ServerFault was interesting for a period of time until two users emailed and suggested that I stop answering questions in 'their tags'. I've since removed my email address, filtered their email addresses, and subsequently removed my account.

One user takes it upon himself to answer the question first with a brief, often incorrect answer and instantly gets two upvotes either through friends or additional accounts. After the correct answer is posted by someone else, that correct answer is downvoted and the contents copied to his higher ranked placeholder. At this point, the first, highly ranked answer gets more attention as the sheep agree, placing this person's reputation high enough that he can easily downvote, flag, and consequently edit answers. Twice, my answers were 'edited for clarity' removing enough substance from the correct answer that I was later downvoted. Once an answer has been flagged as an answer, reputation gains should stop and the answer should become immutable.

Second, the reputation mafia appears to communicate and upvote their friends answers regardless of the accuracy of the answer. Simple votelog analysis would probably make this more difficult to accomplish.

As I'm sure an upvote/downvote/reported log is kept, it should be fairly easy to determine if users are getting a number of votes from particular users that is above the norm. A modifier of the time between the answer and subsequent upvote and the frequency of those users would require additional work to game the system. Modifying an answer for clarity and adding the correct answer to an initial answer would have much different token signatures. An answer that was not similar could not be considered as simple editing. A revision history showing edits would also allow one to judge the answers. As some responders have political agendas, it is in their best interest to answer first and be upvoted then put the correct answer in.

If a high-reputation user owns a tag, don't display any questions in those tags until the question has aged or the tag owner has posted an answer/released the question. I do appreciate the questions that have arisen from December 2009 that show recent activity and two answers as 'unanswered'. Were these released by high-reputation users that gave up ownership of those tags? Documenting tag ownership would also go a long way towards building the community so that we don't improperly answer questions correctly and step on the toes of the high-reputation user that owns the tag.

Documenting that the ServerFault/StackOverflow/SuperUser community is a closed community for the elite and mentioning that newcomers will be downvoted when providing the correct answers might dissuade the newcomers that you don't want from wasting time. A double blind email system would prevent high-reputation users from harassing others, allowing those emails to be reported and blocked at the source. As I stupidly used my primary email address when I signed up, I now receive about six times more spam than ever, presumably from one of the high-reputation users that started receiving bounced emails when I blocked their email bombs.

  • 17
    -1: Data-free rant, assertions duplicate many previous discussions.
    – Shog9
    Jun 15 '10 at 15:49
  • 1
    The first half of this was a bit rant-ish but described a possibly real problem (although probably not on the vast scale he seems to think). The last two paragraphs degenerated into complete paranoia Jun 15 '10 at 15:50
  • @devin you're absolutely right. Retracting (deleting) that comment. Thanks for calling me out on that.
    – squillman
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:12
  • @Squill no problem. It happens.
    – devinb
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:30
  • 7
    If you every experience any kind of harassment relating to StackOverflow, you should immediately email team@stackoverflow.com. That kind of thing should be handled by them.
    – devinb
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:31
  • Edited for clarity
    – juan
    Jun 15 '10 at 17:19
  • 1
    @Shog9, if the assertions duplicate many previous discussions, then maybe's it's not just a rant (even if it is data-free). Jun 15 '10 at 17:30
  • 1
    See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17173/… and... if you want to skirt paranoia... meta.stackexchange.com/questions/42324/…
    – Shog9
    Jun 15 '10 at 17:41
  • 2
    well, there's no way to contact this user because it was all posted anonymously. Jun 16 '10 at 5:28
  • One of the authors of Freakonomics might be interested in helping you beat the cheaters, but personally I gave that book 3.5 out of 5 because they are selfish self-promoting educated commoners with high ambition.
    – Joe Polski
    Jun 16 '10 at 14:23
  • 1
    I have just experienced this. I tried to demonstrate a problem with an answer and had my post mocked, down voted and then deleted. After a rant, that was also deleted-rightfully so, I posted the example in a much more professional manner. Even tough I proved my case with examples from my own code that worked, I was called an idiot and a liar and down-voted, but at least they didn't delete me yet.
    – Russell S
    Jul 29 '13 at 4:44
  • I've seen what the OP described. I am thinking about trying to document it, but how to do so? The only thing I can think of is a really long running recorded screencast with me hitting refresh all the time LOL....
    – Hack-R
    Sep 2 '14 at 13:40

Without data, you're just ranting.

With data, you may have a case.

If this has happened in the past, then there are links to back up your story. Post those links and you can be sure that the Stack Overflow team will look into that.

Without data, these feature requests you're asking for are just solutions looking for problems.

For what it's worth *I* get emails from people complaining about my editing on Stack Overflow every once in a while.

If it's a serious accusation, (viz. peeing on someone's rug) then I'll cc: the Stack Overflow team in my response. If not, I ignore it.

Warning: Link has profanity. Hilarious profanity, but profanity nonetheless.

  • 7
    Upvoting because you have high karma.
    – mmyers
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:04
  • 3
    @mmyers - upvoting your comment because you have high karma.
    – Gnoupi
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:06
  • 9
    @Gnoupi: upvoting because you communicated with me behind the scenes and asked me to up-vote your inaccurate comment.
    – Shog9
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:12
  • 3
    Downvoting until any of you can prove that you are the "tag owner" for any tags on this question.
    – Ether
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:24
  • 2
    Did you guys get my mass emails?
    – mmyers
    Jun 15 '10 at 16:24
  • 2
    Booh, a U.S. only link ;) Jun 15 '10 at 16:45
  • fixed it. I think. Jun 15 '10 at 21:27
  • "The requested video cannot be displayed in your region".. However I'm upvoting you because you got my ip and I don't want to be murdered by the rep mafia
    – Matias
    Jun 16 '10 at 1:24
  • If you google Big Lebowski You peed on my rug there should be a video on your favorite site. Jun 16 '10 at 1:45
  • Upvoted because George Stocker lacks any sense of humor whatsoever and I feel pretty bad for him because of that.
    – Joe Polski
    Jun 16 '10 at 14:24
  • I'm appalled, this answer is clearly not the best answer. It's obvious that this answer has high rep because all you hi-rep fat-cats are gaming the system. I demand a refund or I swear I'll cancel my account. The street sweepers!!! They're spying on us!!! Jun 17 '10 at 3:27

What you are seeing is (likely) the fastest gun in the west phenomenon. Many people post a somewhat comprehensive / mildly correct answer as quickly as they can to start gathering votes, then quickly revise their answer to be more comprehensive and accurate.

Additionally, you should not be harassed by people through private e-mail. Your e-mail address is not visible to anyone but you or site moderators / staff. Its very likely you put a link to your web site in your profile, which contains your contact information.

There is really only one golden rule on the SE sites, Don't Be A Jerk. If someone is harassing you, telling you not to participate or otherwise ruining your experience, e-mail team@stackoverflow and report it before it degenerates to the point that you kill your account.

The reputation system is not perfect, but its far from being as broken as you fear. Even if you don't come back, I'd still report the behavior to the SO team - just make sure you provide ample data to back it up.


As I'm sure an upvote/downvote/reported log is kept, it should be fairly easy to determine if users are getting a number of votes from particular users that is above the norm

This is already done automatically, there are scripts that look for voting patterns like that. As for the epic abuse you described, do you have links to some questions where that happened? You should flag things like that for moderator attention


It was documented and sent to team@stackoverflow.com including urls, comments that were edited, emails received, mail logs. I asked that they investigate or delete my account. I received a single word reply of 'deleted'. Since '97, the email address I used for SO has not been published on the web. Every method of contacting me has been through a web form specifically to avoid spam. As the answer I was posting seemed time sensitive and for something I happened to be working with at the time, I erred and didn't create a new email alias for SO.

I came back after a few months and ran into the same character again, had an answer 'edited for clarity' removing one vital piece of data which then appeared in the 'correct answer'.

It was a rant, I was irritated. Close the thread, sorry to have interrupted.

  • 6
    Give us a link to review please
    – juan
    Jun 15 '10 at 17:18
  • 5
    FWIW: If you didn't put the email in your bio text, the only people who could have seen it would have been moderators and site admins. Although moderators certainly could game the rep system, becoming a moderator would hardly be a trivial step in such a dastardly plan - chances are, there's more to this story.
    – Shog9
    Jun 15 '10 at 17:28
  • 2
    I've put in a request to the Team to let us know what was up. Jun 15 '10 at 17:36
  • this account can be deleted when you delete the thread.
    – user147959
    Jun 15 '10 at 18:35
  • I'm not finding this email you sent us. We get a lot of email, so I don't know what I should be searching for. Jun 17 '10 at 6:33
  • I have searched and searched (also, why did a serverfault issue go to the @stackoverflow email alias) and I can't find this email. Jun 17 '10 at 6:40

This is exactly what the "flag for moderator attention" button is for. Flag it, possibly include other posts where they've done the same thing. And know that when they "edit for clarity" you can always rollback their edits. If you invoke an edit war between them then a moderator will definitely take notice also.

Also try this Google link.

I looked at all 5 of those and didn't see anything suspicious. So apparently no one ever mentioned this in comments. I don't think spiders.txt allows Google to crawl revision comments though.


Please answer any and all questions that you think you have something new and interesting to contribute. I don't own anything.

I don't edit answers very often except, but on the off chance that I did edit something of yours and changed your meaning unintentionally please revert the edit.

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