I noticed a flaw that applies only to new users or users with few to no upvotes, and low reputation. By exploiting the fact that reputation doesn't go below 1, one could theoretically get undeserved reputation.

There are many variations that could be applied, but one of them is this:

A user asks a bunch of questions, many could be duplicate questions or poor quality questions, any question that is answered before being closed would work. No matter how many down votes the user receives, the following would reverse reputation loss.
It happens because their reputation doesn't go below 1. What could happen is, whenever an answer is added, they either accept the answer or just wait to accept the answer.

They do this to appear like normal users, they could post answers to a few questions to seem like a normal account. What happens is, when they get down voted, they unaccept any accepted answers, their reputation falls to one. They then re-accept the answers, and no reputation would be lost except if the user had ever received any upvotes.

Basically by asking a bunch of bad questions, they can receive a ton of rep by accepting the answers all at once.

This is easily stopped, which is why it would work better with alternate accounts.

Using two alternate accounts (A,B, and C is the main account) they accrue the fifteen rep on A and B by the unaccept and accept method (notice a and b do not answer each other's questions, although on occasion they probably could).
Then A and B upvote a few of the other accounts questions, along with many others by other users in a way to not get flagged for serial upvoting. When A resets rep (unaccept reaccept) B removes their upvotes. A then does the unaccept/re accept, and B re-upvotes, and vice versa.

At the end, A and B get seventy five rep, and create the largest bounty they can, and give a all of their reputation. They then unaccept reaccept their previous questions, and they have successfully duplicated the reputation.

They could theoretically do this with one account, if they could get 37 questions asked. I would like to think we would notice if a single user asked 37 bad questions, but if it were done by 2 or 3 other accounts it would be difficult to trace.

One way to fix this would be to automatically flag if any user unaccepts and reaccepts either the same or another answer on any questions more than x amount of times, if it is not already. I don't know what number x would represent, but I feel that it should be a low number (5 maybe).

To be clear, I would never try to do anything like this. I sincerely hope that most users would never succumb to the level of using this, or any method of exploiting in the reputation system to earn a little bit of extra reputation. I feel reputation should be earned by asking and answering high-quality questions.

  • 3
    Your logic seems right. I'm going to make a flow chart to see if you're right.
    – Tim
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:21
  • 3
    You may be right; eagerly awaiting Tim's flowchart. As an aside, though, do you believe this is a significant problem? The amount of reputation that can be gained in this way is in the 10's or 100's, it's essentially inconsequential given the amount of effort required to pull it off. It would be so infrequent that it's probably a lot easier to just ban the user doing it.
    – Jason C
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:23
  • Oh, found the problem. Can't undo / redo up votes in a more than 5 minute time frame... :(
    – Tim
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:28
  • 1
    @Tim Yes, but you can accept/unaccept whenever you want. This is abusing the +2 reputation you get for accepting answers. Mar 20, 2015 at 17:32
  • @JasonC it probably would be infrequent, given the tedious nature of the methods of the problem, but if it could be used to create reputation for bounties, it could likely be done many times a day, creating hundreds of thousands of reputation in less than a month. At that point it would become a huge problem. Mar 20, 2015 at 17:37
  • What happens if you go down to 3 because you got 1 upvote and one downvote. You would have to wait for a downvote again...
    – Tim
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:37
  • 1
    @nicael I do see a similarity between the two, but there are several differences(especially the part about the bounty and alternate accounts). Mar 20, 2015 at 17:39
  • @AlexisKing My feelings exactly. This can be used as a means to ask many bad questions without the reputation loss for new users which should not be allowed in my opinion. Mar 20, 2015 at 17:41
  • "especially the part about the bounty" - it is a way of spending / losing rep, isn't it? "...and alternate accounts" - wut???
    – nicael
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:41
  • @nicael the lost reputation from the bounty would instantly be re-accrued. Mar 20, 2015 at 17:42
  • @Matt In 1% of cases. And it's still possible to use the technique of unaccepting and accepting the answers again.
    – nicael
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:45
  • This scenario might very well depict 0.0001% of the regular (non-gaming) users on the site. You'd almost have to want to not have rep to be able to play this kind of game. And even then, your questions will remain poor. The extremely minimal, edge-case-like component of this makes me thing "we" shouldn't worry about it.
    – Werner
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:53
  • @tim Exactly why I specified that the questions would be bad questions. Questions that wouldn't get upvotes, and earn multiple down votes to cause rep to go down... Plus the 50 lost at 75 would eliminate the five... Mar 20, 2015 at 18:42
  • @Matthew0898: Because blue...
    – Werner
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:01
  • 1
    Okay, just tested. This works.
    – Tim
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


This seems like an awful lot of work for very little gain. A new account is also very likely to just get automatically blocked from posting if its first few posts are negatively received. Since it seems so unlikely to actually happen, I think a moderator can just step in and suspend a user if this behavior is ever spotted in the wild.


I'm not sure this is that much of an issue.

It requires a significant level of investment on the part of the site abuser, and it's not really all that much reputation anyway. While the potential is there to create sockpuppets for voting purposes, that's something moderators can catch and deal on a somewhat-regular basis (site-dependent). If someone tries doing this for bounties, eventually someone's going to notice something's off.

If a user is just doing this for the ability to upvote, they would have needed to ask seven questions, and if they've asked seven poor questions they're likely been question-blocked and draw the attention of a moderator. Besides that, if they got three upvotes somewhere, the net difference is simply in the reordering of the votes and ultimately isn't consequential.

In short, even if this is a possible exploit, it's not a serious one.

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