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I have had a few instances where I have come across questions that I thought were particularly bad. These mostly involve a complete lack of research, and most of the time, I can answer the question with a copy-paste from official documentation (an answer which is then accepted). In some cases, these documents are linked with the original question, but the user reveals that they did not actually read them.

I try to leave a comment explaining my down-vote. In some cases, another user will reply to my comment to say that they do not agree with me, and will directly say they are upvoting to reverse my downvote. Other times, they will comment to say 'have an upvote to balance your score'.

In some cases, they have been actively commenting on the question, and thus far have not found any reason to upvote. With the additional comment that they are 'upvoting to reverse another user's downvote', is this behavior considered acceptable, or should such comments be flagged?

I do not want to single out specific users or sites, as it is irrelevant; I am wondering what the general policy would be for this sort of thing, in relation to general Stack Exchange policy.

Note that I am not asking if the actual practice is acceptable. I already know the answer to that. My question specifically asks about comments, which the suggested duplicate does not touch on, at all.

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  • I would say no but leave a comment down telling the user that he will vote not based on other's people decisions but his own Jan 17, 2017 at 22:50
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    @AnthonyPham Telling people how to vote tends to have the opposite of the desired effect, as people often do the opposite out of sheer spite.
    – Servy
    Jan 17, 2017 at 22:52
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    I can submit a comment that says this, and not actually issue the vote, so how does a moderator issue a suspension for saying something like this if they are unable to verify they actually issued the vote? Likewise I can issue a vote, for any reason, and say nothing and nobody will think anything of it. Simply solution, never say in a comment, that you have issued a vote.
    – Ramhound
    Jan 17, 2017 at 22:55
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    A community moderator cannot determine who has issued a vote on a question or answer.
    – Ramhound
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:01
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    @Timelord64 - I'm a moderator on Stack Overflow, and I can tell you that moderators cannot see who voted on an individual post. We also cannot change votes. We can only see large-scale trends that indicate fraud, and delete accounts to invalidate all votes coming from sock puppets. We can't even invalidate targeted votes, and need to rely on staff or the nightly script to do that. Jan 17, 2017 at 23:16
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    @Timelord64 Provide me a permanent link to where a community moderator said that. Because there are hundreds of questions with answers that indicate otherwise
    – Ramhound
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:20
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    OK... CM = Community MANAGER (staff) - These people can see votes. "Moderator" is a volunteer, often elected. These people can NOT see votes.
    – Catija
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:25
  • @Catija, that makes sense. This also makes me wonder if such flags can be pushed on to a community manager.
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:26
  • @Timelord64 - theoretically, yes (see "contact" link on the bottom of any SE page). Whether it should be escalated to CMs is a different question.
    – DVK
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:49
  • @Servy interesting point. I haven't thought of it that way before Jan 18, 2017 at 3:23
  • related: Is voting to balance in the spirit of the site?
    – gnat
    Jan 18, 2017 at 7:33
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    Possible duplicate of Is voting to balance in the spirit of the site?
    – Mithical
    Jan 18, 2017 at 15:57
  • @Mithrandir, if they were the same question, I would not have needed to ask this question in the first place..
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 18, 2017 at 19:46
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    @Timelord64: That is how dupes work, yes. Surprising, I know, but true! Jan 18, 2017 at 21:28
  • @NathanTuggy, a duplicate is by definition the same question. If they are not the same question, that is not how duplicates work. The suggested dupe asks if it is appropriate to vote in this manner. I am asking if I should report comments made to suggest voting in this manner. I am constantly told "no, dont do that, but no, dont report it. we dont care.", so there is a clear distinction between the two.
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 19, 2017 at 2:05

3 Answers 3

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If all you want to know is whether it makes sense to flag the comments - I'd say, yes.

They serve no purpose other than to make the OP feel better and to be a bit of an f-you to the person who downvoted.

That's not what comments are for.

Now, that being said, how your site's moderation team will react to these flags is a bit up in the air. Some sites have pretty lenient commenting rules, so the mods may deem the flags invalid and the comments will stay. Other sites have really strict commenting rules and the comments will likely be deleted even without the flag. Other sites are in the middle and only tend to delete comments when brought to the mods' attention and, in this third group, whether they're validated or not depends on the mod, often.

If this happens a lot and it's something that bothers you (the comments, not the voting), I would recommend you bring it up on meta. It seems like something that could be somewhat divisive, particularly in a smaller community.

Many users don't seem to understand that down voting is a necessary part of the site and having a meta conversation about the benefit of them is never bad but you shouldn't expect them to change their behavior.

People are allowed to vote as they choose and, as long as they aren't giving all of their votes (positive or negative) to the same user or few users, there's not much to do about it... the voting, that is.

The comments, those can be removed...

As a moderator, I would likely agree with the flag to remove the comments.

Beyond that, don't expect much. Even if the person has a habit of doing this, it's extremely unlikely the moderator will do much other than simply removing the comment. Nothing that the user has done is against the rules and misuse of comments is pretty minor and rarely punished unless it's totally out of hand or becomes abusive.

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To offer a bit of a contrarian answer, that differs from existing ones, there's another reason why you shouldn't bother with such behavior (comments OR assumed upvotes).

From personal experience, it may very well be that you're not nearly as right as you think, regarding whether the question is obvious, or whether it's as easy to research.

I'm not saying that you are definitely wrong, in your specific case - merely that you should usually consider that it may not be as cut-and-dry as you think.

  • First of all, on theoretical grounds, not all people are expert enough in a given topic to know the exact terms to search for. Even if the documentation is easy to find on Google, it may not be trivial to parse, and/or relevant parts are not phased to be easily noticeable.

  • Second of all, from practical experience as a long term SE user who's also an expert in sepecific topics on SE, I have actually seen many many cases where:

    • People claimed that the question is trivial (on one of my SE stacks, the exact term used was "general reference")

    • I, as an expert in the topic - as signified by tag badge on the topic, in some cases gold tag badge - personally did NOT judge the answer to be trivially obtainable.

    • In more extreme cases, I was actually able to provide an answer that differed from "obvious, trivially researched" answer, because the question was actually much deeper than surface googling would reveal.

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    Now, this is not to say that it's quite possible you are correct and it was indeed a horrendous low quality trivial question that is obvious to answer with no effort. In which case, other answers are more relevant.
    – DVK
    Jan 18, 2017 at 2:01
  • I consider it entirely possible that I am incorrect in my interpretations of the low quality. That said, if it was a matter of simply disagreeing with these interpretations, I can not see why users would not simply comment to state this fact. This seems to be the common way to rebuke a downvote comment - and I have been known to undo or even reverse my votes, in such cases.
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 18, 2017 at 2:09
  • @Timelord64 - well, some people take such things personally and don't react in the most polite way. Can't fix emotional responsiveness of humankind
    – DVK
    Jan 18, 2017 at 2:42
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I think that such comments should be ignored.

I believe a user's upvote and downvote is there for them to use as they wish, and guidelines have been provided to help them decide when to use each.

They can also write whatever they like in a comment, but every comment can be flagged by any user with a reputation of 15 or more, so such comments can simply be flagged with no need for further escalation.

As a moderator when I see such flags I try to remove those comments as part of a comment clean-up/clean-out of a post, rather than making an individual issue of them.

This scenario is a reason why I never leave comments that say a downvote is mine.

Instead I just downvote whenever I think a question shows no research effort, is unclear or is otherwise not useful.

If I feel that the downvote tool tip has not provided enough of a hint to be useful to the poster, I will sometimes comment about why I think anonymous users in general may have downvoted, so that they may be able to improve their post.

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  • I interpret this to say "im afraid to admit when I downvote for this reason". If upvotes and downvotes were completely yours to use as you see fit, they would not be reversible, in some cases.
    – Gnemlock
    Jan 18, 2017 at 0:21
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    Do you really think that having visitors to the sites you moderate see things like "I'm upvoting to make up for the person who downvoted you." is useful? Why should that sort of thing be sitting around on the site for years? It serves no value. Ignoring the comment is not the solution.
    – Catija
    Jan 18, 2017 at 0:37
  • @Catija I do not think that they are at all useful but I think it is better to take them out as part of a comment cleanup of a post rather than make an issue of them.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:38
  • @Timelord64 those are not words which would be coming from me in either writing or thought
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:44

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