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For a while, I've been having my suspicions about a certain power user that often downvotes my questions - both here and on MO. Now, I know for certain this user has downvoted a question of mine at least once. They also often just give unhelpful, snarky comments. Generally, I find this type of behaviour very demotivating.

I'm not quite sure what to do with this. Obviously, this person is quite intelligent. The way they work is more subtle than, say, a downvoting troll. In the latter case, the downvotes are usually rectified. However, when the downvotes are more sparse and chosen at strategic moments in time, it is harder to notice and the behaviour is more difficult to address.

What should one do in this situation? Is it possible to "block" certain users from viewing your profile, and your questions in the feed? I've kind of had it with this person's negativity and I'm not interested in engaging with them any further.

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    $\begingroup$ The simplest thing to do is to disengage with the said user from the get go, and flag every comments that you find offensive. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @ArcticChar Right, but then this user can still downvote and react to the questions and answers. $\endgroup$
    – Max Muller
    Feb 18, 2023 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @ArcticChar Furthermore, it is no so much that the comments are offensive, but it's more about them draining my energy by being negative and generally unhelpful. $\endgroup$
    – Max Muller
    Feb 18, 2023 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, they can't drain your energy if you ignore them from the get go..... As for the downvotes, there are tools for moderators to detect serial downvoting (either short-term or long term). You may flag your posts for moderator attentions and explain your speculation. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Are mods able to see who voted how? If you answer just infrequently enough, behavior like this could be missed by the serial voting script and may require moderator attention. Flag some of your answers and let the mods handle it. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I remember, mods can't see votes - specific voting data is designed to be somewhat difficult to get a handle on, and it's at the Community Manager level or higher (i.e. SE employees). $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Feb 18, 2023 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Moderators can see some aggregate voting statistics. My experience is that is suffices for mst disturbances. However, the way it plays out is that the moderators usually refer the case to a member of the SE staff. Only staff can invalidate votes. A word of warning is due. The moderators usually won't act on a handful downvotes unless there is some other evidence. The exact thresholds are kept a secret, but it is mostly because sporadic downvotes also occur naturally - something unusual needs to be there. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ (cont'd) Just keep flagging the comments, and some of the affected posts. If the moderators tell you to stop flagging posts, do so. At some point extra flagging (of downvoted posts) become a nuisance. Particularly if the mods have already formed an opinion. If they need to collect more evidence they can do so when they have been notified of a voter+target pair (and flagging is no longer needed). You can continue to flag rude/abusive/whatnot comments though. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, there is no way to block people. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2023 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ I feel I have a similar experience, but didn't think it would be possible to be handled by mods. Interesting to see increasing the likelihood of such a suspection at least... $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2023 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ The purpose of SO/SE is to make money, not to make users happy. I think if negativity of some user affects you so much, you should decrease your addiction to SE. Mods can help, but if your problem does not affect internal standards and "policies", they don't care much. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Feb 25, 2023 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @kludg The purpose of a Q&A site like Quora is also to make money, yet over there it is possible to block someone. Making people happy and making money are not two mutually exclusive goals $\endgroup$
    – Max Muller
    Feb 25, 2023 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ @kludg to be fair almost everything can be interpreted as existing to make money ;). $\endgroup$
    – bobeyt6
    Feb 25, 2023 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MaxMuller You can't change StackExchange, They simply don't understand why they should allow you to block another user. I quess SE became so bureaucratic that this is hardly possible. What the other Q&A sites like Quora do is not SE job. Maybe they position themselves as more user-friendly platform. SE is quite successful and don't need it. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Feb 27, 2023 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ @MaxMuller Nobody can downvote a question more than once. So in the grand scheme of things, if you have a good question with many votes, it does not matter if one person downvotes. I would suggest to just ignore it. $\endgroup$
    – PatrickR
    Feb 27, 2023 at 19:03

2 Answers 2

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There is no way to block a user from seeing your questions or profile. When such comments are issued, or if you suspect an irregular voting pattern, you should flag for moderator attention and move on.

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This is a problem which occurs across many stackexchange web sites. It is partly caused by the design of the web site where it is meant to be "strictly question and answer" and prevent other interactions between users. So you can't block or mute people or follow people or otherwise do anything beyond ask and answer questions.

As it happens, this mathematical site is relatively free of the problem compared to others, although that might not make you feel better. There is not much to do except either grin and bear it, or leave the site.

I'm not going to point fingers at particular sites or people, but some of the other stackexchanges are vastly worse than this one, and most of the people here on math.stackexchange are very reasonable in my opinion. (N.B. I have experience of other stackexchange websites beyond what you can see in my profile, so you won't find anything by looking there.)

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    $\begingroup$ I am certainly sorry that you've had such experiences on the stackexchange websites. It seems a fairly bitter comfort that math.stackexchange.com is only better in comparison... $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Feb 20, 2023 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ I think this site actually positively influences some people. One of the high reputation users on math.stackexchange is a lecturer at my university, and he had a reputation for trashing students' work if he thought they weren't good enough. Oddly enough he behaves very well on this site. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2023 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ @SuzuHirose Yep, same about one of my professors $\endgroup$
    – whoisit
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @SuzuHirose: I agree that it positively influences some people, but I've also run across a professor who joined the site to publicly berate one of his grad students for asking a question here. $\endgroup$
    – anomaly
    Feb 21, 2023 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think it helps that matters which can cause friction over here are purely non-subject matters such as "your question is too localized" or "this is too easy and has way too much context for my liking" where either side could have a good argument, leading to friction. The only mathematical topics that can lead to friction here are attempted proofs where typically one person is wrong and the other right, objectively. On other SEs, one can very much have an argument where both are right in their own way, which is on-topic for that SE (like different methods of parenting, say). $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2023 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ I totally agree with Other stackexchanges are vastly worse than this one. Not pointing fingers either since I recently had it enough and deleted my profile on that site. $\endgroup$
    – polfosol
    Feb 23, 2023 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ I have also long-held beliefs that certain sites are just plain worse, and keep pondering just leaving them despite finding them somewhat helpful/useful. I wonder, if there was some kind of poll, if a few sites wouldn't actually stand out as "generally understood to be 'difficult'"? I tried to explore that a few years ago with Is there such a thing as an SE angst-o-meter? Some attempt to quantify on a site-by-site basis? Perhaps several years on and under different management, something like this might be possible. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 26, 2023 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think the difference is that the issues with math stackexchange is also seen irl at a great rate. People who attach their entire ego onto mathematics often belittle or verbally abuse those who ask questions, "beneath their intelligence". I've seen it from dozens of professors. I know every community has their belligerents, but I doubt ~40% of their students are severly depressed from wide abuse as seen on studies about math student mental health. Really the solution is the math communtiy being more open about answers so the egotistical donkies have less opportunities to belittle new learners $\endgroup$
    – Bobby B
    Mar 2, 2023 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about anyone else, but my conclusion from reading this discussion is that it's not worth having hurt feelings over this kind of behaviour. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2023 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ @SuzuHirose It definitely is the case that one cannot do much other than flag rude comments/answers. Having said that, I happened to chance upon one of OP's posts when those comments of the "power user" were present. Yesterday when I visited the same post, they were gone, perhaps because they had been flagged. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2023 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @SarveshRavichandranIyer Sorry I didn't make it clear but I was responding to Bobby B above you. I would suggest reporting offensive comments, but I don't think it's worth getting upset about it. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2023 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @SuzuHirose I agree with your stance on the comment. Thank you for informing me. $\endgroup$ Mar 6, 2023 at 6:26

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