious must have been responding to something in an older version of your post (which I infer from your comment actually was the case). It is interesting that the full history was not carried over during migration. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 10 '14 at 16:10
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The same thing happened with two of my answers here & here; it's to be hoped five is enough for the algorithm to pick up on & reverse. More vexing than the tiny "reputation" loss is the thought that a false impression may be given of genuine disagreement about something quite uncontentious. Whether the downvotes are due to someone's childishness or to some system glitch, the best I can suggest is to ask the reason for the downvote in a comment below the answer—perhaps you'll get a response, or at least influence readers to disregard it.

On the other hand, inculcating skepticism is probably a good thing. [And @wuber's point that reacting at all might encourage repetition of the behaviour is a good one.]

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    $\begingroup$ We all get the occasional "drive-by" downvote. (The longer you have been around, and the more upvotes you get, the more likely it is you will have collected some of these: nobody is immune.) I have looked into the voting record for you and find no systematic pattern. Posting "why the downvote" comments is discouraged: it is unlikely the downvoter will ever see them and they just add noise to the site. If the downvoter does see them, there's a risk they will get a positive reward in knowing they tweaked you. It's better to ignore them totally, IMHO. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 10 '14 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber: Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 14 '14 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @whuber - While posting "why the downvote" is discouraged, I've gotten some very useful responses to that question (e.g. one from Macro relatively early on, without which I might well have continued to do the thing he was objecting to; one very productive one from Russ Lenth much more recently, and I think there have been others). I think it's easy enough to delete the ones that don't produce such responses (the problem is remembering to, which is why its indiscriminate use probably should be discouraged). $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 15 '14 at 23:55
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  • Making explanation of downvotes compulsory
  • Put a minimum limit on the explanation (at least 100 characters)

This might mitigate serial downvoting to some extent.

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  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate why you are saying this. See e.g. discussion at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… among which I like this comment "I enjoy being able to down-vote posts I don't care for without worrying about retaliation. And I really enjoy being able to leave honest comments without worrying that they'll be justifiably interpreted as evidence that I've down-voted. I would not like to see the two systems linked." $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 22 '14 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand why that comment is any justification, because it simply says, "I don't want to have to justify my downvotes" but only in much more words than necessary. To be honest, I recently got a downvote and I am a little bit miffed about it, since the downvoter didn't bother to even justify the downvote. It is just plain disgusting, because the answer was written to help out somebody (in all good intentions) and votes are there to curate right and wrong answers, and here is a downvoter who is downright unhelpful, whosoever it was. $\endgroup$ – TenaliRaman Oct 22 '14 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ I don't read it that way: he is just saying that downvoting and commenting are disjoint. As @whuber suggests in this thread, we have all been there. Really poor questions may get downvoted multiply as a strong signal to the questioner; in that case it can be sufficient that someone explains why the question is poor, without others adding the same kind of comment. I agree that an answer being downvoted without explanation is a disappointment, but one has to learn to treat it as a bit less than disgusting; it is just grit inside a shoe. Sure, some people are outliers, but we know that. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 22 '14 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I guess I took it harder than it should be. Sorry for the outburst earlier, I hope I did not come off as condescending towards you. I did not mean to, I was just truly miffed at the downvote. $\endgroup$ – TenaliRaman Oct 22 '14 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ No problem; as said, I think most people have experienced some downvotes and no one enjoys them! $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 22 '14 at 22:55

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