Since the dawn of time the posts came, down through the centuries. Err wrong canon.

Long time ago, on a site on a server far far away, we had somewhat lower quality standards. (that applies to my own as well).

So, at times, I re-read an old answer to my old question, and cringe at my own up-vote, as by today's standards - both the site's and my own - the answer clearly does not deserve an upvote. Like, having zero source support, and likely a short detail-less answer.

Had I been voting on that answer today, I would NOT have upvoted.

The problem is, I cannot rescind that old upvote, as per SE mechanics, unless the answer was edited since I cast the vote.

There is a workaround for the problem: edit the answer, thus enabling the vote to be changed.

But it seems like misuse of a feature, so I'd like to obtain community consensus of whether it's OK or not to do that by community standards, since I can see both pros and cons of this approach.

NOTE: if you think editing is a bad idea, please downvote the Meta Answer which says "yes", not this question. The question is intended to be neutral without expressing support for either option.

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    I don't know if there's a main meta about this, but I've seen the same issue come up on other site metas. – Rand al'Thor Apr 2 '18 at 15:38
  • Related: scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10117/… – Skooba Apr 3 '18 at 16:32
  • @Valorum What was the point of your edit to this question? It looks like a pointless whitespace edit (maybe chasing a Refiner badge), but am I missing something? – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 '18 at 23:21
  • @Randal'Thor - It was a demonstration of precisely the sort of "hidden markdown" edit I'm saying isn't appropriate if you're planning to change your vote. I've referenced the edit in my answer. – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 23:27
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    @Valorum Ah, so meta! See, though, this little exchange kind of shows why such edits aren't appropriate. Useless edits tend to get people suspicious. They can even lead to entire meta posts. – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 '18 at 23:32
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    @Randal'Thor - Everything I do seems to lead to a meta post. I've learned to steer into the skid. – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 23:33
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    @Edlothiad Are people just editing this for the funny meta effect now? Apart from possibly the change to the title, your edit is the sort of thing I'd normally roll back in a heartbeat. The body edits are either unnecessary style changes or actually making it sound worse. – Rand al'Thor Apr 4 '18 at 13:14
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    @Randal'Thor You're welcome to revert the body changes, although I don't see how either of them are worse, they both seem to have improved the post. Granted the hyphens weren't necessarily needed, but while I was making edits I thought I might as well. The title however seems significant enough of a change given the original title was really quite useless. – Edlothiad Apr 4 '18 at 13:26
  • @Edlothiad - funny. The only reason I didn't roll back the title vandalism -aside from extreme laziness - was because the body edits contained 1 or 2 valid grammar fixes (and yes, the hyphens were basically style preference that shouldn't have been edited either). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 4 '18 at 14:46
  • I think the point of the vote "locking" after some time is that if we go around second-guessing all our old questions/answers/votes etc, then where does it end? To posts made one week, one month or one year ago? At some point the line must be drawn otherwise we'll spend all eternity editing old questions to change our up/downvotes. Ergo, I vote no. – Hans Olo Apr 4 '18 at 14:48
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    @DVK "Title vandalism"? I wasn't aware making a title meaningful was considered vandalism. This meta while about the main site, is in my opinion very applicable here and should be enforced here. – Edlothiad Apr 4 '18 at 14:48
  • @Edlothiad - you removed meaningful semantic info (specifically, the fact that I was asking about "far in the past" events that require a time machine or other mechanism normally). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 4 '18 at 14:50
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    @DVK you might find I specifically left in the stuff about an old vote. ...rescind one's own old vote?. I got rid of the rather pointless fluff that preceded the meaningful question. – Edlothiad Apr 4 '18 at 14:52
  • Only if you're going to do that to everything you've ever voted on. So sure, go right ahead as long as it's consistent. Otherwise this defaults to the rules for making an edit. – Mazura Apr 13 '18 at 0:00

Voters should be able to change their votes, even if it requires the answer to be edited. But those edits must have some value.

To be frank, I've never been clear on why votes need to be "locked in" after a certain amount of time and if I feel, upon later reflection (or if I learn more about a particular canon) that my vote needs to change, I've never had any compunction about editing the answer and changing my vote.

The only proviso I'd make is that all edits have to improve the post in some fashion. Invisible editing (such as adding hidden markdown) purely to allow you to change your vote seems like it's a bit of an abuse of privilege.

I'm certain you can find something to fix. Go fix it, then change your vote.

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    Your last paragraph is the better idea. If the answer could use an edit by itself, and that happens to allow you to recast your vote, then you might as well. Editing an answer simply to re-vote should not be happening. – DCOPTimDowd Apr 2 '18 at 17:45
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    @DCOPTimDowd - I've never met an answer, no matter who it's been written by, that couldn't stand some improvement. Even if that improvement is just tidying up punctuation. – Valorum Apr 2 '18 at 19:17
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    Emphasis on the fact that edits should have some value. I'd argue that in most cases, tidying up punctuation is not really an edit of any substantial value. The system reminds new users of this, and it's general policy. – phantom42 Apr 2 '18 at 21:45
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    @phantom42 - It depends how egregious the punctuation errors are. Some of them make me weep bitter tears, especially when the answer is a solid block of text several dozen lines long. – Valorum Apr 2 '18 at 21:49
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    Personally I don't like the idea of giving people carte blanche to make useless edits. My general rule of thumb is "if it'd be rejected as a suggested edit, consider rolling it back as a 2k+ user's edit". Of course some minor few-character edits are objective improvements, but I don't believe you've never met a post that couldn't be improved. – Rand al'Thor Apr 2 '18 at 23:50
  • @Randal'Thor - Do you mean that I have met a post/s that can't be improved? – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 23:16
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    The wording of, and voting on, this answer is slightly confused. I suspect (especially judging from the comments) that a lot of the DVers downvoted this because of the big bold header which suggests all 2k+ users should have carte blanche to make any edits they want in order to reverse their vote ... whereas in fact you say useless edits are an abuse and all edits should have some value. – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 '18 at 23:34
  • @Randal'Thor - I've edited the header slightly. – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 23:35
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    Re "Why does SE do this in the first place?" - It's because votes show up in the user's achievements. If you could vote and then unvote, you could create an endless stream of meaningless rep events and annoy people. That Chesterton's fence is making it difficult for me to upvote this answer. – Kevin Apr 4 '18 at 3:07
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Found an answer on main meta that links to an answer on another question by Jeff Atwood, where he suggests:

If you have doubts, reserve your vote.

If you feel so strongly that you've made a terrible mistake with your vote, earn 2k rep, edit the post, then change your vote.

While Atwood is basically Word of God status, note that the answer is very heavily downvoted.

That is also somewhat corroborated by the highest voted answer on this question, suggesting that if you have the reputation to edit, you should be trusted enough to know that your vote needs to be reversed.

Neither of these are policy, but I would proposed that if you have the ability and the judgement, you should be allowed to do so.

  • It bears the same tradeoff between both trusting users to vote properly in order to further the site's quality standards when used judiciously, while at the same time offering possibilities for people to go on rage un-upvotes if used without measure. But such is the same for accepts and many other things. – TARS Apr 2 '18 at 16:49
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    Note that many of Atwood's answers are heavily downvoted, which goes to show how valuable an appeal to authority is not. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 13 '18 at 10:13
  • Atwood was the Word of God,butbid say not so much anymore. – Möoz Apr 20 '18 at 10:04


Edits should only be made if actually improving the post, not just to change your voting.

One thing I would consider while doing this is what is your end goal?

If the answer you are wanting to change your voting on is already highly scored (at least relative to the number of votes on the question and other answers) your edit is likely to cause to receive more up-votes because now the post will be bumped to the front page!

We see the similar affects with the HNQ and/or FGitW. So while your conscience might be soothed, is it really helping the site? Even if you are leaving a comment that the answer is no longer valid or low quality how many will actually listen? If you think there are newer, better answers you want to draw attention to the proper system for that is bounties.

Honestly, really think about it... is your one vote going to change the overall outcome of the answer? My opinion would be no.

Another thought I had is, editing is supposed to improve a post, so if you are switching an up-vote to a down-vote and in order to do so you need to make an edit seems a bit counter productive. Yes, I understand you can still down-vote posts that you edited, but editing a post for the sole purpose of down-voting just doesn't make sense to me.

Ramble on now... If the post was "useful" X-time units ago, why is not longer useful now? Especially if it is your own question, if you want new/better answers you should be using a bounty? If the answer is real THAT terrible, you should be flagging it removal. But typically that doesn't happen because most of us with experience know that NAA flags on old answer are declined at a high rate because the answer does attempt to answer the question.

Maybe I just have a live and let live attitude...

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    I only have one vote and I should be able to change my mind. Will it make a difference? Possibly not, but it makes a difference to me. – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 17:07
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    @Valorum You have one vote within a certain time frame_. A subtle but key difference. – Skooba Apr 3 '18 at 18:58
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    Given that it's the same system that locks my vote that allows me to unlock it, it's hard to say what the designers intended. – Valorum Apr 3 '18 at 19:00
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    @Valorum True, and the post by Atwood in another answer here certainly muddies the water. To me it also just seems like a lot of work to reverse a vote. – Skooba Apr 3 '18 at 19:06
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    I agree with this. My +1. – Hans Olo Apr 4 '18 at 14:49

I assume that rescinding a vote will always result in a reputation loss, even after the vote has been locked. If that is the case, undoing a vote that was based on an outdated quality standard will enhance the quality of the questions and answers, but at the same time will hurt the quality of the reputation system.

If someone did good work according to the current standard, that someone will still be a good worker if the standards change, even if the result of the work is considered bad (or worse) under the new standard. Taking well-earned reputation away because a question or answer doesn't meet todays standards is akin to slander.

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    Have to disagree. We close and reopen questions all the time based on changing standards. This is no different – Valorum Apr 2 '18 at 21:22
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    @Valorum Answers work a lot different, you can't open or close them, and flagging them rarely works out because the majority of the time it still is an answer (and flags are not supposed to be used for technical inaccuracies). – Skooba Apr 3 '18 at 16:49
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    @Skooba - Indeed, and since we can't flag answers that turn out to be wrong, we should have some sort of mechanism to indicate our disapproval. – Valorum Apr 4 '18 at 18:22


The lock-in period of votes stops rage-quitters with low-rep from vandalising all their upvotes by undoing them.

A person involved in a meta fight with someone, could remove their upvotes on posts by the other party, which is patently unfair. So, it's better to simply let go of that single vote, since allowing vote-retraction, through a trivial edit opens up new possibilities of abuse, which weren't previously possible.

I remember a meta posts which stated that a rage-quitter had unaccepted a lot of answers, causing reputation loss. Allowing this vote retraction, might enable such vandalism.

User vandalised their account before rage-quitting. How best to resolve?

The above post was a result of vandalism by un-accepting. Future examples might include un-voting.

  • Except that the lock-in period doesn't stop them, it just makes it mildly more inconvenient. So mild, in fact that it's barely a barrier at all. – Valorum Apr 15 '18 at 15:56
  • Note also that the highest voted response to the linked question was that this is simply unavoidable and that you shouldn't fret about it. – Valorum Apr 15 '18 at 15:57
  • @Valorum But the lock-in period stops those without editing privileges atleast. And IF majority of ragequitters/vandals are users with low-rep(without editing privileges), then the lock-in period would be very useful – Simpleton Apr 15 '18 at 16:02
  • Low-rep ragequitters aren't much of a problem either way. It's high-rep a$$holes who decide to systematically destroy their accounts who are the bigger threat to site stability. If you, for example, decided to rescind all of your upvotes it would hardly register as a blip on the radar. – Valorum Apr 15 '18 at 16:07
  • @Valorum That's true, but only because I haven't upvoted that many posts. But, what if I were a passive low-rep user with too many votes, but less posts? Would it matter then? – Simpleton Apr 15 '18 at 16:26
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    Hmm. I think you're conflating two issues; 1) Someone who edits the very occasional old post in order to reposition their votes and 2) Someone who is systematically making trivial edits to dozens of posts in order to vandalise their account. 1) Would be broadly acceptable whereas 2) would probably not be. Certainly I (or any one of a couple of dozen regular users) would spot the front page suddenly being obliterated and flag for a site moderator to lock that individual's ability to edit until they could explain their unusual actions. – Valorum Apr 15 '18 at 16:28

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