A while back, I posted an answer to SO, which was downvoted. I wasn't sure who did it, but had a suspicion because I thought I had seen a particular user lose a reputation point.

When I deleted the answer, my suspicion was confirmed by a point gain in reputation by the particular user. Now, I wasn't going to attempt any sort of retaliation (and did deserve the downvote) but this seems like it could lead to abuse.

My suggestion is to apply answer downvote rep loss/gain at a particular time of day, and not immediately after the vote or answer deletion.

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    But I use downvotes to keep my rep palindromic at all times! – Josh Caswell Jan 20 '14 at 21:21
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    Even though I've seen people get this wrong by making such assumptions (for instance; one time when it was I who down voted them), this does encourage people to guess, and they will often believe they are correct. That's all that's needed for the drama to start. So, I'm definitely interested in something being done to 'hide' these a bit better. – Andrew Barber Jan 20 '14 at 21:26
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    This is why you should never assume your votes are anonymous. If it's in the database, it is accessible to somebody. And realistically speaking, it only takes one mistake or a security compromise for it to get loose. – Mysticial Jan 20 '14 at 21:47

While it is possible to guess who down voted you, the guessing can only be reliable on low traffic sites. With the size of StackOverflow you simply cannot reliably guess - the user who decreased a point as your answer was down voted could have lost it by down voting something else entirely unrelated, and the person who down voted you may not have left an answer at all.

The fact that the suspected user gained a point when you deleted your answer may still have been coincidental - even if your guess is correct it isn't something that can be reliably guessed on the higher traffic sites.

However it is still a potential problem on lower traffic sites - at the very least the SE devs should look to implement this on the beta sites. There have been a number of times I have delayed answering or commenting on something so that my down vote could not be obviously linked back to me. There are scripts for auto reversal of serial down voting, but those are not going to pick up a few strategically placed revenge down votes.

as suggested by Martin in the comments, part of the solution can be to prevent users repeatedly deleting and undeleting answers, as this combined with relatively instant rep recalculations can be a dead giveaway. Either delay the rep gain caused by a delete (maybe have that adjusted daily), or introduce a delay between deleting and undeleting an answer.

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    You can simply delete and undelete your downvoted answer as many times as necessary to confirm it beyond all reasonable doubt. – Martin Smith Jan 20 '14 at 21:39
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    I post almost exclusively on the R tag, which does not have a lot of traffic, and does have a lot of other users who post primarily on that tag. In this case, I quite sure of the identity of the voter. – Matthew Lundberg Jan 20 '14 at 21:39
  • @MartinSmith Then that should be part of the solution - do not allow users to repeatedly delete/undelete - it's easy enough to detect. – slugster Jan 20 '14 at 21:42
  • @MatthewLundberg You may be sure this time, but unless you do what Martin suggested then you cannot guess reliably - I'm sure a lot of R participants are active in other tags as well. – slugster Jan 20 '14 at 21:44
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    I should not be able to be sure at any time. Indeed, I should not be given information that leads to suspicion. – Matthew Lundberg Jan 20 '14 at 21:45
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    I wonder why this answer is downvoted. Hey, do you want to guess who downvoted you? – Johannes Kuhn Jan 20 '14 at 21:51
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    Even if it can't be used in the general case to find any downvoter, it's great for confirming a guess. If someone, or just a few people, have commented on the answer, this would allow you to see if they were the ones who downvotes. If you suspect a close voter of downvoting, or another answerer, or the OP, etc. you have shrunken the pool of users to check to a sufficiently manageable size that this method can be, if not exact, then at least "reasonably confident" in identifying whether the suspect is indeed a downvoter. That alone is still a problem. – Servy Jan 20 '14 at 21:52
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    The suggestion "maybe have that adjusted daily" is pretty close to the one in the question to "apply answer downvote rep loss/gain at a particular time of day". You are agreeing with it now? – Martin Smith Jan 20 '14 at 21:52
  • @Martin - I was always agreeing (and the Q has my +1) - I was just pointing out that people should be very careful with their guessing games on the high traffic sites. Yes that part of my answer is almost identical (I did not go back and re-read before I made the edit), except I was meaning to be more specific: the rep gain due to the delete should be added once per day - this can be applied to both the down voter and the one down voted. – slugster Jan 20 '14 at 22:00
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    While trying to guess is not productive on SO, this question is about the whole network, which includes sites that are very low-traffic. If people think they know, that's enough to set drama in motion. – Monica Cellio Jan 20 '14 at 22:03
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    @MonicaCellio if there are only a few possible users (new beta-site with only a few users with >=125 rep), yes, you can be sure who downvoted the answer. It could be even possible for questions. – Johannes Kuhn Jan 20 '14 at 22:12

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