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Once in a while, you answer the right question on the right tag and kablamo, you are a happy panda, you have 200 reputation.

We know that this is just luck. If we all had these breaks every time, we would get away with answering 500 questions and have 100k reputation.

I got my break here: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/505900/what-do-you-mean-ruby-on-rails-is-not-thread-safe/505914#505914

Really only took me a few moments to answer the question, I get a D for effort.

Do we want to increase the occurrences of the reputation lotteries or decrease them?

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Ruby-On-Rails appears twice because of the "Great Tagging ReOrg" –  devinb Jul 29 '09 at 12:58
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I see nothing wrong with your big break answer. The amount of effort may correlate with answer quality, but the two are not synonymous. It looks like a fairly complete response to the question and, I don't know Ruby, but your links back you up. –  Rob Allen Jul 29 '09 at 13:56

6 Answers 6

I find it's very rare for any specific answer to give me more than a couple of hundred reputation, unless it's got an associated bounty. It may get loads of upvotes, but then you hit the reputation cap pretty quickly. If you're lucky, the post will be about half an hour before UTC midnight, so you can get lots of votes on one day and then lots of votes the next day too... but then you'd have to have been pretty idle on the first day to gain a lot from those votes.

I don't see it as a significant problem, personally.

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To me the reputation lottery is the reason community wiki came in to existence –  waffles Jul 29 '09 at 13:07
    
@Sam: Really? I think this is just a side effect of growth as the site gets larger and larger. As it expands, we'll see more happy pandas wondering the halls of StackOverflow for a larger variety of tags. –  Eric Jul 29 '09 at 13:08
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I'm 100% behind happy pandas –  waffles Jul 29 '09 at 13:10
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Sexual Harassment makes me a sad panda. –  TheTXI Jul 29 '09 at 13:12
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I think the next SO Family site should be HappyPanda.com –  Rob Allen Jul 29 '09 at 14:00
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@Rob Allen, alas, we're too late, it's already a Chinese restaurant :'-( –  Nathan Koop Nov 17 '09 at 3:17

In the grand scheme of things, posting a single answer which gets you your full day's worth of rep doesn't happen too often. Timing is everything there. It has to get posted and start collecting it's votes early enough to where other content of yours doesn't pick up rep as well. Often times the biggest answers you make (like my wedding cake answer on SO) only pick up 100 rep or so before they hit limit or get moved to CW or some other issue.

I don't see it as anything near a problem.

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If you got the rep because your answer was genuinely helpful / enlightening to a lot of readers, then i don't see the problem with it being short and sweet...

There's an old joke about a guy brought in to help repair a piece of machinery. The staff had tried everything to get it working, wasting much valuable time in the process... At the end of their rope, they promise the guy $1000 if he can fix it. He looks at it for a few seconds, takes out a hammer, and whacks the machine... it immediately starts working. Invoice: $1 - hitting machine with hammer, $999 - knowing where to hit it.


OTOH, if you're racking up points because you posted something that everyone knows and most agree with, then you don't really deserve it - the votes stand in lieu of duplicate answers. That's where CW can come in to play...

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Using myself as an example, let me try to see how big of an effect this has. Note that I may not be a typical user; I often just camp out on the recently active page and look for easy unanswered questions.

I have 7 answers with 20 or more upvotes. Going through them one by one:

  • 37: Why doesn't java.util.Set have get(int index)?
    This was basically a lottery. I happened to see the question almost immediately after it was asked, and I got the first version of my answer in within a minute. However, even after the trickle-in over a few days, I only wound up with 164 points from this answer.

  • 30: What is the Java ?: operator called and what does it do?
    I would have thought this would be a lottery, but I actually had the third answer. I just explained it well enough to outdistance the first two. (Interestingly, Jon Skeet got 15 upvotes just for repeating part of what I said.)
    Total rep gain: 155

  • 24: What's the difference between | and || in Java?
    Ah, memories... This was my 10th answer on SO, and my first accepted answer.
    Anyway, this could have been a lottery but wasn't. I was far from the first answer, but I was the first to have a complete answer. That tells me there was something at least a little tricky to the question.
    Total rep gain: 153

  • 23: Java is NEVER pass-by-reference, right?...right???
    Not a lottery. A couple of people had gotten the correct answer before me (and some had the wrong answer), but I thought I could explain it better than they had. The question asker apparently agreed.
    Total rep gain: 80

  • 22: How do I check if an object given to me is an int[] in Java?
    This was pretty much a lottery. I got 22 upvotes for basically saying "use instanceof". But here again, someone else had already answered with a not wrong, but really ugly answer. (And someone got three votes for repeating my answer 15 minutes later.)
    Total rep gain: 130

  • 21: Is it possible to make anonymous inner classes in Java static?
    This was a rather tricky question. I had the second answer, and I didn't get to the top until I'd updated with better information.
    Total rep gain: 200 (it was asked shortly after midnight GMT, so I hadn't gained any rep that day)

  • 20: Why is import of class not needed when calling method on instance (Java)
    Lottery. Pure and simple. However, I did try to put more than the bare minimum of information in my answer; I think people appreciated that.
    Total rep gain: 160

Note that all of these answers were accepted.

My conclusion is that while lottery-type questions might skew things a bit, quality answers can still beat fast ones. And unless it's your first answer of the day, you'll likely hit your cap without reaching 200 rep from a single answer anyway. I'm not seeing a problem here.

(And, interestingly enough, the only post that has gotten me more than 200 reputation is a question, not an answer.)

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You appear to be pretty good at Java. Kudos. –  Tom Ritter Nov 17 '09 at 2:44
    
Thanks. But I don't even do Java anymore, which is why I've slowed down a lot. (And I refuse to try answering VBA questions.) –  mmyers Nov 17 '09 at 5:24
    
What did Adam Davis change, anyway? I don't recall seeing a problem with this post. –  mmyers Nov 17 '09 at 5:25

I don't see a problem with the occasional lucky break, as long as it's legitimately a good answer. After all, the point of rep is to encourage good answers, and as long as that goal is being achieved, occasional minor unfairness (?) in the rep system isn't too much of a problem. And since daily gain in reputation is capped, these kinds of questions tend to self-limit quickly - they're usually simple beginner questions; not the sort of thing a SO user with voting rights will tend to find months later on a search and upvote.

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It would be interesting to see a graph of the rep vs amount of answers.

If you're right that would lead to certain people having huge rep from few(er) answers, but which are more popular and others having a lot of rep from less popular topics resulting in lower rep per answer.

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