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Recently one of my questions got a downvote and was flagged for closure as unclear. This was an unpleasant surprise, since I saw nothing wrong with the question; moreover, no comments were made about the contents.

Today I suddenly found the "timeline" icon near the question (somehow it was escaping my attention for more than four years) and found what happened: the downvote (and, judging by the time of "Leave Open" votes, the the close flag too) came immediately after a failed audit by a (sadly, quite high-reputed) user, who apparently made this from annoyance.

Now I want to tell the user that I found his/her action inappropriate (and seeing that he/she reviews a lot, this might be not the single case). However, Math.SE does not have private messaging feature, and commenting other posts by this user would be a poor idea. Also, the user "prefers to keep an air of mystery", so there are no means of communication outside the site. What can be done here? And do I have to do anything at all?

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    $\begingroup$ The timeline button is a recent addition. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 28 at 10:29
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If you are of the opinion that a vote to close or a review or another action on one of your posts was inappropriate you can signal this to the moderators via a flag, chose "in need of moderator intervention" and explain the issue.

Moderators then can review the situation and, if appropriate, take some action. The action could be, e.g.: talk to the user (moderators have several ways to contact users); in case of severe and repeated problems, ban the user from reviewing; or in excessive cases, even suspend the user altogether. We might also not do anything instantly in a minor case but it can still serve as valuable information. Of course, we might also disagree that there is a problem, in which case we would try to explain to you why we do not see a problem or at least not a major one.

To try to contact the user yourself in such a situation is usual not a good idea, except if you know already and have a good rapport, in which case you likely would not ask the question. I would rather strongly advise not to contact users about such things using channels outside the SE network, even when they do link to their webpage or something like this.

The point is the conversation starts in a negative context. It is quite unlikely something constructive can develop. That said, for general reference, a way to get in touch with users can be chat. Various active users also use chat and you could try to find them in one of the chat rooms associated to the site. It is also possible to send "invites" in chat. I would use those sparingly though.

After these general remarks let me briefly comment on the specific case. At first I did not quite get your description, but I think I figured it out, let me rephrase in a more verbose way what happened:

  • User reviews your question (in the reopen queue).
  • User votes to "leave closed" your question in the queue.
  • User is informed this is an audit, which they failed.
  • User goes to your post and votes to close (and possibly votes down).

Now, one may or may not agree with the idea that the question should be closed, but to conclude that the user voted out of annoyance is at least uncharitable. Visibly they were of the opinion before that the question should stay, that is should be, closed. All they did is follow through with their initial evaluation of the question. One might ask if this is an appropriate thing to do. Opinions on this might be mixed, but it is somewhat common that users try to kick a post from the list of review audits, via taking an action on them, if they find the audit is wrong or ambiguous. For the post in question, I personally would likely not close it, but I would also not consider it as a good audit post, since it is does not include much context. It is thus relatively close to questions that should be closed as unclear, for lack of context, and thus it is somewhat ambiguous for an audit post.

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    $\begingroup$ Clear answer, but as someone who doesn't interact with the reopen queue I'm left wondering what an "audit" is in this context. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC Mar 28 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ This makes sense to me. If they think your question is not very good, regardless of how they came across it, they're entitled to express that opinion by downvoting. Commenting would be admirable but isn't required. I don't think the user has behaved inappropriately at all. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Mar 28 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC: in this context, an audit is a perfectly good question inserted into the reopen queue to see if the reviewer is paying attention. Unless the reviewer votes to reopen, they fail the audit. (I don't like them myself, which is why I stopped reviewing questions.) $\endgroup$ – TonyK Mar 28 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @NateEldredge, silent downvoting and flagging to close the question is not very inappropriate per se. But I do find inapproriate that the downvote and the close flag were caused by the failed audit rather than by the question quality. The supporting evidence: 1) there were no other downvotes; 2) there were no other close votes; 3) the very same user passed an audit with the very same question 10 days before the failure and found that the question "looked OK". $\endgroup$ – zhoraster Mar 28 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @zhoraster: I don't see that as proof that the failed audit caused the downvote. Post hoc is not propter hoc. Maybe they changed their mind upon rereading the question, or didn't read the question as carefully the first time. For a one-time occurrence I'm still inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume good faith. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Mar 28 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ "Visibly they were of the opinion before that the question should stay, that is should be, closed. All they did is follow through with their initial evaluation of the question." Yes, but I have just also noticed that this is not their initial evaluation: 10 days before the failed audit, this user found that the question looked ok, voting to leave it open and thus passing an audit (the question did not change between the audits). $\endgroup$ – zhoraster Mar 28 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ "For the post in question, I personally would likely not close it, but I would also not consider it as a good audit post, since it is does not include much context." Doesn't the link included in the question provide enough context? $\endgroup$ – zhoraster Mar 28 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @zhoraster indeed, I had actually noticed that review, too, but did not want to complicate the discussion. In a way one can take this as additional reason why it is not a good audit post. The post is not a clear cut case. On your question whether the link does not provided enough context, well, arguably it does, but it's not ideal that it is all behind a link, especially not for an audit, since it's a bit cumbersome to review if one is serious, as one has to follow the link and check there. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 28 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ I can see why you find the situation frustrating. It seems very likely you got a negative vote just because your post was a review audit. But ultimately what is the loss. The vote to close aged away and is moot. What is at stake is exactly one downvote. Yes, that can be annoying but in the end it hardly changes anything, and dozens of completely spurious or malicious votes are cast each day. And in this case the vote was not malicious but had some motivation, with which one can disagree. But it's not a big deal. I'd just move on. @zhoraster $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 28 at 22:36

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