On some other stackexchange sites, the moderators look for cases where there have been downvotes without comment that are not constructive and that appear to be based on personal bias, rather than a concern to improve the site. Yesterday I posted a heavily researched and referenced answer to a question about the Arab-Israeli conflict that received two down votes and one up vote. I have received no comments disputing the authorities I cited or suggesting that the facts and quotations I used are irrelevant in answering the question.

I saw the meta question on retributive down-votes, now closed. I think that the op there had a point, but did not ask the question I want to ask here, which is: Is there a system where moderators can recognize retributive or unconstructive down votes and reverse them? Or is anyone's answer subject to hit and run anonymous terrorist attacks with no recourse or capability to defend oneself?

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    The site's moderators are not arbiters of correctness. If they feel an answer was unfairly downvoted, all they can do is upvote it, like every other user. I seriously doubt that any SE moderator ever went looking for "not constructive" or biased downvotes. First, we don't have the tools for it, and second, people are free to vote as they please. – yannis Jul 17 '14 at 20:48
  • @YannisRizos did you vote this question down? Is it not fair to ask? – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 20:51
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    It's fair to ask. However, it's a question I will not answer. I do not discuss my votes (up or down). – yannis Jul 17 '14 at 20:53
  • No. There is no mechanism, nor should there ever be such a mechanism. There is absolutely no obligation to explain downvotes. Votes are private, they are expressions of opinion, and they are not and should not be subject to review. My votes are mine. I reject your right to review or invalidate my votes the same way I reject your right to review or invalidate my choices in any other arena. It is not fair to ask how anyone voted; doing so is nothing more than intimidation. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 25 '14 at 13:50

One thing you should realize: As a site mod I actually have no tools to do that. I cannot view any user's voting. It could be I've been missing it, but when I go look at your profile, I don't get to see your "votes" tab that you can see on your profile.

I can't speak for the general SE mods. But I understand that the way this is generally handled is via tools. There are automated tools that look for unusual voting behavior and will take action accordingly. So any complaints or flags you may raise about voting behavior, I as a History mod can do nothing about that.

In a way, this is part of the site though. Even a really good answer of mine is going to get a downvote or two, perhaps for reasons I totally disagree with. For example, if the question has to do with the history of a particular religon, and I dare an answer, I'm pretty much guaranteed to get some downvotes from True Believers. The same certainly goes for politics. That's just expected. If the community at large feels it is a good answer, it will get enough upvotes to more than balance that out. If it isn't then it won't. All we as authors can do is to do our best, and leave the rest up to the community.

Note that downvotes only knock your rep back by two, whereas upvotes knock it up by 10. Also, downvotes also take one rep from the downvoter themselves. So anyone who is downvoting you for no good reason is hurting themselves for no good reason too. And that's assuming the voting behavior bot doesn't get hold of them...

  • Thank you T.E.D. I don't think posters realize that us Mods are not omnipotent. – ihtkwot Jul 18 '14 at 0:32

I've seen this question pop up on every SE site's Meta, from time to time. The answer is always the same:

The core premise of the StackExchange model is that it is not an encyclopedia, meaning there is no editorial board responsible for verifying answers. Instead, the model calls for a site filled with experts (of varying levels of knowledge and fields of expertise) who, through their collective voting, let good answers rise to the top, and bad answers sink down.

An important distinction in that last paragraph is the very fluid definition of good and bad answers. Again, this is neither an encyclopedia nor an academic course. The purpose of answers is to answer questions, and one answer might be more extensively researched and wider in scope, but if people don't feel it answers the original question, or focuses too much on issues that the OP didn't care for, it might get downvoted. An answer with good information but an inappropriate tone might get downvoted by some people, but upvoted by others who don't care about that metric. Some might decide that structuring an answer like an essay, divided into subheadings and paragraphs, might be a good thing and deserve an upvote. Others might see it as unnecessary verbiage.

The second issue, closely tied to the first, is that an answer's value to the site is determined collectively. The premise, again, is that a large enough group of experts will, on average, reward good answers and discourage bad ones. The fact that this is collective, and based on a crowd-sourced system where everyone down- or up-votes based on personal preferences, means that one shouldn't cry foul over every downvote. It means that some people disliked it as an answer, even though they might be fine with the research in it.

Factual incorrectness is, of course, always bad and should be discouraged. However, since the standards for voting aren't as stringent as in publishing, wrong information will sometimes be upvoted. Again, this shouldn't be a problem if there are enough downvotes to balance it out. Given enough users, enough experts, enough votes, a downvote or two won't matter to a good answer.

It's true that History.SE is still a small site, and an answer might languish without getting the attention it deserves, and end up with a negative rank, all votes totaled, when that is entirely undeserved, just because not enough people read it and decided to vote. The solution to that is to popularize the site! Bring in more people, more active readers and voters, and let the masses get the system working.

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