As a moderator over at physics.se as well as a Stack Overflow user, I've noticed the unfortunate habit of some users to "serial down-vote" answers that are not apparently incorrect. This a rare occurrence, but nonetheless one that is noticeable. The idea here is encourage constructive criticism and feedback rather than "I disagree with this, that, and that, but I don't fancy telling anyone why." (From my personal experience, such supposed users, when having been politely asked to leave reasons, very rarely do.) I can only suspect this is done by a small minority of users, but is certainly noticeable enough.

As a moderator, I am able to see the number of votes cast by users on other users in certain cases, but not of course specific up/down-votes. In the desire to stop this detrimental habit, what do people think about providing a (moderator-only?) capability to view users who are serially up-voting or down-voting? I'm mainly just interested in gauging reaction of other users (particularly moderators). This is likely to be a highly unpopular idea to most, though it does not necessarily mean that it's a bad one.

In addition, I'm also curious what other ideas people have to encourage feedback of the more constructive variety. (Most users are already sensible enough to do this, but again, there's a significant minority out there who don't.)

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    Who's downvoting this without commenting? ;) Jan 18, 2011 at 20:03
  • @Bill The down votes are trying to get the message across to the powers that be that they do not agree with what the question proposes.
    – abel
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:10
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    @abel: I'm sure Bill realizes that.
    – Ether
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:14
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    This is highly amusing how much this question has been down-voted. Unfortunately I don't think it's been done for the sake of irony, but rather because users want to be anonymous in dishing out their judgement.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:39
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    @Noldorin anonymous downvoting to express disagreement with a proposal is normal on Meta.SO - it's not a judgement on the quality of the contribution like it is on SO proper. Re staying anonymous: you make that sound like a bad thing....
    – Pekka
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:42
  • @Pekka: Yeah, that's what I thought. This was always likely to be a very emotional and controversal issue for many people.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:47
  • @Noldorin Yeah. I can understand your motivation though - massive voting either way can be very damaging to a community - especially a young one - even though it's usually limited to a very small group of users. Actually, Jeff brought this up once in a Stack Overflow context, I'll see whether I can find the link for reference. (The downvotes on that one were fairly similar IIRC - nothing to be taken personally. :)
    – Pekka
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:51
  • Heh, I just had to check Jeff's profile for the most downvoted questions! Should we have a policy about “too much downvoting”?
    – Pekka
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:53
  • @Pekka: Thanks - that's very much my point; sometimes things are just a bit too susceptible to the extreme actions of a tiny group of users. I'd definitely be interested in seeing Jeff's question; do please link me if you can find it. :) I've also edited my original question now; hopefully it's a bit clearer about my motivations and what I'm hoping for.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:53
  • Excellent, I'll have a skim through that, for sure. Seems like it was very controversial indeed, which is reassuring in some ways (but also slightly discouraging).
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:55

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure exactly what you're asking here. You seem to already know that we have access to aggregate vote counts for suspicious voting activity directed at specific users. That's pretty much our serial vote checking system already.

Are you suggesting some kind of method to see if people are downvoting or upvoting too much? I don't think we can really define that. Users get a strict 30 votes per day that already throttles them from voting way too much. Because of that, you really can't tell a yes-man voter from someone who is spuriously placing upvotes, or a person with high standards from someone who is just downvoting everything.

Are you suggesting some method to see the specific posts that users have been voting on? I'm not sure that's all that necessary for our job. Serial patterns usually don't matter as to what posts they're on, only that they're serially voting.

At a point, I'm not sure we're operating on the same wavelength when it comes to defining "serial voting". Can you clarify that a bit?

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    The aggregate vote counts do seem like exactly what he wants Jan 18, 2011 at 20:04
  • @Michael That's what I figure, but Noldorin does profess knowledge of them already. So there may be something more that is desired.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:05
  • Thanks for your reply. I think indeed that I didn't express myself clearly in the original post... I suppose I refer to the very number of people who abuse the system by "fly-by" down-voting (without leaving comments) of any post that doesn't take there fancy. Perhaps a more acceptable proposal would be for the "community user" bot to flag users who have a large number of down-votes without comments, so that moderators can suggest they start leaving constructive criticism.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:42
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    To be clear; expressing a view without reason should not be encouraged so much, I think. At the end of the day, the user can make their own mind up, but the point needs to be made somehow that its detrimental to the community to abuse the down-voting (or indeed-upvoting), and it is good etiquette to leave comments.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:46

I don't think it's a good idea, mostly because I don't think it's necessary. Being down voted for no apparent reason happens to pretty much everyone at some stage, it's just something you go through. Those votes shouldn't be reversed by a moderator because they are someone's genuine opinion and that is the entire purpose of voting. I have had correct answers down voted but I wouldn't expect a moderator to fix them. Not all moderators would know what a correct or incorrect answer would be to every question asked - even accepted answers can be wrong or just bad advice. It's not really your place to decide if down votes from the same person against several answers were warranted or not, it's not the same as maliciously serial down voting the same person.

Then there's the abuse aspect. With all the new Stack Exchange websites being launched and the increasing number of moderators, what's stopping a moderator from checking to see who down voted his post? Sure, you're a moderator and that makes you trusted to some extent, but do you trust the people in charge of your country? Probably not.

  • I think you miss my point, though this could be due to the way I expressed my original question. See my comment response to @Grace Note.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:43

First of all, I don't think there are many "serial downvoters" it would have to be someone that was "good enough" to reach to 125 points and the don't care to loose them.

But this aside, I think you idea is (NO OFFENSE) very wrong in concept because once the user has gained the privilege to down-vote, moderators should NOT be deciding if the down-vote is correct, if not, we lose the democracy.

Though it might be true, that some downvotes (and upvotes too) may be unfair / undeserved, who are "you" (moderator) to decide and do you have the time to decide, let the community do it, especially since the voting process is the most important part of the Q&A sites.

Again no offense (at all) but I find it strange that a moderator suggests that since some incorrect decisions of some individual should not make you lose faith of the power of community.

In my opinion it is just the way it is.

  • I think you probably might mean "moderators should not be deciding[...]" in the second paragraph?
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:11
  • @Grace by all means, edited the answer, thanks for the heads up!
    – Trufa
    Jan 18, 2011 at 20:12
  • Thanks for the response; unfortunately you've completely missed the point of what I'm suggesting. I've expressed myself a bit clearer in my comment on @Grace's post however.
    – Noldorin
    Jan 18, 2011 at 21:44

As said in my comment, I can see both sides of the argument. Bad voting behaviour - both up and down - can damage a community, especially a young one.

On the other hand, knowing about votes is dangerous information by nature. If I were a mod, and would see somebody massively voting down my contributions, I would have to distrust my future ability to deal entirely objectively with this user. Maybe others are more detached in that respect, but I wouldn't set up a system that counts on everybody managing that at all times. So for peace's sake, I think the benefit of keeping votes secret ultimately outweighs any potential gains.

However: It is very likely that users with truly destructive behaviour will ever limit themselves to mere voting. They will express themselves in other, non-anonymous ways as well. Note how the top downvoter on Stack Overflow is in a year-long suspension on both Meta and SO proper. So chances are that the normal community processes will be enough to communicate with users, and to impose penalties if unavoidable.

  • As has been mentioned repeatedly, we can see when one user is excessively voting for another - this includes a scenario of a user massively downvoting said moderator.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 19, 2011 at 0:04
  • @Grace ah, fair enough. Didn't know the tools were that specific
    – Pekka
    Jan 19, 2011 at 0:05

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