In the infamous Six simple tips to get Stack Overflow reputation fast, some real bad advice was dished out in #2, Use Downvotes and Comments Strategically.

The thing that really annoyed me was:

If you can’t be the first to answer, it may help you to temporarily down-vote the top answer so that people will see yours first. Then you can cancel it when you’ve gained the advantage.

This behavior really annoys me, and it is anti-community. It's saying, it's OK to downvote something that is correct, just so you can gain an advantage.

  • Should this behavior be tolerated?
  • Is it vote fraud?
  • Should the system have built in measures to protect against it? What?
  • Thank you waffles! Strategic downvoting is very unfair and definitely anti-community. +1 Mar 11, 2019 at 1:25

5 Answers 5


I don't think the voting aspect is as big of an issue as some here are making it sound. You only get one vote - up or down - on any one answer, so there's a real hard limit to how much you can do.

I actually played with this idea back when the site was starting out and there was a much bigger window for retracting down-votes... and in my experience, it really doesn't work at all on real, technical questions unless you're duking it out with someone else who posted essentially the same answer and neither one of you edit your answers. At that point, whoever sorts first has the edge on incoming votes, so if you down-vote them you can get that edge and the associated votes. Of course, if they spend their time editing and improving their answer, you just end up looking pathetic.

On more subjective questions, you might get a bit more mileage out of it. Since there's no objective "right" answer, down-voting your way up the list can put your answer in the path of sympathetic eyes without any extra effort required.

Frankly, I don't see the point. If you're scraping rep from populist answers on subjective questions, you're already involved in a much bigger "rep scam" than any of these little vote games. And if you're answering technical questions, rest assured that it'll catch up with you eventually...

Now... The comment aspect is something else. I assume he's talking about bad-mouthing other people's answers; I haven't actually seen much, if any, of this, so I won't try to speculate further on its efficacy other than to suggest that again, sticking to Real Questions is probably a good way to avoid it.

  • +1, 2nd to last paragraph especially. As for the comment issue, I've had it happen to me. I had a "high level of abstraction" explanation for a question and I had 8 votes or so. Jon Skeet made a polite comment with a small technical caveat to my explanation, I quickly got about 7 downvotes and sunk to the bottom of the list. Of course, Jon Skeet is a special case as far as influence, and I don't think for a minute he was "gaming" (he had a legit point). But the point is, without a comment, I was getting votes rapidly for the same response.
    – TM.
    Sep 11, 2009 at 23:16

Should this behavior be tolerated?

Downvoting an answer you know is correct, so you gain a tactical advantage, should not be tolerated. (the ability to undo votes allowed some people to hide their tracks)

Is it vote fraud?


Should the system have built in measures to protect against it? What?

Recently implemented, vote locking, will make it a lot easier to track down these offenses.

  • 3
    No, vote locking will simply make it permanent. It will not let you track anything down. I have admittedly downvoted strategically a couple of times, but I always left the downvotes permanently. These "fixes" don't fix anything, only make legitimate vote changes impossible.
    – RomanSt
    Nov 6, 2009 at 0:05
  • 1
    Well, it's been a few years... Do you feel vote locking has helped in this regard?
    – Shog9
    Mar 21, 2012 at 22:22
  • @Shog9 I feel the way it works now is quite effective
    – waffles
    Mar 21, 2012 at 23:10

Agreed! I've suggested before that your down votes for threads in which you have an active post may need to get picked up by the odd voting pattern script. BUT, it is extremely difficult to tell if someone voted a thread down for strategic reasons or a valid reason.

Very slippery slope and one probably better left untouched at the end of the day...

  • 8
    "Very slipper slope and one probably better left untouched at the end of the day..." I think that's the important part.
    – jjnguy
    Aug 25, 2009 at 22:31
  • For the reasons I gave in @Eric's post, there are certainly valid reasons to down-vote other posts where you also provide an answer. But if a pattern can be established, then maybe someone can take a closer look to see if serial down-voting was warranted or not. But I don't see how you could automate it in any reasonably correct fashion. Aug 25, 2009 at 22:51

People who need to game the system to get a few extra up-votes on a whose-link-is-better thread are not going to get a high rep anyway. You might see a short term bump this way, but the only way to consistently stay ahead (or even) with rep inflation is to make solid contributions to the community over time. (There are some aberrations to this as noted in Please charge rep for questions after threshold, but I think for the most part, it holds).


It's entirely vote fraud, and should be treated as such.

I say the system nullify two or more downvotes on answers to a question you've answered.

Also, I say we kill them with fire.

  • 1
  • 9
    Disagree. People may be more prone to downvote incorrect answers to questions they answer. Please don't nullify downvotes to incorrect answers.
    – jjnguy
    Aug 25, 2009 at 22:35
  • 6
    Disagree, too. I've gone out of my way to answer questions specifically because the answers being given were simply wrong. I would down-vote the worst offenders and back up my convictions with my own answer. Hardly fraud. Aug 25, 2009 at 22:47
  • 1
    @jjnguy: By answering, don't you become an impartial observer? Reserving your downvote for 1 incorrect answer on a question is fine. You can always leave comments explaining why the approach is wrong.
    – Eric
    Aug 25, 2009 at 23:14
  • 2
    @Eric: If someone asks, "How do I compile my program from the command line?", you reply with instructions on how to invoke the compiler, and someone else replies with, FORMAT C: - then i think it's a safe bet that your objectivity isn't really a concern. The answer is obviously wrong, so go ahead and down-vote it. Heck, flag it abusive while you're there. If someone asks, "What's the best way to indent my code?", you reply "tabs!" and someone else responds "spaces!", then yes - you should probably avoid voting on their answer.
    – Shog9
    Aug 25, 2009 at 23:22
  • 1. I meant to say, "don't you cease to be an impartial observer." THat was my bad. 2. @Shog: You've missed the point completely. Downvoting an answer on a question you've answered is not vote fraud, and I've said that you need to allow one. The likelihood of somebody posting "waffles" as an answer and you being the only one around to downvote is very tiny, but even if so, you downvote the "waffles" answer and leave a comment explaining why the other answers are wrong and let the community take care of the voting.
    – Eric
    Aug 26, 2009 at 11:28

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