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Let's do a thought experiment. Suppose that an SE user X recently encountered an SE user Y who, after X refused to mark Y's answer as accepted, probably downvoted X's question, marked it as a duplicate (which is evidently not so) and deleted his/her own answer.

How do we deal with such hypothetical situations where judgements are possibly passed based on a personal grudge?


P.S. I am not sure if it would be rude to post a link to a real example of the hypothetical I referred to. Therefore, I will not. I do not wish to defame any user. Please answer this question assuming the premise that such incidents (which prompt, quite naturally, suspicion of intent) do occur, albeit (perhaps) rarely.

REQUEST: Please do not try to dig into my profile and turn this otherwise honest query about the nature of standard conduct in SE to a personal flame war. I would be much obliged if you do respect my privacy.

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    $\begingroup$ I can't see any evidence for your belief that the answerer acted maliciously. He has indeed suggested a duplicate, but that doesn't seem malicious to me. You don't have any evidence that he downvoted you. There is nothing in the comments to suggest that he has. Incidentally, note that accusing others of downvoting you is regarded as impolite at best and grounds for a suspension in extreme cases. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jun 13 '17 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Please note that I did not pinpoint any particular person. Which evidence are you talking about? $\endgroup$ – Nanashi No Gombe Jun 13 '17 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ The question is easily identifiable, and any 10K user can see the deleted question and its author, so you have effectively accused a user of downvoting you. Claims that you aren't singling out an individual are disingenuous at best. As for evidence, there are no comments suggesting that the user in question is offended. If I had answered a question then realised it was a duplicate I would also delete my answer (or move it to the duplicate) then vote to close. In this case I don't know enough about the subject to decide if your question is a duplicate or not. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jun 13 '17 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie Well, if you are really talking about a particular person, know that he has in fact answered the linked question much before my own question. Therefore, while answering my question, he was much aware of the existence of the other question. Only after I decided not to accept his answer and asked him to update his answer with relevant details first, did the series of events take place. Anyway, the question here was not about my specific example. Please note that I asked supposing such cases happen, what is the accepted reaction? $\endgroup$ – Nanashi No Gombe Jun 13 '17 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie I think it's worth taking this post as a more general question, as J requests, instead of tying it to a specific instance, since it is a realistic scenario where one perceives another user to be acting mostly on a personal grudge. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 13 '17 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ Note, however, that the key word there is perceives: you simply do not have enough evidence to form a picture of the state of mind of anyone on this venue, barring cases where they explicitly say things like "downvoting because I don't like you". Thus, the premise of this question is inappropriate: it's OK to ask what to do if you feel someone is acting on those lines (which can be very upsetting), but it's not OK to make that kind of assumption of others' state of mind. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 13 '17 at 10:24
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Well, there are a couple of things to say here:

  1. Assume good faith: Unless the user in question explicitly told you "I have downvoted your question and deleted my answer because you would not accept it", or something similarily blatant, we all should refrain from ascribing motivations to other users. In particular, since voting is completely anonymous and users are never required to justify their votes (for a plethora of discussions about this, search mother meta), we should not assume that a vote was cast by a specific user because a downvote temporally coincided with another action of that user.

    Likewise, voting to close as a duplicate after answering a question is not an obvious sign of malice - it's perfectly possible the user answered the question, then remembered later they had answered a similar question, and went back to search for it, found it, and voted to close. The deletion of the answer could likewise be because they thought their other answer more fully answered the question, or because they realized what they wrote is wrong. I can personally attest that both of these things happen, and in particular only later remembering that you once answered a similar question is something that can happen easily after you've been here a while.

  2. Nothing here seems a particularly egregious action: Even if cast in bad faith, a duplicate vote does nothing unless others agree - and if enough people agree, then there must have been some valid reason to raise the flag, and the actual intention of the user casting the close vote is wholly irrelevant. A single downvote likewise is both difficult to determine to be cast maliciously and not particularly concerning - this would be different if a user went through several of your posts to downvote them because they don't like you, but there are scripts in place to catch that sort of behaviour. And lastly, since the deletion of one's answer may happen for several good reasons (see the ones I pointed out already above), that is also not an act worthy of any disclipinatory action.

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  • $\begingroup$ "a duplicate vote does nothing unless others agree" — well, barring gold badgers of course. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Jun 26 '17 at 3:17
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It has happened to me in the past that I wrote an answer, then thought "that sounds familiar", searched, found my original, and marked the question as a duplicate (linking to my earlier answer).

If your answer has not been accepted, you can then choose to delete it (note - you cannot delete your answer after it has been accepted although you could still edit it ... but a "harmful edit", where you delete the entire body of the text, for example, is likely to get rolled back by a high-rep user).

It seems to me that all the above can happen "in good faith".

Downvotes happen. Best advice: ignore and move along. Some questions are wrongly marked as duplicates - come to Meta and argue for them to be reopened. If someone answered your question, and this was helpful - give them an upvote. If it doesn't fully answer your question, leave a comment explaining what you are missing.

In everything you do here, act with grace beyond what others deserve; assume good intent, even when there is reason to suspect otherwise; and in egregious cases, use the flags under questions/answers/comments to alert a moderator that "something untoward is going on".

Single downvotes, even if given out of spite, are just part of the fabric of this community. Serial downvotes (where someone unleashes a torrent of downvotes in quick succession) get detected by an algorithm and reversed.

Look for the positive, and enjoy the community. Have fun, learn lots, and take regular stretch breaks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Might be worth pointing out that, though you can edit your accepted question, harmful edits (e.g., deleting all text to direct to another post) will be rolled back (likely by high-rep users or mods). $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jun 27 '17 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos good point, added... $\endgroup$ – Floris Jun 27 '17 at 20:14
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How do you determine that the negative responses were indeed due to personal grudge? by your own personal grudge?

Well, to deal with it, just view your reputation as an imagery number rather than real ones.

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot determine with full confidence. However, I can only suspect if the case has enough grounds for suspicion. Suspicion is not necessarily a bad thing. The question is whether I should always assume good faith (as the accepted answer suggests) or react in some way according to the prevalent norms of conduct in SE. The answer is that no such reaction is needed. $\endgroup$ – Nanashi No Gombe Jun 19 '17 at 5:12
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Please do not try to dig into my profile and turn this otherwise honest query about the nature of standard conduct in SE to a personal flame war. I would be much obliged if you do respect my privacy.

And that's exactly why you should ignore such downvotes from a single user. It only subtracts 2 points, which is not worth to spend a lot of effort on. You'll always have the occasional user who just doesn't like the sort of questions or answers from you, and reacting too strongly to that may lead to a backreaction of exactly the short you want to avoid.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the advice. Who is Luboš Motl and what has he got anything to do with me? Are you perhaps suggesting that someone might write a whole blog post to rant about me just because I asked this question? That sounds hilarious though. $\endgroup$ – Nanashi No Gombe Jun 21 '17 at 5:19
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I too - when I started out - felt that I was encountering such behavior with no recourse to correct it. I admit that it is very frustrating and discouraging. Especially to a site dedicated to the precision of science - this perceived behavior seems to go against all that science ideally represents - the honest evaluation of all worthy questions and hypothesis.

To relate the behavior to higher systems of knowledge, whenever there is a community that does not fear the consequence of behavior, it appears as an indication of the quality of the answers being given by that community. There is some chance that an answer highly praised is in fact outright incorrect.

As there is "noise" and "defect" in almost every physical evaluation, so too you might notice imperfection - especially when just starting out.

So I appeal to try to understand these higher systems of knowledge - reserving this site for structured social interaction; I just keep on writing and eventually these issues are not the main signal but rather the noise in the feedback that I receive on my posted questions and answers.

You can always set up your own site void of such issues. Your website might be a handy reference on this site to your "unbiased" answer as you see it - using links that generally do not raise as much site ire as full text. I found that approach also good to start out. I have gotten around all the issues so far - so now that my reputation is good enough that such perceived characters no longer want to take that approach. The initial frustration also helped me look at other answers and learn how to make my answer better - and this is main benefit: to see one's own imperfection also, and to build and remedy one's own defects too!

Note: I would like to address some of the comments, but I am unable to comment without a reputation of 50 that I currently lack. The comments - that the question can be traced to - seem unreasonable to me, a regular simple user of the system. I cannot find any question of J. Rahman's where it can be shown that he up-voted, down-voted, or did anything whatsoever for that matter. When I checked his profile, only this one question shows. Using such "proof" does not seem like any sort of basis to punish him by suspending him from the site. He has done absolutely nothing in public - as far as the common site-user like me can tell. I did not even see any of his questions and answers aside from this question being available from his user profile.

Comment #1 in question: The question is easily identifiable, and any 10K user can see the deleted question and its author, so you have effectively accused a user of downvoting you. Claims that you aren't singling out an individual are disingenuous at best. As for evidence, there are no comments suggesting that the user in question is offended. If I had answered a question then realised it was a duplicate I would also delete my answer (or move it to the duplicate) then vote to close. In this case I don't know enough about the subject to decide if your question is a duplicate or not. – John Rennie Jun 13 at 8:16

Response:

" The question is easily identifiable, and any 10K user can see the deleted question and its author, so you have effectively accused a user of down-voting you." It is a very elite group (almost self-proclaimed judges of the community) that has 10K or higher reputation. I have no way of making such identification - and I assumed that science operates on the basis of equal access to the relevant facts to come to a decision. Here, clearly, science does not work that way. The facts are not generally accessible for the common reader to make an informed decision.

Now I consider another comment I see here.

Comment #2 - A Veiled Threat to the Author of this Posted Question

I can't see any evidence for your belief that the [person answering] acted maliciously. He has indeed suggested a duplicate, but that doesn't seem malicious to me. You don't have any evidence that he down-voted you. There is nothing in the comments to suggest that he has. Incidentally, note that accusing others of [down-voting] you is regarded as impolite at best and grounds for a suspension in extreme cases. – John Rennie Jun 13 at 8:03

Response to #2 Comment Threatening the Question Author

"Incidentally, note that accusing others of [down-voting] you is regarded as impolite at best and grounds for a suspension in extreme cases. – John Rennie Jun 13 at 8:03" This seems like a threat, using terms like "suspension" when in fact what was being asked in the question being asked is, "How can such bad behavior be dealt with?" I also receive down votes that I do not understand, and I have some ideas on how such votes might be dealt with. A site author has to be open to feedback, and sometimes that feedback the author cannot understand. That is part of being an author. One has to roll with the negative. However, I think the best approach for an author is to get together a community that can "independently" evaluate the situation and that can ask questions, comments, and that is also willing as a community to deal with the negative, to provide more constructive criticism instead of immediately having to comment "suspension in extreme cases". We need to focus on not punishment but more on guidance of the new-comers and uniformed. The new authors especially need a warm welcome and help - if this site is able to reach its potential, and not the opposite!

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    $\begingroup$ שָׁלוֹם Brilliant explanation using the analogy of noise. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Nanashi No Gombe Jun 19 '17 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ The 10k discussion is a red herring. The point isn't whether everybody can access the information, but that OP's pretended anonymity is simply not present when 60+ of the site's most active users can easily identify the user in question. In any case, OP has explicitly asked to keep the discussion general, so keeping the conversation on that specific instance just isn't helpful.The facts are not available for you to make an informed decision because J. Rahman explicitly chose to keep them unavailable because that is not the focus of the discussion. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 19 '17 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Tip: Note that salutations are discouraged on SE. [edited by DZ] $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Jun 19 '17 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ My answer got a -1 currently also for no understandable reason. 60+ of the most active members clearly in no way speak for the entire community or even a majority of it if one wants to play the "democracy" card. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Elliott Jun 19 '17 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ This is not a democracy, but a meritocracy here. I too am very inclined to downvote (though I won't) due to your bitter tone. Especially after the enlightening first part of the answer, I see much hypocrisy because of what follows. $\endgroup$ – LLlAMnYP Jun 20 '17 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ I am not asking you to down-vote. But I cannot understand the sense of "hypocrisy" and I would rather take a hit and learn something from you LLlaMnYP that makes sense than learn nothing and have good grades. I guess that is also part of the solution. Expecting praise from a community gets no where - only learning from the experience is of any benefit. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Elliott Jun 21 '17 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ I downvoted because I feel like this diverged from it's point quite a bit. The signal and the noise wasn't a bad analogy (though it still seemed like a lot more words than needed for your point). I was okay with the over-wording of this; but then it has the second half of the post which is extremely hard to follow. It's unclear what is a response and what is said by others. More importantly, it's unclear how it's relevant. I disagree with this answer because it doesn't really make sense. $\endgroup$ – JMac Jun 21 '17 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm on mobile, so I'll be terse. The first half of your answer leads me to believe that you are an active user here, who got over some initial frustration and now sees that such "misbehavior" as in the OP is just noise in the big picture. I then see bitterness in your responses to comments - clearly you did not get over stuff, then your low rep shows that you are not an active user who had the experience of transitioning from (in your own words) noise to a trend, finally more bitter comments suggest that you don't practice what you preach. Detached from this, the answer is good, so no -1. $\endgroup$ – LLlAMnYP Jun 21 '17 at 22:42
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My post on this was recently deleted, and it feels a lot like the circumstance "How to deal with negative responses on SE due to personal grudge?"

One point to consider is that a perceived personal grudge may not be so. It may be a professional grudge - which also does not feel very good. But there is a difference.

  • A professional grudge is from someone who sees an opportunity for you to improve and is trying to reach out to you to make these (in the writer's eyes) necessary improvements to really grow. The person with such a grudge is actually hoping for your benefit!

  • A personal grudge comes from someone who is "out to get you" for some reason that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. They can do so for your benefit or else-wise.

But the trick is that a professional grudge and a personal grudge can feel a lot a like.

My newest recommendation to deal with such perceived grudges is to try to get the facts on the table in a separate more private forum (to not publicly humiliate the person with such a grudge). Also, it is here recommended to start a separate question.

So with the action (pictured here) I am posting it as a separate question on the meta, instead of getting into details any more here...

Metrocracy feedback

Maybe it is a professional grudge. I will have to see by evaluating the facts on the separate meta question!

If you have any questions, contact me personally. I am not posting contact information yet because there is some question if this is proper or not still and I do not want to detract from my current answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mods don't very often delete posts, although they could, it is something which they try to avoid. If you are sure that your post was deleted against the literally interpreted rules, flag it! The reversion of a mod decision is unlikely, but it leaves a trace why do you think it was not okay. Note, I think specifically in your case, ACM had right (in the literal interpretation of the rules). Posting back a deleted content was likely an offense from your side. You have already access to the chatrooms, it is a good place for unbounded talks. $\endgroup$ – peterh Jul 9 '17 at 17:34

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