I've downvoted several of the answers on these Meta discussions:

Both questions are typical self evaluations, Stack Exchange runs them on all young Beta sites and as you may have noticed they are essentially polls, a series of example questions from the site that we are supposed to vote on.

Today I noticed that almost all of my votes have disappeared on both evaluations, only an upvote remains in the later one. My votes triggered the serial voting script, something that I had anticipated:

Heh, it appears I just serially downvoted you (I downvoted a lot of the answers here), hopefully the script is smart enough to not reverse my votes. Will check back in 24h, and if it does, I'll rant about it on MSO ;)

My voting behaviour on both evaluations was very simple:

  • I had the evaluation open in the left monitor,
  • Opened all the example questions in their own tab, in the right monitor,
  • Scanned each question quickly, and voted on the Meta answer (most of my votes were downvotes),
  • Repeat for the next one, and so on...

I didn't spend more than a few seconds on any question, as I'm fairly regular on the site and I've already read all of them while casually browsing the site. In fact, if my memory isn't failing me, I had voted (up/down) and/or commented, and/or voted to close on each of the 20 example questions. I might have spend a minute or two re-reading a couple, but I mostly scanned through them. In any case I think my voting pattern is quite normal, and the script should be somehow tweaked to take serial posts, posted by the same user in quick succession, into consideration, especially on Metas.

Since I had anticipated that the script would kick in, I could have tried to fool it by pausing a bit between votes or trying to look for other Meta posts to vote on, in between voting on the evaluation answers. However I'm a very active voter on Meta Workplace, there aren't many posts I haven't already voted on, and the few that I haven't is probably because I neither agree or disagree with (my opinion on them is simply "meh"). In any case I think my voting behaviour was natural, and although the serial voting script is awesome, this time it caught and reversed a perfectly legitimate behaviour.

Animuson, in a comment, mentions that the script isn't really optimal on Area51 as well:

Yes, please implement this on Area 51 proposals too! Oftentimes a single user would suggest a plethora of "example" questions to their own proposal which are just terrible, yet all of everyone's votes get reversed and the question just sits there at 0. I've noticed several times that my votes have gotten reversed.

I haven't noticed it myself, but it certainly seems plausible, especially early in a proposal's life.

Mysticial found a related discussion, "Should this be picked up by the vote fraud detecting algorithm?", but it's focused on voting patterns on main sites, where reputation is also a factor. I can understand jumping through hoops to satisfy the script on main sites where, unfortunately, there are a lot of people trying to get some cheap rep or "punish" others with their downvotes, but not on Metas, and especially not on these evaluation posts.

Voting fraud is a problem, and more often than not the script works wonderfully, but in my case it was extremely counterproductive. Critical evaluations are essential for a young Beta site, and their answers typically only get a handful of votes. I wonder how many of these votes have silently gone away...

Fix this please.

  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/131710/…
    – Mysticial
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 7:58
  • 14
    Maybe adding the option for moderator to protect a specific question (and its posts) from being monitored by the serial voting hunter bot? Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:08
  • 1
    @ShaWizDowArd That would be a good idea, but perhaps it should be a SE employee not a moderator. We are awesome, but... Well.. Everyone's allowed to have a bad day, right?
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:10
  • Hmm.. do they have different control panel? "Developer tools"? Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:10
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    And I've just became a "trusted user" on MSO by admitting I serially downvoted! AWESOME! ;P
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:30
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    haha! I always knew you had it in you, @Yannis! Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:53
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    I have this crazy idea. Why does the script have to run at all on meta sites where reputation does not matter? I know, I know, serial voting can also affect a couple badges — but again, does anybody even care about badges on those metas? I know I don't.
    – ЯegDwight
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:58
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    @AndrewBarber Heh, although MSO rep is... silly, I had completely forgotten that the name of the 20K privilege was "trusted user", and it's delightfully ironic that I got it with this question ;)
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 9:05
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    Actually this was most likely triggered by the "Invalidate any votes that disagree with us" script. Wait, I'm being told that's not live yet. We're discussing your point, as what happened here obviously isn't what's intended.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:15
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    This problem could be solved by an automatic ban of anyone who posts more than two answers to a question.
    – mmyers
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:29
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    @mmyers If that means I don't have to keep fighting captcha to post these evaluations, I'm in!
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 15:32
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    @hims056 Well, the original version was ranty (on purpose, I had promised a rant after all), but it didn't really need to be. I only changed the tone though, the core question is the same.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 6:26
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    – blahdiblah
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 6:36
  • 6
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 6:45
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    This is also an issue for tag rename requests or other janitorial work coordinated it meta posts. I think @MadSientist's suggestion that multiple replies to single posts should be excluded from the filters would allow us to go on abusing the QnA format in the grand tradition of meta to conduct discussions and coordinate site related housekeeping.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 12:32

5 Answers 5


The script should simply count multiple votes on posts of the same question as one, no matter how many are voted on. It is natural behaviour to read through a question and its answers and potentially vote on all of those posts.

For example, voting on both a question and a self-answer to it is something the script shouldn't regard as serial voting, you are still voting on the same page. Or if a user posts multiple answers to the same question, voting on all of them is again legitimate voting behaviour.

Serial voting is about deliberately seeking out posts from a specific user and voting on them, so multiple votes on the same page should not count towards it. In most common cases this just doesn't make much of a difference, but the evaluation posts highlight this weakness of the script.

  • 13
    Simple & straightforward solution, exactly what I was looking for, thanks!
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 8:55
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    Yes, please implement this on Area 51 proposals too! Oftentimes a single user would suggest a plethora of "example" questions to their own proposal which are just terrible, yet all of everyone's votes get reversed and the question just sits there at 0. I've noticed several times that my votes have gotten reversed. -.-
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 12:51
  • @animuson now that you work at SE are you going to bring that up internally? Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:36

Metas should be excluded from the serial-vote-hunting script. Votes on meta signal agreement/disagreement and don't affect rep (except MSE). Therefore the voting pattern is legitimate and does no harm, while running the script does do harm in certain cases.

MSE may be a special case, but we should stop running the script on the other meta sites.

  • That point was raised in the comments to the question, did you by any chance read my response to it?
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:05
  • 1
    I did see that, and thought the idea was important enough to bring out in an answer that can be voted. I am having trouble understanding your response; do you think that people do person-based voting on metas and that removing the script would encourage that behavior? Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:09
  • Yes, that's exactly what I think ;)
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:12
  • I wonder how often that happens. (Aside from the evaluation questions that led to this post, I mean.) Do we know how often suspicious voting patterns are identified on metas? I haven't noticed it but I wouldn't necessarily. Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:14
  • I know how often suspicions voting patterns are identified on Meta Programmers (I'm a moderator there), but I can't really disclose that information. I wouldn't say it's a serious problem, but I wouldn't completely dismiss it either.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:15
  • I'm a mod on Mi Yodeya so I can, similarly, look there but not disclose. For the data you see, do you believe that the harm done by the serial downvoting exceeds the harm done by removing suspicious votes that aren't really serial downvoting (but look like it due do different usage patterns on metas)? Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:20
  • I honestly don't know. I just think that going through a user's profile and voting on their posts is... fishy, and we should discourage it. But whether the script is more harmful than useful on Metas, I wouldn't know, I need a lot more data than I currently have.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:28
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    I disagree, there can also be serial downvoting on meta and such voting behaviour is harmful as it distorts the post scores which influence policy decisions. Going through a user profile and just voting based on the user identity is harmful on meta sites as well. Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 16:36
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    @YannisRizos: Every so often I will go to Eric Lippert's (a principal developer on the MS C# compiler) profile to read some answers he's written lately, whether to learn more about C#, or just to give me something to read. Eric rarely writes posts that are not worthy of an up-vote. Are you suggesting that going to Eric's profile and voting on some of his posts is fishy? Or is it only fishy if I down-vote?
    – Gabe
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 5:34
  • @Gabe Funny you should mention it, Eric Lippert always pops up in our (mod only) suspicious voting patterns page on Programmers, lots of fans around sending him tons of upvotes ;) Ideally you should discover Eric's posts naturally by following the c#, .net and clr tags, but this is more of an edge case, I don't think anyone's ever going to accuse Eric of being the ringleader of a voting ring. BTW I used fishy in the sense that there might be something wrong going on, vote fraud is always examined per case.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 6:14

I find it hard to believe that it's so difficult for the script to detect and ignore a legitimate poll. After all, it's a simple combination of 1) question being posted at meta and 2) having two or more self-answers.

Anyway, while script is that dumb, a workaround for this issue is to supplement poll with counter-vote answer(s), containing instruction for voters explaining its purpose:

If you voted only up (or only down), use this answer to cast an opposite vote. This way will prevent your votes from being reversed by the script that may mistakenly assume serial voting here.

From what I know about script, one counter-vote post can serve up to 5 or even 10 poll items (assuming that voter wasn't trapped before - script has a "memory" and gets stricter if past reversals are discovered).


Yes, please fix it!

This is the problem not only for voters, but also for the users like me who post many feedback-answers on a announcement-type question.

On the recent announcement about the new design of profile page, I posted 17 answers. Yesterday, a user seemed to be voting for the requests he liked and also voted for 4 of my 17 answers. Today I had a reversal and hence lost 40 rep and therefore rep capped at just 160 :(

Pretty please, make this reversing script more clever.

  • That person was probably me. I wasn't thinking about possible serial voting at all. Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 23:04
  • @Jeffrey You still could vote on multiple suggestions, as did many users. But other users make a minute or at least a half-minute delay when doing so, or even better, different delays, while you are voting too fast :D
    – nicael
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 6:08

While this is certainly a problem with how our current evaluations are set up... I'd say that this behaviour is more a side-effect of the fact that we're abusing meta to run these evals rather than a defect in the vote fraud detection. This is a very, very narrow edge case. Aside from these evaluations, I can't think of a legitimate case for one person to post a lot of answers to the same question.

On a main site, it's likely that if a person posts multiple answers that they are (or at least should) offer some sort of a different perspective, so legitimately serially upvoting all of them wouldn't make a lot of sense. In a way, the vote pattern analysis already ignores votes done on the question and its answers since the answers are from different people.

On a meta site, even for a question that's basically a poll, it is better to allow the community to post answers instead of having the same person prepare the question and the possible responses. The latter tends to stifle community participation as people feel discouraged from weighing in with their opinions instead of just voting on the pre-set answers. This is harmful, especially if those opinions aren't already captured by the existing answers.

Even though meta posts (on SE 2.0 metas, at any rate) don't affect reputation, voting still carries meaning. Mad Scientist nailed it in this comment: targeting a user on meta isn't any more acceptable than targeting a user on a main site.

So all in all, we will not be making changes to make meta a special case or otherwise support these epic site evaluation hacks. Instead, we're looking at how we can use /review to make these site evaluations more useful, natural, and easy to do. Stay tuned for more details on that in the customary 6-8 weeks.

  • 23
    I fundamentally disagree. Voting on the same page is not serial voting. I agree that there is usually not a reason to post so many answers to the same question, and that is exactly the reason why I should be able to downvote every single one of those answers without my votes being reversed. Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 20:54
  • How about Area51?
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 21:27
  • 1
    @YannisRizos Oh yeah, forgot about that... I think that request makes sense. It should be posted separately, though, instead of lost in the comments here.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 21:44
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    @MadScientist It is still such a narrow edge case that it's not worth pursuing. Here's a SEDE query that lists all questions on Stack Overflow that have 3+ answers by the same user: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/82553. That's 2,000-ish questions out of 3,800,000+. Some of these predate the comment system, so the whole thing would benefit from a flag over voting. It is possible that somewhere in there are questions where you'd want to vote instead of flag, edit, or comment, but they're very rare. Bottom line is, if you vote on posts over users, you should never hit this.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 23:46
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    One possibly useful hack, post all answers then disassociate owner from them. Voila, all answers are from the community user and safe for an infinity of serial voting, forever. A meta only employee function to strip owner from all answers seems fairly safe to me. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 7:07
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    I can understand the argument that it is not worth fixing for this edge case, how you allocate your resources is the decision of SE and if you can find an easy workaround that is fine. And I think that having the script work on pages instead of posts is better and an elegant solution to both the evaluations and the Area 51 problem. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 8:41
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    @JeffAtwood I think we did that for evals once. Can't recall why it was only once, though. Something to revisit while /review is taking shape. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 14:00
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    @JeffAtwood That's a great idea and frankly better than all the hack-y workarounds we've considered to date. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 19:57
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    Please pretty please don't decline! meta.stackexchange.com/a/250404
    – nicael
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 21:42
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    This may warrant revisiting for non-StackOverflow sites. Today I found a serial down-vote reversal for a user who answered this question at LifeHacks 5 times.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 18:06

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