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Inspired by the answer to these two questions, I am a little unsure.

There are several other grad students on the website that are taking similar specialisations to me, and so naturally there is a large overlap between their questions and ones that I have.

Twice even I have even given the exact same answer to a question as another clever fellow within a matter of seconds after.

Some of these other grad students I have looked up, and they have questions that I have not actively thought about before, but when I see them I thikn they're great, and upvote accordingly, read the answers, and (hopefully!) learn something.

Thus I was supprised to see in the answer to the first question, that while the action in that question was deemed

"not exactly stalking"

it did say that

"serial downvoting will be reversed"

as well as for the case of the second question

[Serial Upvotes] are reversed, just after a period of maximum 24 hours

So my question is, are we indeed allowed to look through similar people's history and read their questions, and vote accordingly? Or is this not to be done?

And what is the definition of "serial" here? If I'm upvoting their questions, because they deserve upvotes, it would be a shame if the machine came along and took all my votes back. How can I avoid this happening? If a question deserves votes I don't want them to be undone due to a mistake on my part.

Similarly, In principle I don't see the diference between doing this, and for someone to critic another persons questions, though I understand that there is the scope for this to be done in mallace, which would of course be wrong, but doing it where 'justified' should be fine.

As it happens, this doesn't bother me too much here, but it is a quite related question.

Note that this may also apply to a persons history of answers.

I am neither so interested in this case here, since the answers to a persons questions are ususally given by other different people, and so even if I vote on lots of answers, the votes will be more 'spread out' accross lots of different people. I expect that this would not get the unwanted notice of the vote-reversing script.

I should have mentioned, I am only talking about three or four votes here and there, when I'm taking a break from my own work, by the way. It is not as if I am suggesting systematically going through every single one of another persons questions.

Either way, I still think it is helpful to try to find out the bounds for this, in order to avoid doing anything wrong.

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortuantely it feels a little creepy to admit to doing this, but oh well, I'd rather ask to make sure I don't do something wrong! $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 5 '14 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Flint72 don't worry about it. At least from the moderators' perspective, we don't care what you admit to (unless it's really egregious, but that's something only actual trolls/spammers/etc. have to worry about) as long as, if you find out it's wrong, you don't continue to do it afterwards. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 6 '14 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ A follow up question - if your votes are reversed, do you get notified about it? $\endgroup$ – Floris Jun 8 '14 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris : I believe in the meta.stachexchange post the jinawee links to above (or perhaps it was somewhere else I read it) they say that they do not notify someone when their votes are reversed. However it said that you 'get the votes back', so if you keep track of how many votes you've used, it sounded like you could tell that way. $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 8 '14 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Flint72 thanks. I think that since the script runs at 3 am UTC, and since the "vote clock" resets at midnight, it's hard to see that you "got votes back" (unless you do a lot of voting in those three hours, you keep a count of votes, and notice at 5 am that you still didn't run out.) I will admit that I don't vote often enough to ever run into the limit... maybe because my activity is split over many different sites (each with its own voting quota). $\endgroup$ – Floris Jun 8 '14 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris : Oh yes, indeed. Rather I meant that there is a counter the keeps a record of the total number of votes that one has made. What I read led me to believe that this would be reduced by the number of reversed votes. Either way, I am far from an expert, so I recommend you read that link if you have doubts (which you justifibly may). $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 8 '14 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ I did read the link, thanks. Not that I doubted you, but because I like "getting the source". It shows that the "victim" of serial vote reversal can see the impact on their status; and I suppose if you serially downvoted answers (which costs you reputation), you would get those points back - and that would be an indication that the reversal occurred. I don't think you are at risk, based on the things I have read on this page. $\endgroup$ – Floris Jun 8 '14 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris : No need to qualify looking up the reference, no ofense whatsoever taken, it's the smart thing to do to make sure that someone has evidence to back up what they're claiming! $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 8 '14 at 14:29
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The standard reference for this is

What is serial voting and how does it affect me? at Meta Stack Exchange.

Note in particular that it does not give specifics on what will and will not trigger a serial-voting detection by the system. This is intentional. The more information that is available, the easier it is to game the system. In particular, if the information you are asking for were available, it would be easier to stagger serial downvoting attacks over multiple days in ways that the algorithm wouldn't pick up but could still cause some serious damage to posts that do not deserve it.

The ethos behind this policy is that it is good questions and good answers that should be rewarded, and not good users per se. This may sound strange at first but I think it is, in the end, quite reasonable. This shouldn't discourage you from looking for interesting threads in the profile of a user whose posts you like, but if you do this be sure to pay due attention to all the other posts on those threads and vote accordingly. This is only fair on all the other people who made an effort to contribute to those threads!

Finally, if your votes are reversed, don't take it too hard. If you come across a post that you had upvoted in the past and your vote is no longer there, all you need to do is upvote it again. If the threads are really that good, it's likely you'll revisit them at some point and this will show up if it's happened.

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If you go through the profile of a user to find interesting posts, you should try to avoid voting on their posts. Because you're selecting posts by user, this distorts the voting compared to when you would find questions via other means. This creates a pattern that is almost indistinguishable from vote fraud and is likely to be reversed.

There is no problem if you encounter the posts naturally, e.g. because you're active in the same tags as another user.

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    $\begingroup$ MadScientist : Well I'm still a little confused now, as I think that your answer seems to be the exact opposite to the most accepted answer by ArnoldNuemaier in the related question linked by @jinawee. I guess we should wait for a few opinions... $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 5 '14 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ A couple of upvotes/downvotes won't get you into any trouble, as long as you are honest and you've read the question. $\endgroup$ – jinawee Jun 5 '14 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @jinawee I tried to avoid defining a lower boundary of votes that is likely to be safe. I assumed that someone looking through another user's history would cast more than one or two votes. The script can't detect intent, and going through the profile of a user and upvoting good posts is targeting a specific user with votes, no matter if well-intentioned or not. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Jun 5 '14 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ This post is very similar to opinions posted by Shog9 from time to time, and I think it is a philosophical position concerning what "voting the content" means. When you sort through one user's posts (even if you are voting honestly and even if you vote other posts in the same questions) you are still following a person-centric search behavior and that runs contrary to the basic idea that these sites are not about who but about content. Now, if you follow the guidelines suggested by, say, tpg you are unlikely to get caught, but there are no guarantees. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jun 5 '14 at 23:50
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I'm not sure on the algorithm exactly but I have a feeling if you go to a link, read the question carefully, read all the answers carefully, and then vote up the answers that are useful and vote down the answers that are not, the algorithm wouldn't catch it.

This is because this is normal voting behavior. You shouldn't cast a vote from the name alone, you shouldn't be seeking out to vote rapidly and frequently. You should be reading questions and answers and voting up the good and down the bad. This takes at least a minute or two (and quite possibly longer) on each question. It doesn't matter how you arrive at the question or answer.

So vote properly and you should be fine. Just don't spend 12 hours a day doing it and make sure you are considering the content before casting votes and it should be okay.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I was wondering exactly that, about what is defined as 'quick succession'. It takes me 5 ish minutes to read and think about a question and another 5 ish to read and think about each answer, so if one is honestly looking up a similar persons questions to learn things, by reading questions and answers, it would only be one vote every five minutes or so. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Flint72 Jun 6 '14 at 7:32
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So my question is, are we indeed allowed to look through similar people's history and read their questions, and vote accordingly? Or is this not to be done?

In theory, you shouldn't do that. In determining which posts to vote on and how to vote on them (up or down), the author of the post should not be a factor.

In practice, it's not such a big deal. If you look at someone's profile and vote on a few of their posts, probably nothing will come of it. Voting on many of the same person's posts, especially in quick succession, is likely to be reversed by the serial voting script, and then it will be forgotten.

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    $\begingroup$ I think OP is saying that he goes to these questions / answers because he thinks (based on history) that they might be interesting; but that he votes based on whether it turns out to be true (in other words, he is voting on the question / answer, not the user). If that is indeed the case, then I think the behavior is appropriate - using user name as surrogate for a tag to find interesting posts. $\endgroup$ – Floris Jun 8 '14 at 12:46
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So my question is, are we indeed allowed to look through similar people's history and read their questions, and vote accordingly? Or is this not to be done?

The vote button pop up descriptions provide a general guide:

enter image description here

By useful, the question should deal with a topic which is accesible to some part of the physics community. The question is clear if proper notation is employed, with correct formatting and grammar; the necessary background which introduces the question should be present, and ideas communicated in a coherent and logical fashion. Finally, the question should show research effort which demonstrates the original poster has demonstrated some attempt to find an answer elsewhere. On the other hand, if the question doesn't meet any of the above criteria, one should potentially vote down. Nevertheless, these are general guidelines and do not apply to all cases. In fact, I only vote positively if my own personal criteria are met.


A question should merit either an up vote or down vote based solely on its contents, and should not be influenced by, for example, the status of the user, or any information which may be garnered on his/her profile or elsewhere. As to whether it is just to go through others' questions and answers from the past, and voting - well that should be totally acceptable, providing the voting is based on a careful analysis of the question or answer. Obviously, creating aptly called sock puppet accounts to serial up/down vote a specific question is forbidden.

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