The way I see it, the new reduced window to change a vote only imposes a very small cost rather than solving the problem.

Before:

  • t0: Good guy answers
  • t1: Bad guy copies answer
  • t2: Bad guy downvotes good guy and loses a point
  • t3: Bad guy, after reaping the benefits of his downvote (let's be conservative and assume he got a single upvote), removes the downvote, getting his point back.
  • Summary: +10 points

After:

  • t0: Good guy answers
  • t1: Bad guy copies answer
  • t2: Bad guy downvotes good guy and loses a point
  • t3: Bad guy, after reaping the benefits of his downvote (let's be conservative and assume he got a single upvote), tries remove the downvote and fails
  • Summary: +9 points

Am I missing something?

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You need to talk in terms of cowboys. –  random Aug 28 '09 at 2:07
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Lucky Luke v/s Joe Dalton? –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 2:08
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What about the "Ugly guy"? –  gnostradamus Aug 28 '09 at 3:38
    
He always asks about himself –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 12:01
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No, it doesn't. You can still edit the original, change something minor, and then reverse your vote. –  Won't Jan 8 '10 at 20:18
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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The votes being permanent make them subject to suspicious voting pattern recognition.

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That's correct. Still, will that solve it? I'd expect, unless the voting pattern recognition tries to match content somehow, that you can still get away with some tactics. –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 2:12
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Also, you could incorporate into the voting pattern recognition the answer_where_there_is_another_answer+downvote_previous_answer+wait+remove dance. –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 2:14
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I'm not sure what will solve tactical downvoting, but I think suspicious voting patterns will reveal the worst offenders and alleviate it somewhat. Just like sock puppet accounts, we'll only be able to detect it if someone uses the tactic a lot. Hopefully having the downvotes permanently in the database will make people stop and think about how many more times they can do it without being detected. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 2:19
    
I'm not sure if votes are stored after they've been removed by the user, so I don't know if it's possible to detect the "dance". –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 2:21
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So why not a keep the log of the vote, but not keep the actual vote result. I do it all the time -- audit who makes a change, the value before the change and the value afterwards. It offers the same detection ability without the limitation of not being able to reconsider your vote. –  tvanfosson Aug 28 '09 at 2:44
    
@tvanfosson: Judging by Jarrod's comment on cletus's answer, I may be wrong about that. It looks like they do keep an audit trail. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 2:51
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The votes being permanent makes sure that mistaken votes are permanently wrong. –  endolith Jul 31 '11 at 21:18
    
@endolith: No, not really. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 1 '11 at 2:35
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Why not really? If I upvote something and then later realize it's wrong (question is clarified, comments on the answer point out a flaw I missed), I can't change my vote. Visitors to the site are misled, and the answerer gets rep they don't deserve. –  endolith Aug 1 '11 at 3:57
    
@endolith: As other answers and comments here point out, once a post is edited you can change your vote. There's nothing truly permanent about the vote. Besides that, other people voting will normally cancel yours out if you're wrong, so the majority of people will never see it. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 1 '11 at 11:15
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As others point out, the question can be edited in a way that invalidates your vote, but you can't change it. Subsequent comments can invalidate your vote, but you can't change it. Locking votes isn't fixing any problem, and it is causing a problem so why do it in the first place? "You can edit the answer to change your vote" is like "Yeah, the law sucks, but we're not changing it. Just get into a position of power like us and you can break the law with impunity". People don't vote rationally. A mistaken downvote can cause others to disregard a correct answer. –  endolith Aug 1 '11 at 13:11
    
@endolith: Once a post is edited, you can change your vote. Locking votes does fix a problem. Since both of your premises are flawed, I won't bother with the rest of your argument. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 1 '11 at 13:17
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I said question is edited, not answer. What problem does locking votes solve? It doesn't solve tactical downvoting. –  endolith Aug 1 '11 at 13:18
    
@endolith: And I said post is edited. That includes both questions and answers. Locking votes has greatly reduced tactical downvoting by making it easier to detect. It still happens, but now we can remove the offending votes. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 1 '11 at 13:20
    
@BilltheLizard You're a mod. Can you remember a time when you've used suspicious voting patters to detect revenge downvoting? –  Sam I am Dec 30 '13 at 19:53
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As I see it, a big part of the tactical downvoting problem was the ability to undo your downvotes and hide your tracks.

Just as an observation: we've had at least three semi-serious exploits all based on the ability to "undo" things. Which suggests that "undo" is kind of a dangerous ability, certainly far more than I realized.

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Just curious, but what exploits? Anything you can share? –  cletus Aug 28 '09 at 3:23
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Any time you have a delete from a database, bad things can happen to good people, so it doesn't surprise me that the "undo" functions have caused issues. Though, like cletus, I'm curious :) –  Eric Aug 28 '09 at 3:30
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Man... I'm guessing this bodes ill for the "undo close vote" feature... :-( –  Shog9 Aug 28 '09 at 4:23
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Undo is not a dangerous ability, lack of trail is. You can certainly have undo and log everything, which makes it automatically non dangerous. –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 11:22
    
Vinko, we already do. All the votes are there with their DeletionDate field set to a date value. The exploits have to do with the ability to undo, period. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 28 '09 at 12:44
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How so? Votes are anonymous. Bad guy still gains upvotes by downvoting another answers. He just wins a bit less, but still wins. Other people might think he has downvoted them, but they cannot be sure, only backend people can tell for sure (either via the trail or via the permanent record.) Period! –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 14:07
    
Vinko, get back to me when you've actually tried this tactic with the new time limit. It's quite severe. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 29 '09 at 9:26
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Jeff, Do you as moderator have the opportunity to investigate and locate these patterns, so it is possible to find users that do this a lot? If so, you could maybe locate the users that seems to do this a lot, and ban them from the community. If not already there, create a reporting tool that points out suspicious patterns. –  awe Sep 21 '09 at 13:01
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The biggest hole I think is that if you have 2,000+ rep you can edit a post you downvoted, which counts as an edit, and then revert your vote. It's probably not hard to find some typo to ostensibly fix either.

There's another problem with this worth mentioning: when you first post or when you make an edit you have 5 minutes to make changes that don't count as an edit. That's a good thing. The problem is that if you downvote for a serious problem and that problem is fixed fairly quickly, by the time you see that you can't reverse your downvote because no edit has been triggered.

This is especially a problem if the window to change your mind has been narrowed greatly.

Has that been considered in this?

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This will make it even easier to find bad behavior - we never delete votes, only set a deletion date on the records. –  Jarrod Dixon Aug 28 '09 at 2:45
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I do think this is a loophole, but I think a lot of people in the community will get suspicious if it happens a lot. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 2:46
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I think it'd be hard to define suspicious activity for this. After all, I think there is a far greater likelihood of you answering a question where you also edit the question or other answers. –  cletus Aug 28 '09 at 3:22
    
that makes it quite a bit more work, multiple form submissions, versus the "just a few quick clicks" that we had before. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 28 '09 at 6:35
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Then what exactly narrowing the window solves? If you have a trail of undos you can havve the voting pattern algorithm use the trail, can't you? –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 11:35
    
@Vinko: Narrowing the window is what makes it more work for the exploiter. Instead of just clicking everyone down, then coming back and clicking everyone back up later, now they have to go in and edit every answer they downvoted in order to reclaim the votes. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 11:49
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@Bill: If they have a trail they can program a detection algorithm that would detect this behavior just as well as they can now, which is what makes the narrowing worth it. Because a single point (or even ten) makes the gamble valuable to bad guy. The cost is not a deterrent, the chance of being caught is. The chance of being caught (should be) is the same given that you have a trail. –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 12:00
    
@Vinko: I mostly agree. I agree the cost in points is negligible, a non-issue to an exploiter. The cost in time will be a deterrent to a lot of people. Having to edit a bunch of answers so I can reclaim one point isn't worth the effort. To the most determined exploiters, only the risk of getting caught will be a deterrent (and that, not always). I'm still hoping for a clarification from a dev on the audit trail. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 28 '09 at 12:13
    
@Bill: Seems like Jeff thinks that community policing will be enough. If downvoters cannot hide behind an undo it will be evident to the rest who can then flag or denounce. Seems like the trail does exist but is not used in this manner. –  John the Seagull Aug 28 '09 at 14:25
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