Has anyone noticed any tactical downvoting of their, or other people, answers? For example, in a recent answer to a question, my answer described a possible solution. Shortly afterwards, another answer appeared following the solution I had mentioned.

I know that this is completely in the spirit of the site, however my answer had been down voted even though it was still as valid as it ever was. Another poster also had his equally valid solution down voted.

There is no way of knowing the reason behind the down voting, as no comments were left, but I am suspicious as to the ethics behind down voting someone else's valid answer in the hope of making their own answer more prominent. Are people really that desperate to gain reputation?

I have seen comments in other posts that suggest that tactical downvoting has occurred.

So, does anyone think that it is acceptable to downvote another post, even though it is still correct but may not provide a complete answer, to make their own appear more favourably?

  • 3
    No, it's not "valid", but I'm sure it happens all the time. Some SO users take the rep thing way too seriously.
    – raven
    Nov 16, 2008 at 19:06
  • I didn't even know we can vote on our own answers. I guess I'm too honest for my own good... :-)
    – Sherm Pendley
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:09
  • You cannot vote on your answer. The point is, if you down vote the other answes, yours comes to the top.
    – Burkhard
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:20

19 Answers 19


I think it shouldn't be done. Stay fair.

  • 4
    This is kind of naive, live is unfair in general :)
    – Ilya
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:27
  • 3
    @Ilya: That sounds like kindergarten logic — "it's okay, because he did it first!"
    – Jeremy
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:30
  • Never sad it's ok, if you will check my profile i donvote rearly (only if i completely sure if the answer is technically wrong). But stating - "it's not fair" still kind of naive :) there is a lot of users part of them not fair - it's a life :)
    – Ilya
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:38
  • But then saying "stay fair" in the FAQ is kind of naive, too? We all have a concept of what's fair and what's not. The only difference is if you care or if you don't. And looking at it that way and still blaming "life itself" for you being unfair is... well... flawed.
    – Tomalak
    Nov 16, 2008 at 19:04
  • @Tomalak, the original incident was last frday, but then I saw a comment you had made on a post where you suspected the same thing had happened to you. After that I decided to start this question.
    – jxh00u
    Nov 16, 2008 at 21:15
  • 4
    I'm tactically downvoting you
    – perbert
    Oct 1, 2009 at 15:43

Unfair downvote is the best thing someone can do for your reputation (!). See people notice it being unfair, and upvote you. Giving you a net +8 reputation and a +0 voting. 8 Points for nothing.

  • 1
    True. You owe me one, by the way. :) Nov 16, 2008 at 18:54
  • Hm... being up-voted only earns you +10 rep and +1 voting. Where is the error in my math?
    – Tomalak
    Nov 16, 2008 at 19:06
  • Ali means the net of one upvote and one downvote is +8 rep and +0 votes.
    – onebyone
    Nov 16, 2008 at 21:47
  • But how is that "best for your reputation" when one up-vote with no down-votes earns you +10? Maybe Ali A considers it "best" to have no up-voted answers at all, in which case he is of course right. ;-)
    – Tomalak
    Nov 17, 2008 at 8:38
  • Ali A is saying that "people notice it being unfair". I've occasionally done this myself - if an answer is so-so and has 0 votes then I'll leave it, but if it's so-so and has -1 then I might upvote it. Hence, the downvote has benefited the author of the answer.
    – onebyone
    Nov 17, 2008 at 19:43
  • Well, if you put it that way I'll agree. I'm doing this myself as well.
    – Tomalak
    Nov 18, 2008 at 7:03
  • In fact that's why I often refrain from downvoting bad questions or answers : I know some people will automatically try to counter that, not because they think the question or answer is correct or good but to let it be at 0, even while it's a net gain for the poster. Dec 12, 2012 at 8:36

It's so sad that we (myself included) attach importance to these "reputation points". They are addictive, aren't they? But every once in a while we should take a step back and realize how we really shouldn't get worked up over these "points". Just be proud that you provided a valid answer and that many people benefitted from your contribution.

  • My sentiments entirely. The purpose of the site is getting and giving answers to questions, not acquiring reputation points.
    – Noel Walters
    Feb 4, 2009 at 17:42
  • 2
    @Frederic Daoud, that's nonsense! Saying that reputation points are not important is like telling your kid before a soccer game: "It's not about winning, it's about fun! So go out and have some fun." Reputation is so important that people get totally addicted to it: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11652/…
    – Kiril
    Jun 17, 2010 at 17:39

I can only see two reasons to down vote.

  1. An answer is obviously wrong. If the answer is subsequently corrected, I'll remove the down vote.
  2. User is being a jerk. It is reputation after all. If the user corrects the post to stop being a jerk, I'll remove the down vote.

It's reputation, not popularity. Also, the issue is whether the answer was helpful or not. Wrong answers (and people acting like jerks) are not helpful. Partial answers might be if they contribute something that another answer doesn't. Also, I typically only up vote the first of identical answers -- and I usually remove my answers if they are identical to someone else's and come after theirs. Repetitive answers are also not particularly helpful.


SO should require a comment when downvoting, so you can see why you are being down voted. Someone open a uservoice ticket. :)

  • I like this idea except that it's not enforcable. If SO forces you to fill out a minimum of characters, I feel a lot of people will just bang on the keyboard till they hit a limit.
    – JaredPar
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:26
  • 2
    But at least you would have an idea of who is too lazy or unable to give a rationale for their downvotes.
    – Michael Burr
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:30
  • it has been requested already
    – warren
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:31
  • I second that. Often down-votes are applied because some unreflected urge to express an opposing opinion. As long as "This was not helpful" does not apply, there is no reason to down-vote. And if it was not helpful, some explanation would be pertinent.
    – Tomalak
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:57
  • What if your username was listed underneath the downvotes? If you cared about your rep, you'd add a comment about why. Nov 16, 2008 at 19:01
  • 1
    Voting is anonymous; requiring a comment would eliminate that. A verifiable voting record would lead to vote-buying or quid-pro-quo collusion, as well as retaliatory down-voting.
    – erickson
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:10
  • This request is already on UserVoice. Nov 16, 2008 at 20:46
  • It can still be anonymous with a comment -- just record the reason, and not the user who down voted. Nov 17, 2008 at 21:34
  • Actually I htink knowing who down-voted an answer is entirely valid. I see evidence of this tactical down-voting all the time.
    – cletus
    Jan 5, 2009 at 8:06
  • Downvote comment should be anonymous and separate from regular comment. Poster should be able to delete anonymous comments. Jun 28, 2010 at 11:37
  • The canonical is Encouraging people to explain downvotes. Apr 26, 2022 at 20:14

There's a reason for downvoting which hasn't been mentioned yet. I don't know for sure whether it would actually work or not, but I suspect it would. It's to do with the rep limits.

As far as I can tell, the rep limit rule is basically: "When an upvote is cast, check whether the current rep is less than X + 200 where X = "reputation at the start of the day". If it is, add 10 to the rep." That certainly seems to be the way it works - which means that it's advantageous to get answers accepted close to the end of the day rather than close to the start, oddly enough.

So, evil downvoting tactic: spend all your votes at the start of the day, downvoting randomly. Then when you've hit the limit anyway, undo all the downvotes to claw back the rep which was "spent" on downvotes. I can't remember how many votes we get per day - say it's 50, and we start with a rep of 1000:

  • Start of day: 1000
  • After downvoting: 950
  • After lots of upvotes from others: 1200
  • After removing downvotes: 1250

I don't know if it would work, and I wouldn't do it anyway, but it could be that some people are. I have no reason to suspect anyone, mind you. It could be only my mind that works this way :)

  • 1
    Exploits like this are part of the reason votes can't be changed after a short time. It used to be on the order of one day, now it seems to be on the order of an hour.
    – erickson
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:13
  • Interesting. I wasn't aware of that restriction. It still wouldn't be hard to exploit it though - just keep rolling the votes; vote a bunch down when you'd reached, say, 150 rep - then undo those votes near expiry time, and redo them elsewhere. Very bad sportsmanship, of course.
    – Jon Skeet
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:36
  • 2
    Rep points spent on a down vote should be permanently lost very quickly. At most, long enough to reset after an accidental vote - maybe 5 minutes. I'd go so far as to say "points lost via giving a down-vote are irrecoverable"; if you can't handle your mouse correctly, maybe you shouldn't be here. Nov 16, 2008 at 20:52
  • What about "down-votes with no reason given - 2 points of rep loss; down-votes with reason given - 1 point lost"? Nov 16, 2008 at 20:53
  • Wow, THAT'S the "tactical downvoting" problem???? Seriously? Seems like it would be a MAJOR pain in the ass to do this (i.e., keeping track of fifty questions/answers then going back to reverse your vote) for just fifty stinking points. Seems like if you are that big of a loser you won't get to the rep cap in a day in the first place!
    – user1228
    Jan 8, 2010 at 20:22
  • @Will - no, that's not the "tactical downvoting" problem - the tactical downvoting problem is where you downvote everyone else who answers the same question as you, to get your answer higher, encouraging more upvotes.
    – Jon Skeet
    Jan 8, 2010 at 23:14
  • This is another problem but it's interesting too (I'm too lazy to test for it, though). I guess this kind of pattern could be easily detected. I'd be interested by the results on a database inspection aimed at detecting if somebody did use that... Dec 12, 2012 at 8:39

I think it's perfectly valid simply because the site allows it :).

I really do feel the pain though of getting a down vote with no reason or explanation. Unless the answer is blantantly wrong or completely off topic I add a comment for every down vote I give describing the reason why. I try to be as constructive as possible in those comments.

On one hand I wish SO would add a feature to force people to comment on down votes. Then again I feel like there is no way to force people to give a decent comment. In the end I feel like the people who downvote without comment today will just add gibberish into the "comment" section so the feature would become useless.

  • 6
    Hey now, SQL injection attacks are perfectly valid if a site allows it... :P
    – Rob Howard
    Nov 16, 2008 at 22:16

Sometimes when I see a question and I don't know the full answer to it but have an idea I throw out a "brain storm"-answer, like "maybe if you try x, y would work" and then describe why I think that would work.

If I keep getting down-votes for that, it will make me only answer questions I know for sure the answer to, and I will not try to use my experience to maybe leed or point in the right direction.

Thats a lose-lose situation I think. Better up-vote what you think is right and down-vote what you KNOW is totally wrong, but why down-vote pointers and brain-storm-answers, its just pointless and make the site to a elitist-site.

And if you down-vote a brain-storm-answer because you know its wrong then it should be a good manner to add a comment like "Nope, I tried that and it does not work. Sorry."

My 5 cents.

  • Stefan, I do this too, but generally only for questions with 0 answers. You could also leave it as a comment if you fear the down vote. Jun 28, 2010 at 11:39
  • 1
    @Mureinik this is the second question I've seen from you where you're editing "dont" to "don't" and bumping a question from 2008 to the front page. It's really not necessary. Please don't edit ancient posts with minor typo fixes. Oct 4, 2017 at 21:29

I've seen often answers that are short are vote up and accepted. Answers that are long, but that correctly explain the matter are, when the stuff is copied out of them and pasted in the new answer, downvoted.

Same is true if the more complete answer is posted afterwards. People say there is already an answer that is short and accepted. So why vote for that new and longer, complicated answer?

I'm not sure whether that is the right way to go, but that's how many people vote apparently. And i think those that regard this as a littl game are right. Just keep being relaxed :))


I don't think tactical downvoting would even accomplish much, since you can only downvote once per answer. After an answer is voted up a few times the downvotes don't get noticed anyway.

I tend to downvote only if I think the information in the answer is likely to grossly mislead the questioner. The upvotes will usually sort everything else out.


I'm convinced that any form of negative feedback (at least from the membership) is counterproductive. Inevitably it results in a chain of inferred motivations and attitudes that I believe are more often incorrect the accurate, and there's no resolution mechanism.

I would much prefer that the only things measured would be positive feedback, and if you disagree, withhold your vote, and maybe offer a better solution that will attract more votes.


personally I think the entire voting needs a little bit of an overhaul. This isn't digg, so a simple yeah or neah doesn't really cut it. As we all know there are a hundred ways to skin the cat, so in many cases a number of answers are just as valid.

For instance .. "how do I do x with javascript"

  • A1. "you could use jquery and do this ..."
  • A2. "you could use YUI and do this ..."
  • A3. "You could use MooTools and do this ..."

All perfectly acceptable answers but one is going to rise above the chaff, in this case based more on popularity than merit.

Perhaps some sort of tag-voting, instead of a simple up down, a couple buttons you could click to provide more granular control of your vote while still making it easy. I think comments required on downvotes would render downvotes extinct.

  • And I would vote all those answers down, because the correct answer isn't to throw a big javascript library at it. If the question asked specifically for jQuery, then that's different, but I personally don't like when people just can't answer the question, in the simplest way possible.
    – Kibbee
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:30
  • @Kibbeee - "correct" and "best" are not always the same. if jQuery solves the problem, but somebody else has a 30-line script that does it, too - which is "correct"? They both are. Which is "better"? who knows!
    – warren
    Nov 16, 2008 at 18:33
  • @Kibbeee: "because the correct answer isn't to throw a big javascript library at it". That nailed it. Thank you.
    – Tomalak
    Nov 16, 2008 at 19:00
  • Yes, the answer would be to slowly re-implement the "big" javascript library in your own code as you need new functions, accumulating a lot of technical debt in your project due to the need to keep things browser neutral. I'll take the 15kb that jquery costs and write the code that really matters.
    – tvanfosson
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:14
  • @Kibbeee since when is 15kb big? especially for the functionality it offers? do you also shy away from .NET, Rails, Django or any other framework that offers more functionality than you need?
    – Kyle West
    Nov 16, 2008 at 20:25
  • I guess Kibbeee meant questions in the order of "How can I add a bunch of OPTIONs to a SELECT?" that get "Use jQuery" answers. If you need a library, go ahead and use one. But there is a trend that people stop being able to program the simplest things when they don't have a library.
    – Tomalak
    Nov 17, 2008 at 8:47

The whole voting system was discussed here a lot, just search inside the stackverflow tag for voting and you will find a lot.

it's happening from time to time but usually fixed. I seen my answers downvoted for now reason, but usually somebody is fixing it. I personally vote up answers that was down voted without the reason (IMHO). So the system is kind of working.

The general problem however persist. Voting is subjective and does not reflect your actual skills, it's more like a game. Actually i'm not sure it's a problem after all, just treat this like a game :).


There can be plenty of valid reasons why your answer got voted down. Perhaps someone thought it was incorrect (whether or not it really was), perhaps someone thought it was too incomplete, or... No, "tactical" downvoting is silly, but you can't say for sure if that was what happened to your answer.

Remember that voting is subjective. If I think an answer is good, I vote it up. But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'm simply unaware of some major flaw in that answer which makes it completely useless.

And similar when downvoting. Perhaps I think an answer is incorrect, so I vote it down. Of course, leaving a comment explaining why you vote it down (or up) may help avoiding such misunderstandings.

I wouldn't worry about it though. The point in such a community-driven site is that "on average" your answer gets the rating it deserves. Someone votes you down for the wrong reason, and sooner or later, someone will vote you up for the wrong reason as well. ;)


What seems to happen is the first (usually shortest) answer gets one or two votes then people either stop bothering to read all the other answers, or just up vote said answer.

The fact that answers are ordered by number of votes causes/compounds this problem because when reading a post, you are subconsciously predisposed to favour the top answer, rather than read all answers and judge them on their relative merits. The best answer may actually be the last to appear but may not get the up-votes required (at least initially).

I would rather see answers appear chronologically by default.


If my answer is 1 point above or tied with better answer I will vote up better answer anyway. Maybe unethical behaviour is not a good thing, but on the other hand such people are probably very serious about their SO reputation and will contribute a lot elsewhere.


At Arqade we got a case where the user downvoted a valid answer so he could get the bounty. The people from Arqade gave a bigger bounty to the one that was the higher upvoted answer (before the down-vote) and also some upvotes other users downvoted the other answer the was "hacked".

But as the site states "Stay Fair", you can do what you think it's right. In my opinion, just giving a bounty and/or upvote will fix this.

I usually upvote more than one answer when they help me somehow (or together solve my problem).

You can down-vote if you want, but you can also stay fair and hope for the others do the same.


Voting something down is to easy as it just costs -1 REP and requires 100 REP.

People should vote things up, because they like them, but many people down vote things because they DO NOT like something. If I do not agree with someone's answer, I do not down vote it, due to some minimalistic reasons, as for example "I down voted you, because some answer does match better" etc. .

So far, down voting should take more effect on your on reputation, AND other people should be able TO RATE YOUR DOWN VOTE, so that we can ensure, that the majority of stackoverflow.com decides whether this down vote was "legal" or not.

People which down vote anything without any reason can be down voted or criticised for their uncommon down vote and this should be "written" under the reputation points.


FYI, this would not happen if votes were not anonymous.

  • 3
    I am not sure anyone was not actually aware of this already. It is a "boil the sea" solution.. May 10, 2010 at 12:01

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