About six months ago, I've asked a question to which a user replied with a comment which was intended as an answer, but wasn't mathematically correct.

After he was told so, he concluded that I (it was I who asked the question) was being stubborn and unwilling to admit that my reasoning was wrong. That made little sense since I've used the tag, indicating that I had already known there was something wrong with my reasoning, but also that I wanted to know where exactly the mistake was, while his comment was directed at the mathematically sound part.

In the meantime I've found out where the mistake really was and now I've decided to share my knowledge with the community, but the same user immediately down-voted it, seemingly out of pure malice.

To be fair, I vaguely remember the same user answering another of my questions with an answer that was both correct and helpful.

What should I do in a situation like this to help prevent this kind of abusive behavior in the future?

EDIT: After re-reading the user's comments now, I have realized that the problem really was where he indicated. I have misinterpreted his behavior as vindictive when in truth he was just defending his position. I apologize for wasting everyone's time.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see anything malicious , maybe you should actually point out specific points of maliciousness. It seems to me that Did was just asking you questions to lead you to an answer, specifically by having you make some parts more clear on how you got to them, a perfectly fine educational technique. Maybe in the end that was not the real problem, or Did was even wrong about what the actual problem was, I don't know. It seems to me like you are complaining about nothing. $\endgroup$
    – user29123
    Jun 7 '15 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ What evidence do you have that the same user downvoted your answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '15 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoting (one of) your answer is not an abusive behavior. $\endgroup$
    – user99914
    Jun 7 '15 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ So, someone who owes you absolutely nothing, and gets no money for participating, tried to get you to figure out the solution on your own. Generally, you should thank these sort of people and be grateful that they are here. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jun 7 '15 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ I'll adress these comments one by one. Paul, his technique is not the issue, nor is his mathematically incorrect answer. Him downvoting the answer I have provided, the mathematically correct one, to benefit the other users who had the same question, is the problem which led me here. $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ Carl, that is actually a valid question, I do not have proof. However, the question is six months old, Did was the only one who would get automatically notified about reply to his comment and the downvoting was seconds apart from him making a comment. What would you conclude if it was me, after reading his comments? $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ John, if that is true, then I am wasting your time and I apologize. I thought tnat correct answers should be upvoted and incorrect ones downvoted, while the opposite is not acceptable. It worries me that a user could, let's say out of spite, downvote every single thing that another user does and that would be fine $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Asaf, I have already said to him that I am grateful to him for his willingness to provide an answer. However, the question I asked was posted 6 months ago and willingness to provide answers unfortunately doesn't make the answer correct. 2 months ago I've figured out the correct answer and now I wanted to share it with the community. Shouldn't I expect gratefulness for being willing to provide the correct answer? $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Alen: reading the comments, the other user tried to help you to see something. Rather than asking him to explain the issue he saw (e.g. "I don't see the error yet, sorry - could you point it out?"), you simply insisted he was wrong. The other user did not write an answer. When you wrote an answer, you unnecessarily referred to the comments, in which you still had not asked the other user to explain the issue they were trying to point out. The answer you wrote comes across as quite impolite, as does the comment beginning "I'm not sure what chutzpah is," - that's a remarkable statement. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '15 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ So... rather than asking him to clarify the issue he saw, you insisted that there really was no issue with what you wrote? It seems to me that you are now responding in exactly the same way to my comment from a few minutes ago. Chutzpah indeed. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '15 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a rant, not a call for discussion. $\endgroup$
    – AlexR
    Jun 7 '15 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ I will really have to google that word after this. To be clear, this wasn't a rant. However, I have re-read Did's comments and have now realized that he was right, the place that he indicated to be the problem was indeed where the problem was. We got side-tracked with notation, he perceiving me as stubborn and I incorrectly thinking that he didn't know what he was talking about. I have apologized to him and, yes, now feel foolish for bringing it up here. Is there anytging I should do with the question now that the point of it is moot? I realize it might not be enough, but again, I apologize $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Alen It is a rant. You are ranting about how you feel so wronged for getting a downvote, accusing someone of maliciously downovting your post, because obviously your answer is the correct one and the only reason to vote would be to make me feel bad. Even if you were right, I think this post was uncalled for. In general, since this is the internet and our way of communicating is test, you need to give users the benifit of the doubt. Maybe a discussion on meta needs to be started:"Downvotes are not meant to be complained about on meta" $\endgroup$
    – user29123
    Jun 7 '15 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ In response to your comment to me you said the downvote was not the issue(in chat), it was the user in general, so I took that to be true and did not address the point of a downvote (which I sort of addressed in chat, or at least I think you got my distaste of these sorts of questions by what I asked the moderators) $\endgroup$
    – user29123
    Jun 7 '15 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ which I've encountered. I repeat, I now see Did's actions from a different perspective and I realize that I was wrong in my assessment of the situation. If I had realized my error sooner, I would have never made a post here in the first place. I can only hope that any discomfort I have caused to Did won't be long-lasting. On the upside, I did learn what a chutzpah is $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 16:00

Eh . . . I don't think the downvote was out of pure malice.

An Analysis of the Post

A quick summary

I read through the comment thread on that question, which was between you and the other user. Comments 1-8 seemed perfectly normal, discussing some confusion that had come up. The user ended comment 9 by saying

Let me add that I have no incentive to force you to see the light if your main concern is to stonewall the approach (2.) against criticisms, although (2.) is at present squarely wrong.

If I'm reading this correctly, s/he felt that you were not accepting criticism properly.

You then wrote four comments in a row about different aspects (written too far apart to be put as edits into each other). The last one was posted today (the previous three having been written in November), to which the user responded

Well, if you are happy with yourself this is already something.

I think you interpreted this as sarcasm. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't. I don't know what the user meant by it. Your response was

I was happy with myself when I've found out where the actual problem was some months ago, I've posted it here to help the others who had the same problem and I was also hoping you would appreciate the feedback. I was obviously wrong about the latter. I was as unhappy with the answer you've provided then as I am now with you down-voting my correct one without any constructive feedback. For me, that is a poor reflection of your attitude and I truly hope you are not as malicious as this makes you seem to be

The user's response to that was

The thing is that I have had to battle like crazy to help you and that you steadfastly refused to listen. But you are right, all the fault is on me. Happy? (And to see that you invoke "constructive feedback"... well, I guess chutzpah does not kill, does it?)

You then followed up with two more comments. Neither seems to be particularly inflammatory, though a tad accusatory. There has been no response since.

What it all means

This is a case where both users feel that the other is being overly stubborn and is not behaving cordially. This happens sometimes, though generally not a lot to a given user, unless s/he is a moderator, and happens to be unlucky enough to have to tolerate a lot of crap from folks who really aren't interested in contributing anything positive.

In short, both of you have come away from the whole thing - at least at what may be a ceasefire - thinking that the other is being unhelpful. This is, to be frank, the worst thing that could happen. Fortunately, you brought it up on meta.

I honestly don't think that either of you is justified in calling the other "malicious". I can see that you think that of him/her, and I would wager that s/he thinks the same as you. Neither of you can really pretend to be innocent - I'll be frank. Both made some semi-inflammatory remarks over the course of the conversation. Perhaps the blame doesn't rest on the shoulders of just one user. In that case, the course of action changes.

What to do

Whenever something like this happens, a neutral third party is needed. Yes, I'm talking about one or more moderators. Solving issues like this is one of their jobs - not a common one, and not one they relish (I certainly don't), but a job nonetheless. The moderators on this site are good at their job. I've been fortunate to interact with some of them on cross-site things, and they're well-suited to their job.

I suggest that the first course of action for you is to talk to a mod. Don't flag anything; go straight to them. They have an office in chat. I haven't been there, and I can't speak for them, but I think that they'll be happy to help, in some way, shape or form.

After that . . . well, that's their decision, not mine. Speaking as a mod from somewhere else in the network, I can say that I would get another mod and both users and create a private chat room, and then metaphorically sit everyone down and figure this thing out. I would bet that the mods here would do something similar, but I wont put words in their mouths.

Mods can and may do other things. They could contact users via email - though this is only typically used for major offenses, such as suspensions - and they can delete comments, which I suspect will happen at some point (though the comments may instead be imported to the chat room, for reference).

If you don't want to do this through the mods - in other words, if you feel that the dispute is serious - then you can just create a private chat room for you and the user - I believe you have enough rep for that, or at least one where only the two of you are allowed to "talk" - and sit down together and talk it out. There are cases where one of two parties may not be willing to do that. Then perhaps it would be wise to call in a mod. But if you think you can talk it out one-on-one, then all the better. You've saved someone's time, and almost certainly yours.

On the downvote . . .

I can see that the user disagreed with one of your steps early on. I can see no point at which s/he ever relented. I still don't know which of the two of you is right; this stuff is over my head. But if s/he disagrees with the solution, then the downvote wouldn't be out of malice. It would be because the user thinks that the answer is incorrect. That's okay. The user could be wrong in thinking that, but they are allowed to downvote, if they believe that a post is downvote-worthy.

I could be wrong now. But I don't think so. Well, perhaps I am. I really can't say. In any case, I'd be willing to give the user the benefit of the doubt, rather than jumping to conclusions.

'Course, there is a way to find out. . .

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer, I've found it helpful and informative. I find it strange that someone would down-vote it without leaving a comment why $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 6 '15 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Alen I'm okay with it; it happens. It happened about the same time that the question was downvoted, too. I'm glad the answer helped you, though. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 6 '15 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ If I thought that someone who asked a question was being stubborn, I would just stop answering their questions (actually, I have already done this - there are some users for whom I avoid answering, and let someone else deal with the endless comments). I am not sure I would be happy if a moderator asked me to come to a chat room to mediate the issue. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '15 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of chatting, either. I was actually hoping that a moderator who understands math would review his comments and my answer to conclude that the answer he provided was wrong while my answer was correct and then undo Did's downvote. I think it is more important that answer ratings reflect if the answer is correct/relevant rather than someone's personal feelings $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlMummert I totally understand if the user doesn't want to go into a discussion. I wouldn't be too happy about it, either. For Alen, though, it's better to attempt that, because it seemed that his first response was to accuse the user of being overly malicious and to write a meta post that came off as rant-like. I won't blame the user for not wanting to have anything to do with this, but Alen should attempt to go there. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 7 '15 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ The user has requested that I refrain from adressing him in the future, which is quite understandable considering the circumstances, so I intend to comply with his request $\endgroup$
    – Alen
    Jun 7 '15 at 18:01

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