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The Problem with Reputation: Does High Reputation Attract Too Many 'Up-Votes'?

I pose this question because of a condition of human behavior. I don't know the name for it but, it is the phenomenom that we as humans assume that a person with a given label is incapable of erring. Therefore, our brains tell us there is no need to shop around.

I do apologize to all the moderators who feel slighted by this question. Please try to see it my way.

If a user with a low reputation posts an excellent answer, and a moderator posts an answer to the same question, the poster and other readers will naturally lean towards the moderator's point of view.

Here is a great example: The actual answer only received 390 up votes, while Jon Skeet's somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer received 793 upvotes, not including all the comment upvotes. (Ultimately, Jon points out his answer is flippant, and it was not selected.)

One comment even suggests...

@Jon Skeet, press space bar for 10 times and than put a "." I bet you will still get upvotes, This is hilarious! – krio yesterday

The other issue comes from the mentality. I know I have thought this before: "Oh [They] already answered it, I'm sure it's right… Why should I bother providing my answer?"

I think moderators should avoid answering questions. If they find a question that they want to answer, instead of answering maybe provide comments that the poster or readers will encourage more activity and possibly result in an answer.

"Hello World" in less than 20 bytes

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marked as duplicate by dmckee, Anna Lear, davidsleeps, Michael Mrozek, Grace Note Aug 31 '11 at 14:04

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.

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You are aware that Jon Skeet is not a moderator, right? –  Time Traveling Bobby Aug 31 '11 at 13:05
    
Jon Skeet is not a moderator on this site, just a very high reputation user. –  hammar Aug 31 '11 at 13:06
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You've missed the point. It was just an example of the scenario. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:07
    
I've modified the title, and again the question was the example. I know JS isn't a moderator. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:10
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@Doug: it was an example that did not match the category you are talking about: therefore it was not an example at all (or at least: a bad example). –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 13:10
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Also: questions/answers that receive hundreds of votes are way outside the norm and probably not relevant when discussing general policy: anything that was deducted from them might not be applicable to the "normal" case. –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 13:11
    
I just want to point out that in meta at least Jon skeet is the only non-mod in the Top 8. Again, it was an example of the scenario. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:13
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Jon was talking once about making a sockpuppet to answer questions for a day just to see if he still gets the same number of upvotes; I'm not sure if he ever did it –  Michael Mrozek Aug 31 '11 at 13:14
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@Doug It absolutely was not an example of the scenario, stop saying that. The scenario is "mods get lots of upvotes", and your "example" is "this non-mod gets lots of upvotes" –  Michael Mrozek Aug 31 '11 at 13:15
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Which question are you referring to? Also high rep user != moderator - which is what you seem to be confused about. –  ChrisF Aug 31 '11 at 13:15
    
You all are right, I mistakenly looked at META's list of user's and not SO's. This question is stupid. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:16
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Jon's not a moderator on Meta either. –  ChrisF Aug 31 '11 at 13:17
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"High rep users aren't getting upvotes because they're high rep users." @Michael, I think you have on rose colored glasses if you believe this. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:30
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Doug - that question shouldn't be used as an example for any sort of behaviour on the part of anybody. If it were asked now it would be closed as off topic within minutes. It might get migrated to Code Golf - but only if a moderator saw it in time. –  ChrisF Aug 31 '11 at 13:33
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Now the question talks about high-rep users half the time, mods the other half, and randomly renamed Jon Skeet to "Skon Jeet" even though it still links directly to his answer, so it's not like it's a hypothetical example –  Michael Mrozek Aug 31 '11 at 13:35

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's sometimes hard to swallow, but the main goal of SO (and other SE sites) is to provide good answers to questions that people actually have.

By restricting the set of people who can answer the question you'd automatically decrease the quality of the result.

And I don't think "oh, there's already an answer" is a real problem: those who are well informed on a topic will usually be critical about other answers, no matter where they come from (yes, I do read Jon Skeets everybodies answers before deciding on whether or not I should still answer, and occasionally I do still answer!).

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+1 for having the lowest reputation. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 14:06
    
Hey, -1 for not being a moderator, yet answering first! –  Lorem Ipsum Aug 31 '11 at 14:52
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@yoda: wasn't me! Straitjacket shot first! –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 14:55
    
Don't worry, I didn't downvote :) –  Lorem Ipsum Aug 31 '11 at 15:14
    
I know, I was just playing along. –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 15:16

Yes, they should be allowed to answer questions.

They're humans like everyone else, they're users like everyone else and most important of all, they're contributors like everyone else. And even more importantly, on the new SE sites they're the heartbeat of the communities.

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+1 SO would probably survive if the moderators suddenly stopped answering. For smaller SE sites that's not so clear. –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 13:12
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Besides, who in their right mind would volunteer to become a moderator if that meant they couldn't use the site of its primary purpose anymore? –  Anna Lear Aug 31 '11 at 13:55
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Ok, now you get a -1 for answering first and not being a moderator! ;) –  Lorem Ipsum Aug 31 '11 at 15:15

If a user with a low reputation posts an excellent answer, and a moderator posts an answer to the same question, the poster and other readers will naturally lean towards the moderator's point of view.

I promise you this is not the case.

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Are you willing to test this? –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:32
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@Doug: Feel free to look through my answers for any evidence you care to collect. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 31 '11 at 13:34
    
@Doug: Or mine for that matter, though I've had little time to answer questions since being elected in February. I do remember getting dinged on an answer not that long ago due to not quite understanding the question. –  Tim Post Aug 31 '11 at 13:38
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Jon's "Hello, World" answer got a lot of votes for being (1) strictly correct, (2) a bit of a mind twister, and (3) the first of the kind of SO. Since then those kinds of answers have not recieved as good a reception. For a less extreme example of the same thing look at my answer to this early code golf: 19 votes for being silly. Other examples around the site include several versions of the "to understand recursion you must first understand recursion" line.

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+1 for an explanation of changes in SO community view of Questions and Answer. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:59
    
The answer was also meant to have a serious point: when you ask a question, you need to be precise about what you're interested in. –  Jon Skeet Aug 31 '11 at 15:57

If you put yourself in the position of question asker...I think you'd want the best answers possible to your problem...I don't think you'd be too pleased to find out that people who can provide great answers have been restricted from answering.

The reason Jon skeet can answer that question tongue in cheek and get those up votes is because the question itself is hardly a problem (it's a challenge) and he's given soooooo much to the question askers (15800+ answers) at SO that he's likely earned a few bonus up votes as thanks for that effort.

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+1 for not beating me down in your answr. –  MVCylon Aug 31 '11 at 13:55

So you suggest to restrict access to Jon Skeet to all unanswered question? Wow, that would be bad. He's guy like everyone else. I know it's sometimes unfair, but that's it...

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Then again: removing the dominant species in an eco-system often results in a rush of development when ever other species tries to fill the whole that was left ;-) –  Joachim Sauer Aug 31 '11 at 15:14

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