I am not sure where to post this, so I put it here:

I had never received any down votes on any of any of my answers, until today, and I got 7. They were all in the same time frame, and certainly by the same user. Lets call him Bob. (since that is not the name of any user I know. I know who bob actually is, but I won't type it for now) The reason I am posting this is because:

6 of the downvotes were for answers accepted by the OP where "Bob" had also posted an answer. Bob's answers were generally more sophisticated mathematically, but the OP chose mine for whichever reasons. I have no other accepted answers where Bob also posted an answer. (Not to mention, Bob was online, and Bob's down vote counter increased during this time)

I feel these were spiteful down votes, and were only given because "Bob" did not like the fact that my answer was chosen over his. I do not believe any of these answers deserved down votes, except possibly one.

The reputation is a non-issue, down votes don't really affect it. What bothers me is the action of down voting answers where your answer was not chosen. This is not a valid reason, and does not mean the other answer was bad. This in principle should not be allowed, and I would think that more senior users would know better.

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    $\begingroup$ There is currently a badge called "Sportsmanship" which is awarded to those who upvote many competing answers. Perhaps this should be clarified to "Good Sportsmanship" and there should be a competing badge called "Bad Sportsmanship". More seriously: you can't force people to play nice. You can ask them to play nice, and at a certain point someone with enough authority can tell them they can no longer play. Sometimes it's hard to draw a line between acceptably mean and unacceptably mean. But on average most people are good sports, so it's probably best not to dwell on the exceptions. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 6:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I honestly do not believe that the answers were "rash" or "poor," and I am given no reason believe such. Often when I down vote things, I leave a comment explaining why I did so. If my answers actually have problems (which I am willing to assume) then there is no way to improve them because no comments were ever left. I believe in trying to improve what you do, and taking into account any criticism no matter how much you dislike it. But here I cannot, because I do not know the criticism. So I assume what is more likely, "Bob" is just being spiteful because his were not accepted. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: In that case, the prof should also point out what is wrong with the student's solution instead of just deducting points i.e. the down voter should leave a comment. And I am not sure if these down votes were cast by "experts". $\endgroup$
    – user17762
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I think you are self aggrandizing. Isn't a strange coincidence that the answer you believe to be the best is always your own? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: It is not anonymous down voting, we know it is you. I have trouble discerning whether you actually believe what are saying, or are just making up excuses for your actions. "One of the many poor software designs.." It is only poor because you are abusing it. "So we can only make the best of what we have..." What on earth do you mean? You could reply to some of my many comments left at these posts, and have a conversation about the posts. "If everyone started explaining their downvotes..." No just you. How about just you explain them on my posts. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:38

5 Answers 5


I agree that the voting was spiteful. The offending user has been warned by the moderators to play nice in the past, and that warning appears to have been ignored, so the offending user has been suspended for 2 days.

(Previous unnecessary comments redacted.)

To all: If something similar happens to you in the future, please contact the moderators first and privately.


If you worry too much about voting patterns on this site, you will lose your sleep. There are excellent answers that receive 2 upvotes, there are trivial answers, or even answers that literally repeat another answer that receive 10 upvotes. There are wrong answers that get accepted, there are correct and helpful answers that get downvoted. There are answers on musical theory that get over 120 upvotes (don't get me wrong, I do like the post), while the highest vote count Prof. Matthew Emerton, one of the most generous and most lucid contributors on this site ever got on his answers is 20. Sometimes, I see questions upvoted that are answered by entering the obvious key words into google and clicking on the first hit. In short, don't even start complaining about voting behaviours, it's a waste of your time.

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    $\begingroup$ I have the feeling that the more the answer was easier to find, the more votes it gets. But who cares about votes anyways. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ +1: This is good advice. A lot of the time answers that are easier to understand get more votes, and some of my favorite answers have had less than 10 up votes. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ Emerton is pretty great! Having users like himself and Pete Clark is great! (I am thinking of the answers about non-commutative group cohomology) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 5:26
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    $\begingroup$ Answer questions because it's fun and educational, not because it rewards you with imaginary points in a game that doesn't matter. Rep is just a way to remind users that you appreciate the work they're doing. $\endgroup$
    – endolith
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ I think that if you are going to respond with a straight to Google answer you should at least post a let me Google that for you link. $\endgroup$
    – kleineg
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 20:35

+1. This happened twice yesterday to me as well. (Questions were posted by the same user and the same "Bob" down voting). "Bob" had also posted an answer, Bob was online, and Bob's down vote counter increased.

I can understand that there is something wrong with an answer if there is more than one down vote compared to the overwhelming up votes. But it is not the case here. I believe this is a case of bad sportsmanship. As Eric says, these were spiteful down votes, and were only given because "Bob" did not like the fact that my one line answer was chosen or had more up votes than his.

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    $\begingroup$ @Eric: It is not just you two, but I am not so sure it is out of spite. They have downvoted perfectly valid and correct answers, but I guess downvoting is subjective anyway. They might be downvoting to get content up which they think is better. But downvoting without commenting (to help improve the answer) is hypocritical, in that case. $\endgroup$
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I am becoming very annoyed with your unyielding arrogance. Because I put my age and year level in my profile, you assume that my goal was not to teach? That I do not know the subject well enough to give insightful answers? I have 17 times more answers than questions, and I come here to answer questions. I come here primarily as a teacher. I do not have a problem of "perspective," but maybe you do. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ The choice of "Bob" was rather poor. To keep with current network jargon, the following should have been used: "Alice" posts, "Bob"answers, "Eve" spitfully downvotes :) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 22:24

Its childish behavior. Hopefully anyone who does it will outgrow it.

More a comment than an answer, this question's title/attention shows this community is much healthier than the stackoverflow.com community (there they have a special name for it: "retaliation.")


Anomalous vote patterns are generally automatically removed by our daily vote anomaly detection script.

If the condition persists for more than 24-36 hours feel free to email us at the address provided at the bottom of every page.

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    $\begingroup$ The question is not about anomalous voting patterns; it is about downvoting for the wrong reasons. Having votes automatically removed is IMO nothing to brag about. If one day someone posts 10 incorrect answers and I downvote him 10 times, then it is a poor algorithm that tosses out my votes automatically. A better algorithm would seek the attention of a human moderator in these circumstances. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ @pete the vote removal algorithm is more sophisticated than what you are describing. I can't provide exact details for what I hope are obvious reasons. Anyway, the goal is to protect our community members, I don't know why you would think of that as "bragging"; I certainly do not think of it that way. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff: I was not describing your voting algorithm. I was giving an example to support my opinion that any algorithm which automatically throws away votes without the possibility of human intervention is bad -- and, by the way, undemocratic. (+1 for your claim that you have a very sophisticated algorithm which you can't show us for security reasons: that's amusing.) Pointing to your supposed accomplishments when they are not relevant to the issue at hand is sometimes called "bragging". That you attribute nobler motives is not surprising, and I believe you that you feel this way. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ But wait -- if the situation I described in my first comment does not trigger your algorithm, then I really don't understand your answer. Are you or are you not claiming that mean-spirited downvoting can be detected purely statistically? I don't see how this is possible, at least not with any degree of certainty. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ @pete you're right, it is impossible. carry on. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ I voted -1 since I felt this didn't completely address the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric So much for irrational voting patterns. If someone tries to help but doesn't "completely address the question" you downvote him. So following that logic, you ought to select one answer as the correct one and downvote all the others. If that's the case then I will be careful not to answer any of your questions, to avoid the risk of being downvoted by the very person I am trying to help. Who knows, maybe in the eyes of "Bob" you actually completely deserved the downvotes you got - out of similarly petty considerations. $\endgroup$
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex Bartel: I understand what you are saying, and maybe I should have been clearer. When I said it "didn't completely address the question" I was trying to be kind. Actually, when I read the answer I felt that he hadn't even looked at my question. That he hadn't read much other than the title, and maybe the first line. This answer looks like an automaton reply to voting concerns. It would be like posting a link to the Wikipedia modular arithmetic page for any question in that entire domain. For these reasons I down voted. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 3:44
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    $\begingroup$ @eric presumably you wish these unfairly cast downvotes to be removed, as part of the solution, yes? The rest is up to the community moderators. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 4:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric Personally, I don't see this post as off-topic at all. If you were complaining about reasons that other people have for downvoting, then that's pointless, since you cannot dictate personal motives by policy (normally, you wouldn't even know where the downvotes came from). The only issue you can address are the votes themselves, and that was what Jeff's response was about. Anyway, thank you for clarifying your reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ This post has 17 upvotes and 17 downvotes. Don't touch anything. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 13:38

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