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Attack of the Downvote Bots

by tadman (Prior)
on Jul 30, 2001 at 17:25 UTC ( #100855=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

First, let me say I have absolutely no intent of igniting another flame-war. I apologize in advance if this occurs, despite this specific preface. What I am intending to do is to try and discuss the phenomenon, not the incident itself.

Recently, a post from sierrathedog04 turned into a major catastrophy. The only reason I even noticed was because I hit the Worst Nodes listing, and discovered two new entries, both of which were rapidly edging up to the infamous Finite Automaton (which is presumably now in the private collection of NodeReaper).

People could certainly misunderstand the intent of the post, something that could easily explain why it had received such a negative review. However, the more I dug through the thread, the more I noticed that any post by sierrathedog04 was downvoted viciously, even if the post didn't seem to merit it. Even more surprising was that relatively inane or spiteful replies to his posts were able to garner 10+ XP. A reply by sierrathedog04 which attempted to address this in an objective manner: -10XP, easily. Post after post, all I can find is massively negative posts from sierrathedog04 surrounded by equally vigorously upvoted follow-ups.

That the initial few posts attracted a lot of negativity is unfortunate, but not entirely surprising. What I found astounding was that even at extreme depths, these posts were getting voted on. It's almost as if this sort of thing has a real audience here.

Then there's the case of merlyn's Posting "Other Users" on potential personality voters from now on which is holding steady on the Worst Nodes list. Maybe celebrity is a double edged sword, even in the world of Perl Monks.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by graq (Curate) on Jul 30, 2001 at 18:15 UTC
    As a conversation starter for a discussion, your post was good. Personally I would be slightly (but not very) interested in a psychologist's view on how a person perceives online communities (especially when they have facilities like voting).

    I do get the impression that some members of PerlMonks see it as being a Perl Community, and others see it as a Perl Community. Perhaps posts that are not directly related to Perl (or not perceived as such) which tackle moral points are always going to get a huge variety of strong opinions - one way or another.

    Some members possibly see the voting system as a very useful tool, and others see it as being (very) secondary to learning about Perl. Those that do use the voting system vigorously have only -- and ++ to convey their opinion.
    With code it is somewhat simple. But with posts that are of a more moral focus, how many people ++ a node to say it was well posted, expressed the poster's view well ... and then follow it up with a disagreement?


Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by stefan k (Curate) on Jul 30, 2001 at 18:14 UTC
    just take it. This is a already large and still growing community. There may be thousands of reasons why someone would -- a post, anything from bad content to rain outside may count here. The population of this site must have reached a size where it is by far not a trivial quest to understand it's dynamics.

    The outcomes of voting are just one sign of this. If you find a way to simulate this, you'll be quite a hero to me...

    Regards... Stefan

Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by scottstef (Curate) on Jul 31, 2001 at 16:57 UTC
    I downvoted all of his posts in that thread for two reasons:
    1.) The point he started in that thread regarding personal/private information was totaly unneccessary. As an online community, whatever we learn from each other should be straight from that person's mouth when it comes to that type of information. It would have been totally different in my mind if someone was posting saying Abigail had won some perl award, wrote some life altering algorithm or such. But to bring up a potentially sensitive subject about someone is for lack of a better word rude. I don't think people would do it any place but online.
    2.) Perhaps if sierrathedog04 would have just let the issue die, rather than propagating its snowballing effect we may not have lost Abigail as a member of the community. To me it appeared that sick the way sierrathedog04 kept fighting to get the last node in.
    Until that node, I never thought the Larry Wall quote I use as a signature was anything more than a joke, but now I see it as a reality.

    "The social dynamics of the net are a direct consequence of the fact that nobody has yet developed a Remote Strangulation Protocol." -- Larry Wall

Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by John M. Dlugosz (Monsignor) on Jul 30, 2001 at 23:45 UTC
    I didn't look into it as much, but I noticed something like that, when he lost a level.

    The worst part is, sierrathedog04 doesn't seem to have been back, since. He has no new posts and doesn't use CB.

    I've had a few downvotes myself--a burst of -5 or -8 "Ack!" at one time, during a time of otherwise slow rising.

    As a show of support for The Dog, I spent my excess votes this weekend on him. Not "personality upvoting" everything just because he wrote it, but looking back at posts he made before I joined and ++ing a few that really did deserve it, that I would have voted on had I read them when first posted.


Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 31, 2001 at 06:56 UTC

    Unlike the personality voting that merlyn and tilly talk about from time to time, Sierra's posts were routinely voted down strictly for content:

    • It appeared racist and/or discriminatory; this is the 21st Century. Wake up and smell the Millenium.
    • He wouldn't take the hint.
    • He wouldn't listen to reason and just shut up.
    • He drove away someone who knows a helluva lot more about Perl than he ever will.
    • He kept prying into business that wasn't his.
    • He wouldn't stop going on about it, even though it was clear that others weren't appreciating the thread as much as he was.
    • He never apologized to Abigail.

    Sierra dug his own grave; he wasn't systematically bot-voted. If he lost a level over the whole thing, he did it the old fashioned way; he "un-earned" it.

    IMO, the thread got what it deserved. Now, can we PLEASE stop going on about it? Can we PLEASE move on? Would someone PLEASE come up with something new to discuss?

    I'm really sorry Abigail's gone; I'm less sorry that Sierra's taking a hiatus. I hope both return, with the latter realizing that this isn't PsychMonks.

Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 30, 2001 at 22:50 UTC
    I admit to being part of the downvote bots (hence the AM). However, it wasn't really intentional. I was interested in the phenomenon, same as you. The only way for me to uncover the current reps, was to vote on the posts. Since there is no '0' vote, I unfortunately tended to '--' sierrathedog04 and '++' everyone else. (I was a bit pissed because I *knew* abigail might just pack up his bags and leave).

    It's hardly fair to sierrathedog04, I know, but thats the way my votes got cast. If there had been a '0' vote, I would have used it on all but about one of the posts.

    I wonder how many of the '--' posts were cast in a similiar fashion?

      I can only suppose that more than one person had this strategy, because there is a very specific trend occuring here. "Blind downvoting" or "personality voting" as merlyn would put it, is, in my opinion, inconsiderate. The entire idea behind the votes is with respect to the post, not the poster.

      While the entire thread was off-topic to begin with, a relatively harmless post Re: Re: Re: Omigawd! Surprised by Reality! for example, is sent down to -18, and a straightforward follow-up Re: Just a thought... is hammered down to -15. These are posts that are many levels deep, a depth at which you might expect to see no more than 10 votes cast in as many months. It would seem that people deliberately sought out these posts and downvoted them. Not especially nice, is it?

      Even a, to put it politely, tactfully lacking individual such as pokemonk, who certainly keeps NodeReaper busy some days, is hard pressed to achieve these depths.

      One conclusion that I can draw from this is that many people use their votes as "I agree/I disagree", or even "I like them/I hate them" instead of "good post/bad post", which is how I try to use them.

      I really hope people try and be more objective in the future. Chewing up and spitting out members is not going to help anyone.
        I think you somewhat missed my point... I wasn't voting based on "like/hate." I wanted to see the reputation of the entire thread, just like everyone else here. If I could have cast '0' votes I would have.

        Since the only way to uncover a nodes score is to make a value-judgment, I did '--' sierrathedog04 more times than I really wanted to. It wasn't because I "like/hate" him, but because I couldn't bring myself to '++' much of anything in that thread.

        In this case, some (if not most) of the votes cast on deeply-nested-nodes weren't really "value judgements" at all. They were simply the result of people wanting to uncover the nodes rep. En masse this caused some unexpected and undesired results.

      There is a null vote option, Anonymous Coward. You can change it on your User Settings page in the miscellaneous section.
      Update (Re: Below). Ok, so I was wrong on that count. Apologies. But you shouldn't have --'d.

      I can't believe you downvoted someone to see what rep it had. Two quick ways would be to check Best Nodes & Worst Nodes, to see if either are on there. But the best way, I think, would have been to ++ it.

      Then we can all sleep better at night knowing we can look our fellow man in the face the next day and say, "Hey. I gave you the benefit of the doubt on this one. I hope someday you will do the same for me."

      Azatoth a.k.a Captain Whiplash

      Make Your Die Messages Full of Wisdom!
      Get YOUR PerlMonks Stagename here!
      Want to speak like a Londoner?
        I *did* look into the 'Null Vote' option specifically on this occasion. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually let you cast a '0' vote. All it does is get around the annoying radio-box issue of not being able to "uncheck" a radio box.

        Instead of having a two element radio box ('-1','+1') there are three ('-1', 'Null', '+1'). The 'Null' option simply means "dont cast a vote on this node," and it comes preselected on all the nodes. So your options are still the same, you just have the ability to uncheck a vote before you send in your votes for the entire page.

        I can't believe you downvoted someone to see what rep it had.

        I also did this. I came into the fray quite early, and downvoted the original post hoping to alert the NodeReaper. After it became clear that the post was going to stay, I became interested in the rest of the scores. Normally it takes a lot for me to '--' a post, and I have done so rarely.

        Imagine an internal scale in my head from -10 to +10. A post would normally have to fall below -8 or above +8 for me to cast a vote. However, in this case most of sierrathedog04's posts fell around -2 in my book. Since I wanted to see the rep, and I was slightly leaning in the negative direction, I cast several '--' votes, that I wouldn't have otherwise.

        In otherwords, something has to be compelling about a post for me to vote on it. Usually that means it is extraordinarilly good or extraordinarilly bad. In this case it was midly bad, with a compelling urge to see what its rep was.

        In retrospect, the loss of both parties wasn't worth it.

Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by petral (Curate) on Aug 01, 2001 at 12:43 UTC
    STD4 thought something about someone else was ridiculous and would not stop talking loudly about it in front of them.  Right, this should have been stopped immediately.  If someone wishes to be referred to by feminine pronouns, then use feminine pronouns.  This is not hard.

    I do think about sierrathedog04 and read that story of his every now and then.  I hope he means it and that we will see him again.

    (Oh, and the title of this thread doesn't help either. Downvote bots had nothing to do with the thread in question.)


Re: Attack of the Downvote Bots
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 31, 2001 at 08:30 UTC
    You know, it is truly sad that registered members have to sign in anonymously in order voice unpopular opinions.

    As a relatively new member to PM, I have already encountered a few bouts with the Downvote bots. None of which contained anything that could be considered insensitive or rude but, in fact, offered constructive solutions.

    Can anyone read between the lines here? As in, "System run amok"!


      While this post was inspired by the Anonymous Monk above, it in no way is intended to be directed at said poster.

      You know, it is truly sad that registered members have to sign in anonymously in order voice unpopular opinions.

      I feel your pain. Never underestimate the power of the knee-jerk reaction, as so many monks are wont to downvote just *because*.

      If you have a bot, you should be ashamed of yourself. Whether you are upvoting or downvoting, you may not be violating the rules of Perlmonks, but you are certainly violating the spirit. I think that most monks strive to be tolerant, but many here see merlyn and see red. Some saw sierrathedog04 and saw red. While what sierra wrote could easily be offensive to many, let's think about what he did: he stated his honest opinion and was actually trying to make a positive statement. While I might have some reservations about how he said what he said, his post re: Abigail certainly raised far more ire than it needed to. How many monks here have posted with a deliberate attempt to flame?

      As for Abigail leaving, I'm disappointed about that, but if someone is going to get irritated leave just because someone wonders about his/her gender, so what?1 There are people starving in Africa. There are nuclear weapons all over the world and the Middle East is in turmoil. I don't think that speculation on one's gender is worth getting worked up about (though sierra could have been a bit more tactful about it).

      I have, from time to time, also been the victim of serial downvoting (I'm waiting for it on this node), so I find it annoying, though it's not really that big of a deal. So if you have a downvote bot, go ahead and target me and leave others alone. You won't hurt my rep that much and I'll at least get the satisfaction of knowing that at least you'll be wasting your time targeting me instead of others who have a rep that might suffer.

      Summary of above ramble: if you have a votebot, get a life. You're a jerk in my book.


      1. Out of respect for Abigail's apparent desire to conceal h(?:is|er) gender, I did remove a reference to it on my home node.

      Vote for paco!

      Join the Perlmonks Setiathome Group or just click on the the link and check out our stats.

      Those wouldn't be downvote bots then. Obviously, there are ppl. here who were trying to help with constructive critisms. Voting I believe from what I've just read in the FAQ and other posts is a feedback mechanism. It isn't to feed one's ego. Although, I'm sure that happens here as well (yes, that's only a guess). From other posts on this topic - the downvoting of that post was warrented or warrented by opinion. No bots were responsible. It sounds like an unfortunate incident. In the future, I think it should be remembered why the voting is here in the first place.

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