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I post questions and give answers on ELL & EL&U. But serial downvoting on some good questions is really disappointing. A moderator should downvote a question or an answer which, he thinks, is not up to the mark. But, at the same time, he should give comments on what's wrong with that question or answer in order that the post-maker may rectify himself. Otherwise, in most cases, the downvoting becomes completely subjective or individual choice without any discretion.

For example, a question of mine, which has earned three badges, a nice question, a notable question and a popular question, has been downvoted.

I do request to the authorities concerned to look into the matter so that learning is achieved in a joyful way.

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    The goal of SE sites is to build a library of knowledge that many people can refer to instead of answering everyone's questions one at a time over and over. This isn't a tutoring site. This post in the Details Please thread has some examples of well-asked questions. The entire thread is worth reading. – ColleenV May 10 at 11:29
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Taking a glance at the OP's activity page, it does appear that the OP may be a victim of serial downvoting.

What if I think I'm the victim of voting fraud?

If the voting fraud is in the progress of happening or just happened recently, don't worry about it. You should wait at least 24 hours after noticing before becoming concerned. […]

If the 24 hours has already passed and the suspicious votes have not been reversed, you can then flag one of your own posts and explain what happened so a moderator can look into it. It is generally preferred that you avoid asking about them on a site's meta, since details of the investigation cannot be divulged and you won't actually get any information that will be useful to other members of the community.

See also: What should you do if you're serial downvoted & it isn't automatically reversed within 24 hours?

enter image description here

today (May 12, 2020)

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I would venture to say that it is either one user with two separate accounts (AKA sockpuppets) or the same three users. The behaviour does indeed look suspicious. Please flag your posts to bring this to the attention of the mods, they have tools that can determine if there is some foul play at hand.

Good luck!

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    I don't understand why you think that's serial downvoting. The only pattern I see there is 4 upvotes within a minute of each other. If that was reversed serial voting, it would be +2 not +10. The downvotes don't look that clustered to me, the upvotes look more suspicious than the downvotes, but they could just be because the edit significantly improved the question. I changed my vote on that question after the edit. – ColleenV May 12 at 13:09
  • The fact that there's nearly always clusters of three downvotes doesn't look odd in the slightest? It looks suspicious to me. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 13:33
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    No, they aren't close enough together to rule out three users active around the same time every day who all feel the same about the sorts of questions the author was asking. If their questions weren't so similar I would think differently. The author was given a lot of help in comments that they initially ignored and I think people got frustrated and just started downvoting. The upvotes are far more suspicious. – ColleenV May 12 at 13:36
  • It's worth investigating into IMO, no harm is done by ruling out the eventuality that it is the same user with multiple accounts who votes at different times of the day in order to avoid detection. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 13:39
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    It could have been a lot of things, but given that they kept posting the same sorts of questions after getting feedback that they weren't being well-received, I think that you're looking at hoof prints and imagining a unicorn instead of a donkey. – ColleenV May 12 at 13:42
  • Like I said, it's worth checking it out in order to reassure the OP. This question isn't that bad either and the reason for closure is mean-spirited. No answers have been posted, so what if the OP edited their question. The edit was a good one, it improved the quality. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 13:51
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    That question doesn't have a negative score anymore either - it was improved. If Sandip wants to ask the CM team to look into unreversed serial voting, they certainly can, but in my opinion, the downvotes they got were justified feedback on the earlier pattern of questions they were asking. It's nice to see that pattern has changed. I assume the negative feedback of the downvotes had something to do with that change, so I wanted to push back a little on the suggestion that they were unwarranted. – ColleenV May 12 at 13:58
  • @ColleenV why did this question get four downvotes? It shows understanding, it shows reflection and yet, 4 downvotes. It's a bit odd, don't you think? Why not? Also note that this meta question has four downvotes too. Coincidence? – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 14:14
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    Because I and the other three people who think Sandip is fluent enough to ask better formed questions thought it wasn't a good question? And then we looked at the complaint that our downvotes were unjustified and downvoted that too? Why is any question downvoted? People looked at "This question shows research effort; it is clear and useful" and thought "no, I don't think it does show research effort". There's only three on the other one because I reversed my vote after the edit. Our pool of active users isn't that large, and people tend to check in around the same times each day. – ColleenV May 12 at 14:28
  • I didn't downvote the meta question though, so that was someone else. – ColleenV May 12 at 14:30
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    There's zero evidence of serial downvoting. Upvoting, maybe... downvoting, no. – Catija May 12 at 21:17
  • @Catija why are you telling me this? Tell the OP himself, he is the one who posted the question. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 21:28
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For what it's worth, I didn't downvote your question What does “Yes, you can. But you may not.” mean? I didn't downvote it because you told us what the context was; I didn't upvote it because you showed no research effort. To me, this is not really a good question. The reason is that it does not tell us how you have tried to solve this problem on your own before asking the question in ELL. ELL (and SE in general) is a bit different from Yahoo! Answers, Reddit, WordReference, Quora, etc. Here, we really want the members of our community to show some "research effort".

I think this EL&U post Difference between “can” and “may”: Can/May I have your pen please? would have been a perfect source/reference to cite as your "research effort". You should then have explained why the answers in this EL&U post were not sufficient to address your problem. I, however, feel the answers here fully answer your question. But even if you didn't like them for some reason, you should have linked this question.

Merriam-Webster has a nice post on this: Can you use 'can' or must you use 'may'?

A student raises their hand and asks the teacher “Can I go to the bathroom?” and the teacher responds, “I don’t know—can you?”

You will get many results if you simply google "you can but you may not". I haven't even tried other variations of this. And it is already clear to me from the above sources that the answer is right there. This is research which you should have done.

Search Results from ELL:

  1. “May I have a glass of water” vs. “Can I have a glass of water”: which is better, “may I” or “can I”, when asking for something?
  2. The tendency to replace may I with can I

The upvotes you got on your question is due to a number of reasons, as stated by Glorfindel.


I am wondering if you actually looked at our help center rules and meta questions regarding what constitutes a good question.

From How do I ask a good question?

Search, and research Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Some of us have given you some suggestions on how you can improve your questions. I have personally left comments on some of your questions asking you to add details or "research effort", but you haven't done so in any of your questions. I, myself, edited one of your questions to include your "thought process" (which qualifies as "research effort") that you had mentioned in response to my comment. But you didn't improve any of the following questions.

Here are some instances where we have tried to tell you this.

screen shot of an example post

screen shot of an example post

screen shot of an example post

screen shot of an example post

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  • Yes, you're right. Sometimes syntax of a sentence seems to be complicated. In that case, is it justified to discourage or underestimate someone for a question that has been asked for clearing doubt? If this goes on, the sole purpose of a learning site is lost. Besides, downvoting without any remark is fruitless. – Sandip Kumar Mandal May 10 at 3:56
  • If users on ELL have to start showing research and effort in oder to post questions it won't be long before ELL becomes a shadow of EL&U. The whole essence of ELL, despite the PC spouted, is that it gave users on EL&U a place where they could show learners and beginners alike home for their very basic questions. Start closing unresearched questions and the whole site risks collapsing under the weight of close votes. FWIW I have not voted in the moderator election, nevertheless I wish every candidate well. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 9:12
  • @Mari-LouA There should be a balance. Not every single question requires "research effort". Some basic questions do. Asking too much of it may result in what you say, but asking too little may turn this place into Quora. My answer here applies specifically to this OP. Many of us have tried time and again to help them improve their question. You can see that from the images. I also pointed out other sources that answered OP's question - OP did not even make the smallest of efforts to search or look at them. A learner should make some effort before asking a question. We can't spoon-feed people. – AIQ May 12 at 9:31
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    @Mari-LouA When we say "research effort" on ELL, we're not talking about the same thing as ELU. There is a minimum of context and detail a question needs for someone to be able to write a good answer for it. The better we understand why someone is asking the question, the more relevant we can make our answers. I agree with StoneyB's answer in the "Policy for Research Effort in Questions" discussion, but I use the "research effort" close reason because it links to the "Details Please" guidance which is more helpful than other close reasons. – ColleenV May 12 at 18:55
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You shouldn't worry about a few downvotes. Perhaps somebody lost their keys; anyway, requiring a comment before downvoting would be completely ineffective. If one user downvotes a couple of your posts, that's serial downvoting and it will be corrected automatically if you wait a day. Multiple downvotes on a single question are not called serial; one user can only downvote your question once.

If you're talking about this recent question of yours, have you wondered why it has gained all those badges and a much higher score than your previous ones (combined)? Not necessarily because it's a great question by itself; it's because it became a Hot Network Question, giving it much more exposure across the Stack Exchange network. Hot questions aren't necessarily good ones; they can as well be the ones which provide the most entertainment or the most controversy.

Just like upvoting is a completely subjective or individual choice, downvoting is too. English Language Learners is a rather special site in this regard; most visitors from the Hot Network Questions are native English speakers and for them this question might be trivial and not useful at all, hence the downvotes.

For what it's worth, I didn't vote on your question and won't do it since I didn't encounter it in a regular way.

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  • Maybe it was worth looking at the OP's activity page before suggesting that someone had had a rotten day? The consistent number of downvotes does indeed look suspicious. See my answer. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 10:03
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    @Mari-LouA I don't think it's a rotten day, it's about having a different expectation from the community than what it is in practice. See also this post. Thanks for spotting the downvoting pattern, but I still expect some of the four downvotes on the question mentioned above are legitimate. – Glorfindel May 12 at 10:10
  • I would have hoped that a candidate running for moderator had looked first at the activity page, it's just as well I did check; the answers posted do not bode well for the future. I think you have spent too long a time on Meta.SE, and use the same measuring stick, please don't. Each community, however small, has its own unique quirks and personality. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 10:14
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    @Mari-LouA I'm aware of that but thanks for the reminder. Also, now that I look again, did you see what happened on May 9th, between 21:36 and 21:38? – Glorfindel May 12 at 10:21
  • What about it? The upvotes you mean? I can only suggest that the OP flag their post for suspicious behaviour. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 10:26
  • Yes, the serial upvoting is more apparent than the serial downvoting. It's worth the moderators or CMs have a look, I've flagged already. – Glorfindel May 12 at 10:27
  • But you didn't flag the series of downvotes? – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 10:28
  • Those are mentioned in the flag too. – Glorfindel May 12 at 10:34
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    @Mari-LouA another thing I realize now: that happened after I posted this answer. It could very well that users read this Meta thread and either wanted to punish or to support the OP by mass voting on their posts. Talking about the Meta effect ... – Glorfindel May 12 at 10:42
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    If low-quality questions persist from a particular user, then why is the consistent number of downvotes on their low-quality questions so suspicious or surprising? Despite repeated attempts, OP remains impervious to the community's suggestions. – AIQ May 12 at 10:47
  • @AIQ Yes, let's blame the OP for posting on meta in the first place and posting LQ questions, which by the way weren't that bad to begin with. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 10:55
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    @Mari-LouA No-one is blaming OP for posting on meta. Please don't say things that I actually never said. I am the one who repeatedly tried to help OP out by posting comments and by editing their questions. I made the effort to help them. And "weren't that bad" does not mean they were not bad. Some of them did not fall within the guidelines specified in the help center. If someone does not change their behavior despite us telling them how to improve their questions, then what do you propose should be done (as opposed to downvoting a particular low-quality question)? – AIQ May 12 at 11:02
  • The comment re. ELL meta was directed at Glorfindel, I added the @AIQ too early, apologies for that. FWIW I actually think that both answers have their merits, which is why I didn't downvote either one of them. They all give good advice but before handing out pertinent advice, please check the OP's activity page to see whether their concern about downvotes has a certain validity. That's all from me. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 11:09
  • @Mari-LouA You are right. I apologize. I will keep this in mind from now on. And thanks for pointing this out. :) – AIQ May 12 at 11:41

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