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Is Tactical Down-Voting ever valid?

How does this work? In a high-pace situation (question, minutes old, currently does not have satisfactory answer), are answerers obligated to read all other answers before and as they're answering, and follow every single revisions of those answers, just in case someone else already said the "same thing" as they're about to say, and make sure to credit those answers else he/she should be downvoted for the perceived stealing?

Let's say there are two answerers A and B on the same question, and they revised their answers progressively, A1, B1, A2, A3, B2, etc. At some point, let's say B4 was derived, and later, say, A5 chronologically followed, which happens to be "the same as" B4.

Should B downvote A5 for "stealing" or otherwise not crediting B4?

  • @Jon: I don't think this was tactical. It was a show of disapproval for what was perceived as stealing another answer, when two answerers are progressively revising their answers and one found The Ultimate Version before the other. The downvoter explicitly claims the reason for the downvote (as opposed to tactical downvoting which is almost always an anonymous action). Commented May 10, 2010 at 3:26
  • @poly: They may claim it publicly, but it's still tactical since you'll communicate the idea in your own way. That is, unless your answer provided no extra uniqueness than the other person, in which case your answer probably should just be deleted.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 3:36
  • @Jon: A5 definitely covers a lot more than B4, but there's a part of A5 that was "the same as" B4, and B4 came first before A5 in the revision chronology. B then downvoted A5, not to gain advantage in voting process, but to show disapproval for perceived stealing. B likely would not have downvoted prior revisions (A4, A3, etc), because it's not "the same as" B4. B would also not have downvoted A5 if A had seen B4 at the time of writing A5, and credit B with first discovery. I think this situation is more complex than simple tactical downvoting. Commented May 10, 2010 at 3:47
  • @poly: It's still tactical because with a -1 your answer will be less likely to get voted up (i.e., take the credit for their ideas). If all they wanted to do was punish you, they'd either flag as spam/offensive or go downvote one of your other questions/answers. Regardless, it's a biproduct of the voting system, and I'm not sure it's worth analyzing in detail. The real question is: what do you choose to do, if anything?
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented May 10, 2010 at 3:59
  • @Jon: I choose to learn from this experience and become a better member of stackoverflow community, which is why I started this [discussion] on meta. B in fact later retracted the downvote (after making a dummy A6 revision on A's answer), so A (=me) is not really concerned about that "tactical" downvote (which no longer exists), but rather the issue of proper credit when answers are being revised, etc. Commented May 10, 2010 at 4:03

1 Answer 1


The way I see it, there are two options:

  1. Don't participate in these types of questions (they're the easy ones, anyway)
  2. Read all answers at the time you open the question, then give your own value-adding answer

In the latter case, if you want to build on someone's answer (you're value-adding, right?), then write either

  • "As <UserX> said, ..., I would also ..." or
  • "As others have said, ..., I would also ..."

If you legitimately come up with an overlapping idea on your own, then write it out in your own words. If someone is being whiny enough, then you can edit out the overlapping content in favour of one of the formats above. Since your answer should have other unique content, that leaves something of value in your answer; if editing out that content leaves nothing, then your answer should be deleted anyway as it doesn't add any value to the discussion.

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