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I frequently read other's answers by topics and I have a list of users who usually give high-quality answers I would like to read in some topic. It is totally possible that I would read (more than) 10 (new or old) answers from a same person in some single day.

I would certainly like to upvote answers I think are useful after I carefully read them in details. But it seems that if I upvote a single user too often, the system would take it as "serial upvoting" and reverse it.

Here are my questions:

How many upvotes are to many? If I write a comment to every answer upvoted about why I think it good, would the system not reverse my votes then?

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  • $\begingroup$ This also brings up another question I had in mind. My question would be whether or not counter votes e.g. upvote some posts, but downvote others, would have any affect. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 26 '17 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ I do what you mention in your post sometimes when I'm bored xd. So far, I haven't had any problems. $\endgroup$ – Xam Sep 26 '17 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ The number is $n + 1$. $\endgroup$ – Dennis Sep 27 '17 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Related discussion on meta SO: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/260840/… $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Oct 9 '17 at 4:30
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Agree with everything quid said. Just adding a few observations.

  • Voting old answers is very much ok. As long as you find them during "natural" browsing of the site, like following an interesting looking link or title (in a comment or an answer to a newer post, or may be in the Related list on the right margin).
  • But if you search for posts of a specific user, then internal warning bells should be ringing. Not good IMHO. Never. Tread carefully.
  • Adding comments in-between doesn't work as an excuse at all. Presumably you intended to use them as means of conveying that you studied the answer (as opposed to just clicked an arrow). An honest intention, appreciate the effort, but doesn't work. A couple of incidents from the past:
    • A voting ring in the past used comments under the posts to cement their alliance. An encouraging remark was "a coded message" for: I was here - now you do your part.
    • An eager high schooler newbie once did that to me, adding comments, possibly trying to ingratiate themself. So I called the SE staff to invalidate the votes. Business as usual. But, the comments made it plain what was going on (the kid was largely clueless at that time).

Never use the identity of a poster as a primary criterion for voting. Up or down.

I do know that there are occasions when you want to take identity into account. After reading the first few lines from a poster you have learned to trust, you see where they are heading and, trusting them not to fumble it, just click the uparrow and move on. IMO that is ok. But be very cautious if you search for posts from a specific user.

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    $\begingroup$ I find that "perusing a profile" is a good way to get acquainted with someone's body of work. I will see their answer that I like, I will go and read other things that user had written, to see what sort of general impression I make of them. If I read 10 answers, and I liked them, I don't see why I can't vote these 10 answers without it being "suspicious". $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 26 '17 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf if you do it once, I think there will be no problem. If you do it all the time for the same user it starts to be a problem. It is not only that it is suspicious, in a way one can consider it as unfair. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 26 '17 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ I very much appreciate the work you do as a moderator and I recognize the need to discourage abuse, but ... I must strongly disagree with your admonition against searching the posts of specific users - why else is the feature there in the first place? It's like recommending that you not peruse the books of your favorite authors. And the reality is that some users consistently post high quality posts and that some consistently post low quality posts. I see no problem at all with acting on those posts appropriately, based on the content of the post. $\endgroup$ – Mark McClure Sep 26 '17 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ I also don't see anything to support your view in the help center. On the contrary, on the Vote Up page I see "Whenever you encounter a question, answer or comment that you feel is especially useful, vote it up!" with a similar suggestion on the Vote Down page. There's another page on Why is voting important with no suggestion that searching is in anyway unnatural browsing of the site. $\endgroup$ – Mark McClure Sep 26 '17 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, sounds like I phrased it too sweepingly. Sorry about that. Thinking... There have been severe abuses in the past, so I'm very reluctant to write anything that could be read as a license to upvote a single users posts en masse. The problem is... statistical. And the script does not work ideally. It may be yet another case of "we know it (=targeted voting) when we see it" $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 26 '17 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose that if one approaches the scenario outlined by @MarkMcClure , it would be best to vote moderately. :-) $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 27 '17 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Quite. About the vote invalidation script. I have discussed it with the SE staff. They acknowledged some problems, but they also explained that tinkering with the current parameters would have unfavorable consequences elsewhere in the network. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 28 '17 at 10:40
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How many upvotes are to many?

The details of the script are not public, to avoid users working around it.

If I write a comment to every answer upvoted about why I think it good, would the system not reverse my votes then?

For reasons given above few (not even including per site mods) know what the system does exactly, and those that do know are not supposed to tell you. Certainly the time between votes and/or potential other actions between votes in some way do play some role; whether the threshold are chosen so that one comment in between will change anything, I don't know.

It might help you though when somebody should start to inspect your account specifically for voting irregularities. (Then, accompanying each vote with a comment is not desirable either.) And, even with comments, you should be aware that you are entering a gray-area with your actions. Following and disproportionally voting for or against a particular user's account will raise red-flags. One is not really supposed to do this, even if there are no ulterior motives.

Added: In a way it is the same as in Are my serial downvotes inappropriate? Just in the other direction, though not every argument applies vice versa.


Let me further add that while I can understand where some are coming from and I do not propose to be overly rigid regarding this, beyond all technicalities I simply feel that it is undesirable if a lot of such voting happens.

The point is that I believe that it unbalances the system a bit in favor of those that already have many posts and points and are around since a long time. Even when they are in this position based on their merits and contributions, this does not mean that it is a good idea to introduce aspects into the system that gives them an additional edge, and might indirectly discourage or frustrate others.

Moreover, if 'following' users is alright, then it can happen that the system is unbalanced based on pure happenstances. Some users happen to know some other users that are also on the site and they follow each other as they have similar interest and find each others contributions interesting. They actually read and find their respective posts good and thus vote in perfectly good faith. Maybe not even on each and every of the others posts maybe just 1 in 3. For a group with a several members, this will give any involved account a considerable boost. I think it is better to avoid such unbalances.

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    $\begingroup$ "Following and disproportionally voting for or against a particular user's account will raise red-flags. One is not really supposed to do this ..." Well, I suppose the system is still not very smart to deal with the down/up votes business. To avoid any false alarms from the system, if one really wants to read many of one particular user's answers (especially those relatively old ones), I think all one could do is just reading it without voting. Maybe one could suggest better alternatives? I don't know. $\endgroup$ – Jack Sep 25 '17 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ Suppose I would now start to upvote, say, ten of Asaf's answers in axiom-of-choice each day, somewhat spread out over the day. How should anyone with remotely reasonable effort, let alone a script, be able to decide if I have taken an interest in the subject and decided to study the writings of one of the site's experts on the subject or if I do so for shady reasons? It's just not feasible. Add to this that there is not all that much value in those votes being cast, as concerns evaluating content. It's not clear there is all that much lost if those votes are just not cast. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 26 '17 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the script isn't working well, because the other day I was reading the top posts of my favorite users in tag of abstract algebra and If I'm not wrong, I must upvoted at least ten times like 5 different users :D $\endgroup$ – Xam Sep 26 '17 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Even without knowing someone IRL, having been around for 6 years I "know" many (if not all) high-score users, and I am certainly biased. And I know all there is to know about people here: mathematical ability and willingness to help. That said, I don't think it's unfair to upvote them, even repeatedly (I don't keep track of who I upvote, but I have never been "reversed", though I frequently reach the daily limit): some here do contribute a lot, and it's only justice that their work is recognized. I don't see how it would frustrate anyone: anyone can do the same after all, with some patience. $\endgroup$ – Jean-Claude Arbaut May 19 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Jean-ClaudeArbaut the point was not that it's unfair to up-vote users repeatedly but rather that it's unfair to up-vote certain users specifically. On the rest, it's hard to know but I am not sure you'd be comfortable to defend that argument when I'd press, but maybe and in any case I am not in the mood for political debates. $\endgroup$ – quid May 19 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Thanks for the clarification. Right, targeting users is unfair (be it for upvotes of downvotes). I just wanted to emphasize that even without targeting users, when peoples have been here for a decade, it's quite understandable that they have more answers, and that they are probably good overall. I upvote good answers, which means, and that's simply probability, that I upvote more users with more answers (hence with more reps), though I also upvote people with low rep. Interestingly, with access to the data, it should be possible to check if there is a statistical bias beyond this. $\endgroup$ – Jean-Claude Arbaut May 19 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Jean-ClaudeArbaut "I upvote more users with more answers (hence with more reps), though I also upvote people with low rep" Yes that's normal. There is not problem with this. $\endgroup$ – quid May 19 at 22:10

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