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In the past 7 days, I have received 9 downvotes (on questions that have been otherwise positively received). I suspect someone is systematically downvoting, but doing so with a large enough interval between downvotes that the system in place to automatically recognise such behaviour is not catching it. I see this sort of thing has happened in the past. Is there any way to confirm whether it is happening again, or whether it is just a coincidence?

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    $\begingroup$ I'll see if Community Management can determine anything (as in the case you linked to, I have a suspicion). In my opinion: couldn't happen to a nicer guy, and I hope this gets sorted out. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jan 11 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble, re, of course the OP almost certainly knows what you mean, but, in my understanding of the term (borne out by the idiom search on The Free Dictionary), saying of something negative that it "couldn't happen to a nicer guy" has sarcastic connotations that actually the negative thing is deserved. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Jan 16 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @LSpice Heard. Are you suggesting I edit? I can do that, you know. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jan 16 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I wouldn't generally interpret the phrase as negative. I agree it can be used sarcastically, but this is context-dependent, rather than the standard reading. $\endgroup$
    – varkor
    Jan 16 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble, re, no, especially since it seemed unlikely to be misunderstood in the context (as @‍‍varkor observes). I just thought you might like to know of the potential for future misunderstanding. If the whole thing is too conversational, I have no problem deleting the comments (or of course you can). $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Jan 16 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ No, I'm aware of the idiom, and in fact used the phrase that way (in a private conversation) just last night. But thanks anyhow. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jan 17 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ @LSpice This is verging on EngLangSplaining... $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Jan 17 at 2:35

2 Answers 2

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We heard back from Community Management, who determined that it was indeed a case of targeted downvoting. A message was sent to the account doing the downvoting.

I learned something I didn't know before: by software design, any reversal of votes from one account to another reverses all votes, and not for example just votes within a specified time period. In this case, there have also been upvotes from this account to varkor's, in fact more of these than downvotes. Since a vote reversal would therefore result in a negative net change to varkor's reputation, it was decided not to apply the vote reversal.

There are no plans from the software developers to make any changes in this regard. Anyway, I thought that users might like to have this information. (To varkor: if you would like to have the votes reversed anyway, please write to the moderators, [email protected], and we'll take it from there.)

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for investigating! What a rather odd situation. $\endgroup$
    – varkor
    Jan 21 at 23:37
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That's frustrating, but I'm not sure it counts as "serial downvoting", which I understand is something the software catches, when one user is up/down voting another based on the person not the content. Here's the language around downvoting:

When should I vote down? Downvotes should be used to indicate issues with quality, effort, or accuracy of a post:

Downvote questions that don't show any research effort or don't contain enough information to be clear and answerable. These questions may also need to be closed.

https://mathoverflow.net/help/privileges/vote-down#:~:text=How%20do%20I%20vote%20down,the%20downvote%2C%20and%20vice%20versa.

Was there a theme around the contributions of yours that were downvoted? Like, if they focused on some specific concept?

In the meta post you linked to, the OP said "Clearly someone is mad at me." Do you have some reason to think that this collection of votes is personal rather than based on a judgment about clarity or research effort?

Again, sorry if that's frustrating. If it helps, I think a lot of users have experienced this. I know I have. My solution was to just care less about reputation and downvotes.

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    $\begingroup$ The software is designed to test serial downvoting, but that does not mean it is completely effective at doing so (as far as we know, the method of detecting serial downvoting is not public). I try to make sure my questions are all clearly written, and no-one has ever commented about their quality. I rarely receive downvotes, so receiving many in a short amount of time on completely different questions, with no underlying theme, and without any justification whatsoever, is suspicious. $\endgroup$
    – varkor
    Jan 11 at 7:51
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    $\begingroup$ I also don't need a reason to suspect someone is mad at me to believe it might be happening (nor is someone being mad at me a prerequisite for systematic downvoting). But I agree with your advice that I should just care less about reputation :) $\endgroup$
    – varkor
    Jan 11 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ I know of a user who is systematically downvoted because their answers lack mathematical rigor, which is a valid reason on a site for professional mathematicians, although fortunately most colleagues here are more friendly and tolerant to outsiders. And indeed, caring less about reputation is the way to go. $\endgroup$ Jan 11 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ @CarloBeenakker In the case of the OP, lack of mathematical rigor is really out of the question. The OP is also among the most courteous people I know here. When downvoting comes to feel like harassment, it needs to be investigated. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jan 11 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ What "feels like harassment" is obviously subjective. I faced the kind of downvoting the OP asks about twice. Once, long ago, on answers I wrote about model categories, when there was some movement to switch everything to $\infty$-categories. And once, a few years ago, on answers that referenced certain papers of mine (I think I know who was responsible, but didn't pursue anything). Regarding varkor's posts, I can say that I've upvoted some and downvoted others (certainly a net positive for varkor). Varkor often gives really nice answers that show a deep understanding of the literature. (cont) $\endgroup$ Jan 11 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ (cont) Some of their questions are very interesting but some of are very niche, involving terms that are not defined, or have errors pointed out in the comments or in the answers. Clearly one of our moderators considers varkor a friend. I think it would be wise not to let that friendship lead to preferential treatment. My view is that, if the software doesn’t flag a voting pattern as "systematic downvoting" then choosing to investigate for some users but not others is preferential. Most people who ask on meta "why was I downvoted" get empathy and encouragement, but not an investigation. $\endgroup$ Jan 11 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Community Management will do the investigation; I'm out of it. All I did was bring this meta thread to their attention (and this is my answer to OP's actual question: ask CM to see if anything's there). $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jan 11 at 16:38

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