In the current rendering, the exact reputation of <10k users is clearly visible on the mass listings. This allows a centralized/distributed downvote detection, which in turn is in conflict with the site's concept of the ability of casting anonymous down votes on non-Wiki posts.


I have sent a direct mail to the team to evaluate this minor issue (thanks Shog9).

update 2

Changed the title based on the conversation with the team.

I reported this minor 'trouble', because I want to avoid any unethical behavior of my frontend users, and especially unwanted bans due they try it anyway. The obvious technical solution is to round the displayed reputation value to the 10s. The social solution is beyond my expertise.

  • @Somebody: -1, care to express your opinion on this Wiki post? – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:56
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    Voted down because it was Community Wiki for what appears to be no logical reason. – TheTXI Aug 9 '09 at 19:38
  • Thanks TheTXI for the explanation. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 19:45
  • It's interesting that you'd want to prevent this, given that "Infer who downvoted a post with some heuristics (scientific challenge ;)" is one of your "planned features" for your SO app: code.google.com/p/open-so-frontend – Kyle Cronin Aug 9 '09 at 20:15
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    It's also worth noting that his IP has been banned from SO. – Ian Elliott Aug 9 '09 at 20:46


Correct me if i'm wrong, but wouldn't you need to be watching a specific user and a specific post fairly closely to have even a little confidence in your assumption that the user had downvoted the post?

Regardless, the accusations i've seen appear to be based less on detailed analysis and more on gut feeling - "you commented on my answer / posted your own answer / edited something, therefore you must have down-voted me. Admit it!!!"

  • You brought me into a hard position. I don't want to expose the way here, but if you are curious, I can PM you the details. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:10
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    1. How the hell are you going to PM anybody? 2. Why are you being so frigging cryptic? 3. I blame all of my downvotes on Shog. – Eric Aug 9 '09 at 18:18
  • @Eric: I know a way to detect PM contact addresses on this site ;) My wagueness is intentional, I don't want to give ideas until this question gets cleared. My PM offer is still open to you too. Do you want to know the details? – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:24
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    pauses from down-voting Eric to reply: @kd304: msg the SO Team, ask for their opinion on your technique. If they see it as a problem, they can take steps to fix it; if they don't then make it public and we can discuss it. – Shog9 Aug 9 '09 at 18:24
  • It's not that evil bug I should run instantly to the team. Reporting it this way is the standard. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:26
  • @kd: As Shog said, send it to team@stackoverflow.com. If they deem it, "no a big frigging deal," then post it here. Also, vague and cryptic hints are definitely not the standard way of reporting possible bugs. – Eric Aug 9 '09 at 18:30
  • I'd prefer to discuss it openly then. But, if you have any reservations as to the wisdom of disclosing it here, ask the SO Team - that's just being polite. – Shog9 Aug 9 '09 at 18:31
  • Okay. I'll do it, but I think I already gave too much information on the technique. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:31
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    @Shog9: I've done it. Thanks. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 18:38

I know what 'method' you're speaking of, which is simply watching for changes in reputation. I don't feel there's anything wrong with discussing this publicly, because IMO it's not really a flaw, since when you try to put this into practice you will always fail.

There's over 130k users on SO, user listings are 35 users per page, leaving at least 3700 pages (take out pages with users < 100 rep and there's still a ton). Now crawl those pages by the second to ensure that a specific down-vote corresponds to a specific user. Moving into the realm of minutes you can only prove that 'these 10 users down-voted', but can't narrow it down to the specific post.

Now this master plan seems infinitely devious until you realize that you'll get banned as soon as you even attempt to crawl all these pages. Crawling them in a reasonable time is absolutely impossible. If someone really wants to find out who down-voted them it's theoretically possible, but not technically. Do you want to spend this much time finding out who took 2 rep from you? If so, then by all means try, but then send an email over to team@stackoverflow.com asking them to unban your IP.

  • I agree, let's wait for the team's response. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 19:02
  • After the response, I want to show you something ;) – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 19:05
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    Takes about a week for them to respond, by that time my interest in this thread will have already reached 0%, currently it's hovering around 1%. – Ian Elliott Aug 9 '09 at 19:07
  • It doesn't really bother me, I have the 2nd most down-votes on MSO. – Ian Elliott Aug 9 '09 at 19:20
  • I guess you understand my point now. It might bother somebody else. This is why I put this bug report on - to settle things peacefully. I have already proven my method works, therefore, I don't care anymore either. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 19:24
  • I never doubted it working in general, I just don't see a need for a fix, it's pretty targeted. – Ian Elliott Aug 9 '09 at 19:28
  • Ironically, if this detector shows that a person typically downvotes you without explanation, it is an excellent way of judging that person. I experienced this first handedly on SO where I got two separate downvotes on my recently opened bounty questions - looking at the two persons cleared all my doubts about their justification. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 19:35
  • @kd302: The only game-changing thing I can think of is that you've somehow gotten SO to spit out a huge number of users & reputations in 1 request. Either that or you can get a list of users with recently changed reps, but I think both situations are unlikely. I don't think anything else will enable you to determine the downvoter without a massive amount of traffic looking for any changes in users' rep. – Kyle Cronin Aug 9 '09 at 20:11
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    ...and yes, I did just subtract 2 from your username. consider it a downvote ;-) – Kyle Cronin Aug 9 '09 at 20:13
  • Yes, downvoting my name has more reason than downvoting the bug report I guess. – akarnokd Aug 9 '09 at 21:08
  • @kd304: It was a typo, but I thought of a funny comment to justify it so I left it. Don't read any more into it. – Kyle Cronin Aug 10 '09 at 3:13
  • "theoretically possible, but not technically" - actually it's easy and similar to how neutrinos can be detected. – akarnokd Aug 10 '09 at 6:43
  • No, you got banned for doing it, and this will always be the outcome if someone tries this. – Ian Elliott Aug 10 '09 at 14:57
  • If I was auto-banned for this. I tested lots of things on that day, not just the detector, and the days before too. Maybe, on that particular day, everything has come together to get me banned. Still, if I'm not greedy, the detector works nicely. – akarnokd Aug 11 '09 at 13:08
  • "I experienced this first handedly on SO where I got two separate downvotes on my recently opened bounty questions - looking at the two persons cleared all my doubts about their justification." I guess my response to this is: what good did this do you? – beska May 13 '10 at 13:07

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