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I continue to feel cognitive dissonance between the desire for community moderation and the 'no serial voting' rules. The pattern goes like this:

  1. Encounter an awful question or answer
  2. Get curious about the author
  3. See that the author is responsible for a trail of poor content
  4. Remember that serial voting is discouraged and rolled back, and feel frustrated.

The frustration is piquant when the poor content is all 0 in vote score. I feel no need to pile on things that are already downvoted.

Thankfully, there's no problem with serial close voting, so in the not uncommon case where a user has left behind a trail of close-worthy, as opposed to merely downvote-worthy content, I can still do something useful.

Would mods like flags in cases like this? Is there any appetite for a rep level at which one might be exempted from the serial voting rule?

One other perhaps constructive suggestion to remind people of: a way to nominate content for the 'low quality' review queue. Abuse of such a button would be low-impact, as the reviewers (we hope) would decline to act on spiteful nominations.

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    I'm assuming you've already exhausted the comment-to-instruct option, of have seen it has been of no use from the other comments? – Bart Sep 28 '13 at 12:56
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    @Bart very often, the trail of poor contributions will be littered with instructional comments, which have been ignored – Pekka Sep 28 '13 at 13:09
  • @perhapsPekka That's my assumption. Just attempting to clarify because the obvious answer would otherwise be "Why vote users to a crisp if you can just educate them?". – Bart Sep 28 '13 at 13:12
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    @Bart commenting doesn't 'moderate the content'. It attempts to improve future content. If the goal is to push bad content down and good content up, commenting is an investment in the future. – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 14:57
  • @Rosinante Sure, but your post here does not mention any back story of the (hypothetical) users you're talking about. For example, is this a case of continually posting bad content, when they should know much better because they have been told? That is what I was hinting at. Because you're asking for quite a lot in terms of allowance here. And while I assume some of the back-story you're hinting at, your question is somewhat up for interpretation. – Bart Sep 28 '13 at 15:04
  • Bart, I can't parse your prose. There's no back-story; every few months I have an encounter like this, and I was motivated to write it up by recent questions here on meta about torrents of trash posts. – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 15:06
  • Like I said, the simple answer is "explain to those users what they are doing wrong and how they can address is". Educate them, that is. (And downvoting them on multiple posts does not provide all that much education) If your answer to that would have been "but generally that has already happened. I'm talking about those users that simply do not listen", then there's quite a bit more information that's currently not part of your question and might somewhat change the answers. Though the answers you received seem fair enough. – Bart Sep 28 '13 at 15:09
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    Interestingly, the LQ flag is only available on posts scoring <= 0... Because of how often folks abused it. – Shog9 Sep 28 '13 at 15:27
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I don't think we can use reputation level to exempt people from serial voting. It's just too ripe for abuse, and I don't think it's really necessary. We already have several other avenues for discouraging low-quality content. You've already gone over the options for low-quality questions. For answers you can:

  • Leave comments explaining what's wrong.
  • Edit the answers into shape.
  • Upvote better answers so they float above the bad content.
  • Leave a better answer of your own.

All of these options either elevate good content or attempt to improve the bad content, which is where I think our focus should be. Targeting a user for serial downvoting doesn't do much to help them improve.

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  • Can we stop using reputation level for community moderation privileges on Stack Overflow already? – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 28 '13 at 14:34
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    And replace it with? – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 14:55
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    Bill, it's hardly every answers. It's questions. – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 14:55
  • @Rosinante We already covered questions. You can flag them for closure. If a user is leaving a trail of bad questions, moderators can warn them or even suspend them. – Bill the Lizard Sep 28 '13 at 15:00
  • @BilltheLizard so you're endorsing the occasional flag to a mod as not a horrible annoyance. That's fine. – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 15:01
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    Probably worth noting that the system automatically raises a flag if a single user has multiple consecutive questions closed. – Shog9 Sep 28 '13 at 15:04
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    @Rosinante No, that's not an annoyance at all. As Shog9 mentioned, we do get automatic flags if a user has several consecutive closed questions. If you see a lot of low-quality questions from one user that aren't being acted upon, you can go ahead and throw your own flag. – Bill the Lizard Sep 28 '13 at 15:08
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So... There are a few things to keep in mind here, in addition to Bill's excellent advice.

  • The guidance is not "never vote for multiple posts from the same user" - it's "vote for the content, not the user". Are you prepared to up-vote reasonably useful posts? Are you devoting sufficient time to reading and considering each post on its own merit in the context where it was written? Speaking from experience, this is harder than it sounds - and the folks most often caught up by the script aren't bothering with it. While I don't necessarily recommend reviewing someone's entire posting history outside of extreme cases, cherry-picking obviously bad posts from a single author while ignoring the rest is worse.

  • There actually can be a problem with "serial close voting", although in practice the system generally mitigates it by requiring multiple voters. I have had to warn one or two people about this over the years, in cases where it was clearly malicious. Same thing goes for flagging, commenting and editing - if you go out of your way to harass someone, you're gonna get some push-back regardless of what tool you use to do it.

  • While it's easy to get fixated on individual users, the system tends to work better when you focus on recent posts. Again, there are exceptions (and cases where you end up doing both), but if you're just looking to make the site better by using up your votes on deserving posts, there are probably plenty to be had from the past day whose ranking could use a bit of additional signal.

Oh yeah - and there've been plenty of instances where very high-rep users have done stupid things with votes. I don't think that's a very good sort of "privilege".

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    I always start by looking at recent posts. Every so often I succumb to the temptation to click on the profile link to the author of some recent post, and that's how I get into this question. Have you ever seen someone with 10 posts, 5 of which deserved +1 and 5 -1? – Rosinante Sep 28 '13 at 14:54
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    Probably. More often than not, I see cases where 2-3 posts are reasonable/helpful and 2-3 are trash. Or 1 reasonable, 20 trash - those are the hardest for me, since you tend to become a bit prejudiced after seeing a lot of bad posts with the same name on them. I try to avoid these sorts of reviews when possible, but of course I also handle q-ban reviews now and then. – Shog9 Sep 28 '13 at 14:58

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