A user, who had been blocked for a week, came online again yesterday with a vengeance. Most of the answers that this person gave were factually wrong, filled with personal anecdotes, offensive or bad in other ways. So I downvoted them.

I did not downvote the answers, because they were by this person, but because they were bad answers. Yet, as I come online today, all my downvotes have been reversed.

Why are all my downvotes of bad answers beging undone?!?

The whole principle of this site is to vote on answers. It is not my fault that this person is so extremely active that downvoting everything bad this person does appears like spam. As you can easily see from the score those answers have, they are downvoted by other users as well, and it is not just me being spiteful. And I didn't downvote all that person's activity either, because there were answers that, while not being the best, were good enough.

Please stop undoing all the very thoughtful and considerate downvotes of one person's low quality posts!

(That's what I meant in my other post when I said the site's current mechanisms are not enough to deal with a busy troll. They work against the good intentions of those that want to stop that troll.)

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  • Last week was fine. Since that person came online again, I feel like taking a holiday. Just reading that person's first five posts makes me tired from not wanting to deal with this. – user3116 Feb 10 '14 at 4:44
  • Does it say serial downvoting reversed ? – Josh Feb 10 '14 at 4:50
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    It's more than okay to take a step back, this has been very tiring for everyone. I, and I'm sure everyone else, appreciates your contributions very much. – Chuck Sherrington Feb 10 '14 at 4:57
  • Where should it say that? In the top menu, where there are those different-sized "i"s, there are eight +1, that's all I see. – user3116 Feb 10 '14 at 5:40
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    It's very late for me. I'll review this tomorrow. It was probably the system automatically doing this. – Josh Feb 10 '14 at 5:42
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    And now that I have reviewed, yes, this was the serial downvoting algorithm. No human reversed your votes. See Nick's answer. – Josh Feb 10 '14 at 14:02
  • Funny enough it happens to mods too, I've had it happen when downvoting and deleting a series of spammed answers. If there's a LOT of bad posts consider close/delete votes or flags but maybe lay off the downvotes since they'll just be reversed after too many. – Ben Brocka Feb 10 '14 at 21:22

This happened to me too. I think it's just automated script. See the MSO question, What is serial voting and how does it affect me? Here's how I identified it: I saw nine "undownvotes" logged to my reputation tab all at once. It does not say serial downvoting reversed on my profile, but it does on the profile of the posts' author (twice—once for each of us, I suppose).

To be fair, before I figured all this out, my first instinct was a little indignation, an inclination to ask what was going on, and to defend my votes. That's probably only natural. Having looked into it a bit though, I can see that this script is somewhat clumsy, and that's not likely to change anytime soon (see also 1. The vote fraud script breaks legitimate polling questions - A serial downvoter's lament, 2. Should this be picked up by the vote fraud detecting algorithm?). I've repeated a few of my downvotes that got reversed, and intend to post the rest of my downvotes again over time, but I'm afraid it will be necessary to work around the system a bit to do so. This may require spacing votes out over time, and avoiding finding the questions you want to downvote through the user's profile.

The upside of this is that it will give us a little time to reflect on our votes before making them stick. In my case, I felt I already did this pretty well—I had specific reasons for each downvote based on the content of each answer, and I expect to see those same problems when I return to place my downvotes again. Nonetheless, I'll be glad of the extra objectivity I gain in the meantime, as this has been very hard to maintain (not just for me, though I think our upvotes reflect that @JoshGitlin was maintaining objectivity quite well despite the challenge). I haven't fully processed the implications of my apparently serial votes for the way I vote in general, and I'm not entirely sure I would want to vote in the same way on every other answer that shows the same kinds of problems but comes from a different user. It will be good to have some time to think about this, and the site will survive in the meantime.

An interesting question for meta SO that I don't dare ask over there might be, "Aren't there legitimate reasons for serial voting certain users' activities sometimes?" Yes, it seems like a big risk of bad behavior due to personal bias—we may have seen some of this here prior to the use of the "penalty box"—but I don't think it's impossible to remain usefully objective. For instance, as far as I can tell, this script would also stop us from serially upvoting each other's answers after following the links one-by-one on each other's profiles. I might actually like to do so! As @ChuckSherrington guessed, I have appreciated (and upvoted) most of your contributions that I've come across so far. You seem to have a lot of useful things to say, and that's basically all I need to see in a given answer before upvoting. As a professional psychologist, having recognized your talents, I should want to go learn as much of that useful content of yours as I can. (Despite appearances...) I've got other things to do with my life too, so I should do this as efficiently as I can by following your profile's links. I should upvote each of your answers that I do find useful in the end—that's a fundamental premise of SE's system, and part of what makes it work so well. It should only take me a minute or two to judge each of your answers as useful, because efficient skimming is an important skill in my profession, and you're generally not as "long-winded" as me (quoted that from an unconstructive comment I flagged just yesterday). So why should this be automatically reversed? For lack of a better system...?

Frankly, I suspect that's the case. No social system is perfect, largely for lack of better ideas. That's fine with me. After all, I haven't chosen to criticize the system here as it applies to serial downvoting, and I'm not sure I would. I'm content to just work around it, personally. I would appreciate feedback about this (from the mods, not from those whose posts I've downvoted) though, especially if this is something I shouldn't be doing. Again, I feel quite capable of defending my downvotes on objective bases, but I'd much rather just back off if I'm not actually helping the site like I think I am.

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  • +1 but: I would like to make clear, that I did not visit this user's profile, then follow all his activity, and downvote everything that person did. I usually look at all recent activity when I come online, and this time all recent activity came from this one user. There are answers by this person that I found to be okay, so I did not downvote everything that person did. I admit that I don't scrutinize other posts with the same suspicion, but that's something he brings upon himself. Other users may post the occasional bad answer, but no one yet was so consistent in posting falsities. – user3116 Feb 10 '14 at 8:22
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    "and avoiding finding the questions you want to downvote through the user's profile" Never try to target one user. I understand in this case there were many posts by him/her so it might have been an accident, but don't go looking for posts you haven't read yet on his profile page. Just use the main feed. – Steven Jeuris Feb 10 '14 at 10:34
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    You do make a good case about this being a possible shortcoming of the system, but I'm afraid there is not much we can do about that. In general the automated vote reversal is really useful, which would be an extremely tedious process to do manually. If you know a possible solution, you could try suggesting it on Meta.SO. – Steven Jeuris Feb 10 '14 at 10:44
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    It really does boil down ultimately to the fact that the script is designed to catch abuse, but abuse is hard to sift out from when there's a legitimate high traffic of junk that comes in. Even when the script doesn't come into play, someone who just spends a lot of time handling incoming stuff (say, commenting on new answers) will get recognized by someone if that person just happens to be a surge of poor content. There's no malicious intent, but the pattern to recognize it happening is the same. – Grace Note Feb 10 '14 at 16:48
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    One thing I feel, though, is that if someone is actually producing enough new content such that people are legitimately voting and running into the script because of how dense the tide is, then that probably speaks that different measures than just votes may be necessary to take. – Grace Note Feb 10 '14 at 16:49
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    @GraceNote That's what Shog9 is also implying. I hope it doesn't get to that, but if this issue isn't resolved we are keeping it in the back of our mind. – Steven Jeuris Feb 10 '14 at 17:03
  • Thanks for all the feedback! Like @what (and probably every other daily user here), I noticed a dense tide myself, and was curious to see if the user had posted any useful answers since returning from the "penalty box". I checked the answers that hadn't been downvoted yet by following profile links. I had also downvoted other already-downvoted answers by following the main feed, but it seems all of this was reversed. That's one heck of a script! Also, FWIW, practically every measure available seems to be in use already (see my comment). – Nick Stauner Feb 10 '14 at 17:57

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