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The answer to tactical downvoting problem?

I was reading this post on hacker news. In particular people seemed to be very discouraged about idea they are getting downvotes by competing answerers.

Think about it as anti-sportsmanship. It is clear this is not a super-common practice. Obviously on meta this is a bit more common than on SO.

It is also clear that it leaves a bad taste.

Should we look at introducing a system that stops people from downvoting the competition in certain cases? If so what are the cases? If not why?

  • 1
    Yes, but look who his competition was, he wrote the book on it. Jul 2, 2010 at 0:35
  • @Lance, Yerp the concept would be some for adding inherit protection so these kind of tactics don't work - but its a really valid point that the community has corrected and compensated for this behavior
    – waffles
    Jul 2, 2010 at 0:47
  • Sorry, but I was pretty sure we'd been down this road before. Possible duplicate of The answer to tactical downvoting problem? Also a few others?
    – John Rudy
    Jul 2, 2010 at 1:11

2 Answers 2


Should we look at introducing a system that stops people from downvoting the competition in certain cases? If so what are the cases? If not why?

I think we have to go with no.

Because some questions attract few experts, and we need them to both provide the correct answer and down mod erroneous answers.

So we just have to depend on peer pressure to deal with the problem.

I have seen evidence of the behavior in what appears to be tactical application a few times, so it is an issue, but I think that the cure is worse than the disease.

  • We could theoretically run a few scripts to isolate the cases of tactical downvoting and then send warnings to repeat offenders. or freeze accounts.
    – waffles
    Jul 2, 2010 at 0:40
  • 3
    What's the metric that can tell a real expert downvoting the duffers from a wannabe trying to promote his own answer at the expense of others? It would seem to be an AI complete problem. Jul 2, 2010 at 0:46
  • 2
    Somebody that does this say on 25% of the questions they answer early in the questions lifecycle would be a pretty safe bet (with added weight to timing - eg. when most people have 0-1 votes this has the most impact)
    – waffles
    Jul 2, 2010 at 0:50
  • Ah...that'll catch the pathological cases, anyway. Might be computationally expensive, though. Jul 2, 2010 at 0:53
  • You can do it in retrospect once a week or once a day. You don't even have to change the rules, you can simply undo their downvotes and put them in the sin bin for a week (of course we would have to look at each case indevidually) but in reality there are a very small number of bad seeds.
    – waffles
    Jul 2, 2010 at 0:57

To be fair, it is a well-established convention that a down-vote on meta means simply that someone does not support or agree with your suggestion. Agreed, it can sting a little bit — nobody wants others to disagree with them. But user have gone way out of their way to post frequent comments as to what the significance (or insignificance) of the down-vote means.

As far as other systems go, rather than discouraging or dis-allowing down-votes, we should, instead, encourage people to understand the insignificance of being down-voted and not to take it personally. It is, in the end, meant to be a helpful indication that you might be wrong about something.

The alternative is to treat the mundane (no votes at all) and the incorrect (down-votes) as the same thing. That would be much worse than worrying about hurting someone's feelings.

Suggested reading:
Answer to: Down-Votes Appear to be Pure Evil
Answer to: Why are people afraid of down-votes?

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