I don't want to be like the little kid that got beat up at school and runs home crying to mommy, but I just got tactically downvoted in a question. Someone else posted a virtually identical answer to mine, after I posted mine, and both of us quickly got 1 upvote. He then downvoted me, got a few more upvotes, and removed the downvote when he got "ahead," mostly taking advantage of the fact most people vote for the top correct answer and then move on.

It has been discussed at some points why tactical downvoting is bad/wrong/etc, but it's obviously impossible to really detect for regular users because of voting being anonymous. The only reason I was able to "catch" the offender this time is because I happened to take a look at his reputation after I got the downvote and I noted that it was 3170. I then refreshed the page (looking for any vote changing, mostly) and my downvote was gone and his reputation had switched to 3171.

The question I am referring to is here.

So, is this something I just need to suck up and move on, or are there voting records that can confirm this and perhaps take some kind of action to prevent it from happening in the future?

  • You can not know who cast the downvote, and thus can not know that it was "tactical".
    – Raedwald
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 18:37
  • Re "...removed the downvote when he got 'ahead'..": Did that happen within the 5 minutes revert vote time limit?. Perhaps not at the time? When was the time limit introduced? Source: Why do votes get locked?. OK, Jeff Atwood's answer (prompted by this very question?). Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 9:43

6 Answers 6


Well, there are two approaches:

  • Yes, you can lodge a formal complaint. Ask the moderators to contact the guy, get them to investigate the behaviour as far as they can (I don't know whether votes which are made and then deleted are retained in the database) and see what happens. Ultimately it's hard to see what the result can be - deleting the answer? Transferring votes? It would all be a bit unsatisfactory. The only benefit would be that the guy is told off and hopefully won't do it again.

  • Let it go. You've put comments on the answer, so hopefully he'll either explain himself or at least know that it's a pretty unreasonable thing to do (assuming he did do it - he could have undone a downvote elsewhere, of course). Move on, answer more questions, make the world a better place that way.

Personally I'd go for option 2. I sympathise, but in the end it's only a bit of reputation. At 32K it's a fairly insignificant amount of it, too. I'm glad you left the comment though - I hope this guy doesn't do this on a regular basis. (Again, assuming he is guilty as charged.)

  • Agreed. Is your site still down?
    – RSolberg
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:54
  • The rep tracker is up. It's only the bits which touch the database of notes/errata/etc for C# in Depth that's down.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:58
  • 4
    I agree with Let it Go. The reason I say this is because downvoting was always meant to be anonymous, so all you are doing is assuming tactical downvoting on the other person's part. For all you know that person legitimately believes that the other answers are wrong. It sounds to me like you are attempting to punish thought crime. The only voting pattern which I believe should be reported and punished for is blatant serial up/down voting on a particular user (which is very easy to identify using the mod tools).
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 11:20
  • 6
    Well, downvoting an answer which contains exactly the same text as your own one (and was voted first) is a special case - unless they're posting information they know to me untrue!
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 13:58
  • 2
    @Jon: Really? How do you know he didn't make a mistake and press the button by accident and then take it back?
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 16:59
  • 5
    It's possible that happened, although the timing doesn't make it sound likely. Usually you'd spot an accidental downvote very quickly. If I'd done that, I'd leave a comment explaining it - especially when attention has been drawn to it.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 17:07
  • @Jon: I do not see any voting timing records.
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 17:11
  • 5
    @RichB: The timing is in the question - a downvote, then enough time for a few more votes to be cast, then the downvote being cancelled. Also enough time for Paolo to notice the user's rep and notice it changing again. Yes, it's certainly possible that this is still an innocent mistake - but I think it unlikely, especially due to the lack of explanation in the answer now that it's been pointed out.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 18:33
  • @Jon: To go and publicly ridicule and accuse the user and vigilante downvote based strictly on Paolo's obviously very biased and emotional opinion with no supporting fact seems like a very bad decision. If Paolo felt it was an issue, he should have reported it to the mods so the issue could have been dealt with behind the scenes. I am also disappointed in your actions in the comments on that answer by the way.
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 18:40
  • 10
    I have gently asked the user to back up his implication that he is innocent with an actual claim that that's the case. As it is, he appears to be trying to seem innocent without actually coming out and saying it. I would feel a lot happier if he'd either admit to having been the downvoter, or state that he definitely wasn't. Could you point out where anyone has "publicly ridiculed" anyone? Paolo criticised him, but that's very different from "public ridicule". He's publicly called the behaviour into question, which again isn't the same as ridiculing the user, IMO.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 19:19
  • @Jon: What gives you, paolo or anyone else but the mods the right to accuse or demand anything from this user?
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 19:43
  • 8
    Could you look at my actual comments and say where I'm demanding anything? I have politely asked for clarification. I feel it would be helpful. Do you think otherwise? I think anyone has the right to ask politely whether someone actually did something, when there is circumstantial evidence that they did but they've hinted that they didn't. If we don't have the right to ask anyone any questions, what gave you the right to ask a question in your previous comment? Paolo feels that someone has behaved unjustly towards him - I think it's entirely reasonable for him to ask about it politely.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 19:51
  • @Jon: It is a lynch mob pure and simple and it does not belong on SO.com.
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 19:53
  • 3
    I agree that the downvoting of the answer was unnecessary and somewhat moblike (although the upvoting of the definitely better answer by Paolo is okay by me) - but I don't see anything like a mob in the comments. In particular, a lynch mob rarely stops to ask the person in question whether they were actually involved...
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 20:07
  • 4
    @RichB: It would certainly have helped for Paolo to be slightly more circumspect and explain his observations right from the start... but I don't think Paolo's behaviour is nearly as bad as you're making it out to be.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 21:09

On Hacker News, you cannot downvote anyone that replies to your post, and on Slashdot you're not allowed to use your moderation powers on the same thread that you post on. Maybe we could adopt something similar here, where you can't downvote any competing answers to a question? This has some drawbacks, but can you really trust someone who posted their own reply to be objective about judging the other peoples' replies?

  • note there is no way to perform analysis on the data dump to determine the scale of the problem (by design)
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:40
  • 20
    This has been suggested before and I personally think it's a terrible idea. For one thing there's the matter of ordering - if I've downvoted, should I think not be able to post an answer? The other main thing is that it would mean I couldn't downvote entirely incorrect answers if I've posted an answer. See stackoverflow.com/questions/1124753 for an example of where that would have been a problem.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:41
  • 1
    (If you can see deleted answers you'll get more of an idea of why it's important.)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:45
  • 7
    @Jon: Yes, I do agree that it would prevent much 'legitimate' downvoting. I guess you'd just have to trust that someone else will recognize and downvote the entirely incorrect answer (worst case: you'll have to address the validity in your own answer). As for ordering, I would think that it would just undo your downvotes if you posted an answer (i.e. it wouldn't block you from posting if you downvoted). Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:46
  • 18
    That definitely sounds to me like the cure is worse than the disease.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 7:09
  • 6
    By posting another answer you've made your case against the entirely incorrect answer. Why is it necessary to add a downvote on top of that? It strikes me as mildly mean-spirited. Commented Aug 27, 2009 at 16:10
  • 2
    @Jon Skeet: other people will take care of downvoting the wrong answers if you happen to have answered it already. After all you can only just add one single vote to the wrong answer. Whereas the people who abuse the system (eg by permanently downvoting competing answers) can still do it, even with the "radically reduced the window for undoing votes" fix.
    – RomanSt
    Commented Nov 5, 2009 at 23:44
  • 1
    I would strongly disagree with a rule like this. I've answered questions and then been appalled at the other answers they collected; see meta.stackexchange.com/q/90206/156418. There have also been answers I posted specifically because the existing ones were crap. Or downvotes I added with constructive criticism and then happily removed. Sometimes an answer is so bad that competing with it isn't enough, and I'd like to be trusted to make that decision. Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 23:12

I don't like this idea of not allowing downvotes in threads you have a post. There are far more reasons for a downvote than tactical reasons. If you downvote an answer and supply a better one, doesn't the OP win? Isn't that the goal?

As an OP I do tend to try and watch the answers I receive and will call out duplicate answers and award the accepted answer to the first post. As a answerer I'll call out the behavior if I see it. And then close my eyes, scream, and move on.

  • 2
    For any question there are almost always more people who vote than who answer, so there's no need to worry too much about one missing vote. If you write your good answer, addressing (either directly or indirectly) the flaws in the other answer, somebody else will likely do the necessary voting.
    – Dan Dyer
    Commented Sep 7, 2009 at 19:12

Jeff has blogged about voting problems here and here so there are procedures in place to detect some dodgy voting practices. However, I'm not sure they'd detect what you describe as it's transient rather than permanent.

This would be a more serious problem if this was this posters normal behaviour. But without constant monitoring of their voting habits you're not going to be able prove anything.

So in this case I'd let it go.

  • 2
    Umbrella after rain.
    – akarnokd
    Commented Jul 18, 2009 at 17:31

There is an inverse game to that, which is potentially more harmful:

  • Post a good answer to a question
  • Upvote everyone else, to draw the community to upvote them more, this way, driving them into the false impression about the goodness of their answer
  • After an answer is accepted other than yours, delete your own post, and if it got upvoted or downvoted 3 or more times, you'll receive a Disciplined/Peer pressure badge

Nash cooperative game theory with punishment strategy.

  • 8
    I think rep would be a much stronger incentive than getting a bronze badge would...
    – hbw
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 9:14
  • 3
    Disciplined and Peer Pressure are only awarded once per user.
    – chaos
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 11:44
  • Thanks for the info about the badge. The game isn't about the get-badge.
    – akarnokd
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 17:51

To help deal with the "tactical downvoting" problem, we have radically reduced the window for undoing votes.

There is now a 5 minutes window where you can undo a vote.

After that, the vote is permanently "locked in", until the post is edited. Once the post is edited you may vote for it again.

  • 96
    Are you sure "tactical downvoting" was actually a problem and not just a few people vocally complaining? Because limiting vote undo times is incredibly annoying, especially when the original question is clarified, and anybody with >= 2k rep can undo their vote anyways by trivially editing an answer. Are you sure that if "tactical downvoting" was a problem in 2009, that it's still a potential problem now?
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 14:48
  • 31
    For the problem the OP poses, no need to limit anyone else's possibility to change votes other than people having written an answer in this thread. Also, this probably is a very temporary problem, which happens to new questions only. It's notoriously bad practice to make general policy rules out of isolated incidents, but it's even worse if the policy doesn't only fix the issue at hand, but spill over to a number valid scenarios when there is no need for it to do so. Restraining policies should always be optimized for minimal impact.
    – user148312
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 1:21
  • 2
    If you have the privilege you can edit it . I did it once and it worked :)
    – Suici Doga
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 2:24
  • 9
    -1 Locking in my downvote now while I'm feeling petulant at not being able to correct some vote somewhere, before someone makes me think logically.
    – Bob Stein
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 20:06
  • 31
    It's 2018 and this is still an infuriating problem. I keep making a vote thinking it reads one way and then after 10 minutes of research I realize I voted incorrectly and I have to dutifully go back and change it, but now the shame is forever on me and my name. This is punishment for everyone because of the abuse of a few. Just lock out the reputation points refund!
    – stimpy77
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 22:01
  • 2
    The question asker should have unlimited vote time because 1) they probably can't execute tactical voting by themselves (what is tactical voting, anyways?), 2) they are most likely to give the answers long-term scrutiny by testing and re-considering.
    – ryvantage
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 18:27
  • 4
    Why not make the lockout apply only to downvotes? That would solve the TDV problem without preventing people from taking back an upvote that they think better of later.
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 21:32
  • 6
    This has been annoying me quite a bit. I don't understand how the incentives are supposed to work, this is for supposedly saving the tactical down-voter exactly one point? There are so many times I need to edit a vote because I realized that my perception was wrong. And now it's forever stained in the wrong direction. This appears to have an overall much worse outcome than the extremely rare tactical downvote, which we don't even know if this helps with that problem anyway. Why can't people just flag the post if they tactically downvoted? Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 8:00
  • 2
    If tactical downvoting was the problem, then why lock in upvotes too? Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:07
  • 3
    Can someone with enough rep tell us how many upvotes and downvotes this post has? I doubt it has a score of 0 just because nobody voted on it.
    – Some Guy
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 6:27
  • @Some Guy: It is now at -42/+34 (-8 total) Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 19:54
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum Better late than never, thank you
    – Some Guy
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 0:45

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