I once asked on meta stackoverflow - should downvoters be identified...

Should downvoters be identified?

An unpopular idea, understandably given the possibility of a petty downvoting war.

The thing is, I got a downvote on an old question of mine which I noticed today. And a comment was left that clearly showed that the commenter had misunderstood the question. And the comment time and downvote time, as indicated by the "activity" log, are identical. So I can be close to 100% certain I know who downvoted me. And now, I can hunt out every question and answer he ever posted and downvote them all bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

OK, I'm not (quite) that petty. But it did make me wonder whether it's sensible showing the approximate time for reputation changes, next to the question that was up/downvoted. Without that, it would be quite a bit less obvious who the downvoter was in cases like this.

I'm expecting this to be downvoted into not-worth-worrying-about oblivion on the basis that downvote wars aren't (as far as I'm aware) a serious issue on Stack Exchange sites, but even so, I just thought I'd ask - might it be worth hiding this time-of-reputation-change information to avoid cases where it's obvious who downvoted?

2 Answers 2


I agree with slhck's explanation about why it isn't a big deal, and that it's somewhat by design. I'd like to further point out the following about revenge down-voting:

Keep in mind that an automated script runs every day to detect serial down-voting. If a user goes on a binge of revenge down-votes, the system will probably pick it up, remove the votes, and recalculate your reputation points. If you suspect a particular user is repeatedly revenge down-voting you (not just a one-time occurrence, but a trend), email [email protected] or contact a moderator, and we can investigate the situation to see if corrective action is necessary.

  • Accepted against the vote trend because it's IMO a better explanation of why my concern is not a big deal - there are already mechanisms in place to try to prevent downvote wars.
    – user31438
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 1:54
  • 2
    +1 for, effectively, "there's an App for that".
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 14:41

You say somebody downvoted your question and added a comment at the same time. If it's clear and obvious from the comment that they didn't understand the question and therefore downvoted, what's the problem about it? Obviously they didn't care to be identified as the downvoter.

Even more so: Downvoting a question or an answer actually kindly asks you to leave a comment. If you were able to identify the downvoter, this was by design.

  • I don't disagree, but perhaps downvoters would be more likely to leave a comment if there was less chance of it being obvious that they also downvoted. Not every critical comment is left by a downvoter. In the case I noticed, it wasn't obvious from the comment itself that the commenter felt the question was a bad one.
    – user31438
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 23:09
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    BTW - it seems a bit like I'm always on the wrong whatever I say on this one - when I suggest identifying downvoters I'm wrong, but when I suggest that it's too easy to identify downvoters, suddenly the easy identification of downvoters is "by design". I'm not upset or offended - but sometimes you have to <grin> at how things turn out.
    – user31438
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 23:13
  • Steve, you do have a point, I didn't mean to criticize your views in any way! Calling it "by-design" is probably a bit too much, as you still have the choice of whether to leave a comment or not, but in some cases, you might want to stay anonymous. But as @nhinkle explained, there's no need to worry about revenge downvotes. I failed to include that when I posted my answer, it's something I took for granted but forgot to explain :)
    – slhck
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 7:54

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