I just received a message from a moderator about my "unusual voting patterns".

I did downvote a lot of Aspiring Aqib's posts (yes, him again, I know it's the 3rd time that we've have a discussion about him this week), but I also justified every one of those downvotes in the comments (or upvoted the comment I would've left had somebody not left the comment first). Had the moderator read the posts, I have a feeling he would have realized the focus of my voting was indeed on the posts, and not the user (as he claims).

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Create a two languages Translator with mysql & php


Session, Cookies, Remember me working fine but

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What should I do when I come across someone who consistently leaves low quality answers? (you can look at his last answers, half of them have negative ratings* - and my downvotes are removed!) Should I not downvote them? That wasn't my understanding of the FAQ..

What should we do in such cases?

* I just counted - Of his last 30 answers, 11 are strictly negative, 12 are strictly positive and 7 are at 0 (and that doesn't include my removed downvotes - so I feel like that's a fair assessment of the quality of his answers).

7 Answers 7


If you actively went through the user's past posts and downvoted the bad ones, that does sound like a form of serial downvoting, even if well-intentioned (in that you felt the posts deserved a downvote, not that the user deserved a bunch of downvotes). That is going to raise eyebrows.

I note for example that at the time of this writing, you have only given a handful of other downvotes (8). Therefore, since a full 50% of your total downvotes (those removed) were imposed upon one user's answers, the audit scripts and moderators would rightfully identify it as an "unusual voting pattern".

You are right to downvote answers you find to be misleading, incorrect, and in general "not useful" (per the downvote button's title attribute) as you encounter them; that's the exact purpose of downvotes. If the downvotes occur in close succession, absent a comment on each of them explaining why the downvote was given, it is going to be difficult for a moderator to separate your actions from a more run-of-the-mill serial downvoting (the malicious kind).

And as you have done, bringing the issue to meta.SO is the right action to take if you think this was improperly handled.

  • 2
    As I said in my post, I did leave a comment (which are still there) on every single post I downvoted (or upvoted comment left by others). Except for one downvote (Session, Cookies, Remember me working fine but) (and you can check the comment I left there as to why I did that - it was in response to Create a two languages Translator with mysql & php), I did not even go downvote his past answers. It was all posted in the last couple of days and we hang around the same tags (C, HTML, JS, PHP) - check my question history and you'll see. I'm not sure what I should do in similar situation.
    – OneMore
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 1:49
  • @OneMore Then hopefully you'll get a good clarification from a SO moderator here Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 1:51
  • I just noticed your edit "If 50% of your total downvotes were imposed upon one [...], the mods would rightfully identify it as an unusual voting pattern. I think you're probably right that this is what set them off. But as you said, I haven't given a lot of downvotes in the past, so I am not sure that 8 downvotes/16 (that would be 50% - and that's about the numbers according to my comment history) is really unusual. I understand it would have sent an automatic report because technically, it's 50%, but I feel like a human review would have discarded that report (sp. with the comments I left).
    – OneMore
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 2:04

Flag one of the questionable posts for moderator attention, select 'other' and let us know what's going on. Don't down vote the posts in rapid (or slow) succession, because:

  1. That's focusing a little too much on the user
  2. Your votes will likely be automatically reversed, as an algorithm can't tell if you have the best intentions at heart
  3. It's darn hard for us human beings to tell the same

We can and will place a user in a short timed suspension (or at least have a chat with them) if they seem to be producing nothing but poor quality, or consistently creating disruptions with their posts. As far as quality goes, here's the bottom three layers:

---------- (Acceptable, but not spectacular)
---------- (Not really acceptable, but less likely to incur an automatic ban)
---------- (Unacceptable, hai why u bloked me from axkin qwestunz reply me asap!)

We handle those that fall in the middle, though its exceedingly rare for us to need to do so these days. Please, let us deal with it. We don't take action on posts that are just wrong, but we do get involved if disruptive patterns begin to emerge. It's our discretion, however - a lack of action on our part isn't an indicator that you should try something else.

Additionally, in the future, it's better if you don't directly identify a user in a question unless you absolutely have to. Doing so is known to cause a large 'pile on' which isn't productive for anyone and leaves an even bigger mess to clean up.

  • 3
    "3. It's darn hard for us human beings to tell the same" Don't look at me. The rainbows and sparkles are behind me, not on my face. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 11:40
  • Hate to revive a 10 year old question, but it's a direct dup of my current one. I assume this would still be the advice today? And is there any downside to flagging it if the mods ultimately conclude that the answers are all fine? Unless the mods really know the subject matter the first "layer" will almost certainly be the conclusion. The answers aren't attrocious on their face but when you dig in it's clear they're generally not responsive or often just wrong. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 20:41
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    @PeterMoore Generally, I think it still applies. It's probably more important than ever to try and summarize the root of the problem in the first 10 words when you do. If it's going to take the mod a few minutes before they see what you saw, tell them that up front - optimize for someone smart going through an endless queue. There's no problem with how many you flag in good faith, but flags may not be seen in order so .. try to make them self-contained, as much as possible.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 17:41

If answers are bad then of course you should down vote them.

However, going through a person's posts systematically seems like you are picking on them and may even trigger the scripts to prevent serial voting.

Just remember to comment in order to help the user improve! If that fails then I definitely think you should involve a mod.


You should downvote any answer that you feel is not correct or misleading. None of the answers look low-quality enough to flag for removal, so down-voting is definitely the correct approach here. The message you got is most likely a false-positive for serial downvoting.

Think about leaving a comment to the user explaining why he/she's wrong as well, so that he/she can improve the answers.

  • And I did (or upvoted a comment already left by someone else). On every single post I downvoted.
    – OneMore
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 1:46
  • 1
    Well then you're doing the right thing. I'm sure the message you got is a false-positive. Posting about it on meta is the right thing to do. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 1:47
  • Are they automatic messages? I did reply back to the moderator for more information and I'm waiting for an answer.
    – OneMore
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 1:51
  • @OneMore: I believe they're automatic messages. See this meta post for more info about serial voting: meta.stackexchange.com/q/126829/153691 Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 2:02
  • is there answer ban like we are not accepting answer form this account anymore ? Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 5:42
  • @NullPointer yes. It is less common but it exists Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 8:28
  • @NullPointer but if you are asking in relation to this user, probably a ways away from triggering it given his rep. But just a guess since no one really knows the criteria Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 8:34
  • @psubsee2003 i am not asking for a particular user just curious to know Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 8:35

What to do when a user consistently leaves low quality answer?

Don't do anything special The community is already clearly marking it accurately for future visitors.

You've already also found out that the only sensible thing downvoting answers that are wrong won't work because of the counter measures for revenge downvoting and sockpuppets.

Flagging answers that are acceptable answers seems like a waste of moderator's time.

It's worth noting that this user isn't even all that special since he's ranked in the 2000's on each of these Anti-User leagues

  • Rep per post with an adjustment for bounties offered. I did that so that people who gave away a substantial part of their rep via bounties wouldn't be impacted. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 22:05

you should only vote on questions/answers you find organically. Using a users profile to locate questions/answers that are good or bad to up or down vote should not be done. Even if the scripts don't detect it, even if every vote is 100% justifiable on its own, it's still serial voting and should not be done.

Votes are about the question or answer being voted on, when you use a users profile page to mechanically go through a bunch of their posts you are making it about them and not the content. Even when you intentions are good this is bad behavior and you should avoid it.

  • 2
    From the various comments it appears that they hang around the same tags. However the OP does not down vote very often so now has half his lifetime down votes for one user over the last couple days.
    – Guvante
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 16:19
  • 1
    +1 because I agree with your very first sentence so strongly: Votes should happen organically. With the exception of extremely localized tags, voting organically is nearly impossible to even 'appear' to be 'serial' voting. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    -1 because many tags are not prominent and locating questions and answers via user pages is as good as other ways. (I do understand the sentiment, but I believe people should not adjust their browsing and voting habits unless they are repeatedly caught by the serial voting tests, or moderator queries.)
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 5:56
  • I should say I've +1ed other answers saying similar things; they're just emphasising it differently...
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 6:00

What should I do when a user consistently leaves low quality answers?

  • Bring it to a moderator's attention in a chat room.

This is not to suggest that downvoting or flagging answers is, in any way, inappropriate or inadequate for the problem. It's just that, in my experience, discussing low-quality answers or aberrant Stackexchange behavior with a moderator helps bring clarity to a situation.

After communicating via chat, it's likely that the user won't need to bring similar issues to a moderator's attention when they surface in the future. A downvote or flag will suffice.

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