I've been utilizing Stack Overflow in different ways. Recently it's taken the form of finding a user and upvoting interesting answers to questions until they've received the Mortarboard badge.

My requirements for finding a user:

  • Must be active, e.g. appear on this list: https://stackoverflow.com/users
  • Must have at least 20 answers to questions.
  • Must not have the Mortarboard Badge (badge for obtaining 200 daily rep in a day).

My process for upvoting that user:

  1. Go through their answers to questions.
  2. Read a question. If the question is interesting, and the users answer to that question is valid & correct, I'll go ahead and upvote the user. Basically if I've learned something new, I give out my vote.
  3. Repeat the above until the user has received the badge.

Up until recently I didn't know my upvotes were being reverted. This is understandable as it isn't normal behavior - Maybe I'll pace out the +200 rep throughout the day... but that's not the point.

The main question is - what's the difference in using the site in this manner vs. browsing the "interesting" section of the website and doing the same thing? Why is this considered a bad thing? The questions:

Do not apply to this question. I know this is serial upvoting. I want to know why it isn't allowed is certain situations such as this.

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    That's serial upvoting. It's not permitted. – David Robinson Sep 9 '13 at 12:35
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    and I brighten some random person's day I've been serial upvoted by a stranger, and it didn't brighten my day at all, it just bothered me. I'd rather obtain rep because people found my individual answers well-written and useful, not because someone liked my profile picture. Besides which, how do you think the random person feels about then losing 200 rep the next day? – David Robinson Sep 9 '13 at 12:39
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    @DavidRobinson The question specifically states they only upvote good answers. – Martin Smith Sep 9 '13 at 12:40
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    @MartinSmith Somehow I doubt the validity of that statement (or the OP's evaluation of the content) if the system finds it happens quickly and often enough to automatically reverse it. – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 12:40
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    @Bart - Wouldn't that happen always if you upvote 20 answers by the same person on the same day? – Martin Smith Sep 9 '13 at 12:41
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    @RichardTingle Unless it is Jon Skeet? – hjpotter92 Sep 9 '13 at 12:42
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    One more point: you're depriving a user of the opportunity to earn the Mortarboard badge fairly. When they hit the rep cap because they had a very productive day with many good posts, they won't get the pride of getting the badge, because someone decided to get it for them as a sort of prank. – David Robinson Sep 9 '13 at 12:45
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    @DauhFhauc And the specific user bit is the problem. Why is this user more entitled to upvotes than any other? – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 12:48
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    @DauhFhauc And how do you suggest we go about distinguishing that from you blindly voting on a user's content to fraudulently give them a great amount of rep? – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 12:51
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    You think upvotes are a game. They are not, please don't use Stack Overflow as a playground. Facebook got many great games to help you kill some time. Good luck!! – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Sep 9 '13 at 12:52
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    @ShaWizDowArd - They are a game. The whole point is gamification. A different one from what the OP here is playing though. – Martin Smith Sep 9 '13 at 12:53
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    @ShaWizDowArd - I'm not sticking up for the OP's behaviour I just found the indignation that upvotes are a game amusing. – Martin Smith Sep 9 '13 at 12:57
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    Reputation is a game, voting isn't – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 13:00
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    You want to reward a good answer, it's easy, the system has something in place for you: open a bounty and select Reward existing answer. – brasofilo Sep 9 '13 at 13:05
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    @DavidRobinson he brightens some random person's day, and darkens the night... logical? ;) – Danubian Sailor Sep 9 '13 at 18:18

I'm sure this is not really brightening anyone's day.

Serial Upvoting Reversed

You're not doing that person any favors. Someone might look at that and think this person is guilty of vote fraud. Please stop voting this way, it's more annoying than anything else.

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    Just curious, can a moderator place a vote ban on user? Would be useful to stop vote trolls like the OP here... – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Sep 9 '13 at 12:55
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    Thanks for your answer. I've re-upvoted that persons questions once I realized they were no longer upvoted. I had to ask this question here to see what was up. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 12:56
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    @DauhFhauc Aaaand now they're going to be reversed again. Please stop unless you want a timed suspension for voting irregularities. – Doorknob Sep 9 '13 at 12:58
  • @Doorknob Well I realize that now, but thanks. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 12:59
  • @ShaWizDowArd No, we can't ban voting specifically. We'd have to suspend the account. – Bill the Lizard Sep 9 '13 at 13:17
  • @Doorknob voting irregularities, as far as I know, means gaming the system in a way that give yourself unjustified reputation, not to others. Would love to stand corrected though, especially in this specific case. :) – Shadow Wizard is Vaccinating Sep 9 '13 at 13:20
  • It's brighting the day, and darkening the night – Danubian Sailor Sep 9 '13 at 18:19
  • @ShaWizDowArd He's not really trolling, since it is not with the intent to cause annoyance (mens rea and all that). Which is not to say that he's right to continue the behaviour, just that it's not malicious in its intent. – Hannele Sep 9 '13 at 20:30
  • @sha We do watch for targeted voting, too... up or down. Usually those are cases of friends voting each other or revenge dv's, but... – Andrew Barber Sep 9 '13 at 21:17

Don't target users with votes. It's as simple as that. By all means feel free to vote for content you happen upon, but anything that looks like you targeting a user with votes (up or down) can land both you and the user you target in hot water. Don't do it. You'll cause more trouble than it's worth. Even if you mean well, and the votes are deserved, there is no real way of distinguishing that from you voting blindly to provide the user with a significant amount of rep.

And please don't go on upvoting sprees. We need downvotes as much we we need upvotes. If you're going to spend a considerable amount of time on the evaluation of content, vote up as well as down on content that qualifies for either vote.

As for the badge, that is status-by-design. Badges are not revoked once conditions for it are no longer met. They won't receive the badge again the next time they might qualify for it though.

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    incidentally, we try to be careful to recognize situations like this, and not punish the recipient, but sometimes we've accidentally misread things. Thankfully, those situations usually get fixed quickly. But my point: in trying to help someone, you could be harming them briefly, just as Bart noted here. – Andrew Barber Sep 9 '13 at 12:56
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    @AndrewBarber I didn't know I was harming anyone. I'll stop / give the upvotes out more sparingly. I just hate "wasting" upvotes. I know there is a set amount a day to dish out. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 12:58
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    @DauhFhauc And an insane amount of users deserving them. Spending all your votes isn't a problem. Targeting a single user is. – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 13:00
  • @Bart Yeah, I like the suggestion Tom gave in his answer. I'll seek out those users just on the edge and tip them over to hit 200 instead. More of a challenge anyway. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:04
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    Why @DauhFhauc? There is absolutely no need for that. Just be active on the site, look at questions that interest you, and vote on the content as you see fit. There is no need to seek anyone out. – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 13:05
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    @Dauh Or, you know, just vote normally – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 13:05
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    @Bart Why? It's a challenge. I am fairly active, and get bored. Why can't I seek out those edge cases where someone has 190 rep, visit their profile, and learn something from THEM vs. some other random person's answer? – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:08
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    That you can do @DauhFhauc. It's a pointless approach. But if it humours you and you don't target users in a way that can be taken to be fraudulent behaviour, they are your votes to do with as you please. – Bart Sep 9 '13 at 13:10
  • @Bart Thanks for the input. I'll tread lightly. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:13
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    Reversal high five! :) – Bill the Lizard Sep 9 '13 at 19:24

I'd like to take a moment to explain some of the reasoning behind why voting like this is generally discouraged, because I truly don't believe you have any malicious intent.

However, from the system's perspective behaviour like this is suspicious, and more often it's attempted by people trying to game the system. This includes activities such as: creating the so-called 'sockpuppet' accounts that exist only to upvote a single person's answers/questions, or getting together with a bunch of people to either upvote each other, or to gang-up on some other user.

This used to be a really big problem on Digg, which is why this is one behaviour that is detected and reversed on the Stack Exchange network. You might be able to find some happy number e.g. 2 or 3 votes per user that looks OK, but you would need to tread carefully because the algorithm for detecting stuff like this is purposefully mysterious and changed all the time.

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    Thanks for your answer. I'd upvote you, but as you can see my question is suffering a bit. =/ – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 12:52
  • It really does seem like an honest mistake, and I certainly understand the programmer's drive to hack the system :) In addition, people like to vote on Meta a little differently - they're expressing disagreement with the question, rather than its validity. – Hannele Sep 9 '13 at 12:58
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    @Dauh That and statements like "Basically, I'll continue to use SO in this manner till it's a bannable offense" suggest that only a massive freak out and many downvotes will stop you – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 13:17
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    @RichardTingle Considering I have mmm, about 0 reputation on this site, and 60-ish points on StackOverflow, I'd say that's not the case. I've recently been getting emails to my personal e-mail account (somehow) and THAT's where I draw the line. I've sent in a word to the moderators. Thanks. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:21
  • @DauhFhauc That is much much worse than a bit of unusual voting, I support your reporting to the moderators (although if its happening off site I'm not sure what they can do) – Richard Tingle Sep 9 '13 at 13:24

Stop right there! you are serial upvoting and it's not permitted.
The voting mechanism is a well tuned one and needs no further meddling with.

If you find interesting answers you like - by all means go ahead and up vote, but do not serial upvote!

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    @AndrewBarber I am stopping! I just didn't know how serious it really was among this community. – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:00
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    Thank you very much @Andrew :-). – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 9 '13 at 13:00

How do "badges" work?

What can cause a badge to be lost/revoked/taken away after it is awarded?

The Stack Exchange administration has stated repeatedly that "regular" badges never go away unless they were obtained by heinous cheating. Behavior that qualifies as "heinous" is defined by devs on a case-by-case basis, but here are some guidelines:

  • using a bunch of sockpuppets to upvote posts by your main account for Enlightened or Nice Question qualifies as "heinous"
  • downvoting something and then immediately undoing your downvote just so you get Critic for free is kinda dumb, but not "heinous"

Tag badges, on the other hand, disappear immediately if you ever cease to meet their criteria, which could happen through deletion or downvotes.

Regular badges, however, once earned are yours to keep. Even if the criteria by which you earned a badge have changed (the post was deleted, you got downvoted, etc.) you get to keep your badge. If you qualify for the same badge again (another post earns you a post-related badge, for example), you won't be penalized either (source).

It seems fairly likely to me that a bunch of Mortarboard badges artificially bestowed by a "charitable" user are going to be rolled back. If so, you're not making anyone's day brighter, and you're likely to get a timed suspension.

I recommend you stop.

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    I doubt anyone will spend time on revoking a bronze badge that's very easy to get anyway. It's closer to the "kinda dumb" example than using sockpuppets/botnets to get a badge. – ThiefMaster Sep 9 '13 at 18:07

Don't go on "voting sprees." The site likes people to get their votes in a "measured" way.

Sure, if someone has 170-180 points already, you might give him the last 20-30 for 200.

But don't go out of your way to give or "get" people badges. Even if you voted "honestly" for good answers (or questions), the pattern of a lot of votes in a short time looks suspicious, raises flags, and causes problems on the site.

If you honestly like someone's work, you can visit them repeatedly and give them a few votes each time. That does everyone more good in the long run.

  • I think I'll do this in the future, just sparingly give out my daily votes to multiple users to avoid this. I like the idea of catching users right on the brink to tip them over! – Dauh Fhauc Sep 9 '13 at 13:03

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