Recently I asked a question that was not too dissimilar to other questions, but it turns out it wasn't in the right place. Instead of it being flagged for moving, it received a flurry of downvotes without any comments guiding me as to what I could do better.

Shortly after, I asked on Stack Overflow meta how can I, or where is the best place to ask this question. This also received a flurry of downvotes followed by closure, only by flagging this post was I able to get any sense from anyone about what might be going on.

My asking on the correct group (software engineering) had similar results, even though I checked the rules, and looked at some other posts to gauge what was appropriate.

I then also received downvotes across other unrelated posts and a flag on a post that had been happily sitting the way it was for years!

After this I began looking at Stack Overflow meta and Stack Exchange meta and have found posts with users having similar problems (serial voting). It seems to be centred around Stack Overflow, Software Engineering and Academia.

Looking over these groups some of the treatment of post seems grossly hypocritical, and I'm failing to see any fairness in how they are voted for or flagged.

My first assumption is that it's gatekeeping and rank farming. Do employers take Stack Overflow ranking in to consideration? Does the Stack Overflow network potentially have a problem with compromised moderators? Is it possible there potentially are group(s) within these networks who are intentionally damaging reputation and selling rank boosts?

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    Those are some awful big assumptions you're making. There was also some advice on your M.SO, where it was explained what was happening. – fbueckert Aug 23 '19 at 21:52
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    @fbueckert I would be more surprised to find that this isn't the case, guess it just depends on the scale of it. It's just human nature to do these kind of things, so to assume it's not happening in any fashion what so ever feels a bit nieve. – Kitchengreen Aug 23 '19 at 21:55
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    That sounds like bad faith, to me. It's also common to accuse curators of everything from hostility, elitism, cliques, toxicity, you name it. Most often, it's a lack of understanding of the system. – fbueckert Aug 23 '19 at 21:58
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    That's a fair comment, it has been a really odd experience but I just chalk that up to learning. There's no way I would have found any of the links without this experience. I guess that's a bad omen for the SE network, I'm not the first and I won't be the last and no amount of down voting and snarky comments will prevent it from happen again to another user. As someone who's just learning about all this now, I can say it takes the shine off and my feelings towards the SE network has have quickly faded to (but not completely) 'oh it's a slightly more serious Reddit'. I hope my honesty helps. – Kitchengreen Aug 23 '19 at 22:13
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    You’re not alone in feeling this way. We hear it a lot from newcomers, and it’s been the subject of many meta posts and blog posts. It’s something that we are working to change, but culture is a hard thing to change. The SE team is working on improving the experience and hopefully that’ll have an impact. Reading your questions, they were off topic, and you should be able to ask why they were off topic on meta. Unfortunately even if you are contrite and perfect in your tone, you’ll get downvoted on meta because (reasons that don’t make sense). Keep trying. – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 22:25
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    @GeorgeStocker: I find it very disconcerting to see an elected SO moderator repeat mistaken notions often spouted by new users like "you'll get downvoted" (we downvote posts, not people) and "reasons that don't make sense" (duplicate posts of that sort are not helpful, hence the downvotes). It's very strange and lends itself far too much towards the idea that we ought to have no problems with terrible questions. That SE is just a help desk and we should behave as such. – Nicol Bolas Aug 23 '19 at 22:41
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    @nicol scroll through my meta and Stack overflow posts that have gotten downvotes over the past few weeks and say that no one votes according to the person and not the post. – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 22:47
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    @GeorgeStocker: I skimmed through your recent MSO posts, and it seems to me that every one that has gained any significant downvoting is something that the MSO community is clearly against. That is, they don't care who is saying it; they care about what is being said. You feel targeted because your vision for the site is obviously antithetical to theirs, but that doesn't mean you are being targeted. If someone else had said the same thing, it would have attracted the same voting. And if you had said something more agreeable to the community, it would have attracted upvoting. – Nicol Bolas Aug 23 '19 at 22:54
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    @nicol that certainly explains how mysteriously my stack overflow answers and questions that are recent have gotten downvotes since then that coincide wirh me answering on meta. – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 22:57
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    @nicol I’d also love for you to explain this one to me: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/388767/… – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 23:00
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    @GeorgeStocker: If you're referring to your answer on that question, gnat seemed to offer a suggestion: downvotes due to spending inordinate amounts of moderator time being spent on something pointless rather than productive. Plus, there's the whole unclosing/reclosing thing rather than just making a quick comment with some links. But since you believe that comments are bad and should be deleted at the first opportunity, I guess that's a point for consistency. In any case, you've made other posts that haven't been heavily downvoted recently too, so your evidence is weak. – Nicol Bolas Aug 23 '19 at 23:11
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    @nicol no good deed goes unpunished. – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 23:14
  • @NicolBolas the flow on effect (serial voting) against an individuals other posts after an event like this is vendictive and unhelpful. It's kind of the key point. If it's not organised externally then its 'eccentric' individuals having their feathers ruffled by something they feel strongly about, enough to become that down vote gremlin who spends time maliciously finding anything wrong that they can with the posts from 'the person that wronged them'. – Kitchengreen Aug 24 '19 at 4:37
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    @Kitchengreen: I have a hard time calling 2 downvotes in the space of two weeks "serial voting". – Nicol Bolas Aug 24 '19 at 5:38

My first assumption is that it's gatekeeping and rank farming.

The system is build on the premises of gamification, so there is an aspect of farming, no doubt. It is all fun.

Do employers take SO ranking in to consideration?

For sure there are HR departments that take these fake internet points very seriously. I don't expect they will retain much of the hired talent. The talent is smart enough to move on to the next gig quickly.

Does the SO network potentially have a problem with compromised moderators?

There is not much that can't be seen, noticed, verified, cross-checked by many users. Even if one of the 26 (elected) moderators on SO goes rogue, they will be stopped in their tracks swiftly and their "damage" undone. The same goes for users that attained privileges that invite and allow them to moderate (voting (up/down/close/reopen/delete)). When it comes to reviewing, closing and deleting you'll need multiple users to agree and even if they do, their actions are on public record and can and will be scrutinized on Meta or by the elected moderators when they overstepped the current consensus. This community is self-moderated.

Is it possible there potentially are group(s) within these networks who are intentionally damaging reputation and selling rank boosts?

There are plenty of chatrooms around the network that organize all kind of moderation and no doubt plenty more in private slack and icq channels. And then there are even more scripts and more users that notice peculiarities and flag those to be investigated.

SE is not a waste land like Yahoo Answers. The moderation here is pretty high standard because we can afford to optimize for quality instead of quantity. Our moderation and moderators are fine. We have grown a bit complex which makes it hard if not impossible to get all the delicate rules on these sites explained in a timely manner to new users. Our on-boarding needs work, lots of work. Until then you need to give us some slack, say 6 to 8 weeks.

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    The people who closed his question were not community elected moderators. The outside world sees no difference in the community elected moderators and trusted users. – George Stocker Aug 23 '19 at 22:30
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    @GeorgeStocker - Then the moderators need to do a better job explaining that fact through moderator messages. They are in the best position to clarify that fact. – Ramhound Aug 24 '19 at 0:03
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    @ramhound thanks for that feedback. Whom should we mod message to explain the difference? – George Stocker Aug 24 '19 at 0:09
  • @GeorgeStocker - The users who assume the non-moderators are moderators? The users, who incorrectly call other users who voted to close their out of scope questions, a moderator. Active community members, who are not moderators, should not have to clarify that point. – Ramhound Aug 24 '19 at 0:12
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    @ramhound you’re right. Active users should also not confuse the issue by leaving such statements uncorrected. – George Stocker Aug 24 '19 at 0:16
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    @GeorgeStocker - I actually do, however, it never helps the situation. The user who feels attacked due to downvotes isn’t interested in what a normal user has to say. – Ramhound Aug 24 '19 at 0:21
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    @GeorgeStocker I extended that paragraph a bit. Does that address your concern? – rene Aug 24 '19 at 7:35

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