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Okay, so I get that the system automatically checks for "voting abuse." This is not unreasonable. But the reality of it is a bit, well creepy.

I just got a notice that I lost 35 points due to "Serial voting was reversed." And I can figure out why. My husband's a member here but doesn't read the site very often because he doesn't want to get sucked in, though he enjoys it. I'm in the habit of sending him links to posts here and on a couple other stacks that I think might interest him (at his request). In some cases, they're questions I answered, but generally they're questions I think he should answer.

I almost never posted questions until this contest started and now I'm aiming for one a day. Naturally, I talk to my husband about my questions and encourage him to read them and add anything he might wish to add. I've been asking him for a week to go look at various questions as they're things we've discussed. He put it off until this afternoon (yesterday by SE counting).

I upvote a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, but always because I want to encourage them. If my husband chooses to upvote me, I'm not going to argue with it. I will say that he "complained" when he first joined because he kept finding questions he wanted to answer and then discovered I'd already posted the same answer he was going to post. We also order the same things in restaurants.

How exactly is this abuse? We're not gaming the system. We just seek out and appreciate each other's posts. It was sheer chance that he took so long to check out my questions (he usually pops on every 1-2 days) and that I happened to have so many to look at. I don't know what he upvoted (questions or answers) because I didn't ask him, he just told me he'd finally gone and looked at them.

So now I have to be careful not to set off the monitors? 4-7 votes will put someone on a watch list? What if someone decides to look at the contest list and spends an hour reading every question and upvoting a bunch of questions and answers?

Frankly, I find it disturbing. All the more so because a bit earlier this same afternoon, I suddenly got a bunch of downvotes here, including on old questions. It might have been a coincidence but it felt like someone was doing it deliberately.

So what's the deal?

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    The user (I won't say "your husband" until it's certain) upvoted 7 of your questions within the same minute (2019-03-02 21:23). Of course, I don't know how they voted, perhaps after they had read all of them, then they upvoted them? Perhaps they did it unintentionally, but the system also cannot distinguish if these votes are legit or not because their action was the most common indicator of serial voting. – Andrew T. Mar 3 at 14:47
  • @AndrewT. How do you know the same user upvoted 7 of my questions within the same minute? I also got other votes during the day. The IP issue is troubling. While he was at work when this happened, we of course use the same IP if we're logged into our respective computers (or phones) at home because we share wifi. – Cyn Mar 3 at 15:35
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    I'm not a mod, so I can only guess from your reputation history. Yesterday at 21:23, there were 7 questions that got upvoted (7x5 = 35 reps) within the same minute. The fact that the votes got reversed means it's by the same user. – Andrew T. Mar 3 at 15:48
  • It's possible the user whose votes were reversed was not your husband, but someone who liked some answer of yours and thought they were being nice, or someone who was trying to get the Vox Populi badge, and trusted your questions to be good, without actually reading them. – Galastel Mar 3 at 15:51
  • @AndrewT. We do not know which votes got reversed. I got 175 points yesterday (minus 6) many of which were within a few minutes of the 7 votes on questions. – Cyn Mar 3 at 15:55
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The script is a mindless, soulless script. It cannot know intentions; it only notices and acts on patterns. It can't tell the difference between your husband in good faith going through a bunch of tabs and voting quickly on the one hand, and somebody running a sockpuppet ring to inflate his own reputation on the other hand.

In your reputation history I see that you received votes on five different posts in the same minute. Now, I can't tell if those five votes all came from the same person; moderators don't have access to detailed voting information. But I'm guessing that those plus a couple other temporally-nearby votes are the ones that got reversed.

The details of how the script operates are secret (even from moderators), for what I hope are obvious reasons. The advice I've generally seen is: browse the site not a person and vote as you go (including on others' questions and answers). I admit that I didn't consider the effects of the contest "concentrating" votes like that, and I'm sorry about that. If your husband is reading everything first and then voting, suggest he not do that. If he's only voting on your posts and not others, suggest he broaden his voting.

This won't be held against either of you. Mods probably wouldn't have even noticed if you hadn't asked about it. Voting accidents happen and get reversed by the script, and we move on. If it happens repeatedly then mods might take notice, but I personally have seen enough cases of innocent voting getting reversed to not worry about one case like this.

  • Thanks. It's all new to me, despite being very active on 2 sites and semi-active on 3 more. The only reversals I've ever had were once or maybe twice when accounts that had upvoted me got deleted. I've already spoken to him about all this and he's read the thread. Normally I point him to stuff (not just mine!) and he goes through it a couple times a day. But he's been busy at work due to the floods around here and then with the contest, he just caught up all at once. I'm not asking for info on how to beat the script (I understand why) but it was rather offputting to experience it. – Cyn Mar 3 at 19:57
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    @Cyn yeah, sorry to both of you about that. It can be off-putting, but I hope you and your husband will take in the information and remain engaged with the site. It's happened to me too -- somebody liked something of mine, looked around to see what else I'd written, and suddenly I had ~10 votes in the span of a few minutes, with the expected result the next day. I strongly suspect that most voting reversals are innocent, not targeted voting, but there's enough targeted voting out there too that SE needs to patrol it. – Monica Cellio Mar 3 at 20:19
  • Thanks. Just talking about it with people who have dealt with it has gotten it out of my system. I wasn't worried about the actual points or anything, but the last thing I want is to get "in trouble" with SE. – Cyn Mar 3 at 21:54
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    Understood. You're not in trouble, but I do understand how alarming this can be the first time it happens. – Monica Cellio Mar 3 at 21:55
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    It's worth noting that there are users (@Cyn I'm excluding you and your partner here!) who inflate their rep points by cheating, and the system is fairly good at identifying and reversing the votes (though I believe the mods are not automatically notified). Also, if a user takes a dislike to you and goes through your past posts downvoting you, the system is good at identifying this and remedying it. The script isn't perfect, and a savvy user can get around it, but for us ethical users it's still reassuring to have it there. :-) – Chappo Apr 30 at 0:27
  • @Chappo I understand. I was a little surprised by it but all the answers I got were reassuring and I appreciate that this is a failsafe mechanism. – Cyn Apr 30 at 0:35

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