I appreciate that the logic used to identify serial downvotes is kept private and generally I could care less about my rep (considering it is funny-money afterall and I care even less on meta sites where it is even funnier-money) but I am curious. I've recently been a "victim" of what appears to be serial downvoting based on my response to this meta question (yes I realize that 2 downvotes generally probably aren't enough to trip the sensor) but it seems awfully coincidental that I leave a couple comments that could be seen as negative on a question and suddenly I receive 2 downvotes within seconds of each other.

Without exposing too much about the serial downvote sensor's inner-workings, would someone be able to help me justify this for my own peace of mind?

I understand that it is possible that 2 different people could downvote me at the same time (though not likely considering my limited number of questions and that they downvoted 2 questions that were generally upvoted).

Is it common practice to see serial downvoting on MSO as one would expect to see on SO?

  • 9
    They were technically 18 seconds apart, but yes, probably the same person. If you're asking if MSO users can be as mean as SO users -- oh yes. There's not much you can do about it though, 2 votes is way too low Apr 2, 2012 at 6:20
  • 4
    So what? Both downvoted questions are duplicates, both questions can be considered "meh"-like questions. Maybe that person did flip through your profile, and found that those questions are not useful? Voting is an instrument which needs to be utilized...but there's a difference between "flipping through ones profile and downvote things you find bad" and "downvote whatever you find". Apr 2, 2012 at 6:27
  • @MichaelMrozek - I must've misread the times (so very confusing if they aren't translated to local) my mistake. I guess I was under the impression that the natural way votes were interpreted on metas would mean that such behavior would be unnecessary/un-called-for (not that this isn't the case of the main sites, just less so). I have no problem with it if it is legitimate, but this behavior from a meta user probably signifies a bigger problem.
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:30
  • @Bobby - Agreed. As said in the question, I don't care about the loss in rep. I'm more curious about the possibility to identify serial downvoters based on their meta usage (if they serial downvote here where no one cares then do they do it when someone pointlessly cares?). Obviously, this problem is not a problem at all, though obviously serial downvoting is a problem or it wouldn't be auto corrected by the SE servers.
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:34
  • 1
    Now, you've got 2 upvotes for this question. That should make up for it. And yeah, it's amazing how sensitive people are when they come to Meta about downvotes, especially considering how likely they are to go on downvoting sprees themselves. I love to watch my scores tick down after I've said something condemnatory with regard to someone else's pet feature request. I even see the effects on my SO questions immediately following my actions on Meta. Apr 2, 2012 at 6:34
  • @TheEstablishment - It isn't about "making up for" the votes. That would have been done by a single one. I could care less about the rep (as previously stated), but I would guess that it provides a window into the more general problem (see my response to Bobby).
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:36
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    @M.Babcock: On MSO you can get votes pretty fast. SO is inundiated with questions, so your post won't get time in the limelight, but on MSO, we have tons of bored people and relatively fewer posts. I've gotten 10 downvotes within a span of 3 minutes. Apr 2, 2012 at 8:21
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    Two down-votes isn't a serial. It's a "two-parter". Or, "Down-vote 2: Electric Boogaloo"
    – Shog9
    Apr 2, 2012 at 13:12
  • Not constructive? Really? How does this question solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion? If it closes, oh well, but I'd hope for a better reason than that.
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 3, 2012 at 0:18

1 Answer 1


It's basically the same thing that we see on Stack Overflow. Someone stumbles into an answer you wrote and doesn't like it for whatever reason. Then, they look at your history and find a few other posts that they don't care for.

This behavior often isn't intended to be hostile, at least in my experience. Users just realize the importance of voting and feel as if they're doing some sort of civic duty. We typically just have to remind them that voting their way through another user's history is bad because they're focusing on an individual, not just content and quality.

In short, there are a few common mistakes that users make while the proverbial training wheels are still on the bike. This is one of them. Yes, I have caught a few people red handed when the intent was clearly revenge, but those have been very isolated cases.

When analyzing the behavior of others (especially on The Internet), Hanlon's Razor should be liberally applied:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

In this case it's often not stupidity, just a bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting to know the rather unique system that is Stack Exchange.

  • So the serial up/downvote autocorrections are primarily to prevent new users from themselves? Does MSO even do the autocorrections? I'm not really sure it makes sense because of the liberal nature of voting on MSO.
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:20
  • 2
    They prevent people from voting on individuals instead of content, for whatever reason. I just noted that many times, the intent was benign. Yes, I know that such systems do work differently on Meta, however I'm not sure of the 'tweaks' (only devs are).
    – user50049
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:24
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    Also note, when it comes to up voting, we're usually talking about sock puppetry or 'fans', which is an entirely different animal. Same pattern (just reversed), but still an entirely different animal.
    – user50049
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:26
  • Agreed about the sock puppet thing with one exception; if I go through all of Jon Skeet's or Eric Lippert's answers and upvote each of them that I benefited from I'd probably still hit the serial upvote sensor at least once. Unless of course there are exceptions for some of our exceptional members.
    – M.Babcock
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:29
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    That's why I mentioned 'fans', which does happen frequently. Those guys probably deserve those votes, but to the system - it looks like you're voting on the person, not just the content. It's very difficult for an algorithm to distinguish between benign and nefarious behavior when the pattern is basically the same. There's a starving kitten in a bank meowing in pain. One guy is breaking in to save the cat, the other one to steal the vault. But, they're both breaking in :)
    – user50049
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:35
  • 1
    This answer is "Politician-like" - it doesn't help to solve the problem. My opinion is that SO/SE team should be more strict to serial downvoters - it has means for that.
    – Tomas
    Apr 2, 2012 at 12:49

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