There's three common types of irregular patterns that we discourage (and actively detect):
- Users creating multiple accounts used to vote for one another (sock puppets)
- Users that consistently vote mostly for their friends (targeted voting)
- Users that cast down votes out of anger or spite (a form of targeted voting)
The first case should seem obviously wrong to anyone that understands that cheating isn't a good thing for people to do. We allow multiple accounts, but they should never vote for each other.
The second becomes a problem if low quality posts receive more positive votes than they should, especially if it causes them to out score much better information. We have an implied contract with everyone that finds our site - the best information should be at or near the top. Breaking that is, well, bad.
It's okay if you vote for your friends occasionally, but:
- Vote for posts that aren't written by your friends too.
- Vote based on the merits of the post, not your relationship with the person that wrote it. Please don't let a boss or supervisor tell you how or where to vote. For the system to work we need every user's say in the quality of each post to be independent and objective.
- Realize that constantly voting for the same few people shows a pattern that is practically indistinguishable from someone using sock puppets. Did I mention that votes for your friends should be the minority of your votes?
The third is a problem because that sort of perceived hostility can be very detrimental to the community, especially if you cause someone to lose a privilege that they recently unlocked. It goes back to voting based on the quality and technical merit of the post, not the person that wrote it. This often manifests when someone sees one low quality post, then goes through the profile of the user that wrote it and down votes additional posts in short succession. We strongly discourage this, but generally only issue a warning if it's apparent that you were focused on quality alone.
If you see that a user is consistently contributing low quality posts, it's time to flag for a moderator's attention, don't take it upon yourself to down vote everything and restore justice to the universe.
Other than that, we try to stay out of your business when it comes to voting, because we feel that you should feel free to vote as you choose without being held accountable for it later - provided that you're doing it honestly.