I've just 'cancelled' (downvoted as a counter-measure) an upvote for what is essentially an old chestnut {Gender-neutral pronoun other than singular they} (ie I'm not aware of the previous question or I'm not happy with the answers there.) Perhaps upvotes could be attributed, or ones that wrongly reward questions ELU really doesn't welcome be made to count against the voters?

  • ?? 'Cancel'? are you a mod? or did you just do a counter acting downvote? Also link please.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 14:51
  • @Mitch Mods can't cancel votes, or find out who cast them. Only staffers can (and not all of them do that aspect of the work).
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 14:55
  • 5
    So, you're annoyed that someone upvoted a question that you know to be a duplicate, and you want to be able to punish the upvoter?
    – Hellion
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:09
  • 1
    There have been a lot of upvotes for questions that have later been put on hold, in some cases very fittingly for 'no research shown' or 'unclear what you're saying' reasons. Isn't the maintaining of standards here a priority? Haven't we all better things to do than constantly police the site? It's not a matter of 'punishing'. I do, however,find your making this personal not unoffensive. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:14
  • 3
    You want to deal with a "problem" of people upvoting questions that "ELU really doesn't welcome" by being able to see who made the upvote, or by making their vote "count against them" somehow. It sure sounds like a way to enable retaliation. I don't see how this is any better than a call to require downvoters to identify themselves.
    – Hellion
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:26
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    But surely there is already an accepted mechanism for this: If you think the question is a good one you upvote and if you think it's a bad one you downvote (and perhaps escalate to other actions and consequences). IMO downvoting is not used properly on this site, we (and I'm as bad as anyone) CV the bad ones but don't DV as much. So DV in this case was perfectly appropriate.
    – Marv Mills
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 15:32
  • I don't know if anything would be gained by 'freezing' questions once they have been closed? In any case, the software may not have the capability to block up and down votes? Do closed questions get placed in an archive after a set period? Possibly, the only viable way to cut down the numbers of 'low-quality' questions, is to tighten up the requirements for posting a question. Is there any recent data on the user groups and questions submitted by them? Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:31
  • Thanks, everyone. I've looked through the listings for questions 'on hold', and find that the correlation between these and upvotes is nowhere near as high as I suspected. In the last couple of weeks, I think I've used about 10 downvotes to address what I consider wrong upvotes, where I'd normally skip. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:43
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    @MarvMills: I don't see much point in downvoting CV-worthy questions from new people, unless they seem like they will be such a bad fit for the community that I actually would like to drive them away. I generally only downvote this type of question to counter upvotes that I see as unmerited.
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 9:53

2 Answers 2


In addition to what Mari-Lou said about punitive downvotes for dupicate questions, there is some added irony in this case:

1) The "offending" O.P. actually linked to the duplicate question which shows that they did their legwork, homework and research with due diligence – something hardly deserving of a downvote.

2) I'm not convinced the questions are true duplicates. The original question asks about the gender-neutral pronoun in this context:

Each student should save his/her/their questions until the end.

while the new one uses this example:

He/she/they is/are coming with us.

In the former, the verb doesn't change; in the latter, it does – and it looks to me like that's what prompted this new question.

3) The closing message reads:

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

That's exactly what the O.P. did! The O.P. even referenced the alternatives presented in the answers to that question (namely, both one and they), but now appears to be stuck in an infinite LATHER-RINSE-REPEAT loop.

4) The first question has over 190 upvotes, making it the sixth-highest upvoted ELU question of all time. The new one, despite explicitly linking to that question, and explaining that a suitable answer wasn't found, now has two downvotes, and we know one of them was cast simply to "offset" an upvote. What a way for the O.P. to be welcomed into this community with their first question!

Perhaps the issue here is not the "phantom upvoter," but the "quick-triggered close voters" instead.

Incidentally, I've gone on record defending this community against allegations of rudeness and curtness, before, and I'm not going to change my stance on that. However, in this instance, I'm having trouble defending the regulars.

  • 2
    I'd like to add a caveat to my answer. If people upvote a quesiton simply to counteract a downvote, I think that's unwarrented. too. Upvotes only encourage users to mimic the practices that got them the upvotes. Helpful comments are excellent, but, in my opinion, "pity" upvotes given to unworthy questions are counterproductive. Of course, people are free to use their voting privileges however they want, and I don't know if anything can be "done" about that, except to discuss the issue here in meta.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 10:16

I don't understand why a user has to penalise an OP for posting a duplicate question. Very often newcomers are unaware or unable to search a related question. Which doesn't appear to be the case here.

For us "oldies" who keep seeing the same question time and time again, it can get irritating. But that's not the fault of the OP. And maybe a duplicate question shows effort, research, and context too. If a post receives one upvote, someone somewhere believed it deserved recognition. Why penalise the poor OP? The anonymous upvoter (guilty of... what exactly?) is totally unaffected by the counter downvote/measure.

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