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I'm hardly active on UL SE at all so I was very surprised to see a "serial voting reversed" message removing 10 reputation from my score yesterday. I am even more baffled because it appears someone made one upvote to a question ( +10 but this is now not visible) the day before (I guess from my reputation graph on my profile, although I did not see this before the reversal) but this means just one upvote was made.

How does one vote constitute a "serial" pattern ? Is there a bug on the system ?

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    There's similar a recent Meta post that's been closed as a duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/362020/… whose accepted answer says (in part): "There was a mass invalidation that occurred on several sites of our network".
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Oct 20 at 14:39
  • @JeffSchaller That sounds like a stock answer being used to cover up a bug, frankly. Either there was a mass invalidation or there wasn't. And, indeed, if there was a mass invalidation has the justiofication for this been verified not be a bug in itself, as it has happened before ? The normal approach would surely be to remove the user involved which would remove the votes with a better message.
    – StephenG
    Oct 20 at 14:50
  • Well, I suppose bugs happen, but mass invalidations happen, too. Whether the user is removed or not is up to The Management, but since invalidation is a "somewhat" normal activity (to correct abnormal voting), I would chalk this up to invalidation instead of a bug, until we're told otherwise. Feel free to follow any/all of those Meta posts to see if there's more updates.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Oct 20 at 14:52
  • @StephenG that one actually did happen. I cannot share the details publicly (and don't know all of them myself) but there was indeed one specific user who had been very active for many years and knew the system well enough to game it. This was eventually noticed and a mass vote invalidation went out across the network. That isn't what we have here as far as I know though. Here we just have the normal vote invalidation: someone was caught voting in bad faith and their votes were reversed. You were just caught in the cross fire, that's all.
    – terdon Mod
    Oct 20 at 15:08
  • Oh and removing the user doesn't remove the votes if they're old enough, and in any case, that gives an equally uninformative message ("-10 user was removed"). There's nothing fishy here, just regular vote fraud being caught.
    – terdon Mod
    Oct 20 at 15:09
  • @JeffSchaller Just to be clear the actual reputation change is not worth worrying about. The way it is reported and the lack of transparency clearly bothers not just me but other affected users. It looks like a bug and the way to fix that is better communication by the automated systems, I think.
    – StephenG
    Oct 20 at 15:30
  • @StephenG remember that voting is secret by design. You won't be getting more information than "N votes were invalidated". Anything else would be a breach of privacy. One of the nicer things about the SE system is that it allows people to be "reformed", and doesn't hold grudges. So telling userA that a vote from userB was invalidated would make it hard for userB to come back from it with a clean slate. I doubt there will ever be more info than what the system currently gives.
    – terdon Mod
    Oct 20 at 15:35
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    @JeffSchaller We don't need the names of individuals but e.g. an automated message telling people that "you were one of 20 people were affected by someone abusing the voting system" might be mroe helpful than the current message, which clearly just confuses people.
    – StephenG
    Oct 20 at 15:50
  • @StephenG suggesting a different wording could be useful, sure. I admit I don't find the message confusing but then I've been hanging out here for more than a decade so I guess I'm used to it.
    – terdon Mod
    Oct 20 at 15:51
  • @StephenG I'm happy to try to clarify anything I said, but I think you're @ tagging me for comments that terdon made. My main point was that this "serial voting" is something that happens, gets corrected, and is probably not a bug this time, based on the dupe-closure of that MSE post I found. See also an 8-hr old comment on that final Accepted answer: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/362020/…
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Oct 20 at 16:08
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Note that this sort of invalidation isn't in any way a comment on you and doesn't depend on how active you are. The details of the vote invalidation algorithm are not known to us, but we do know that it depends on the pattern of votes cast and not on the person who receives them as such. So you can be completely inactive and still have votes on your posts invalidated.

Also, this wouldn't have been just one vote cast by that user. The likeliest scenario is that some user was randomly upvoting people to get a badge and happened to include on of your posts in their voting rampage. So when this user's votes were invalidated, you had one upvote removed which means you saw -10 rep.

So no, one vote does not constitute a pattern, it's just that only one vote affected you so that's all the system shows you. The pattern will only be visible in the voting of whoever's votes were invalidated.

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  • So basically we don't actually know if these instances are bugs or not. I have no doubt that serial voting takes place (I've been a victim of serial downvoting on another SE just recently but in that case I saw every downvote before they were reversed). In a comment you said this was a specific instance network wide, but it really is better for the system to generate some summary of the event (statistical) and message users automatically. I will perhaps propose such a feature in another Meta post (matbe on SE) not here when I have got things clear in my mind.
    – StephenG
    Oct 20 at 15:27
  • @StephenG I was referring to the specific instance that spawned the meta post Jeff linked to. There we did know who the user was because the case was discussed by various network moderators who noticed the pattern on their sites. So I just happen to remember the discussion and can confirm that it was a real user being an ass an not a bug. In your case, I asked an SE employee to look into it and they confirmed that there were a bunch of votes invalidated yesterday, it looks like someone who was using a script to randomly upvote posts, and it just happens that one of them was yours.
    – terdon Mod
    Oct 20 at 15:32
  • This happens every now and then with users “working” to get the Electorate badge. Oct 20 at 15:37
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    @StephenKitt In my 40 years working with computers the thing that baffles me most is why people care so much about these kind of internet "awards". I guess I'm no psychologist. :-) Thanks.
    – StephenG
    Oct 20 at 15:53

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