Emphasis: This is not a why downvote, or when is it ok to downvote, or what to do when voted down. This question is about a particular pattern of downvoting.

Recently, one of my answers was downvoted. It wasn't the best answer, but certainly not technically incorrect. It got me to looking at another user's voting pattern because I saw something odd.

Every answer that wasn't this particular user's had been downvoted (modulo one that was a one-liner summary of his answer).

So, there are two aspects to the pattern:

  1. downvoting other answers is like upvoting yours; your answer instantly has a score that is one higher than it otherwise would, relative everyone else's (at the time of answering)

  2. early on in the answering process, this can have a definite impact on the reputation you receive for an answer because your answer (very possibly later) now bubbles to the top because it has 0 points, versus the other answers which have -1

Regarding point #2, you can further "game" the system by undoing your downvote after you've gotten a couple of votes up, undoing any (minimal) damage to your rep and the others'.

Is this a pattern people have noticed much? Is it worth trying to discourage it? Or am I just a sore downvote recipient?


I'm not trying to get back at this guy. His answer to the question that started all this is very detailed and informative, mine leads you down a different (not as useful) path.

More background:

I checked a few other questions he'd answered and noticed a similar pattern on questions he'd answered — many technically sound answers had -1 score. I even asked him (via comment) if I'd been downvoted because my answer wasn't his and got affirmation. Additionally, another answer I'd written was downvoted at the same time he answered with the only other question (question is 2 months old). Again, there was nothing technically wrong with my answer — it actually contained the same information as his answer.

  • 4
    The last few days here on MSO, it seems like folks beleive down voting should only occur if the person is wrong. Anything other than that must be abuse...
    – RSolberg
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 19:27

9 Answers 9


I have noticed it before, but it only has happened in rare cases.

If it's not already, I would suggest this be a pattern that's looked for by the suspicious vote pattern job to tag for investigating if a user exhibits a history of doing it.

  • 14
    The problem with detecting this by algorithm is it's much more likely to be legitimate. I've seen questions where every single answer has misread the question except for one, and if I had been the one to post the answer I would have downvoted all the other answers because they are legitimately incorrect. Sometimes everyone but you really is wrong.
    – Welbog
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:38
  • 6
    Correct, that's different than when a user exhibits the behavior (by doing this repeatedly on questions s/he answers). Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:40
  • @Welbog: In that situation, I feel the person who got it right can comment why other responses are wrong in those answers, but I think it's better that that person doesn't do the down-voting him/herself. Although I don't know how common such abuse actually is.
    – Gregyski
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 22:23
  • 2
    When I get an inexplicable (to me) downvote, I ask. If my reaction is justified, this leads other people to vote my answer up. Life is too short to worry about if this or that user has exhibits this pattern. Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 0:12
  • Well the check could just be an alert for manual intervention to have mods look at the question and answers that where all downvoted.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 15:57

If you are downvoting other answers because they are not yours, then that is dirty pool.
If you are downvoting other answers because they are all wrong, then that is cool.

  • 1
    And if your're downvoting because they're all wrong and not yours? I guess it's a dirty and cool pool. Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 12:19
  • But what if you're the only right one? Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 0:48

For very subjective questions, poll questions, etc. I'll often down-vote everything i disagree with, regardless of whether or not i've posted an answer myself. Those questions should be CW anyway, so i'm not particularly worried about hurting anyone's reputation.

For actual programming questions, i down-vote incorrect or misleading answers. I'll also down-vote answers that are less helpful than another, lower-rated answer (in addition to upvoting that answer).

I don't agree with down-voting objectively-good answers just to make your own answer higher sort closer to the top. Fortunately, there are limits to how much "gaming" can be done built into the system (limited # of votes, limited timespan for changing votes).

See also: Why do you cast downvotes on answers?


Downvotes shouldn't be used for competitive or punitive reasons, they should only be given for wrong or 'slightly wrong' answers (not counting 'subjective' questions).

  • 3
    -1 agree with this answer, but think it's not answering my question. (feels ironic to downvote an answer on downvoting) Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:34

I'll admit to having done this once or maybe twice. Not a regular practice or something I'm proud of. I think this was the scenario that led to it:

  1. Another user answered with an incomplete answer.
  2. I provided a better answer seconds later.
  3. Within a minute, the first user edited his answer and copied my answer (pracitally verbatim).

Now, since he did this quickly, that didn't count as a revision, so his answer still stayed on top, and it looked like I copied his answer, which I didn't think was fair. So I downvoted him so I'd be on top. Then I went back after an hour or two and undid the downvote (after all, I didn't really think his answer was wrong, since it was my answer to begin with). Again, I don't think this was good behavior, nor do I do it often. I'm just being honest here.

On the other hand, a similar behavior that I'm sure many engage in is this: when posting an answer, I usually won't upvote any other answers to that same question, even if I think they are good answers, since that would be equivalent to giving myself a -1. I might come back a few hours later and upvote the good answers, though.

  • I think the proposed "Sportsmanship" badge would possibly help to combat this practice though.
    – a_m0d
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 21:56

That's just good old human jealousy & pettiness...been around since the dawn of civilization, that one.

As for solutions, you could try wiping out the human race.

I'm not sure there should be specific SO rules just to deal with this sort of stuff, otherwise you'll end up legislating the site to death.


The tooltips on arrows say everything:

  • Upvote if post is useful
  • Downvote if post is not useful (which should be understood as useless)

Voting for every other reason is noise. And noise is bad because it makes harder to hear something useful. In that case, it is harder for users to evaluate which solution is worth their attention and which isn't, because something was downvoted for any reason other than the content!

The exception: every answer to some question is crap. But it's usually a symptom for poor question, which is not worth attention. Of course there are some exceptions to that exception, but they are more rare than the exception itself etc.


It has been suggested in the past that if you are throwing your hat into the ring and answering a question then you shouldn't be able to vote on other questions in that thread. However, after thinking about this for awhile I'm don't think it is the way to go.

Vindictive down-voting is just a part of any social-voting system. It is going to happen. However, it is rare enough that I don't think people should get their knickers in a twist over it. Especially over 1-2 downvotes.


Downvote him back.

Or be a tattle-tell and go tell a moderator to point out the voting abuse.

  • 8
    -1: Downvoting him back is abuse the same way going after users systemically downvoting them is. Two wrongs don't make a right, Batman.
    – Welbog
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:36
  • 9
    Yeah well four right turns puts you back in the same direction.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:37
  • 2
    If I could downvote you again I would for that terrible comment. Instead I'll submit a humorous report to the moderators saying unflattering things about your donkey.
    – Welbog
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:39
  • 2
    well three right turns is a left! ;)
    – Kip
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 18:54
  • 5
    Every day is bad joke day on MSO.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 19:08
  • Except for my jokes, which are never bad. :P Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 20:57
  • 1
    Brad makes jokes? :P
    – a_m0d
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 21:57
  • 32
    A doctor, a lawyer, and a rabbi log into stack overflow...
    – Kip
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 22:00
  • 38
    The bartender looks at them and goes "Sorry, you guys are not programming related."
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 9, 2009 at 22:04
  • 4
    @Kip and TXI: Damn it I laughed.
    – Welbog
    Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 0:00
  • 1
    There's a bartender? I could use a drink! Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 11:23
  • Kip + TheTXI = the new Abbott and Costello Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 19:02

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