56

I spent some time trying to help the OP on this question this morning. He evidently didn't like my answer, and gave me a downvote. How do I know? Well, when I deleted my answer, his rep immediately went back up by 1.

Now, I don't much care about the particulars of this question/answer (or my rep), but it seems to me that this is a potentially significant hole in maintaining the anonymity of voting. Obviously, this hole has only been possible recently -- ever since rep changes have become reflected instantly.

Also, this question is very similar, but doesn't take into account the ramifications of the insta-changes to rep that led to this scenario.

Should this be considered a bug?

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  • 8
    Hey, interesting find! I guess this is now possible because the rep recalc is instant (if I understood the changes right)
    – Pekka
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 18:33
  • 1
    What reasonable way is there to "fix" this?
    – Zelda
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 18:38
  • 25
    I noticed this a couple of weeks ago and kind of shrugged. Unless you've got everyone's rep memorized, if your suspicions about who downvoted you are wrong, you'll be watching the wrong user and you'll miss the change.
    – jscs
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 18:38
  • 1
    There have always been loopholes like this, so personally I don't think this new version is anything special. With that said, I've seen things get nasty when they're exploited. It would be nice if there were some way to avoid this entirely, but it would probably involve rep update delays on all rep-related actions, which I don't expect to happen.
    – user154510
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 18:48
  • @Ben, whoops, you're right. Assumed without thinking.
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 18:51
  • 2
    (By the way, if you'd undeleted that answer before posting to Meta, you'd probably have a few upvotes by now. /me taps side of nose)
    – jscs
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 19:04
  • @BenBrocka - upvotes are only kept if the post score is 3+ and over 60 days old.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 20:14
  • 1
    O.k. the OP got 6 downvotes, are you happy now? :)
    – user173320
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:18
  • @Ben where did anyone mention up-votes? The question above is talking about a down-vote that gets reversed because the answer was deleted. If I down-vote an answer, I lose -1, if that person wisely deletes their answer, I gain +1. If that person is watching closely (e.g. I might be on their radar because I commented on why I down-voted), they could see that I was the one who down-voted. While I am personally against anonymous down-voting in the first place, I do appreciate that it is valuable to a lot of people, and this can threaten that anonymity to some degree.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:54
  • 1
    @AaronBertrand upvotes were included in the original title
    – Zelda
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:56
  • 1
    Ok, sorry guys, I do not typically review the entire revision history of a question before commenting. Will try to do that in the future. :-)
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:57

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it is a loophole of sorts - but it requires that you

  1. Already suspect a user or users of down-voting you
  2. Assume that nothing else is going on that might affect their reputation

You can strengthen #2 considerably by deleting and undeleting repeatedly - however, this also requires you to be able to predict when the recalc will take place. It isn't actually instantaneous (yes, reputation is kept mostly up-to-date, but the recalc that happens in response to post deletion is queued and executed after the deletion, usually several minutes later). And this unpredictability could probably be increased if necessary - IMHO, simply adding a bit more uncertainty into the system with respect to timing would probably suffice to make this a non-issue. As yoda notes, there are already ways to accumulate evidence of down-voting if you have someone specific in mind.

That said, this does bother me a bit. A dedicated user with a vendetta could confirm his target much more readily now than in the past. We'll want to keep an eye on it.

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  • 1
    Thanks, terrific analysis.
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 19:19
  • 8
    The question this brings to my mind is whether the last digit of rep is significant and could be dropped. Is there really a difference between a rep of 815, 811, and 819? Obviously, this would be a huge change that I don't think this loophole would justify. I just remember as a teacher grading homework on a 10-point scale to avoid meaningless debates over what was a two-point mistake vs. a one-point mistake.
    – JohnMcG
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 19:37
  • @John: well, 811 is a magical number, so you'd always want to display that... ;-P But yeah, an interesting idea. Note that this already happens in a lot of places once you have a few thousand points.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 19:52
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    Ah, we don't call them dedicated users with a vendetta anymore, we call them moderators now.
    – yannis
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 19:55
  • 1
    You could always automate the watching with a few API calls too - watch everyone who comments on or also answers the questions you answer and you'd probably spot a good chunk of the downvoters.
    – Flexo
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:06
  • 2
    I agree, I was thinking that a sufficient delay instead of instant gratification could offset this quite a bit.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:55
  • I cannot find yoda anywhere in the question's comments. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 9:39
  • 1
    @fedorqui It was not a comment but a now deleted answer: i.sstatic.net/VuvnR.png
    – rene
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:41
  • Randomized fuzzying of rep by a couple points when displayed on site a la reddit would probably be just as effective against the type of people who would actually do this. Then again, the actual consequences of a few of people using rep to add some vague evidence to their already existing "suspicions" aren't exactly dire.
    – Jason C
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:15
17

Now this is interesting to me...

I happened to get a random downvote shortly after you posted this, and decided I'd spend a minute looking into this loophole again. I identified a suspect and deleted the answer, then wandered over to that user's rep page, where I soon saw this:

enter image description here

which surprised me, because that seems to be lasting proof positive of a downvote.

However, I tried later to reproduce this effect by deleting the same post, and saw no such entry, so it seems that this was just a hiccup. It would definitely have been a bug had it been reproducible.

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  • 6
    That shouldn't be there; you aren't supposed to see reputation from deleted posts on anyone else's profile, as far as I know.
    – mmyers
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 20:16
  • 7
    Can't reproduce this. If you're seeing it on your own profile after something you down-voted was deleted, that's by-design; you shouldn't see it on someone else's rep tab.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:01
  • @Shog9 I can see the rep tab of Jacques. +70 3 mins ago 7 events...
    – ajax333221
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:06
  • 2
    @ajax333221: yeah, you're able to see up-votes received, but you shouldn't be able to see down-votes (given or retracted).
    – Shog9
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 21:08
  • @Shog: It was definitely on the other person's rep page, with the name of the post on which I had recieved the vote. There's only one vote on that post. I undeleted it since I was just testing this loophole (and I don't think the vote was deserved). Would you like me to email the dirty details to team@?
    – jscs
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 6:04
  • @Shog: Well, I just tried it again, to be sure, with the same post, and I do not see the results I've reported here. I see no entry at all in the other user's rep page. This is as expected and as it should be. I guess it was just a hiccup.
    – jscs
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 6:09
  • Yeah, if you encounter this again, please send details (and screenshots, lots of screenshots) to team@. Thanks!
    – Shog9
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 7:12
  • Still, odd! I downvoted that very same post now (and will change that into an upvote after our little testing). Care to delete it again and peek into my profile?
    – Arjan
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:02
  • @Arjan: will do.
    – jscs
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:03
  • Ok, I see it's deleted but have not yet gotten my -1 back. That will take at most 5 minutes.
    – Arjan
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:05
  • Ok, I can see the removed now.
    – Arjan
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:07
  • @Arjan: I've got the 2 rep back, and I see no entry on your rep page. It seems this was really just a fluke. Going to undelete unless you'd like me to wait.
    – jscs
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:08
  • Nope, waiting doesn't seem it will help us :-) Next test: see if I can revoke my downvote due to your deleting/undeleting. If not, then I'll make a dummy edit.
    – Arjan
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:10
  • You checked both sorted by time and post, I assume?
    – Arjan
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:11
  • 4
    +1 for the testing documented in the above comments.
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 0:31

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