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While looking at some user statistics on SEDE I noticed a disturbing trend: the average downvote on Security SE comes from users with much less contribution on this site compared to other SE sites. It's similarly much more likely on this SE that a downvote came from a user who only has a few questions or answers. (see the table below or this query).

I believe this encourages inaccurate downvoting, and downvoting by users who hardly ever see the other side of the table and may be out-of-touch with the asking and answering experience. What gives someone who's only answered one or two questions in the past few years the nerve to presume they know how to criticize literally hundreds of questions on this site?

+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Stack Exchange Site | Avg # of posts per downvoter | Chance a downvote is from someone with <10 posts |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Security            | 215                          | 10.7%                                            |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Code Review         | 578                          | 7.2%                                             |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Android Enthusiasts | 230                          | 8.1%                                             |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Database Admins     | 396                          | 3.1%                                             |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Web Apps            | 550                          | 3%                                               |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+
| Wordpress Dev       | 567                          | 3.7%                                             |
+---------------------+------------------------------+--------------------------------------------------+

I think this is a problem with a few select users, not the majority. There are about 23% of downvotes that come from 14 users who collectively have submitted 0.5% of posts in the past 5 years. 5% of downvotes come from 10 users who have fewer than 10 recent posts on this site. A few of these users have only given two answers and yet have given hundreds of downvotes.

I assume most downvotes are genuine, but I do believe there are abusive and incorrect patterns that need to be rooted out on occasion. One of these patterns of abuse may be a small group of users who vote excessively despite being unfamiliar with the asking and answering experience.

This pattern of users who vote but don't answer helps incorrect answers to rise to the top and decent questions to get mocked. This is supposed to be a community of experts, not Reddit's r/funny, and the criteria for what's good and bad are complicated. Looking the other way while a user who's barely demonstrated any understanding of infosec or Stack Exchange makes hundreds of judgments about what threats are and aren't realistic, what ideas don't work in practice, and what is and isn't on-topic is irresponsible. How can a user with too few reputation to see "vote counts" give out over 200 downvotes?

(Edited to add the next two paragraphs) There should be enough votes from everyone that one person's biases or shortcomings are washed out in the community. One user shouldn't be able to manipulate the standards of a "bad question" to fit his views. Similarly, I'm not sure enough about each moderator's biases to be comfortable with them giving me 5% of my downvotes.

Say one of these people decides questions on workplace security policies aren't on-topic enough, that naive questions are always unacceptable, or that long questions like these are preferable to laconic ones? Do you want him making that judgement on over a thousand questions and single-handedly shaping community opinion? If one person becomes a dominant voice on this community of thousands, we need to hold them to a higher standard of impartiality, experience, and oversight.

Be aware that one or two of the long-time users who frequent Meta are on the list of people voting far more than they post, and so this may question may stir up some criticism and controversy. I'm honestly curious what the lurkers have to say and what their side of the story is.

The heart of this question is 1) whether we want to discourage some users from spending an extreme and disproportionate amount of time reviewing and criticizing questions (especially doing less-constructive activities like downvoting) instead of contributing answers to questions, and 2) whether we trust these people enough to give the loudest person in the room a disproportionate and anonymous input into community standards

Solutions could include:

  • Moderators sending messages to and working with individuals who display excessive behavior to understand their circumstances and take action if necessary
  • Encouraging users who lurk but don't answer to answer more questions
  • Limiting extreme behavior (e.g. rate limiting votes to about 5/minute to make sure serial voters have time to read the question, rate-limiting votes before users have 1000 rep, a policy that if you're going to vote more than 30 times in a week you need to have answered at least one question in the past two months, etc.)
  • Added solution: On the positive side, just encourage people to vote more and participate more so that one or two frequent users don't determine the voice of the community just because they vote often

Some related Meta questions: Why are there voting limits?, Voting limits discourage participation, and Weighting down-voting.

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    Uh, I think the mods need to know who those 10 users are to investigate collusion or other monkey business. – schroeder Feb 6 '18 at 18:19
  • I didn't want to call out any names, but you can find it at the query I have linked above or pretty easily yourself if you're familiar with SEDE. – Cody P Feb 6 '18 at 18:21
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    oh, this is damning ... 3 mods in are the top 4 most frequent downvoters ... – schroeder Feb 6 '18 at 18:24
  • I also made this query for those <10 posts group: data.stackexchange.com/security/query/798372 – Cody P Feb 6 '18 at 18:27
  • @schroeder I wouldn't call it "damning" because they also tend to upvote a lot and that's what mods are supposed to do. However, we also want them to contribute regularly. Of course, having lots of downvotes always merits some suspicion and oversight. – Cody P Feb 6 '18 at 18:29
  • 5% of downvotes come from 10 users who have fewer than 10 recent posts on this site. - As I read it, even the top 10 downvoters (which are high-rep users) together just account for about 0.3% of all downvotes. Am I reading it wrong? – Arminius Feb 6 '18 at 22:45
  • @Arminius The query originally displayed the percentage as a fraction (0-1) instead of a number 0-100. I've changed it to now display as a number 0-100. Now the top ten downvoters add up to 30 instead of 0.3. – Cody P Feb 6 '18 at 23:49
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    I'm pretty happy I have most downvotes. And most upvotes. Voting either way is a good thing. – Rory Alsop Feb 7 '18 at 12:22
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    Take note that votes on deleted posts are included, so if the votes were done on very low quality/spam/nonsense posts that eventually got deleted, they're still counted on the stat. Also, not everyone can contribute quality answers if they don't have the knowledge, yet it's a no-brainer to downvote obvious very low quality posts. Why I mentioned this? Because I see many familiar usernames from Charcoal HQ on the list who usually focus on making the sites (not only here, but any sites) clean. – Andrew T. Feb 9 '18 at 10:50
  • (Anyway, the list is missing users with 0 posts... they can still downvote as long as having above 125 rep from edit suggestion) – Andrew T. Feb 9 '18 at 10:59
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    You seem to assume that because they don't post/answer, the downvoters aren't "qualified" to make such judgement. Is there evidence that these are "bad" downvotes? It may be that they are sufficiently knowledgeable (to cast votes -- the answer below notes they also cast upvotes) but for some reason don't post/answer much (if you're knowledgeable, you're less likely to need to ask a question; depending on time-zone and other factors, "sufficiently good" answers may already be present). – TripeHound Feb 9 '18 at 14:18
  • @TripeHound Yes, there's no smoking gun evidence of abuse here. Some of that is due to the anonymous nature of voting. I know there's problems with voting on this site, and I know there's some users who display suspicious voting patterns or are responsible for a large block of the voting, but no one but the mods can be sure if the two are connected. – Cody P Feb 9 '18 at 16:35
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I noticed that I'm third in the query results, so let me explain what happens (in my case, and probably in @tripleee's case as well). I often visit Security.SE after a report of a possible spam post in Charcoal HQ. I flag said post as spam, but I also often downvote it. Of the 195 downvotes I've cast so far, only 36 remain (the other posts have been deleted); I've just checked this in the Votes tab on my profile.

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    Yeah, me too -- I routinely downvote at the same time when I cast a spam flag, and the spam tends to then be deleted within minutes, or in the worst case, hours. – tripleee Feb 14 '18 at 11:06
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    Aren't we "Not supposed to downvote spam" :P – WELZ Feb 14 '18 at 11:24
  • @WELZ not quite, for reasons mentioned in the post I linked to. – Glorfindel Feb 14 '18 at 11:46
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    True, I hadn't considered spam-hunters. It may take a decent amount of skill to determine whether a TSL or Android exploit is reasonable, or even what a "good quality" question is, but it doesn't take much expertise to identify spam posts. – Cody P Feb 14 '18 at 15:37
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Investigation

Thanks for bringing this up and providing some good statistics to work from!

5% of downvotes come from 10 users who have fewer than 10 recent posts on this site.

I think this is the really interesting statistic here. It could indicate a problem, but it could also be perfectly fine. To investigate, I took a look at those users and some proxies to if their downvoting is positive or not.

  • They are active on other sites. Seven has more than 5k in total on other sites. Six have more than 5k in total on a single other site. In general, people have reputation on technology sites. This signals that they contribute relevant knowledge.
  • They also upvote. Only two have a downvote to upvote ratio over three. This indicate that they are not just troll downvoting, but actually judging the quality of posts.

Of the ten, there is only one that has little reputation on other sites and doesn't also upvote. That user has seven posts that has received a total of 17 upvotes and 0 downvotes.

It is also worth pointing out that out of the five percent, two come from one single use. That user has a short program for post quality in their profile, and to me seems to be a very valuable contributor.

Conclusion

Downvoting itself is not bad. In fact, we need more of it. Recently I made a silly math error in an answer, that led me to a wildly incorrect conclusion. I got four upvotes and no downvotes.

But there are bad downvotes, off course. And making lots of downvotes and posting few posts could be an indicator on that. But to me, that does not seem to be the case here.

So I do not think we have a problem here, and we do not need to take any action. Or am I missing something?

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    I agree. I see no problem here at all. – Rory Alsop Feb 7 '18 at 12:23
  • 1) "only two...of the ten, there is only one"... so should moderators contact those people to learn more and encourage them to answer more questions or just ignore his behavior? 2) "they are active on other sites" This would indicate that yes, they're familiar with the "other side of the table" experience, but they still may not be familiar with quirks or the subject matter here at Security SE. 3) What's your opinion on trying to encourage these users to answer more questions? Yes, we may need more voting, but I view unanswered questions as a much bigger priority – Cody P Feb 7 '18 at 15:34
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    1. You have not shown that this "behavior" is harmful in any way. It's a bit guilty until proven innocent here... There is no reasons for moderators to do anything. You cant just assume that some people are not wise enough to vote. – Anders Feb 7 '18 at 23:16
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    2. I am happy with someone who has 70k on SO voting all they want here. You dont need a license to vote. Theres not that many quirks. And who says you cant learn the quirks by lurking? – Anders Feb 7 '18 at 23:19
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    3. Different people contribute in different ways. We cant just command people around where we think they produce the most value. Instead of trying to get people to change, we should be happy that they contribute at all. Voting is contributing. – Anders Feb 7 '18 at 23:21
  • @Anders Have any moderators contacted any of these 1-3 users that appear to be downvoting without a significant number or posts or upvotes or reviewed their voting patterns to determine? They may be innocent until proven guilty, but police don't wait until a suspicious person breaks a window to talk to him. I'm expecting moderators to do their job and try to improve the site, not advocate inaction and complacency. – Cody P Feb 8 '18 at 22:39
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    @Anders Voting in small or even moderate amounts may seem innoucous, but in large amounts it reduces community input to an oligarchy. Would you be comfortable with knowing that every single question and answer with 1-3 votes got one vote up or down from him? I trust people like Rory more than I trust average lurkers, but I want the community's opinion, not even just Rory's opinion. – Cody P Feb 8 '18 at 22:53
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    @CodyP I'm expecting moderators to [...] not advocate inaction and complacency.Nobody advocates that, the community just disagrees that this is currently a major problem that needs to be addressed by mods. My lesson from this is that we all should vote more. – Arminius Feb 8 '18 at 23:58
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    @CodyP Would you be comfortable with knowing that every single question and answer with 1-3 votes got one vote up or down from him? We are talking about 250 votes here. There are 130 000 posts. – Anders Feb 9 '18 at 6:17
  • @CodyP These are the limits to how you can vote. For this to warrant any action, I think we would need (a) indication that someone is misbehaving, and (b) that it is on a scale that has any impact. I haven't seen either. – Anders Feb 9 '18 at 6:21
  • Ok, one last clarification on your original answer: You said, "Downvoting itself is not bad. In fact, we need more of it." then gave an example. But especially in your example, it's unclear whether you're saying we need individual users voting more frequently, more users voting, or just better quality voting. You seem to be advocating for primarily the first, but the meta posts I linked above seem to suggest the latter two are more desirable than the first. – Cody P Feb 9 '18 at 7:03
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    @CodyP For downvoting, preferably all three. But reducing one will not give you more of the other - "individual user voting less frequently" will not result in "better quality voting". We have limited ability to engineer this. – Anders Feb 9 '18 at 8:14
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I fail to see a problem here too. Judging if a question or answer is valueable is easier than providing a new answer or ask an original question. This becomes even harder as the site and the pool of existing questions grows.

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