If I'm not mistaken, the user who asked this question appears to have found a hack to make their posts undownvotable: Just answer the question multiple times and make sure they're all really terrible non-answers. The question itself isn't terrible — or wasn't before the petty edits. According to the OP's own edit to the question, there seem to have been a good number of us who downvoted more than one of those non-answers to the question, which were then reversed. In fact, the OP isn't the only one who answered multiple times with extremely poor answers.

Is this really how the serial-downvote-detection algorithm should work?


3 Answers 3


A good question, in the Stack Exchange model, is one that has definitive answers. If a user writes three different answers to the same question, either the user doesn't understand what it means for a question to have a good answer, or the question is not a good fit for our format.

When I saw that question, it had already accumulated thirteen answers, with multiple answers from at least two users. There was actually an anonymous flag on the question, pointing out that the "answers" were being used as a back-and-forth discussion, and suggesting deleting the whole question. At that point the question was five days into a seven-day bounty period. I wasn't comfortable with single-handedly disappearing the question entirely, nor with trying to assist the users involved in combining their multiple answers into one apiece. I'm willing to take the blame for this one: I should have cleaned it up then — especially since the users posting multiple answers were low-rep users who generally benefit from gentle guidance. But I didn't. Mea culpa.

One of the faults of the Stack Exchange bounty system is that a question with an active bounty is protected from close votes. This means an off-topic question can't be closed by normal users; instead normal users have to raise a custom moderator flag, asking for the bounty to be cancelled and the question closed. That's not ideal. Part of the solution is for the community to keep up with the review queues, and to engage actively in upvoting good questions and downvoting bad ones. That helps us avoid the situation where a low-quality or unclear question gets lots of attention via the bounty system.

  • $\begingroup$ What about just changing the SE platform so that users can vote to close questions with active bounties? I never understood the motivation for disabling that capability. $\endgroup$
    – tparker
    Commented Feb 17 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know the history behind that decision, either. A question for the network-wide Meta. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Feb 17 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ @tparker already asked in 2012. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Feb 19 at 4:28

A good question, in the Stack Exchange model, is one that has definitive answers.

I know it. I also understand that this is not entirely consistent with how Physics works. However, even though it is a significant limitation, I can accept Stack Exchange's point of view as a practical filter for the acceptable questions on this site.

Then, the real question is, how can people without enough experience in physics know that their question does not have a definite answer? And a similar question is valid for people trying to answer.

My point of view is that they can't. As a consequence, I would not be too much concerned about the existence of a few cases like the example. I would consider an issue only in the presence of a statistically significant number of similar cases.

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    $\begingroup$ How does this answer the question about serial downvoting?! $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Feb 7 at 2:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Thinking about the causes of a phenomenon may help assess and prevent it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ This seems to be a response to another answer, rather than an independent answer to the question. Please don't use answers to have discussions that won't fit into comments: that sort of misuse is exactly what the question is about. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Feb 7 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @rob, if your answer starts from an assumption, I think I have the right to reply to the original question from that assumption. My answer to the original question is clearly stated in the two final statements in the final paragraph. To clarify, I don't mind how the serial-downvote-detection algorithm should work if the corresponding issue is statistically irrelevant. I hope a personal opinion is allowed, even if people disagree. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7 at 21:45

I was the author of the subject question. There was no intention to 'hack' the system, but I did make the mistake of posting answers to point out the multiple errors in some of the "terrible" answers instead of using the comments section. For that I apologise. I felt compelled to respond, because I assumed knowledgeable high rep users would either downvote the terrible answers or post quality answers with the correct solutions and point out errors, but they did not.

I also posted an edit complaining about the amount of serial down voting, because some people were were so outraged to the challenge of their ingrained worldview, they not only downvoted my posts in that thread, but when on a campaign of looking for my historical posts in other threads and downvoting them as well and I am glad that the algorithm corrected that.

Later on, rob deleted some of my self answers and comments in the question and to be honest I was glad he did, because the whole thing had got messy and I apologise for being partly responsible.

A good question, in the Stack Exchange model, is one that has definitive answers.

I feel my question does have a definitive answer which is "Given a mechanism to stop the chain coming off the gears due to centrifugal force and given a long enough chain so the major part of the chain drive is straight, the chain drive will contract and the spring on the left will be stretched."

However, judging by the yo-yo voting on the question about 50% of members think the chain will contract and the other half thing it will not. Clearly if a measurement was made there would be a definitive answer and after over 100 years of relativity we should be able to calculate what would be measured. The answer is not an opinion, its a fact. What would be measured?

As far as I am concerned the question is a good question, It has garnered more than a 1000 views and the voting reveals that about half the responders have the opposite view to the other half and so a large number of the members are suffering from a misconception which needs clearing up. I feel high rep users could help by either posting authoritative answers or at the very least, downvoting the 'terrible' answers or upvoting the good answers which takes less than a minute. Isn't that how this forum is supposed to work?

Any way, I think rob did the right thing and the question is much better for his edits and I apologise for the inconvenience caused due to getting too emotionally involved.

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    $\begingroup$ "I assumed knowledgeable high rep users would either downvote the terrible answers [...] but they did not." Actually we did; we downvoted your serial "answers" to that question, because they were all non-answers full of bad physics, but the system flagged those votes related to just that one question as serial downvoting. That's the point of my question here. I never went looking for anything else you did, but all my downvotes within that one question were rejected. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 12 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ "As far as I am concerned the question is a good question". I think it was when you first asked it, and I never downvoted the question itself. You really degraded its quality when you edited in a misinformed rant about serial downvoting and other comments on the answers. But the main content is an entirely fair question about physics. Your later edits were bad, but your abuse of the "answer" posts caused the bigger problem. And again, I was just trying to downvote those "answers" to that one question, which you repeatedly say you feel is the right thing to do, but the system wouldn't let me. $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 12 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ "I assumed knowledgeable high rep users would either downvote the terrible answers [...] but they did not." -- not really how the site works, unfortunately; people who are knowledgeable about a particular topic are vastly outnumbered by those who are not. $\endgroup$
    – Sten
    Commented Feb 12 at 20:11

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