I don't know how many they are, maybe they can be counted on one hand, but it is true they do exist and they are succeeding in soiling what has been, generally speaking, a positive experience for me. So what can I do?

I have ignored their down-votes and resisted posting new answers to see what would happen. I come back after a hiatus of two weeks and voilà, immediately within one hour I receive two down-votes. Both anonymous, of course, and I think very telling. These are the two answers which got downvoted today:

"Can there be a “random order”? and Can we say “taking too much car”?

The latter had received an up-vote but a mere 3 minutes later a down-vote was cast. No explanation was given, and I fail to see where that answer is inexact, clumsy, false or poorly worded.

Reputation downvote history

  • July 1 three downvotes
  • July 6 one downvote
  • July 12 one downvote
  • July 14 (today) two downvotes

Six of those 7 downvotes are for six separate answers. I strongly suspect it is from the same person. I strongly suspect it is the same person who I flagged down almost a month ago. I strongly suspect this person has been caught out in the past continually downvoting any he or she deemed unworthy of belonging to EL&U, or unqualified to express their ideas or offer explanations.

So what do I do?

  1. Ignore them. Frankly, this hasn't worked.
  2. Leave EL&U and close my account A possibility.
  3. Write better answers. I do try my best! :)
  4. Flag any suspicious activity. Been there, done that. Look where I am now.
  5. Write on meta.

Addendum: "Today" refers to July 14. I also realize that this question is related to a previous post of mine on a very similar issue but please do not waste your time in trying to discover who the possible culprit is as the person in question has never been mentioned by me on meta and appeared on the scene, so to speak, at a later date.

  • 5
    I get downvoted on a weekly basis – sometimes on answers that are months old with no previous downvotes. Very few of them come with an explanation. What to do about them? There's always this quote: “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time – but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” In any case, I hope you stick around.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 9:58
  • 2
    @J.R. Well allow me to feel a tad aggrieved if I receive two down votes in the space of one hour after 2 weeks of not posting. I think I am onto something here, it does look like trolling to me. However, I am feeling more philosophical about the whole thing today (July 15) but that's also because I haven't got my daily down-vote. I shall wait and see! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 10:18
  • 1
    @ Mari-Lou: Again I'm not one of them, but I do hope you're not bothered by downvoters against this meta question. I assume they're just saying they don't think there's a problem here that either could or should be addressed by TPTB. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 20:37
  • 4
    Yes, there are mean-spirited, small minded, humorless users in EL&U. But I find that I tend to run afoul of the pompous, didactic, self-important ones...
    – Gnawme
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 21:44
  • Mostly just a +1 / "me too" (but this is Meta, so ... right?) As others are saying - it just happens sometimes. I rarely downvote and pretty much always try to explain when I do; as I discussed with you recently, constructive criticism/commentary is absolutely a good thing. I got an explicitly vindictive downvote just a little bit ago, but I try not to let it deter me. Take some comfort in the fact that your reputation is high and consistently trending upward - you are a valued member of the community.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 10:02
  • I've been getting some strange downvotes myself lately. I figure that somebody just doesn't like me, so they're either overly critical or just plain downvoting from spite. It doesn't really bother me unless it drops the total post score below zero. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 6:53
  • Hey there, Mari-Lou! In reading this whole thread (and accompanying links), I noticed that "taking too much car” currently shows zero d-votes and is the leading answer with 10 up-votes. What has changed?
    – user98990
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 22:03
  • @LittleEva no idea, and I'm not interested :) I get upset, I vent, I get over it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 22:09
  • OK, ah, sorry. It was a technical question unrelated to the substance of the OP.
    – user98990
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 23:13
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I'm pretty sure some users have side accounts in which they earn just enough rep to be able to downvote and then proceed to use it for revenge-downvoting. A user made a snarky comment on my question and when I replied (as neutrally as I could) explaining why his suggestions were invalid, the question immediately got two downvotes and one of his suggestions got an upvote. All in the span of 5 minutes. Could be pure coincidence, but I highly doubt it.
    – Zachary
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 3:59
  • 1
    @Zachary sorry I read your message and then forgot to reply. if what you said is true, that someone has multiple accounts and is downvoting you, and upvoting their comment, which is very possible (it does happen with sockpuppets) you MUST flag this behaviour to the mods. It's the only way to defeat this despicable and dishonest behaviour. Give as much detail as you can in your flag post.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 12:26
  • @Mari-LouA Thank you for replying! I'd originally decided against it because I was worried I'd be wasting a lot of people's time, but if you think it's valuable to the community then I suppose I could. I just don't want to sound like a whiny baby (though I suppose it's a little late for that :))
    – Zachary
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 13:20

5 Answers 5


What to do?

Don't get hung up on downvotes or reputation in general. Take all votes (up or down) as constructive criticism. Votes that come with thoughtful comments are the most constructive, but they're all helpful. Anonymous downvotes are much less helpful, but people don't always have the time or motivation to be more more helpful. It's best not to speculate as to why they aren't more helpful – they might be small-minded or spiteful, but they might just be pressed for time or dealing with an awkward mobile phone interface. Some folks just don't like confrontation. Assuming that downvotes are personal or spiteful will just make you feel worse about them.

So don't ignore downvotes completely, but don't give them undue weight either. Just take them as a hint that your answer might need improvement. If you can't figure out how, don't sweat it. That won't make downvotes go away, but they shouldn't weigh on you either.

  • 1
    Unbelievable, the number of downvotes I've received in the last two days for answers and questions alike. But I promise, I won't "sweat" over it despite the August heat (she says mopping her brow).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 14:39
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA To paraphrase Amadeus, "One sees such downvotes, and what can one say but, 'cretino.'"
    – Gnawme
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 21:57
  • 2
    Sometimes downvotes are just a measure of potential controversy, or that something in a post could be potentially offensive to some parties sensibilities. In another stackexchange site I had an answer that got 10 upvotes and 8 downvotes. Most didn't say anything, but eventually someone did say something and it turned out I cited a source many people didn't like and criticized something some people were attached to. After an edit the downvotes turned to ups. No matter ones facility with a language, sometimes communication fails in unintended ways. And some people just need to get out more :)
    – BrianH
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 18:02
  • 1
    There is ONE excuse for not commenting on a downvote at EL&U and that is if it is in agreement with an already posted comment. ALL uncommented downvotes on a so far uncommented answer or question are an affront and never helpful. I wish I could include SO and META in this, but seems there is no way I can
    – mplungjan
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 6:33
  • 5
    That's one excuse, but I don't think it's the only one. For example, I often downvote without comment when I know the poster is somebody who takes constructive criticism poorly, because I really don't feel like dealing with the ensuing argument (or revenge voting). Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 6:49

I didn't downvote either of the answers cited (nor any others, to the best of my knowledge).


On the first one it's possible a couple of people decided to downvote because it didn't meaningfully address the question. "Is random order a contradiction in terms?" is hardly answered by...

in none of the three dictionaries I consulted was there any mention that "random order" is considered non-standard or informal English.

Or they might think "Perhaps it was once more correct to say [three alternative phrasings]" is a "questionable" statement (it seems unlikely to me that usage is changing for this word-pairing).

On the second one (which only has one downvote), perhaps someone disagreed with OP's assertion that you can [presumably, quite unexceptionally] say...

I take too much coffee.

In fact that's very unusual phrasing (with just 5 relevant instances there, compared to probably most of the 16,200 instances of the idiomatically standard drink too much coffee).

I don't want to seem like I'm nitpicking here, but I should add that OP's "the frequency in which cars are used is toxic for our health" is also at least "unusual" phrasing. In the context of an answer largely based on OP's opinion of what's "more natural sounding", it's less than ideal.

I get downvotes myself. Doubtless sometimes because the answers aren't good, sometimes from people who are mean spirited, small-minded, humourless. But like many if not most people, I display all those negative qualities :(and more! ) myself from time to time. If the odd person kicks back with an anomymous downvote, you just have to take it on the chin (accept something unpleasant in a brave way without complaining).

I don't want OP to close her account. I've upvoted several of her answers, and look forward to doing this more in the future. I suggest she focusses more on options #1 and #3 (the mods and automated procedures will take care of anything excessive, and there's a limit to how often OP can raise this somewhat "personalised" issue on meta).

  • Yes, I agree. There is a limit as to how often I can raise this issue. I am getting weary of it myself, but two downvotes in the space of one hour is pretty suspicious, especially after a two-week abstinence, so perhaps writing this question is my knee-jerk reaction.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 23:20
  • 5
    @Mari-Lou: Obviously it bothers you to get the occasional downvote, but I think you're not going to single-handedly change the way ELU works. Also, I suspect that whether you like it or not, and whether it's justifiable or not, you are likely to get a downvote now and then simply because someone's irritated by something that suggests "non-native speaker answering". Just as I get downvoted for being dismissive/dogmatic sometimes. Ideally one talks things through and resolves the issue, but with an anonymous downvote you just have to ignore it (after checking your answer very carefully! :) Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 23:39
  • 3
    I honestly do not have any qualms about downvotes. I know it doesn't look like it, but it's true! It's the spirit with which they are cast I object to. Users should add a comment, I may disagree or not but at least I know the vote is a motivated one, and they may point out things which I have completely missed. When I have received two or more downvotes for the same answer then I step back and try to analyse how I might improve the quality. Downvotes can be useful indicators to users and readers alike, I am not advocating their demise.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 0:04
  • 4
    Don't sweat anonymous downvotes. There are a few good reasons for doing it (especially if you consider “don't have time to explain right now” a good reason). Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 9:42

Speaking as to downvotes you have experienced specifically:

  • You reference two downvotes today; however, you only appeared to have posted one answer today. I can only presume the other downvote was on an old post; however, if someone were specifically targeting you, I don't see why they would only now go and downvote an older post of yours. Do keep in mind that it may just be coincidence.

  • I'm not particularly sure which user you suspect, although I assume your reference is to your previous post on meta, as I don't see any flags either on the main site or here on meta from you which would be applicable. If you would like to identify the user privately to the moderator team, please flag one of his or her posts and let us know the details, and we can go from there.

  • Voting trends, however, indicate that a small number (i.e. less than 5) users could be serially downvoting you. However, none of those users were active within an hour of the answer you posted earlier today, so it does not seem as if you are actually being targeted.

Please keep in mind that we all get downvotes that we can't explain—it may just be that someone was in a bad mood and much more critical of your post than he or she otherwise would be.

  • I wish to clarify that my suspect has nothing to do with my previous post. I added a more detailed description to #10 as a result of much later downvotes. I do not suspect any of the users mentioned in:"Inexplicable Down Vote(s) on an Answer" for whom I have the greatest respect. The one user who I did flag (and whose name I have never mentioned in meta) was "ticked off" and my lost rep points were regained. I suspect it is the same offender, but it is harder to prove this time and I may be mistaken.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 8:26
  • @Mari-LouA I looked through your flag history again, and noticed that you did mention a user that I didn't see yesterday—if you think it is that user, then there is no evidence to indicate that there has been vote fraud or abuse of any nature. I don't know the history or context of that flag, though, but I don't see any other usernames mentioned in your flag history.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 1:16
  • Thanks. That is all I really wanted to know. The idea of being targeted was really annoying me, I suspected this person but I wasn't sure. I can now take the down-votes as being purely coincidental and cast by several different users. Thank you again for investigating.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 1:27

I realised a couple of days ago that I hadn't seen any answers or comments from you lately. I thought that maybe you had 'given up' here in the light of previous comments, and/or that you were now concentrating on ELL (which I rarely look at).

I have had 'run-ins' with a couple of users where I have disagreed with comments or answers from them, and/or who continually respond with stupid or facetious comments. I also see responses of the type "If what you say is true, does it mean that X = Y" - that can be a useful thought-provoker or valid point, but often it seems to be merely a facetious rejoinder. I now try to avoid engaging with them.

I should also make it clear that I had not seen either of the answers you referred to, prior to seeing your question here - so no votes either way are attributable to me!

Having said that, I also have to say that, in a situation where the questioner has cited the OED and the first two lines of your response all-but suggest "Change your online dictionary [to the] free dictionary", that, of itself, could almost be considered by some to be all-but inviting downvotes. I also agree with the first substantive point in @FumbleFingers answer.

But please do not take that as an overall criticism of your answers, as generally I find them useful and well thought out, and have indeed upvoted many.

On the question of explaining downvotes, I have to admit that I rarely do so. I know that the advice on SE is to explain them, but I also note that that advice is rarely followed, even on Meta, where I would have expected in general to see a higher and more 'reasonable' approach to issues. With certain users, I most definitely would not explain a downvote for fear of the 'retribution' discussed above - but one probably realises that only after doing so a few times.

Finally, I console myself by reminding myself that an upvote is +10 and an acceptance is +15, whereas a downvote is only -2, which is insignificant overall.

P.S. I've just seen my reputation decrease by -28 (OK double negative there!) merely because a question was migrated to ELL - and (at my present level) that's a loss of 1% reputation for no 'fault' of my own. C'est la vie! (Not sure if my French is correct!) FWIW, I've just upvoted your comment on the same question.

  • Yes, your rep may have lost 1% on ELU – but it shot up 14% on ELL! ;^) P.S. I hope that wasn't a "stupid" or "facetious" rejoinder – I didn't mean for it to be.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 22:58
  • A couple points - I believe most Metas consider 'downvote to disagree with a position (but it's not wrong or a bad post)' acceptable - in which case, I would expect less explanatory commenting. Also, even though -28 is annoying, I think it's much more so when you have less rep, and are on the cusp of a milestone (like being able to comment).
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 9:44
  • @hunter Thanks for the comments. I was referring to downvotes in the main area (not on Meta). As far as I can recall, I was "on the cusp of a milestone" at the time!
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 10:28
  • I'm not sure this really needs to be pursued to the absolute end, but FWIW ... I did consider those to be seperate issues; my point about Meta d-votes was in re "I know that the advice on SE is to explain them, but I also note that that advice is rarely followed, even on Meta..." // Re: 'the cusp', I feel your pain. Got my +1 here, at least.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 10:43

I am the OP on "random order". I thought your suggestion about an alternate dictionary sounded a bit snarky (especially since I have often tried to utilize the OED often after having been criticized for using a "lesser" online dictionary).

But I didn't vote you down. I didn't think most of your answer helped my analysis, except for the example in Merriam Webster (which I think was the dictionary I used that got me an earlier suggestion to change dictionaries). In fact, none of the answers were wholly satisfactory to me.

But I didn't vote any of them down. In fact, I almost never vote an answer down (although I do occasionally vote to close something that seems really off topic or spam). On the other site I am very active on, Home Improvement (DIY), I never vote down an answer unless it is so wrong as to border on dangerous. Then I always post a comment to indicate why I am voting it down (and why it is dangerous).

Positive feedback leads to a strong reputation. Lack of positive feedback should result in a weak reputation. I don't think our role should be that of reputation police. Our role is to provide information, and reputation should merely follow. (And yes, I pay attention to, and care about my reputation. I am only human.)

In my view, negative votes should be limited to things that are misleading, or blatantly wrong, rather than things that are just not very helpful. If we were dealing in life or death issues, if a great deal of money or energy rode on our activities here, if the language were in jeopardy, I would reconsider whether I needed to weigh in with a "NO" vote on less than stellar answers.

For now I will limit myself to "no vote" when I don't favor the answer.

Keep on posting. I enjoy reading what you write (most of the time).

  • ahh! It was a reproach, an admonishment directed only and exclusively at Oxford Dictionary online. I do my utmost to be courteous to everyone, but the definition of "random order" you quoted from left me quite flabbergasted. I expected OE concise etc. to be of a much higher standard. That is all. I never revised or deleted my answer because I was expressing not only my opinion but I tried to show that other online dictionaries available, were more trustworthy. Anyway, I normally consult three online dictionaries before posting anything, just to be on the safe side! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 20:09
  • And I never once believed you had given me a downvote, although I'm not saying you shouldn't. My need to write was to air my suspicion that there was someone who was targeting me. But @waiwai933 in his answer reassured me that there was not one user in particular. That was all really. The downvotes were quite close together and looked suspicious from my point of view.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 20:13
  • 2
    I'll live. I've been snarked by pros much more pointed and mean-spirited than you! I also usually look at at least three dictionaries, and sometimes more for an answer, cherry-picking the definitions or answers that best fit my preconceived notions. I actually find that Collins or Merriam Webster often have definitions better suited to my taste. But for the purists, OED often shuts them up (or down).
    – bib
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 20:16

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