I've been observing the following voting pattern on some of my older posts:

  • A larger number of older posts is being upvoted once (+10)
  • A few days later, I get a message "Serial voting reversed", with reassuring language that this is not my problem, its just the system doing its job, and the same someone apparently upvoted these posts, which is now being corrected (usually with a larger single deduction).

It appears to me, now that this has repeated several times, that this likely is the same user upvoting and being corrected. Wouldn't it be more useful to tell them these votes are being reverted, so they can understand that is not how they should be voting? I suspect not even the mods can see who exactly is voting for what, and so they also may not be able to reach out and help here, but is that something the system could do?


4 Answers 4


This has actually been discussed a few times on Meta Stack Overflow and Meta Stack Exchange:

(See also the linked duplicates on each question.)

The conversation winds up divided in the same ways each time:

  • If someone is acting in good faith, it's certainly helpful to give them some feedback they goofed up to let them correct their behaviour.
  • However if someone is acting in bad faith, they may use those same notifications to figure out how to fly under the serial voting detection mechanism's radar.

The same mechanism has to service Stack Overflow which deals with unique problems we don't. Because a high reputation on SO can be a boon on a software developer's résumé, there's literal money incentive for people to secure upvotes fraudulently from sockpuppet accounts, voting rings, etc, hence why the discussions above are talking about serial voting as a form of vote fraud. Likewise they have actual issues with revenge downvoting and similar that we rarely or never see here.

The caution around bad-faith users has meant there's not a strong consensus of community support for notifying people engaging in serial voting. The cost of honest users not figuring it out seems like a fair trade, I guess.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks this is a lot of useful information. I note that on the last question on it from 2015, nearly all answers but one (with just 4 net upvotes) support some kind of notification. And, if someone is engaged in fraudulently boosting another profile, they already know when the votes get reverted, because the party that receives them gets notified and will share it with them. It seems to me that not telling the voter only hurts those that do so in good faith. But as you say, this already was suggested, not implemented, and sounds like it would have global effect. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 19:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Though there is also a +40 comment cautioning on the negative impacts, and the voting scores are pretty lukewarm across the board there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ And as a note, Stack has released more advanced/useful mod tools for finding and dealing with targeted voting within the last year or two. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Mar 24 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, and I learned something today. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 30 at 3:45

Votes being identified by the serial vote detection are not necessarily incorrect votes (see here for more details), that script just identifies patterns. So seeing the rep notification that the script has identified a pattern does not mean that another user should or should not have voted somesuch way, it only means that a pattern was identified that fit unpublished criteria. The script cannot assign moral value to the pattern, so it cannot tell a user “you should not be voting this way”, as their votes may be entirely legitimate.

If you suspect voting patterns that are concerning to you, feel free to submit a custom flag to the moderators who can look into things further and request help from staff if they feel that is necessary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the question is more along the lines of: are users, who have had their serial votes reversed, notified about this reversal. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 18 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VLAZ The question asks if the system can tell the serial voter they shouldn’t, and the answer is “no, because the system doesn’t know if their voting behavior is illegitimate.” \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Wouldn't it be more useful to tell them these votes are being reverted" \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 18 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree that the script doesn't say not to do something. By undoing your votes, it is saying that what you did was wrong or in some way unacceptable \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic The script is unable to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate serial votes, but it reverses all serial votes. It isn’t saying “all serial voting patterns are wrong”, it’s saying “I reverse all serial voting patterns because I cannot tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate ones”. See the comments on the answer I linked above. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 22:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes and that makes legitimate serial voting also wrong. Or, at the very least, something you should avoid doing, which is pretty much what "wrong" means. It "punishes" legitimate serial voting and this question is about whether there's a way to indicate this to the person being "punished" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 22:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic I’m not really following your logic there, sorry. It just seems like a non-sequitur. Computers lacking the ability to make moral judgments doesn’t affect the moral value of legitimate, but serially patterned, voting behaviors. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The script says (in the note to me) users should br voting for good answers, not for other users. I think the reversal implies due to the serial nature, whoever did that voting did so for the wrong reasons, namely because they like or want to boost another user, not because the think the answers are good. If however they vote because they do think the answers are good and their votes are invalidated, I would think it would be good for them to know \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 6:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the hint about flagging though. I‘ll try that. Also, just realized that these votes actually block me from getting rep for normal votes on days it hits the 200 cap, as the normal ones then count 0, and these serial ones later get deducted again. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Your rep is recalculated as though the serial votes never happened, see here. You aren’t being penalized for being targeted with upvotes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think anyone's assigning moral value, just that the feature request is a suggestion that someone be notified if their serial voting was reversed so they can understand something happened and avoid repeating it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19 at 16:32

Hmmm, this might be me.

Having been fairly inactive for awhile, in recent months I have had a bit more time to devote to rpg.se.

I have been moving from the present backward in time in the queue, reviewing, occasionally editing, and upvoting, sometimes until my votes are used up for the day.

In moving backward in the queue, it is clear that there is a tide in the affairs of rpg.se. It's obvious that for a few days one or another frequent answerer will be more present, and then another frequent answerer will move to the fore. Some frequent answerers are more frequent than others, especially for a few days here and there.

I will try to vary my methods a bit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi @Jack, thanks — I suspected it might have been you because you also edited a number of posts, but was not sure and did not want to presume anything. Thank you for these helpful edits, and of course, I'm also grateful and happy you found the posts useful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 21 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect I was a beneficiary of this as well. From about 4 weeks ago to about 2 weeks ago at the start of every day I'd open my account to find several old posts upvoted. I'd like to think that I've reached a point in the content curve where a random searcher finds one of my answers useful on any given day, but these appeared to be in batches and were on some pretty obscure posts (some with total question viewership around 60 for example). I even asked my daughter whether she had made an account to upvote me! I never got a vote reversion notice, but I'm not as prolific as @NobodytheHobgoblin. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Mar 24 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, probably me. Anyone who frequently answers questions might see an occasional spike in points. It's not personal, it's just what questions are where I'm at in the queue. I'm currently on page 50, November 2022. Also . . . I don't look for obvious edits in every question, but questions I find more interesting I'm more likely to take a closer look at, and if I see an obvious typo/spelling error, I usually fix it, so of course that moves it to the front page. Also, I've tried to vary my pattern a bit, to avoid angering the algorithms . . . but it's definitely NOT serial voting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 25 at 10:45

In my opinion people that have at least more than a basic amount of rep should get a warning. And even newbies should have something to tell them that there votes might be removed, if it looks like they have violated the rules.

That is annoying. I come here may be once a month, look at the new questions etc (may be vote on an open or close) and see any questions for games I like, if the question is interesting I will upvote it and the answers if useful. I normally never down vote unless it is annoying. So as I might be here for 1/2hr in a month and do 10s of votes, and that means they might get be removed as a 'serial voter', even-though I have 11k of rep. What is the point of me bothering at all!

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    \$\begingroup\$ With relatively normal behaviour, it's quite unlikely that your voting pattern would be identified as serial voting. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 27 at 8:50

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