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TL;DR: The rep cap system isn't as effective or fair as it might be. I'm proposing one alternative for comment, and would welcome other suggestions too.


I'm pretty sure the rep cap hits me harder than anyone else (pretty often over 1000 points in a day), so a change could easily be serving my own interests. If it makes anyone's mind easier, I'd be happy to come to some arrangement whereby all my posts were made CW before a recalculation, or something similar. The aim of this post isn't to increase my own rep, even though that might be the result.

I suspect that even with significant support for my proposal or any other suggestions, this post may end up as status-declined; I'm aware that Jeff is pretty sick about talking around the rep cap, and other Stack Exchange folks may feel similarly. Implementing a change in the system is non-trivial, and if the decision is that the time would be better spent on other things, that's fine.

I'm aware that rep cap affects a relatively small number of users - so spending a lot of effort even discussing it could be seen as a waste of time.

Aims of the rep cap

I've heard at least three purposes for the rep cap from Jeff, and of course others may have different views:

  • To prevent a user with a single popular answer from gaining significant privileges without really understanding the community in enough depth to use those powers wisely
  • To avoid a "rich get richer" sort of system
  • To encourage heavily active users to step outside once in a while

Additionally, a goal within Stack Exchange is to keep good users engaged, encouraging them to keep contributing.

Evaluating the current rep cap

I would suggest that the current system doesn't really achieve any of these goals - or at least, not as well as other systems might.

A user with a very popular answer which continues to receive votes (as, for example, my answer on the Shanghai time zone change in 1927 does) can still gain many privileges from that one answer - it just takes them a bit longer to do so. While the answer is accumulating rep, the user doesn't have to be actively participating in (or learning about) the community at all.

On the other hand, a user who dives straight into the community and contributes left, right and centre will still be forced to wait for privileges (and general recognition via rep).

In terms of the "rich get richer" idea: I recently went on holiday, and hardly posted during that time. I very easily hit the rep cap every day, and suspect I could do so for some time. Arguably I'm an outlier, but if a system which is meant to prevent the rich from getting richer (with no/little effort) doesn't work for the "super-rich" then it's broken. Bear in mind that as I have written over 20,000 answers, I only need a single vote on each of 0.1% of my answers to hit the cap. That feels wrong to me - I'm still gaining reputation from answers written nearly four years ago.

As for suggesting to people that they spend time away from their community: it doesn't look like it's working. If anyone were really playing the rep game (and I'm not sure that many people are, out of those who regularly hit the cap) they would simply seek bounties and questions which they believed they could quickly get an accepted answer on. Personally I'm not sure to what extent I really believe this is an intention of the rep cap, rather than just something Jeff said on a podcast in an off-the-cuff manner, but that's a different question :)

Additionally, I have a sort of meta-concern: the rep cap was decided at 200 per day a very long time ago. Where did that value come from? Would the same exact value be picked today, and if so, why? It's incredibly rare that a somewhat arbitrary value picked at the start of a system's life turns out to be the best one when the system has been running for a long time.

Suggested alternative system

My suggested alternative is a combination of two mechanisms:

  • For any given post, impose a cap of +100 rep from votes.
  • Votes on posts over 6 months old have no impact on reputation.

Now both of these have interesting side-effects with regards to downvotes: if you have an answer with lots of upvotes, any downvotes become irrelevant - because you still end up with +100. For example, if you've got 11 upvotes you'd have to have 6 downvotes before they started to matter. And after 6 months, the downvotes wouldn't make any difference anyway.

Potentially those aspects need a bit more thought and discussion - but I think they're okay, actually.

Now to check over the stated aims of the rep cap:

  • Prevention of a user with one (or a few) good answers from getting privileges quickly: yup. For example, to get access to moderator tools, you'd have to have 100 good answers (modulo bounties/accept). That's a pretty high level of interaction.

  • Avoiding "rich get richer" syndrome: yup. Good answers will rapidly get to the cap, and you can't even rely on a huge number of old answers to give you "interest" due to the 6 month limit.

  • Encouraging you to step away from the community: nope, it doesn't do this. Ah well.

As a side effect: this encourages regular, continued participation. Writing a good post is always rewarded - just with a limit. Stop participating, and the rep you accrue will reduce and eventually stop completely.

So folks: what do you think, and do you have any better ideas?

share|improve this question
The per-post rep cap sounds very sensible (although it could be a bit higher to me, say 200 or so.) I don't see the point in a 6-month limit, though - why should an answer that is still considered good after a year not be rewarded accordingly? –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:29
Combined with all the tears of posts older than 60 days with 3+ votes this rep game is getting a lot messier to track who is getting banked –  random Jun 14 '12 at 19:30
I am assuming you are suggesting a retroactive rep change that will require a recalc. In the past these changes have caused quite a lot of noise and upset people. Perhaps we should only have new rules going forward? –  Oded Jun 14 '12 at 19:30
Also, while I wouldn't mind seeing it go, I'm not sure whether the 200 rep cap isn't an important factor in protecting many users' sanity in this game. Let's face it: Stack Overflow is addictive, and the cap does take the immediate kick out of continued participation. –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:30
@Pekka: Well, if someone answered a year ago, then they're no more valuable to the community today than they were yesterday, despite someone's vote on the answer. It also addresses the "rich get richer" aspect with more finality, IMO. But hey, all of this is up for grabs :) –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 19:32
@Jon I don't think you can use your experience as a guide. I'm sad to say that a link only answer from you would get 10 upvotes before a fully rounded answer from someone like me got one. On Stack Overflow your name is enough for people to click on that up arrow. –  ChrisF Jun 14 '12 at 19:32
Random comments is what @random does best. –  Yannis Jun 14 '12 at 19:34
@JonSkeet - it refers to the furore that ensued when deletes reduced your reputation immediately. People who'd had posts deleted months ago but hadn't done a rep recalc wailed on meta until they had their rep restored. –  ChrisF Jun 14 '12 at 19:34
The problem with downvotes not counting on posts over 6 months old is that I lose an incentive to correct my old posts that may have gotten out of date. I might never remember to update old answers if I don't notice that -2 in my reputation. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 14 '12 at 19:34
The rich will always stay richer when they've sowed their seeds in grandfathered posts meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124799/… –  random Jun 14 '12 at 19:34
Suddenly I have 0 interest in maintaining old posts. This doesn't seem like a good idea –  Ben Brocka Jun 14 '12 at 19:50
Why bother preventing the rich from getting richer if we don't redistribute their wealth? Specifically, from your account to mine? –  Won't Jun 14 '12 at 19:53
@ananthonline Because "answered" means it helped the OP; upvotes means it helps the other several billion people in the world. –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 20:02
To be honest I'm shocked this has upvotes as of this second there are 41 users who've reached the rep cap every day this week... Whilst I agree with the sentiment of a 100 rep cap on posts I can't believe that 12 of the affected people have actually up-voted this. The number of effected users is so tiny that it doesn't make any difference. Does it? –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 14 '12 at 20:21
@Ben: I've hit the rep cap on only 3 days (out of 320) and my reputation change from this proposal would be negligible. Yet I upvoted it, having a per-post cap rather than a daily cap simply sounds more fair. As an extreme example: A single answer receiving 100 upvotes is typically an outlier and shouldn't have a huge impact on reputation, 20 answers with 5 upvotes however are a definitive sign of great contribution and should be credited accordingly - regardless of whether they happened to be posted on the same day. –  Wladimir Palant Jun 15 '12 at 8:46

11 Answers 11

up vote 121 down vote accepted

I ran some numbers because I love the science.

For the proposed rules of:

  • You can only gain 100 rep per post
  • You only gain rep for votes occurring within 6 months of the post's creation

I queried the amount of reputation gained under these rules, and what percent that is of the user's reputation earned under the current system from post up and down votes.

Here's the top 10 affected users, by total rep gained:

Jon Skeet                 583,023    219%  
Darin Dimitrov            113,718     59%  
SLaks                      81,475     50%  
Mark Byers                 61,368     42%  
Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams     53,803     40%  
aix                        35,264     67%  
David Heffernan            35,201     38%  
Marc Gravell               30,456     12%  
Oli Charlesworth           27,267     36%  
BalusC                     27,174     15%

No surprise, you're pretty exceptional, Jon, even in this company. You obviously gain the most reputation in absolute terms.

Looking at percentage gained in terms of total reputation from just post voting, where users >= 1000 rep*:

Jon Skeet      583023    219%
Naab             1350     99%
Erik            13021     73%
thecodeparadox   6789     68%
aix             35264     67%
Mark Linus       1071     67%
Darin Dimitrov 113718     59%
refp             2602     55%
SLaks           81475     50%
Mark Byers      61368     42%

You also gain the most rep as a percentage of your existing rep from post votes.

That's not to suggest that a change that benefits the heck out of Jon Skeet is a bad thing. If anything, a change being neutral or beneficial to UserId=22656 is a barometer for correctness.

But it is important to note just how different a view of the rep game you have Jon, you're arguably affected by the rep cap as much as the next 10 users combined.

*I've chosen 1000 rep as a good "earned your stripes" cutoff, below this point you get really freaky outliers.

Moving past the very high end, let's look at the proposed change's impact on bands of users.

Reputation Band    # Users    Average Change In Reputation
[1000, 5000)        22,723                            -486
[5000, 10000)        3,070                          -1,670
[10000, 20000)       1,549                          -3,034
[20000, 30000)         488                          -4,681
[30000, 40000)         178                          -6,986
[40000, 50000)          81                          -7,133
[50000, 60000)          52                          -8,079
[60000, 70000)          39                         -11,072
[70000+]               125                          -6,511

In fact the average change isn't neutral even including the high ends ([1000, infinity) has an average change of -941) until you get to 101,000 reputation (average change of 123) or so.

In terms of "lose any rep", "gain any rep", and "no change" for users with more than 101 reputation**.

Lost Reputation    Gained Reputation    No Change
        101,727                2,398       19,820

These numbers scare the hell out of me.

While this change would be very good for the very best contributors, it would really punish the more casual contributors. In terms of "blood in the streets" we're probably talking two, maybe three inches worth (the whole deletion kurfuffle would be a fond memory).

Now there's definitely some undeserved reputation out there, probably some unearned privileges too. But there aren't 100k+ of them, and smacking that many people down just isn't acceptable.

There's still the question of if we should be introducing new incentives for those users who are capable of effortlessly rep capping, but I think I can say pretty definitely that this proposal isn't tractable.

**101 chosen because of reputation bonus, you need to contribute one thing with the association bonus or several things if SO is your first Stack Exchange to be considered here.

Some other random statistics, since I'm doing science.

For the last 30 days:

Times Rep Cap Hit    # Users
                1      8,261
                2      1,545
                3        584
                4        286
                5        170
                6         96
                7         49
                8         38
                9         34
               10         23
               11         16
               12         14
               13          9
               14+        31

The above table is incorrect (counting users who caused rep capping†, below is the corrected table)

For the 30 days between the start of 2012-05-17 and the end of 2012-06-15:

Times Rep Cap Hit    # Users
                1        523 
                2        109 
                3         57  
                4         33  
                5         17  
                6         14  
                7         21  
                8         10  
                9         10  
               10          7   
               11          8   
               12          9   
               13          2   
               14          4   
               15          3   
               16          4   
               17          1   
               18          5   
               19          4   
               20          2   
               21          1   
               22          2   
               23          3   
               25          1   
               26          1   
               27          4   
               28          2   
               29          3   
               30          1

Take away that there are very few people who can effortlessly rep cap.

Of those users who rep capped in that range, average time since being seen (as of ~6 PM 2012-06-17 UTC) is about 44 hours; 25 haven't been seen in a week or more.

The average time since the last post of anyone who's rep capped in that range is 8 days.

†Note that it's possible to hit the rep cap twice or more, via the actions of more than one user.

Some of this data is a bit surprising, so I'm taking a look at how many users own certain classes of posts. The following tables were all built under the current reputation rules.

I'll give the top 5 of each for the a feel of the "kind" of user and total counts for scale.

User                       # Posts >= 100 Rep    ~Percentage Of Undeleted Posts***
Eric Lippert                              439                               21%
Marc Gravell                              368                                4%
Johannes Schaub - litb                    361                               15%
CMS                                       359                               16%
Greg Hewgill                              329                                7%

A total of 40,150 users have at least one post that has earned them >= 100 rep.

User                    # Posts >= 200 Rep    ~Percentage Of Undeleted Posts***
CMS                                    119                                5%
Eric Lippert                           118                                6%
VonC                                   115                                2%
Johannes Schaub - litb                 105                                4%
Konrad Rudolph                         101                                4%

A total of 17,516 users have at least one post that has earned them >= 200 rep.

User                  # Posts >= 500 Rep     ~Percentage Of Undeleted Posts***
CMS                                   35                                 2%
VonC                                  34                                 1%
Paolo Bergantino                      30                                 3%
Greg Hewgill                          28                                 1%
bobince                               22                                 1%

A total of 4,843 users have at least one post that has earned them >= 500 rep.

Random stats:

  • ~18% of all the reputation on SO comes from posts with that have earned their owners >= 100 rep
  • ~10% for >= 200 rep
  • ~4% for >= 500 rep

Investigating why imposing per-post caps negatively affect lower rep users, I'm looking at how much of all a band of users rep is coming from posts that exceed a hypothetical cap.

User Band                 >= 100 Rep Posts    >= 200    >= 500****
[1000, 5000)                           18%       10%        5%
[5000, 10000)                          22%       12%        6%
[10000, 20000)                         22%       12%        6%
[20000, 30000)                         23%       12%        5%
[30000, 40000)                         24%       13%        6%
[40000, 50000)                         22%       11%        4%
[50000, 60000)                         21%       10%        4%
[60000, 70000)                         27%       14%        6%
[70000, 80000)                         23%       11%        5%
[80000, 90000)                         24%       12%        5%
[90000, 100000)                        22%       13%        7%
[100000+]                              23%       11%        5%

Looks like the ratio of "rep from high posts" is basically constant irrespective of what "rep band" you fall into.

***This is a rough indicator, because of the 6 month rep retention change it's possible to have rep with no undeleted posts.

****These percentages are SUM(All Rep earned by posts giving >= X rep to owner by users in band) / SUM(All Rep for users in band) * 100

share|improve this answer
+1 for SCIENCE! But you misspelled SCIENCE! –  Ben Brocka Jun 15 '12 at 23:29
Does the picture change significantly if the cap proposed was different (like 200 or 500 per post)? What about the expiration date of 6 months? –  user149432 Jun 15 '12 at 23:31
awesome writeup, and also pretty much exactly what I expected to see. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 15 '12 at 23:42
@Mark I wouldn't say significantly, there's still a 100k+ users getting the smack down in both scenarios; which is the really scary bit IMO. My queries did impose the "after 6 months, new votes cause no rep change" change, was there some other expiration semantic I missed? –  Kevin Montrose Jun 15 '12 at 23:48
@KevinMontrose No, that was it: I was just curious to see if the idea is fundamentally unsound, or if it was just the numbers proposed. Great analysis. –  user149432 Jun 15 '12 at 23:53
@KevinMontrose: Whoa!! that's a lot of stats! What's clear though is that adjusting the daily rep limit upwards can give some 8000 people a greater chance of increasing their rep quickly. This is not considering the fact that a link only answer from [Jon Skeet] would get 10 upvotes before a fully rounded answer from [some of us] got one. - (ChrisF 2012-06-14 19:32:36) –  Alex Essilfie Jun 16 '12 at 7:48
Thanks so much for running the numbers, Kevin. I'm really surprised that there are still 100K+ users losing out if the per-post cap is 500. Interesting. Is everything one needs to run this analysis in the data dump already? I may download the latest one and play around a bit myself... –  Jon Skeet Jun 16 '12 at 16:05
@Jon The data dump doesn't have all the needed data. I'm running these queries against a table (a pretty new one at that, even 6 months ago this full analysis would have been almost impossible) that has a full history of all rep events (including +0 upvotes), which is naturally chock full of pretty sensitive downvotes, spam flags, vote fraud detection, and so on. If you have a particular question in mind I can try and build a query to answer it, within reason. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 16 '12 at 16:49
Nothing specific, I'm afraid - I'd just like to experiment. The data dump does have anonymized votes with timestamps, right? That's probably all I need for a first-pass approximation. I certainly don't need flags, and I don't think I need existing rep events themselves - just votes. Will give it a try :) –  Jon Skeet Jun 16 '12 at 16:52
@Jon Oh and to be clear, the numbers in the post are all at "per post cap = 100" so the inflection point being 101k-ish is only true for that number. For 200 & 500 it could be lower (I didn't rerun that part because it's really time consuming to find that inflection point), but the number of negatively affected users is basically the same for all 3 values. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 16 '12 at 16:53
@Jon You're certainly welcome to try, I gotta warn you though that moving from the Posts2Votes table to the new RepHistory wasn't easy. The tricky bits are mostly around post deletion; scoping to just up and down votes like we are might make it a tad easier though. I'm sure you'll let us know if you find anything interesting :) –  Kevin Montrose Jun 16 '12 at 16:57
how many people rep-capped 15,20,25,30 times in the last 30 days? Can you extend the table please? In the future, everyone will be @jon (meaning: will have so many posts that generate rep, they can theoretically cap every day on "ambient" votes) but it will take 5-10 years. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 17 '12 at 10:15
@JeffAtwood: I like the idea of "everyone will be @jon". A bit like the Life Of Brian - "I'm Jon Skeet and so is my wife." –  Jon Skeet Jun 17 '12 at 11:16
Accepting this answer as evidence that even if one does view the current rep cap as unfair/suboptimal, it would be hugely unpopular to change. I really didn't expect the suggested changes to be so obviously beneficial to me above all others. (In absolute terms, yes, but not in proportional terms.) My suggested change could easily be seen as a "Jon Skeet bonus" which would be unfortunate. Instead I'll regard the current cap as a "somewhat anti-Jon Skeet tax" ;) –  Jon Skeet Jun 18 '12 at 13:27
@jon STOP BEING SO DAMNED EXCEPTIONAL AT EVERYTHING!@!! –  Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '12 at 20:59

a user who dives straight into the community and contributes left, right and centre will still be forced to wait for privileges (and general recognition via rep)

This is intentional, and by design.

Regardless of how talented one may or may not be, they cannot waltz into a brand new community and hope to absorb its norms, behaviors, and culture in a single day. Or even a week!

The current system is designed to reward continued participation, but not to the point that it creates obsession. Programmers should be out there in the world creating things, too. The rep cap requires that you come back to our community over a fairly significant period of time, and contribute regularly during that time.

I think it's also fair that users who contribute one really brilliant bit of wisdom or insight continue to get rep for that over time. Otherwise we're rewarding quantity over quality.

Most crucially, if users want to exceed the +200 rep cap per day, there is already a way to do so: play the expert game of striving for accepted answers (immune to cap) and earning answer bounties (immune to cap).

"If you love someone, set them free."

share|improve this answer
"...but not to the point that it creates obsession." Really? ;P –  Yannis Jun 14 '12 at 19:41
I would rather trust someone who'd written 100 good answers in a day than someone with one answer who didn't even show up again for a year, then returned to find they had massive privileges. –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 19:42
Maybe new users need their excess rep paid into a trust that they get access to when they've grown up? (jk) –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:44
"I think it's also fair that users who contribute one really brilliant bit of wisdom or insight continue to get rep for that over time. Otherwise we're rewarding quantity over quality." - my experience is that answers which have several hundred votes or more tend to happen to be widely viewed, e.g. due to a link from a popular source. They're rarely "genius" answers which are really that much better than an answer with (say) 40 votes. –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 19:46
@JeffAtwood Alan Kay. Definitely a good programmer, and he got sizeable rep on SO despite not understanding what it was about. But it's probably the exception that confirms the rule. –  Gilles Jun 14 '12 at 19:48
But it's coming from someone who gains enough necrorep daily to stay at the rep-cap, regardless of participation. Something tells me he's trying to say "this isn't right, why not" and I have to say, I agree with him. I just wanted to pick out two HIGHLY viewed easily recognized Posts. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:49
@jcole it just means Jon has to play the expert game of striving for accepted answers and/or bounties to exceed the daily cap. You could argue that anyone with 20,000+ answers would also have to play at the expert level. I'd also say anyone with that many answers probably deserves +200/day just for their existing contributions which other users found valuable and voted up. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 19:51
@JeffAtwood and I don't think that Jon is at all against the expert game of striving for accepted answers, I think the point is he doesn't need to earn enough necrorep daily to stay at the top of the pile. He should be earning rep daily through new participation. Is old participation really that valuable, or do we want to advance the state of the art in every potential way? –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:53
@jon if that is the concern, then why not argue for a per-post cap at +200 to +500 or something (+100 seems absurdly low to me), in addition to the daily cap. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 19:54
I'd also say that the "game" of getting accepted answers probably isn't the best one for the community as a whole. I'd rather be rewarded for putting significant time into a thoughtful post than trying to get the right answer to an easy question 5 seconds before Darin does. Of course I hope I do that anyway, but it would be nice if the system would align with higher goals :) –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 19:54
Note that a per-post rep limit (without getting rid of the daily limit) was suggested ages ago –  Michael Mrozek Jun 14 '12 at 19:57
(Oh, and as an aside - thanks for engaging rather than just closing/locking the post. I know you're tired of the whole topic.) –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:00
@jon I think we should analyze the data again and predict what would happen if such a change was instituted, per my answer here meta.stackexchange.com/a/136065/1 –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 20:01
@Jeff those stats are fine, but I think the issue discussed here is more of a psychological/social nature. Knowing that there is a cap on bike-sheddy answers is fairer to everyone, and discourages gaining rep which a bike-sheddy answer of your own. Even though in absolute terms, any gain is usually eaten up by the daily cap anyways. It's more like broken windows. –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 20:05
I thought signatures werent allowed ;) –  Austin Henley Jun 14 '12 at 21:05

I'm not really for or against the rep cap. But I strongly dislike your proposed replacements. Even if they solved a real problem (which I don't think they do, for the same reason I'm not a staunch supporter of the rep cap), they are too harmful in themselves to be a good solution to anything.

For any given post, impose a cap of +100 rep from votes.

10 upvotes is too low (it's a bronze badge!). I could agree to a higher limit, say +500. I could also agree to a per-day-and-post limit, but it gets really complicated.

Votes on posts over 6 months old have no impact on reputation.

I am categorically opposed to that. A post that gets 20 upvotes, one per month, gets them because it's been helpful to 20 different logged-in users. A post that gets 20 upvotes in the 24 hours after it's been posted helped one person and was popular besides. If anything, posts that keep giving should be rewarded more than instant flares, not less.

Prevention of a user with one (or a few) good answers from getting privileges quickly: yup.

Yeah, sure, but one-hit wonders are generally not a problem. So they had a very popular post that propulsed them to… well, if they had 200 upvotes over sufficiently long, they'll be able to edit without supervision. How many one-hit wonders got 200 upvotes and went on a bad edit binge? You seem to be solving a non-problem.

Avoiding "rich get richer" syndrome: yup. Good answers will rapidly get to the cap, and you can't even rely on a huge number of old answers to give you "interest" due to the 6 month limit.

It also means that others can't catch up by posting even more good stuff. Besides, the cap does this in a more reasonable way, without penalizing users who don't post often but write good posts with lasting value.

Encouraging you to step away from the community: nope, it doesn't do this. Ah well.

I think this is the main point of the rep cap. I guess you don't care for it, and I don't really care for it either, but so what? What good would it do for you to have another 200k rep (or however much it is) on SO?

Also, keep in mind that outside SO, the rep cap is not easily reached. Outside SO, there are 4 Legendary badges on TeX, 3 on Math, and 1 on MSO, SU and U&L. (Did I forget anyone?) People who hit the cap once or twice aren't affected much overall. People who hit the cap regularly are outliers, they are not who the system should be optimized for.

share|improve this answer
+1 for "posts that keep giving should be rewarded more than instant flares, not less." (+more if I could). Great response to a poor (imo) proposal. –  chown Jun 18 '12 at 3:33
Just posted a similar sentiment about posts with legs deserving ongoing rewards. meta.stackexchange.com/a/136511/185951 –  CodeGnome Jun 18 '12 at 8:26


If it's a rankings issue, let's fix it with a new league or two instead of changing the reputation system.


I don't think the problem is either the daily cap or necro-rep. I am currently ranked in the top 0.20% for the month, despite being new, having (relatively) low reputation, and never once having hit the daily rate cap.

While I agree that it feels skewed to have people collecting 200+ necro-rep a day without having to work at it, I'm not sure that this is a real problem for anything other than how one ranks in the leagues. While I would certainly support a new league that factors out necro-rep, I don't really see a legitimate problem with the status quo.

I will probably never get the level of necro-rep as folks who've been on S.O. since it went live--but then again, if I ever get to 20k, is there even any point to more rep, other than vanity or a way to compete with my friends?

Put it another way: By the time you're getting enough necro-rep to really coast, you've probably already paid your dues getting to 10k or 20k. If there's a statistical anomaly where someone is coasting on a single post or three, well, who cares? At the end of the day, rep is just a proxy for other things, and means exactly what you want it to mean--no more, no less.

If it's a rankings issue, let's fix it with a new league or two. Changing the daily reputation cap just seems like it's fixing the wrong problem.

share|improve this answer
I tend to agree that what is proposed here is deep changes for everyone when the actual problem is keeping users with 20k+ great answers engaged. And admittedly we will have many more of these users in the next 1,2,3,4,5 .. 10 years. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 20:48
From a pure game-playing standpoint, users collecting 200 necro-rep regularly is a disincentive to new users: You will never catch them, you will never even get close, and the best you can do is hope to hold your current distance forever. Ideally we are all in this to learn and help others learn, but if we consider "the game" as an important aspect of the Stack Exchange sites then why not strive for game mechanics that help the little guy catch up? –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 20:51
A new league which didn't have a reputation cap at all would be interesting. It's not just the ability to gain 200 without doing any work which is irksome - it's the fact that any effort you do put in has no reflected reward (beyond acceptance), due to the cap. –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:52
+! @JeffAtwood, though there aren't many answers to that problem. Increase the rep at which a user obtains privileges and hope you keep the new users wanting more or add more privileges ( probably not possible ). It's a problem that won't be solved by the rep cap alone. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 14 '12 at 20:53
@JonSkeet Personally, I'd also love to see a league that discounted necro-rep. It wouldn't take anything away from folks like you who've earned it the hard way, but it would be a way for people like me to see how they're currently ranked against other active posters for recent content. –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 20:56
@CodeGnome: Yes, absolutely! So maybe a weekly/monthly league which included all rep (uncapped) but only from posts made in that week/month, yes? –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:58
@JonSkeet Sounds good to me. If you got 1,376,217 votes this week on a new post, and I got three, that would at least be comparing apples to apples. --Seriously, though, I think your suggestion is a good one; I like it. :) –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 21:04
This sounds much more workable (and interesting) than an alternative cap system. Cool. –  Shogging through the snow Jun 14 '12 at 21:06
@JonSkeet About the only thing I'd add is that it should be a sliding window. In other words, the "last week" (or whatever time period) should be a rolling window, rather than a fixed calendar week. That way, you're not penalizing people who were more active at the end of the calendar week, or propping up people who were more active only at the beginning of the calendar week--instead you're averaging over a 7 day period. Make sense? –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 21:10
@voretaq7: "help the little guy catch up". If a user is answering on SO in order to gain reputation to win a league, I'd rather they find somewhere else to "play" to be honest. If the system discourages that behavior, all the better for those of us who are here to solve problems. We've got enough crap questions and answers as it is. –  user7116 Jun 15 '12 at 0:18
@sixlettervariables If you're against the whole idea of rep, I'm sure that the SO staff will be happy to "fix" your account so that you can answer questions forever without any gain in reputation. I'm sure that they are as eager as we are to make sure you aren't improperly incentivized to make worthless posts. –  CodeGnome Jun 15 '12 at 0:30
@CodeGnome: you seem to have missed the point. Changing the reputation system to encourage "league play" is bad. Reputation is an indirect metric for community trust and time dedication. I don't think we'd lose any quality posts if folks concerned about reputation (or flag weight) decided to go elsewhere. –  user7116 Jun 15 '12 at 0:43
@sixlettervariables The pros and cons surrounding gamification of asking/answering questions is a subject for debate elsewhere. For better or worse the Stack Exchange network has (very successfully) "game-ified" the process (arguably with good results). All I'm saying is if we're going to be a game let's be one where it's possible for a brilliant newbie to equal the reputation of a Jon Skeet without extraordinary circumstances having to unfold. Let it truly measure "trust and time dedication". If Jon left today he'd still be nigh-uncatchable because of necro-rep... –  voretaq7 Jun 15 '12 at 0:57
@voretaq7: Who cares if nobody "catches" Jon. If his answers are garnering that sort of attention after X years have passed and he's moved on...I would say his community trust continues. –  user7116 Jun 15 '12 at 0:59
@voretaq7: What playing field are we leveling here? Stack Overflow exists to get people answers to questions. I submit that users who provide quality content will gain reputation over time faster than those who do not. Your concern over this model is akin to a new theoretical physicist complaining that they cannot eclipse Albert Einstein because even though he is no longer contributing to the field of theoretical physics people keep praising him... –  user7116 Jun 15 '12 at 3:16

I am kind of amazed how all the answers seem to miss the mark regarding of the actual intent of the rep cap (even Jeff's one only alludes to it):

rep cap is at the heart of what Stack Exchange promotes:

Ie, not posting stuff just for the sake of it, but putting answers to... actually answer the user's question

In other words, whatever the number of votes you are getting everyday (and however you are getting them), the only way to increase your rep is by posting an answer selected by the user.

This is pure genius: the system is geared not to blindly post stuff, but to actually incite you to... err... answer the user's problem!
(as in: the original poster will select your answer as "the right one".
What Jeff calls the "expert game").

Does the rep cap has some unwelcome side-effects? I suppose so.

Could we imagine some additional criteria able to better reflect the quality of the participation of newcomers on Stack Exchange? Certainly.

But whatever changes/tweaks/evolutions you want to make, you need to keep that feature (system geared to answer the user's question) at the very center of it.

share|improve this answer
We do have a fair number of 'zombie' questioners who ask a question and never learn enough about the system to accept an answer as correct. I'd rather not increase the whinging about these questioners; making reputation depend more upon accepted and less upon upvotes is bound to increase demands for letting community or moderators change accepted answer status. –  sarnold Jun 14 '12 at 23:00
Disagree. Acceptance is a relatively uninteresting phenomenon. years later, the fact that an answer was accepted is prone to be irrelevant. –  Rosinante Jun 15 '12 at 1:44
@Rosinante: non-sense: when a user has a problem, he/she doesn't care about "years later". The user cares about now and solving the issue as fast as possible. If you find an answer which is obsolete (months or years later), edit it (see the edit revisions of stackoverflow.com/posts/7514377/revisions), or proposes a new one and the user can select it as the new official answer (which happened to me - I lost the official answer status - with this more recent and up-to-date one: stackoverflow.com)/a/8858853/6309) –  VonC Jun 15 '12 at 7:15
@sarnold: are those "zombie" questioners such a large group they are really a problem? The privileges they gain with that rep isn't even an issue (since they don't care about the system, they won't use said privileges). I don't think there is enough of them to worry about. Rep for question is already half the rep for answer to limit their "whinging" anyway. –  VonC Jun 15 '12 at 7:17
You missed the point. He wants to tighten the rep cap, not eliminate it. –  jcolebrand Jun 15 '12 at 15:44
@VonC: I thought your proposal was to award more weight to accepted answers and less weight to upvoted answers -- i.e., giving more power to the individual questioners. My comment about the zombie questioners was based on trying to prevent the whining from people answering those questions -- if they can no longer gain much reputation from their peers, they'll whine. –  sarnold Jun 18 '12 at 23:46
@sarnold: ok, but my answer wasn't a proposal. Just a reminder of what a "rep cap" actual does (ie keeping the heavy contributors honest, making them write not just "another answer", but the best one possible in order to be selected and actually solving the initial issue) –  VonC Jun 19 '12 at 0:26
@VonC: Ah, I must have misunderstood this line then: the only way to increase your rep is by posting an answer selected by the user. Thanks! –  sarnold Jun 19 '12 at 0:38

As I understand it, the purpose of this alternate system is to provide greater incentive to high-rep users in order for them to continue to participate in SO. The question is this: does it matter?

In general, if you've broken 20K rep, you're pretty active on SO. You answer a lot of questions and you probably ask some good ones. In all likelihood, you frequent SO and spend quite a bit of time here.

At this point, odds are good that you don't really care about reputation anymore. You're here to provide good answers to good questions. Or to help the site in other ways. You don't need an incentive anymore; we've already got you.

So let's keep the incentive focus on the lower-rep users.

As a side effect: this encourages regular, continued participation.

It also encourages obsessive participation, which is not a thing that should be encouraged. I personally like the feeling of hitting rep cap, like a job well done. I've done my part for the day, time to step back and let others handle it.

There are always more questions, yes. But there are also other people who deserve that rep too. It shouldn't all go to whomever has the most time to spend on SO.

Now yes, in the case of a Jon Skeet, who can hit the rep-cap based on old questions, that's a problem. But I wouldn't want to fundamentally break the system over an outlier.

share|improve this answer
He's not the only one, by far. –  jcolebrand Jun 15 '12 at 0:27

I recently went on holiday, and hardly posted during that time. I very easily hit the rep cap every day, and suspect I could do so for some time.

I suspect this is the real motivation for this request. I can't make much sense out of wanting more rep when you already have so much. But not seeing a measurable difference whether you show up or not certainly makes the number pretty meaningless.

The solution is simple. Create a new account.

share|improve this answer
No, you misunderstand the intent. He already posts lots of new answers every single day. As a matter of fact, he has well over 20k answers on the site. You can't do 20k answers by sitting on your thumb. The problem is that old answers don't show contribution to the site. Old answers only show that you contributed in the past. We should be recognized for our old contributions, but not rewarded. –  jcolebrand Jun 15 '12 at 15:41

I like the idea, with three caveats:

  1. I would make the rep cap +200 per question (for no other reason than to be in line with +200/day).
  2. I think votes should count regardless of question/answer age, until the cap has been reached.
  3. I would keep a daily rep cap of +200 across all questions in place to enforce the need for sustained interaction in order to gain privileges.

This seems like a relatively simple way to deal with questions that get posted on reddit and the like as well - multiple days of drive-by upvotes won't rep-cap a user for a whole week anymore and artificially inflate their reputation.

share|improve this answer
I'd also argue that down-votes should always count. No time limit. –  ChrisF Jun 14 '12 at 19:46
@ChrisF Agreed - I'm undecided on if the downvotes should be independent (i.e. +21/-1 would only net +198 rep), but I tend to lean that way because of how unbalanced upvotes and downvotes are in terms of rep effects. That's a separate question/answer/rant though :) –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 19:55
@voretaq7 what do you think of my edit –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:59
@jcolebrand Mixed feelings - the prorating idea is interesting, but it's also a lot more complex. Might be hard to massage and tweak it to have the desired effect, but there's definitely potential there. I'd have to game it out with a few hypothetical posts of different ages / vote ratios –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 20:03
@voretaq7 see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6823/… –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 20:05
@ChrisF This is similar to a recent discussion about allowing only upvotes on discussions. If you're going to allow downvotes, you need to allow upvotes, too. –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 20:53
@CodeGnome I disagree solely on the basis that a downvote is -2 rep, and under any of the schemes proposed it would take an inordinate number of downvotes to even zero out the scale (see my earlier comment). –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 20:59

Another option...

If we think it's important that people don't get privileges without taking a certain amount of time on the site, how about:

  • Replace the daily rep cap as per my original question (perhaps with modifications, such as raising the per-post limit)
  • Add a "number of active days on site" requirement for each privilege. EDIT: This wouldn't replace the rep requirement - it would be an additional requirement.

This would be better than either the existing or original proposal when it comes to privilege: neither the "absurdly enthusiastic but inexperienced" nor the "one good post then desertion" would get privileges, but the former would have the credit due to them for posting a lot of good content.

I suspect this option wasn't available when the site first came up, as I don't think we had the concept of "active days" per user - but now it seems pretty natural. If you want a user to have been active for an amount of time, let's use that metric directly instead of the surrogate metric of "rep with an artificial rate limit".

share|improve this answer
still, adds a lot of complexity to fix something that really is not broken for users who don't have 20,000 great answers like you do. I agree that once we have 100+ users with 20,000+ great answers, there needs to be another layer of participation available to these users who will statistically get +200 rep every day -- but that does not mean the existing system is broken for the vast number of users with just a few hundred answers, or less. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 20:24
I really like the surrogate metric of "minimum days active" and possibly "average active days" (or something like that) –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 20:27
I think rep as a privilege arbitration system (with both per-post and per-day caps) is a simpler approach. "Active Days" leaves the determination of "active" open to interpretation (I know a lot of people, myself included, who pop in to a site and click around a bit to get the Fanatic badge, but I wouldn't say I was "active" on all of those days). Requiring a post/comment/etc. every day may help, but it's still less than ideal IMHO. –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 20:27
What voretaq says - this part of the system is not fundamentally broken for new users. I've watched a couple of great users, with mega-repz today, start out. They grasp the system from day one, start out with great answers, and if they are really interested in the community, they'll just patiently work "their way up". It's an imperfect, but still pretty organic way to grow into the site, while a "days active" stat would always be easy to game –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 20:32
@Pekka: I wasn't suggesting that would be the sole requirement. I'd include rep as well. You'd have to be regularly "active" (at least visiting the site) as well as having enough rep. I'll edit the post to make this clearer. –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:38
@JeffAtwood: Adds a lot of complexity? You're already keeping track of active days per user - it just adds a second requirement field for each privilege, and a comparison of that value against the already-tracked number of days. Compared with the genuinely complex things the team works on every day, I'd expect this to be a walk in the park :) –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:40
@Jon ahh, I see, that makes sense. Then my only argument against this would be, as said in the comments above, that the rep cap may be protecting some users' sanity who focus more on the gamification aspect than we do. But that's a different discussion –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 20:43
@Pekka: Indeed. It's also one where as Jeff has alluded to, it just changes the game from votes to acceptances (or bounty). –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:44
@Jon true - although those are arguably much harder games to play in a constant way. Only a handful manages to do that at all –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 20:46
I still view it as quite counter to he goals of the rep system, to enable people to obtain even more rep faster than they did before. Putting in extra "fixes" for this would be bandaging the wound we've self-inflicted. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 20:46
@JeffAtwood: But I thought your objection was to people getting privileges faster when they didn't know how to use them yet? To ask again: if two users give the same number of answers of the same quality, why on earth should it matter in terms of rep if one of them posted those answers a month apart vs the other posting them all on the same day? Has the former really given more benefit to the community? –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 20:54
@JonSkeet I think Jeff's argument is that "time in days" is a proxy for community involvement. It's an imperfect metric, but I can't think of a better one offhand--and no, participation on meta is not a good substitute. –  CodeGnome Jun 14 '12 at 21:00
@CodeGnome: Why would elapsed time in days be a better proxy than active days, however easily gamed the activity might be? –  Jon Skeet Jun 15 '12 at 5:54
@JonSkeet I don't want to become the apologist for the policy or the implementation here, but I think the answer is that upvotes are a poor measure of activity. A low cap requires more days at max rep to reach a given level, meaning more acculturation time if one remains engaged throughout. post_volume / post_quality might be a better activity metric, but then you have to define post quality--by what, upvotes again? And how do you measure acculturation at all? That's why I called it a proxy for measuring involvement. –  CodeGnome Jun 15 '12 at 6:11
@CodeGnome: Sure, upvotes are a poor measure of activity. But "upvotes with a rate limit" is also a poor measure of activity. I can't see how that would be better than "upvotes + a number of active days" metric. Yes, involvement can be faked, but even the act of deliberately faking activity shows some interest in the site, vs posting a single good answer and then leaving, returning to find significant accrued privileges. –  Jon Skeet Jun 15 '12 at 6:16

I propose a combination of other suggestions from this discussion ( most close are voretaq7's answer and Jeff Atwood's comment

  1. Keep current the 200 daily reputation cap (for the reasons discussed here ).

  2. Introduce total 500 cap per question/answer

  3. Introduce 5 years age limit for upvotes/downvotes to affect reputation.

  4. Introduce new Recent Content reputation leagues( CodeGnome's answer and Chris's suggestion )

500 cap per question/answer will impact not too many people (and those have relatively high reputation anyway), so it should not be opposed by the community. If I've got 50 up-votes for the answer, I already know, that it is useful, and not interesting too much is the actual number 50 or 80. And I still can get great question/answer badge, when score will be 100.

5 years age limit will not effect anyone(yet), but will slightly reduce disadvantage in reputation of more recent members of the community.

share|improve this answer
500 cap per answer is 50 upvotes, but on qustion it's 100 upvotes. Why? Let it keep consistent, say, only first 50 votes count. 5 zears age limit - as good we could keep no limit. But 6 months as proposed, it's simply too little. –  РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ Jun 27 '13 at 6:50

So if I can boil this down into a nutshell, because the stream of comments is already getting too long: are we talking about "prorated vote worth" both in terms of daily velocity and age of response?

I agree with the sentiment that just because you had contributions months ago, does not mean that you're "highly valued" by the current community. You probably are, but the one does not enforce the concepts of the other.

I do like the sentiment that necrorep isn't highly important, especially as your rep increases, but I think that necrorep is important.

CW because this isn't an answer, but is a request to review the tl;dr recap


Adding in my suggestion, so that it floats up, now that it seems some consensus is here, so that someone else can mold it further:

I think that posts should have "prorated vote worth", because I think that it's important that they keep getting upvotes, and that they should be rewarded, but I feel it should wear down smoothly.

Maybe the max you can earn from one excellent post is 1000 rep, and the first ten are at max value, then (max-1) pts per ten, then (max-2) pts, etc, leveling out at 1 pt for the remaining upvotes.

Downvotes would still count against, so the highest possible drops to 998 max ... 996 max ... 994 max ... etc.

(using the notation of max - 1 because Q are 5, A are 10, right? :p)

We still keep the +100 rep cap per day per post, and we still keep the +200 rep cap per user per day (not counting accepts or bounties)

And after some discussion with others, I now think that 9's is the better scale, and cap at 500, keeping in line with discussions from others. Let's you build to the same end-goal, and it's reasonable that an amazing question may actually be worthy of 500 rep (really just to keep all "post" processing to one target instead of two).

By 9's scale, I mean:

9 votes at 10: 90
9 votes at  9: 81
9 votes at  8: 72
9 votes at  7: 63
9 votes at  6: 54
9 votes at  5: 45
9 votes at  4: 36
9 votes at  3: 27
9 votes at  2: 18
14 votes at 1: 14

9 votes at  5: 45
9 votes at  4: 36
9 votes at  3: 27
9 votes at  2: 18
              126 <-- that's actually not a bad rep for a question with 36 upvotes, is it?
374     at 1: 374

However, others are saying "step down in 2s, so 10 -> 8 -> 6" so that's a potential.

share|improve this answer
More than just that - I think the "every post has a maximum potential value" is actually the most important aspect. A post which has garnered 1000 votes over the course of a year (at a few per day) isn't really so good that the user deserves 10K rep for that one answer, IMO. –  Jon Skeet Jun 14 '12 at 19:44
@jon that's a bit of a strawman though, since the "questions" those answers are on tend to be bikeshed/opinion in nature and really should never have been allowed in the first place. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 19:45
@Jon would the per-post rep limit be something that is worth discussing on its own, then? –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:45
Hence "prorated vote worth", because I think that it's important that they keep getting upvotes, and that they should be rewarded, but I wonder if a solid cap is the way to go, or if it should wear down smoothly. Maybe the max you can earn from one excellent post is 1000 rep, and the first ten are at max value, then 9 pts per ten, then 8 pts, etc, leveling out at 1 pt for the remaining upvotes. Downvotes count against, so 998 max, 996 max, 994 max, etc. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:45
@Pekka I think "per-post-rep-limit" is what mr "all time highest rep" is trying to "fix". I think that's the point of this post. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:46
@Jeff not all of them. An individual cap might even help having more calm discussions about what should be deleted and what shouldn't. I'm not saying people are rep-envious but seeing a (in your opinion) crap post gaining thousands of points does add emotional fuel –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:46
@jcolebrand not completely: Jon is arguing in favour of getting rid of the per-day limit. I mean keeping the per-day limit, and adding the per-post one –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:47
Oh I see, that is a good point. I think if we keep the per-day then we limit the per-post to something well beyond 100 rep, but that's just me. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:48
@Jeff I can show you some from my very own account - and I'm sure they're not the worst cases. eg stackoverflow.com/questions/6992793 (which I'm considering deleting) stackoverflow.com/questions/1683843 which is a correct answer, but does it deserve 450 (theoretical) points? stackoverflow.com/questions/5103283 40 upvotes for a manual link because the OP happened to miss it? My point is, over time, the bike shed effect takes place on all sorts of answers. I see users who have accrued a lot of rep (north of 50k) by answering brain-dead questions with manual links. –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:49
@pekka those seem like totally valid answers to me, and people continue to find them useful. I could maybe support a per-post rep cap IN ADDITION TO the daily cap to prevent some of the insanity, but much higher, at like +200 ~ +500 –  Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '12 at 19:53
Don't worry about deleting (if you could on accepted) @pekka the new rules state that even if the question never belonged, because it's over 60 days and everyone has more than +3, they keep all that rep –  random Jun 14 '12 at 19:53
@Jeff yeah, that sounds most sensible to me, too –  Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 19:53
@JeffAtwood so that's what I'm saying, daily rep-cap and per-post rep cap but I think that we should recognize really good answers well past 500 rep. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 19:54
The big advantage in the decaying momentum approach is a 5 year old post may still gain some rep for the user if people find it useful (and it hasn't already hit its max potential) - I can get behind this for that reason alone. –  voretaq7 Jun 14 '12 at 20:25
@voretaq7 that's precisely what I mean. We need to give some decaying momentum, but it doesn't have to be a whirlwind and then nothing. I literally think decayed momentum is the way to go. I'm even inclined to introduce an aging factor to artificially advance votes to the next "tier" but that seems even more grossly complicated and the sort of thing that I would only do if I were really bored, or really wanted to push the edge of rep. –  jcolebrand Jun 14 '12 at 20:28

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