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My understanding is that if you vote up (or down) too many posts by a single person, those votes will be reversed as abuse. This is to prevent attacks on another user by downvoting every single post they've made and to prevent sock-puppetry when someone upvotes every post a friend has made.

Fine, but on SF (where I vote a lot) there aren't a huge number of regulars and many of them give good answers to lots of questions. Just the other day, the guy with the most SF rep answered at least 10 questions with his usual good answers. Knowing that votes will be rolled back if I upvote too many of a single person's answers in one day, I try to avoid it, but I'm pretty sure that over the past few days it's happened a couple times.

So I'm wondering:

  • Is there a limit up to which it's safe to vote for a single person? e.g. don't cast more than 5 votes/day (or 10/week or whatever) or they might be rolled back.

  • Or, could the algorithm be changed so that it doesn't roll back legitimate votes on a single person's answers?

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9  
I doubt you'll ever get the answer to your first question since revealing that information would allow the fraud algorithm to be exploited to avoid repercussions for fraudulent or malicious voting. –  Anna Lear Jan 28 '12 at 20:25
7  
What characteristics could be used to distinguish between legitimate votes and fraudulent ones? The system can't know. All it can see is number and frequency it can't see intent. –  ChrisF Jan 28 '12 at 20:51
    
@AnnaLear: With a binary splitting algorithm, I could start by 16 votes on a day, and find iteratively: 16-8-12-10-11 all limits below 16 in 5 tests. Higher limits would need more steps, 1 more step per power of 2. –  user unknown Jan 29 '12 at 1:15
    
@userunknown It is probable that if you were caught by the fraudulent voting algorithm more than once, something would happen. –  kiamlaluno Jan 29 '12 at 12:42
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@kiamlaluno: Of course, for such actions, I would always use one of my sockpuppets. –  user unknown Jan 29 '12 at 13:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Or, could the algorithm be changed so that it doesn't roll back legitimate votes on a single person's answers?

No, it can't be.

Stop and think about this for a minute: what's the difference between a "fraud" vote and a "legitimate" vote?

A: The intentions of the voter.

There isn't an algorithm - or indeed, a person - qualified to judge the intentions of a person voting. Sure, we could tweak the workings of the fraud detection algorithm to help catch likely fraud while still avoiding penalizing legit voters (and we have, quite a few times, which is why you're never going to get a valid answer to your first question), but at the end of the day it's still a poor attempt at solving an impossible problem. For every person who gets unfairly penalized, there's someone else who feels that penalties should be quicker and more strict.

The best advice I can give you is simply: be equally free with your votes. If you're using x votes on user A, you'll ideally be spreading x*3 votes across users B, C, and D - maybe not up-votes of course, but some roughly equivalent number of votes. If you're limiting the bulk of your voting (again, up or down) to one other person, that looks bad - and even if you have totally legitimate reasons for doing so, they may well be misinterpreted.

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Sounds conclusive. Thanks. :) –  Octavian Damiean Jan 28 '12 at 23:04
    
Not so easy when A is particularly prolific (ask Jon Skeet). –  Gilles Jan 28 '12 at 23:57

Of course it doesn't roll back valid votes. What would be the point of that?

However, your definition of "valid" might differ from that of the vote fraud script. Your proposal of not having the script roll back "valid" votes sounds a bit naive.

The simple problem is that it's an automated system and doesn't know the circumstances. Are all those answers you upvoted actually that awesome, or did you just decide to randomly upvote this person a lot? Is this person your best bud in real life, and you decided to push his reputation a bit? Or is it actually yourself behind a proxy?

Also, you're not going to get specifics of the algorithm or tips on how to avoid it out of anyone who has definite knowledge of it.

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Of course it doesn't roll back valid votes. What would be the point of that?, he meant that valid up-votes get rolled back as well as invalid ones. –  Octavian Damiean Jan 28 '12 at 20:59
    
@TheUnicornWhisperer Since the fraud script is the judge of what is valid and what isn't - no, valid upvotes aren't rolled back. Whether the vote would be considered valid by whoever cast it and/or a majority of human beings is irrelevant, since it can't possibly know or factor that in. –  lunboks Jan 28 '12 at 21:06
    
That doesn't make the votes invalid. It just means that an automated system regards them as invalid. Two totally different things. –  Octavian Damiean Jan 28 '12 at 21:07
    
@TheUnicornWhisperer So what does make the votes invalid? –  lunboks Jan 28 '12 at 21:13
    
Up-votes by sock-puppet accounts, voting ring up-votes, serial down-votes. Stuff like that. A script can't decide if a a couple of votes are really valid. It can only tell if they are dodgy based on some algorithm and act upon that. That however doesn't make votes invalid. –  Octavian Damiean Jan 28 '12 at 21:15
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I'm not sure why this is downvoted this much? Apart from the detail of "invalid" vs. "regarded as invalid by the system", this all sounds about right to me. –  Pëkka Jan 29 '12 at 0:49
    
@Pekka'sOrganicRepFarm It's a useless answer, it basically amounts to "the unknown algorithm is always right." It's also insulting, implying that I'm doing something wrong by upvoting good answers. –  Ward Jan 29 '12 at 3:32
    
@Ward I guess I just suck at expressing myself, but that's not what I meant at all. Of course the script isn't always right, but who's to determine when it's wrong? Basically, as Shog9 said, it can't judge your intentions. And I'm not sure where you got that last bit from, because I don't see that in the post at all. –  lunboks Jan 29 '12 at 10:15

Since your first answer is unlikely to get answered and the second one is pretty much impossible to implement I would propose this.

Up-vote some of those answers, mark the other ones that would deserve up-votes as favorites and come back the next day and vote those up as well.

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Excellent new loophole to check for in the fraud algorithm; thanks! (^_^) –  Awesome Poodles Jan 28 '12 at 21:05
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Well, we are not really helping the community with making it impossible to honor active users that post awesome content. –  Octavian Damiean Jan 28 '12 at 21:06
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It's a nice idea, but... I gotta tell you, there's absolutely no guarantee that this technique will keep you safe either. The only "safe" way to vote is: don't vote for only one other user. –  Shog9 Jan 28 '12 at 22:57
    
@Shog9 That's not what I said the problem was. I said there are times when it's totally appropriate to cast 10 votes in one day for one person, and I don't think those votes should be rolled back. It's like a penalty applied to people who answer well and frequently. –  Ward Jan 29 '12 at 3:30
    
@Ward: And I'm saying, there's no algorithm that can judge your intentions. We've decided (some three years ago now) that it looks dodgy when one person spends a lot of votes on another - the exact parameters of this test are adjusted to try to compensate for natural and expected behaviors, but the core assumption - that honest users generally spread their votes around a bit - is hard to challenge (even allowing that there are valid exceptions). –  Shog9 Jan 29 '12 at 20:09
    
@Shog9 Then let's get to a case that shouldn't reveal anything about the algorithm: have I had votes reversed in January for voting "too much" for one person? Or in the last quarter of 2011? –  Ward Jan 30 '12 at 5:21
    
@Ward: So far as I can tell, no. –  Shog9 Jan 30 '12 at 15:55

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