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It looks like this guy ran head-on into voting fraud without even knowing it. I don't get the impression that he was trying to harm anyone with this process.

What about a warning message that triggers after a person upvotes (or downvotes) the same person X times within Y time span (with X and Y being thresholds that are well below the limit that actually results in a vote fraud reversal)? Say, twice within 15 minutes?

Maybe display a warning pop-up that says:

Whoa, Camel! It looks like you're starting to perform serial voting on a particular user. Did you know that this isn't allowed?

I have little doubt that this guy would have stopped had he been (gently) warned. Perhaps others will stop, too.

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The downside is that you're also going to warn people who are voting maliciously and therefore will be able to adapt to the system and fly under the radar more easily. – Adam Lear Sep 9 '13 at 17:58
@AnnaLear The threshold for a warning can surely be a lot looser than and therefore not directly revealing of the voting fraud thresholds? – jball Sep 9 '13 at 18:00
Am I the only one stuck on the word camel? What attribute is being implied by that? Speed? Ignorance? If asked to describe a camel I don't know what I'd come up with ;) – WendiKidd Sep 9 '13 at 18:00
@WendiKidd That's a Yosemite Sam expression. If this is implemented, I'd expect they'd say something different. :) – John Sep 9 '13 at 18:01
@WendiKidd: – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 9 '13 at 18:02
@WendiKidd I'd reserve it for a user whose edits are frequent but not substantial: "Whoa camel, what's up with all the bumps?". – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 18:03
@jball So you downvote someone until you get the warning (because it triggers before the downvotes will get reverted). Then wait some time and do it again. Now you can serially downvote users and avoid having the script detect and revert it. – Troyen Sep 9 '13 at 18:03
@John We don't really want to be obsessing over voting that much. That way lies madness. Moderators don't have access to the precise voting info required to fully investigate vote fraud except in the most obvious of cases, and putting up more and more red flags on users wouldn't scale very well to larger sites. There are only so many hours in a day and so many mods. :) – Adam Lear Sep 9 '13 at 18:08
I don't think it would be adequate. It's just assuming that everything that triggers red alert is malicious. There are some great experts dominating smaller tags. For example. BalusC has provided the great number of answers to the questions I was googled, so it's quite probably a new user, learning JSF, would have over a half of votes to him, without targeting him in any way. – Danubian Sailor Sep 9 '13 at 18:11
@ŁukaszLech Such cases are simple enough to see when a mod is investigating. The votes might be reversed, but such a case is rather unlikely to result in bans, since it really is natural voting. – Servy Sep 9 '13 at 18:15
The idea that warning every user that they are veering towards prohibited behavior patterns will overwhelmingly help malicious users seems both cynical and naive to me at the same time. A truly malicious user can already spade the system by watching former victim's reputation histories and is probably not overly deterred by the current obscurity. – jball Sep 9 '13 at 18:17
There are possibly a large number of semi-malicious users that, upon seeing a warning, will desist because they realize the system is watching them and they don't want to run afoul. And there are likely a number of non-malicious users that would like to know before they crossed the line too. – jball Sep 9 '13 at 18:17
I just got hit with a round of serial downvoting on SE not long after I posted my last question on Meta. It looks like they were doing a few at a time in the hopes of flying under the radar. So, why let people know exactly where the radar is set? If they're douchy enough to serial downvote, they're gonna do it any way they can. Once you let people know what that threshold is, it's gonna make it easier for them. – Johnny Bones Sep 9 '13 at 19:41
I would say rather put the warning limits above the actual limits. If the reversal script would be triggered after 3 votes, then don't warn until 7 votes. Since there's no true penalty for good actors, hat achieves the same effect in their case, while keeping the secret in the case of bad actors (who, as has already been noted, can probably work out the magic number easily enough anyways). – Josh Caswell Sep 9 '13 at 20:05
Perhaps warn after the reversal script hits them, the linked person seems to have been reverted many many times without realising it – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 20:15

I don't think this would be a good idea.

People innocently running afoul of this are actually fairly rare, and the auto-unvote system takes care of that. Such persons almost never do it again; it's usually a one-time thing when they find some fantastic single answer from someone and want to 'pay them back' for the help.

Unfortunately, any sort of warning here would serve to help those who do cheat, though. Even if the warning comes after they've triggered some super-sekrit system behind the scenes, some will go and revert some of the votes they just made 'just to be safe'.

We really don't want to give such people any indication at all what the thresholds might be here.

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There is already an indication: if a person suspects a reverse, they can observe their target's reputation. How much is actually revealed when we only tell them their votes were revealed? Cheaters can already obtain this kind of information. – Jan Dvorak Sep 9 '13 at 20:08
The numbers I chose in the question statement, I would think, would be far below the threshold. It would almost be as if we suspected that they were thinking about doing it -- it hardly gives any indication of what the real thresholds are. But in the end, I guess I just don't like seeing people without ill intent getting thumped here. There are so many protocols on this site now that it's easy to be ignorant of some of them, and although ignorance is no excuse, I don't see what's gained by being Draconian about it. That guy probably feels about 3" tall now. – John Sep 9 '13 at 21:49
@John: There's a difference between getting your upvotes reversed once and seeing them reversed multiple times, then going on Meta to proudly tell everyone how you're going to keep doing it until you're banned. – David Robinson Sep 10 '13 at 0:20
Wow, I didn't even come close to reading that post carefully. That's a really bad habit of mine ... Yeah, never mind, I'm speaking completely out of turn. – John Sep 10 '13 at 16:17

I'll just state that it should be obvious to any user that targeting a specific user and up/downvote their posts without regard for their actual content is a misuse of the voting system. There is no need for any warnings here, common sense should be enough.

Of course there are corner cases, the most common is when a user acquires a fan. A new user encountering Jon Skeet for the first time might look through all the top answers from him and upvote them. This is not malicious behaviour, but it will be reverted by the script. But that is not a problem at all, the script takes care of it and no moderator has to be involved. The user also won't be punished, moderators judge each case individually and such benign serial voting is rather easy to detect.

The biggest argument against any warning is that this is likely to make the job of the moderators a lot harder. Such a warning would encourage and remind users to spread out their votes, and to avoid the automatic script. Vote fraud and serial voting is easier to deal with if it is rather blatant, so this would make it harder for the moderators. It still would not allow users to serial vote without being detected, the script is just the first line of defense and there are other ways this is detected and dealt with. But the script is the least amount of effort, and all other methods require significant work from either the moderators or the SE team, as they have full access to vote data.

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Yes, well, "common sense" isn't so common. – Al E. Sep 9 '13 at 19:48
@AlEverett I didn't mean that all users here have enough common sense to avoid serial voting (that would be clearly wrong), but I don't see any need to add a feature targeted specifically to users without any common sense. – Mad Scientist Sep 9 '13 at 19:49

Simple answer: no.

There are some triggers that are meant to be preventative, such as the yard signs warning thoughtful villains that the premises is being monitored via a burglar alarm.

Then there are the triggers which are actually meant to catch the person rather than warn them off, such as speed traps.

The serial voting trigger is meant to be the latter, not the former.

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In most places that I've been to, there are warnings that accompany (and precede) speed traps: "Speed Limit" signs and often "Speed enforced by {radar|aircraft|camera|other}". The point of these (and, I would argue, the trap itself) is to deter speeding, because it's dangerous. – Josh Caswell Sep 9 '13 at 20:19
@JoshCaswell which looks actively counterproductive to me. – Jan Dvorak Sep 9 '13 at 20:21
@JanDvorak: Sorry, which bit is counterproductive? – Josh Caswell Sep 9 '13 at 20:23
@JoshCaswell It may achieve reducing the speed on the measured segments, but I presume people will drive even more recklessly on the roads that are not measured. A few unwarned about speed traps, and drivers should slow down globally (which is desired). – Jan Dvorak Sep 9 '13 at 20:27
@JoshCaswell - There are general warnings about speed traps and we all know they exist, but the point is that individual drivers are not warned about their excessive speed, which is why radar detectors are illegal in many (most?) US states. The deterrance would be ineffective if users knew exactly when to "break" to avoid being caught. For example, a disgruntled user could easily downvote their target up until the warning. – JDB Sep 9 '13 at 20:34
Slightly to the aside, but as it turns out, a pretty good measure for controlling a person's speed is telling them how fast they're going (although, like anything else, this too can be hacked). – Hannele Sep 9 '13 at 20:45
Really, the best response would be to have both the trap, and the preventative trigger. In this way, you can be sure that those who missed the trigger are those actively circumventing the measure. – Hannele Sep 9 '13 at 20:48
@Cybȫʁgϟ37 An interesting corner case. Perhaps, then, it would make sense to only display the warning some set number of times. – Hannele Sep 9 '13 at 20:52
@Hannele - Slightly to the aside, but there's a difference between an analogy and a tautology. – JDB Sep 9 '13 at 20:52

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