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As the Stack Exchange websites grow and become more popular I see a few problems that are arising/could eventually arise. Reputation is a useful metric for me personally - it often determines which answers I read and which I skip - so I think this is a valid question. Now I'm sure, the people who run the websites have a whole range of statistics that help them to figure out who is farming reputation and who is not. I am just trying to think of ways that this information could be displayed to the public on each persons profile.

Take, for example, mutual upvoters (you upvote me, I'll upvote you). One way you could make this more transparent to the public (to see which people are doing this) is to have an upvote history. In this history it would display the profiles that you are upvoting. If you notice that John Doe is repeatedly upvoting Jane Doe and vice versa (and nobody else is upvoting them) then you might use that information to judge the quality of their answers better in the future. You could do the same thing with serial downvoters.

The goal of all of this would be to promote more high quality answers/questions. Now I know there are drawbacks to having an upvote/downvote history - one is that people might be hesitant to repeatedly upvote someone for fear that they might appear to be helping them farm rep. But I think the users can judge for themselves based on the quality of that persons answers and the other people that are upvoting them.

Again, my question is: Assuming mutual upvoting is a problem or could become a problem, what systems are currently in place to prevent mutual upvoting schemes and/or what future systems could be put in place to discourage it?

NOTE: Just so you know where I'm coming from as the question asker: most of my experience is with Stack Overflow - and given the nature of how nebulous programming can be - I think it, and other exchange sites like it, are the most vulnerable to this type of behavior.

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No, votes are anonymous and should stay that way. And there are already filters in place to track down inappropriate voting behavior. –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:33
    
Are any of those filters displayed publicly? –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:35
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There's a number of users whose answers I frequently upvote, not because it's part of a scheme, but because they consistently provide good answers. I imagine mutual upvoting is common between users who tend to frequent the same tags. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 26 '12 at 16:36
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@psubsee2003 could you include the question title or some kind of description with those in the future? It's annoying to have to click on a naked link to find out where it points. –  Pops Oct 26 '12 at 16:38
    
@NullUserException - I was not suggesting that upvoting someone repeatedly is necessarily a sign of dishonest voting - like I said I think the public can judge for themselves. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:39
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Basically, the public can't judge. We are all terrible judges. The system can do a far better job and an impartial party can then decide what needs to happen based on the perceived behavior. –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:40
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@Stepan1010 That would compromise vote anonymity, a big no-no. And possibly it could bring a lot of drama. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 26 '12 at 16:40
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Funny things happen when you start making vote information public. For upvotes, it's sort of okay, but downvotes are problematic - folks get angry, exact revenge by downvoting a bunch of a specific user's posts, etc.

As Mad Scientist said, we have systems in place already that monitor (and occasionally reverse) voting patterns. Some are automatic. Some require manual intervention. None of them can be made fully public to prevent people from reverse-engineering the process and starting to game the system.

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But again - can't the public judge for themselves if someone is exacting revenge? –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:42
    
@Stepan1010 And then do what with that information? Retaliate? –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:44
    
Even if they did, their only recourse we be to serieally downvote or upvote. Two wrongs don't make a right. –  AndrewC Oct 26 '12 at 16:46
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@Stepan1010 Possibly, but what would be the point? Besides, figuring out some of the more egregious violations requires access to even more private information on the accounts. –  Anna Lear Oct 26 '12 at 16:49
    
@Anna Now don't get me wrong - I think the moderators do a tremendous job - I guess the point would be to make this system more transparent. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 17:01
    
@Bart - you could retaliate I guess - but you could also use the information to judge the quality of questions/answers better imho. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 17:01
    
@Anna Would the system I propose work just for upvotes. That way no one would have to worry about being offended/offensive. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 17:04
    
@Stepan1010 Honestly, not really. In the cases where patterns are legitimate (i.e. one user really just posts a lot of good answers - for example, Jon Skeet - and therefore gets a lot of upvotes from people active in the same tags) and your display would invite wrong conclusions, or the votes are fraudulent in which case we want to remove them altogether and not even bother with a public display. –  Anna Lear Oct 26 '12 at 17:16
    
@Anna But everyone agrees that Jon Skeet's answers are good - so this wouldn't be a problem for him. I guess to me it seems that which votes are fraudulent are inherently subjective. That is why it needs to be open to the public - so they are free to evaluate it for themselves. But anyways - I'm gonna go back to Stack Overflow where I belong. I'll leave the fate of the Stack Exchange commonwealth in all of you people's capable hands. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 18:16
    
@Stepan1010 Sorry about all the downvoting you got due to disagreement. (I chose not to on the grounds that -8 already makes it clear, you don't need any more!) See How to participate in meta and not die trying for more information on this phenomenon. You don't need to stay away, but read the bit about suggestions if you want less flak. Summary: don't. Advice: present the problem and invite discussion rather than suggesting a solution.Meta folk seem to take much more kindly to that. –  AndrewC Oct 26 '12 at 18:53
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@AndrewC I appreciate that Andrew - I understand it is a sensitive subject. But don't worry about me - I can take the e-punches. Opinions that everyone already agrees with aren't really worth discussing anyways. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 19:01
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Moderators already have access to tools similar to what you describe. The details are not public, though.

Votes are private, I don't think we should soften up the privacy of votes. The current mechanism are sufficient in my opinion to deal with vote fraud.

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OK fair enough. I guess my question should have been: what are the reasons that this information should be kept private? Pardon how naive I am in these matters.(that is not sarcasm btw) –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:37
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@Stepan1010 Just for the fun of it, each time you downvote tell the OP of the post that you downvoted. You'll quickly realize why anonymous voting is not such a bad idea. ;) –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:38
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@Bart I do that as often as possible. If I give constructive criticism, and remove the downvote if they address the issue, I rarely get a revenge downvote. It improves the quality of the site overall, so I think I can take a few -2 every now and then. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 26 '12 at 16:46
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@NullUserExceptionอ_อ Ah, but now you accompany it by an explanation. If you would downvote a user and on your profile he could see that you downvoted (without your nice and constructive comment) you would have a different situation. And I do leave the occasional comment as well, getting downvotes in response. It does not bother me much and I'll still constructively comment. But I think fully public votes will result in more problems than it prevents. –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:49
    
@Bart I have no doubt publicizing votes would create a lot of drama, not arguing that. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 26 '12 at 16:51
    
@Bart - I actually havn't downvoted/upvoted too many people yet. I usually leave a comment that says their answer/question is of poor/high quality and then I say why. And then I wait for their response. –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:51
    
@Bart And I havn't recieved any angry emails. lol –  Stepan1010 Oct 26 '12 at 16:53
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@Stepan1010 Haha, good for you. And I'm sure most of us here can take a punch from time to time. But hang around here on Meta for a while and see what "unfair downvote" whine comes around, accompanied by accusations towards users that the complainer can't substantiate...imagine if they could. In an ideal world we would all take it constructively and brush it off....in the real world... –  Bart Oct 26 '12 at 16:55
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Stack Exchange does track and undo this, it just does it in private rather than in public. It's called serial upvoting, and there are scripts that identify it and remove it. Accounts get suspended if there's a lot of this going on.

Mutual respect is fine, co-ordinated or automatic voting is not. The latter are searched for.

If you make votes public, you distort voting more than this does, because it starts to matter who voted which way for what.

In fact, public votes would encourage even more of what you want to stop, as voting would become much more about personality than facts. People already find it hard not to take votes personally, and this would make it worse. Flame wars could brew and vindictive revenge voting would be much easier.

Sorry, but I think this is an un-solution to a problem that does quietly get addressed.

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Yeah, accounts get suspended for voting irregularities sometimes. –  user231674 Aug 18 '13 at 0:04
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