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    • CommentAuthorBrirush
    • CommentTimeMar 12th 2013
    I recently posted a marginally acceptable post abut a board game. I noticed that the number of up votes and downvotes was about equal, as would be expected for such a post.

    But then I looked at the other posts on the same page, and more than half the posts on the active page had negative votes, including posts by a large number of different people (including a reference request where the answered was downvoted).

    Is someone down voting every question?

    My understanding is either the software or the moderators tend to notice these things and take action against the downvoter.

    • CommentAuthorBrirush
    • CommentTimeMar 12th 2013
    That makes sense. Thank you!
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013

    Perhaps somebody is just downvoting everything they find worthy of a downvote?

    The reference request that I think is meant is really not such a well-phrased question, and the answer, well one might say something on the merits of the books instead of just mentioning them with a (subjective) opinion attached. So, why not downvote them.

    No, it was not me. And, I rather rarely downvote. But the general tone of the thread is in my opinion slightly unfortunate.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013 edited

    When I used to do things like that, I reserved that kind of thing exclusively for score-settling or in response to perceived slights..

    lol, or Ian D***** (Is it bad form if I still link people to that thread as an example of gross incompetence?)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013

    I object to the formulation 'things like that'. It might have been a thing like that but it might also have been something completly different. Just that somebody uses the downvote button repeteaddoes not in itself make the things similar in any way.


    There was also a somewhat suspicious string of downvotes a few days ago at, that was commented on by Joel David Hamkins.

    [...] See my final comment.
    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013 edited

    Quid: these are some fairly random-looking downvotes. No reasons have been given by the downvoter, moreover they were on fairly typical MO questions and answers.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013 edited

    @Ryan Budney: I only saw the frontpage with a couple minuses in passing and now it is a bit late to reconstruct this in detail, and also it would seem absurd of me to defend somebody's (or several users) actions that I neither know in detail (the actions) nor who did it.

    However, I merely wanted to insist on the fact that downvoting many things in a string, also without leaving a comment, is not in itself something that would or should result in any intervention by moderators.

    We had a similar discussion recently. In it a moderator (François G. Dorais) said:

    Downvoting for obscure reasons is discouraged but not prohibited. Moderators will intervene if there is evidence that someone is downvoting for wrong reasons (vengeance, humiliation, discrimination, etc) or if this is part of a larger disruptive behavior.

    Incidentally, this was said as (contradicting) response to me trying (perhaps to forcefully) to encourage somebody to leave comments in addition to or instead of downvotes.

    In particular, this statement can in my opinion reasonably be read as: you can downvote whatever you like if you could provide (but you do not have to provide it) some good reason for it.

    And, as I showed with the reference request (on SPDE books) that was given [at least it is a ref request asked about at that time with a downvote on Q and A] as particularly "surpising" example one can come up with reasons that are none of the prohibited ones to downvote this.

    And sorry to say it but, just "fairly tyical MO questions" and "worthy of a downvote" (for somebody sufficiently critical) are not mutually exclusive. [Added: perhaps this can be read a lot more negatively than intended; by 'fairly typical' I understand something like 'the average over everything'; in addition 'sufficiently critical' is not meant as a postive evaluation, but what is IMO simply true is that if one tries sufficiently hard to find a reason one will suceed in many cases; to be sure, including many of my contributions.]

    To avoid any misunderstanding I repeat and detail: I downvoted something like 65 times over a period of more than two years, so about one every two weeks [and up more than 1000 times]. It is really not that I advocate massive downvoting (in particular comment less) as I said just recently in detail. But I do advocate that without additional evidence it is not considered as something that will result in some (moderator) action.

    I mean if people upvote in strange ways noone (or hardly anyone at least not publically) cares either. While it is not the same in my opinion either, I feel the gap in the respective reactions here is in my opinion too big.


    Where are you going with this quid? You're taking this discussion places I think nobody has the time for.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2013

    @Ryan Budney: okay, sorry to steal your time, but you started talking to me.

    @quid If somebody is sufficiently critical to downvote the typical MO question (all qualifiers in place), we should see a lot more downvotes on typical questions. What seems to motivate this thread is an atypical pattern of downvotes. So for your explanation to be convincing, you would have to argue that this kind of downvoting does indeed happen all the time, or that thiese are not typical questions.

    I understand that this is not literally true because the mean can be way below the median, but that would be nitpicking.
    [I deleted my observation because I don't have much evidence to back it up.]
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2013

    @Michael Greinecker: if say one very critical user were only rarely online, only does so when they have a lot of time to read questions, are generally in a bad mood, are drunk or whatever (and all this are rare, perhaps even one-of events), then it would be rare but strong when it happens, I think. Yes, the average thing was a bit of, I only meant to avoid somebody might take 'typical' as typical according to the idea of MO whereas I meant typical in reality.

    That being said: I did not need or even want to give a convincing explication.

    Perhaps one of my main point is not clear: I consider it for very general reasons as inapproriate to assert that the moderarators (if they notice) will take action against the downvoter. [Or also only are likely to do so, depending how one parses the sentence precisely.] Just because some found them fairly random-looking.

    This was the motivation for my first post; one could have said instead the moderators will look into the problem and decide (based on a lot better information they have in these cases) if there is something to be done.

    The other main motivation for me to reply was the tone of OP; that rhetorical question and some other aspects annoys me.

    So, I said I find the tone slightly unfortunate (which is not a strong formulation as I did not want to blow this out of proportion), and explain that at least for this one question/answer I see no problem if it is downvoted in particular the question, really not. It is a badly written question!

    And that could have been all from my side. Even though the latter discussion of supposedly related instances days ago also annoyed me, not only but also as it is wrong procedure-wise, as it if then it should be reported directely to the moderators.

    Quite a bit more could be said, but then I have no intentions anymore to waste anybodies (in particular my own) time on this site, at least not in the nearer future.

    Generally, however, it was a quite fun and interesting experience.

    @quid Thanky ou for your reply. If that was not clear, I do not think that users should face sanctions for downvoting more aggressively than others. If a post is downvoted by many different people, the obvious conntection is in general the post.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2013

    @Michael Greinecker: I did not understand you that way, but thanks anyway. (Also, if this should be unclear, my decision to leave for at least a longer time [well I am still somehow here but essentially I am gone as an active user], is strictly independent of your posting; I took it already half a day before.)

    @quid I hope you'll return eventually. All the best!

    I noticed what strikes me as unjustified (and certainly unexplained) downvoting, on two reasonable answers by long-time users:

    Anton Petrunin on geodesics on surfaces without conjugate points.

    Scott Carnahan on 3D rotation representation.

    Micro-policing downvoting would be a chore for the moderators, but downvoting darkens the tone of the conversation, and I hate to see it proliferate.

    Four hours later both answers have been sufficiently upvoted that the early downvotes are washed out. Issue resolved.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 22nd 2013

    Still some hours of them was (informally) deleted as it appears to be wrong. Perhaps (though admittedly certainly not a given) the downvoter knew better than the upvoters what they were doing.

    You can try to rationalize anything, but at times someone votes down every question and perhaps every attached answer on the front page very rapidly. It is implausible that this is a thoughtful person who just sees the faults more clearly than others.

    Okay quid, I'll bite: If this downvoting hero is so perceptive that he or she noticed an error in Anton Petrunin's argument, why didn't he or she leave an informative message, like Misha or Sergei Ivanov did? I could understand downvoting-without-comment users who have demonstrated that they can't understand reasonable mathematical counterarguments, or those who respond with hostility, but neither is the case for Anton Petrunin.

    Is there a purpose behind your pointless, baseless speculation?

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2013

    I explicitly included a parenthetical that I do not claim this being the case (the error being the reason for the vote). And, I said before in this thread that I have no particular interest in finding a convincing explication.

    In substance this seems not significant enough to me to pay that much attention to it, but some things it IMO reveals about the dominant culture on the site are quite disappointing.

    To answer your question directly Scott Carnahan: the main purpose of this particular post was a way of dealing with that dissapointment. However, I also wanted to make people aware that striking someone as unjustified (even if it is a respected long-time user(s)) does not imply the vote necessarily was unjustified.

    I've edited my initial comments, since I don't wish to contribute fodder for this somewhat pointless discussion. Quid, I would appreciated it if you could edit out any reference to me or my now modified comment in the related thread. You're entitled to your views which you have amply expressed, as others are to theirs.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2013 edited

    Dono Arapura, I will remove the reference, but it is somehow relevant since it is key in refuting Ryan Budney's claim that I misrepresent something. So, I will understand your removing the comment as agreeing that your contribution was not one discussing the string of down-votes itself (but only something related).

    Added: I removed the explict reference in the other thread, there is an abstract one in this thread but it refers to two things so it is not clear how to change it. Please let me know if you should want further changes. Also, sorry, for the disruption. But I am somewhat confident this is not more disrupting for you than for me. Still, I should have been able to handle it better, so sorry again.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2013

    @Scott Carnahan: A follow-up remark. If you would like to know about my views on downvoting (answers) please read my contributions in particular the second one in the first of the recent discussions I think they are not so far removed from what you say. [For questions it is about the same, except that I sometimes (but still rarely) downvote already relatively highly voted things that seem not really on-topic to me, mainly as a counter-measure against the argument that so many find them so good based on score (as those not finding them good, often seem not to bother to vote in the opposite direction, including me).]

    But, in that same thread another moderator (François G. Dorais) said that rules regarding down-voting essentially do not exist (except against clear abuse). There is not even an explicit encouragment or recommendation in the FAQs how to use down-votes, AFAIK.

    Hypothetical scenarios aside. It is reasonably imaginable in my opinion that somebody not well-integrated in the community thinks (in good faith) that one can or even should (or at least it is not a big problem) up/down vote say with same frequency according to ones personal taste; say like: seems boring to me...downvote. Sure, it is also imaginable that this is some willfull disruptive behavior. But I do not see what is gained by assumin this.

    In any case, what I somehow do not undertand is why those (including you, or is this just admin?) that for all I know can see who cast the votes that are mentioned do not comment on their origin (in an abstarct way). But by contrast let this debate go on and on and on for many days.

    @quid: I don't think moderators can check who has downvoted a question. At least, they can't do so on stackexchange 2.0 sites, and I doubt this was ever different.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2013 edited

    @Michael Greinecker: thank you for the explication, perhaps I misunderstood this (thus I also added the "admin?"). If this is so, while I think in principle it is still possible and there were a long time ago banning decision I think based on such things, it might well be a lot more complicated than I thought to get this information so that then I do understand why it is not done.

    Added: On second thought, also Ryan Budney's original comment in this thread seems to suggest that moderators could identify who cast the votes. Not sure now. what is actually the case.

    Dear quid, weren't you taking a break from MathOverflow?

    If you no longer find MathOverflow stimulating then my suggestion to you would be to stick only to the mathematics and not get involved in discussions over what questions to close or any other debates on meta. But you seem to be doing the exact opposite.

    Quid has the right to change his or her mind at any time. It's no one else's business. (Then too, I guess anyone is also free to register one's annoyance with another user, if one wants.)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2013 edited

    @dan petersen: For your information, from the point on I said I were taking a break (about 10 days ago). I first was completely inactive for a couple of days. And then:

    1. I did not cast a single vote to close.

    2. Left one clarifying follow-up comment in a preexisting conversation.

    3. Left one mathematical comment mainly to point to some reference.

    4. Gave two answers (and there were some accompanying comments to them, and one downvote I cast).

    By the way, if you would care to know this you could know, by checking my recent activity (except for 1 in full detail), without involving me in some discussion on meta. ;-)

    In addition, I admitted in the other thread that it is somewhat embarassing for me that I am already back on meta. However, this one downvote got me already in some trouble (in an in the end surprising way). (And this downvote was the minimum necessary in view of one other answer on this question, as in my opinion people got offensive flags for a lot less problematic things [though I am not personally offended], besides this part of the answer being completely off-topic for the question. The only other possibilty would be to delete my answer to not be linked in any way to this.)

    So, I left (in retrospect unwisely) a two-line (or three-line) comment on meta, and things developped. Yet, if you read the conversation carefully you will see that a lot is me replying, as this too! Mainly to some claims and "accusations" let us say not fully based on reality, IMO. (Such as the one in your comment to some extent, too.)

    It seems to me some people often believe to find problems in or with what I say, and then some get somehow uneasy or stop replying if it turns out there was perhaps more substance to them, or the line of argument or the actions were more coherent, than they thought.

    For example, look at the latest exchange with Ryan Budney in the other thread and then please read the start of this thread and please then explain me which posters in this thread here were really discussing the string of down-votes (around 12th 13th) before I took the discussion somehow off-track with generalities (in my second contribution).

    Or, look at the replies of Douglas Zare and Scott Carnahan here. I expressed clearly (or so I though) in the comment, and in general before in the thread, that it is not my intention to claim a convincing alternative explanation. But, still they jump on this explanantion and supposedly show that what I said does not quite make much sense, except that this misses the point entirely.

    Finally, I really do not need or want all this discussion (I was essentially inactive on meta, while very active on main, for months, first half/mid 2012, but then that ABC thing started...), it is only that it is really difficult for me to tolerate things that are (in my opinion) simply not true or unfair in particular against people in a weak position (this does not include me).

    For a short version: in some sense you are completely right, I should be less involved, and ineed I am already less involved (and it is not that I need the site for anything specifically, neither to get some answers nor to develop my brand, or whatever this terrible formulation in the FAQs says), which I repeat you could have known had you cared to check, but well you did something else so I feel obliged to reply while actually preferring to do something else entirely.

    Still I would really appreciate your (or anyones) reply regarding how you see the relative truth between what Ryan Budney said and what I explained in the other thread.

    ps. Thank you Todd Trimble.

    Dear quid, I will admit that I did not read through your recent activity -- I simply saw in this thread that you said you would be taking a break, but then more than a week later you were anyway pouring energy into arguing here. FWIW I liked both your latest answers, and in general I think that your mathematical postings contribute much more to the site than what you're doing here.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2013

    @dan petersen: Thank you for the friendly reply!

    It looked to me like someone voted down every question on the front page again last night. I tried to counter it partially by voting up the questions with just one down vote for no reason that I could see.

    I think these down votes can be quite damaging, particularly if they are on someone's first question (included in the ones voted down last night) or if they are on a question which won't draw that much attention. I also ran across a detailed but deleted answer to an older question with one down vote, and a comment by the author asking for an explanation of the down vote. I'm not sure whether there was a subtle flaw in the answer, but I suspect that it was a random down vote, and the author decided not to leave his work public with the down vote.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 1st 2013

    @Douglas Zare: (almost) only out of idle curiosity could you mention/do you remember the question with the deleted answer you refer to?


    I was about to write the same thing as quid, but I also want to add a quote that quid can cite when relevant :)

    Being nonspecific or vague about an incident is rarely useful and leads to more idle discussion than anything else. If you are worried about confidentiality issues, report the incident directly to