Everyone knows Serial Downvoting... even the luckiest user with enough rep gets hit by this plague at least once, soon or later: some noob gets angry against another user for some reason and starts downvoting questions and answers of their new enemy.
A script running every night detects the "crime" through the analysis of the downvote/time ratio with a secret formula, and reverts them. The story could repeat itself for a bit, then usually it ends because the anger is gone or just because they started stalking someone else.
So there is a pattern, an automated fix, and a natural dissolvency of the problem.
What I want to highlight is a different, unresolved problem, against which Stack Overflow has no fix right now AFAIK.
What is Micro Serial Downvoting?
I coined this term because it is a different kind of stalking; MSD is performed by an experienced user, that knows how to avoid the reversal script, and ends up producing a persistent and (today) undetectable damage in the following way:
Instead of casting tons of downvotes, the Micro Serial Downvoter casts 2-4 downvotes a time, 2-4 times a month, along many months. They prefer to downvote questions because those don't affect their rep, but they downvote answers as well. Then anger is persistent, the timeline is respected and, in my case, it started months ago (!). Now it's april, and I'm still receiving continuous downvotes.
I know it is the same user because it is cyclical, the gap between downvotes is of few seconds, and they started downvoting ALL my questions and ALL my answers ordered by votes descending (from the highly voted going down).
Since I don't know who the user is, I can't say if, apart from this obsessive behaviour, this user is using the site answering and questioning as anyone else, or if instead they are using SO only to perform this revenge (I discovered other users in my same SO "tag area" are targeted by presumably the same person, so this could even be worse).
Actually, I can't even say if he/she is a real user, or one of multiple accounts used by a user to downvote without affecting their primary account rep (but this crossed my mind...).
What to do?
After having discovered it is a persistent pattern, I've started flagging any post, as suggested in a previous answer('s comment) by @Oded♦, and although all my flags have all been reputed helpful by the Moderators (that asked me to keep flagging), they can't see data about votes, so my flags are more anonymous usage stats than solution oriented.
In the link above, after the unupvote pattern emerged, both Moderators and SO Employers Moderators were oriented toward creating a script to detect it.
So I'm here to
- report this singularity (maybe someone else will come out with the same problem, adding more data about its rarity / its lack of);
- request if I can help Moderators / SO Employers in any way to detect / report / summarize the data about this behaviour;
- asking MSO users if they have any suggestion / idea about:
- how to detect this kind of behavior
- how to deal with a discovered long-run micro-stalker that doesn't use SO for other purposes
- how to deal with a discovered long-run micro-stalker that uses SO for other purposes
I don't know how widely spread this pattern/problem is, I hope for you it is rare, but it would be indeed an added value to spot a way to identify and fix it for the Stack Exchange Network.
What the heck!
This kind of pattern is beyond any form of fairness, Netiquette, Stack Overflow rules and common sense.
The result is also counter-productive for the site itself: some question / answer with a good content could be avoided by SO visitors by simply changing from 1 to 0. Some other (let's say accepted but with 0 votes) by changing from 0 to -1 could be downvoted by other users for the known "downvotes fall effect". I know you are thinking "a good answer shouldn't be affected by this that much because it should have a lot of votes", but some tags (like [struts2]) are poorly visited, and hence answers with 0-1-2 votes are absolutely normal there.
- serial-downvotes-not-being-reversed : the answer says to flag for moderators
- serial-downvoting-not-reversed (duplicate) : the answer says to contact the Team at the Contact Us link. I'll probably do it soon, but I'd like to keep this question open to get suggestion / experiences by SO users and Moderators, before than disturbing the SO Employers directly.
This is a list in chronological order; watch the times, the dates, and note that two questions are downvoted twice, that would suggest multiple accounts:
February 19 2014 -2 21:15 downvote Best Practices to Create and Download a huge ZIP (from several BLOBs) in a WebApp (QUESTION) -2 21:15 downvote Advanced Wildcard Mappings Parameters not found in Prepare() method (QUESTION) March 5 2014 -2 11:28 downvote Pro and Cons of opening multiple InputStream? (QUESTION) -2 11:28 downvote Set-up a Struts2 EAR Project with Maven 3 (QUESTION) March 12 2014 -2 15:01 downvote How to preserve NULL state in a Boolean sending an empty String from JSP to Action (QUESTION) -2 15:03 downvote How to remove the space between inline-block elements? (ANSWER) -2 15:03 downvote Weird dark border :after css arrow in Firefox (ANSWER) March 14 2014 -2 14:49 downvote jqGrid: conditionally hide / show column content **per row** (QUESTION) -2 14:52 downvote Prevent inline-block divs from wrapping (ANSWER) March 24 2014 -2 08:55 downvote Advanced Wildcard Mappings Parameters not found in Prepare() method (QUESTION -> DUPLICATE !!!) -2 08:55 downvote How to read Action attributes from JSP fragments included with <jsp:include />? (QUESTION) April 1 2014 -2 11:33 downvote jqGrid: conditionally hide / show column content **per row** (QUESTION -> DUPLICATE !!!) -2 11:33 downvote Skinny WAR, libraries in EAR: “struts-tags not found” error (QUESTION) -2 11:34 downvote Struts2 - Is it possible to access back end method in jsp? (ANSWER)
March 12 and March 14, both at ~ 15:00, are targeting my three top answers (that have never being downvoted before):
March 12 2014 -2 15:01 downvote How [...] (QUESTION) -2 15:03 downvote How [...] (1ST TOP VOTED ANSWER) -2 15:03 downvote Weird [...] (3ND TOP VOTED ANSWER) March 14 2014 -2 14:49 downvote jqGrid [...] (QUESTION) -2 14:52 downvote Prevent [...] (2ND TOP VOTED ANSWER)
If you look at the titles and at the timings, you will agree with me that (if the user is the same), it is highly unlikely that they're legit. In less than a minute, the questions have necessarily been chosen directly from my profile, and there is no connection between them:
How to preserve NULL state in a Boolean sending an empty String from JSP to Action
How to remove the space between inline-block elements?
Weird dark border :after css arrow in Firefox
1st is Struts2, 2nd is HTML, 3rd is CSS, and they can't even be read in less than two minutes.
The fact that two questions are downvoted twice, may suggest that:
- It is a stalker with multiple accounts, not necessarily fake (he could have a mate registered on SO that let him use its account to downvote questions only);
- They are multiple stalkers;
- They are totally unrelated downvotes, by coincidence cast in the arc of a minute.
As said, this is not about reputation (the list above represents less than 30 reputation points)... it's to look for a better way to catch this smart stalkers, that are the annoying side of SO.
humans are astonishingly good at seeing patterns in the noise
and I absolutely agree, though I've the feeling this is not the case.