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I have been wondering for a bit about the following: as users search for answers, if the right question/answer is found, they are likely to simply upvote it and move on. Such votes will give the original answerer some reputation for something he wrote perhaps a year ago.

There's nothing wrong with that, it's well deserved reputation but, it also means, for those motivated to compete on reputation rankings, the gap between top users and themselves is far more than the difference in points: you need to consider the daily reputation coming from the previous work.

I was wondering if this was a correct assumption, so I took the Data Explorer API to give it a shot. I know my calculation is very arguable, and I welcome corrections and improvements!

Based on my data explorer query* here is the rough estimate of reputation that old, high-reputation users receive daily even if they don't log on to the site (with some midfielders for comparison)

User               UserId Reputation AccountAgeInDays OldReputationPerDay
Jon Skeet           22656     452.915           1.380                 248
Darin Dimitrov      29407     329.102           1.357                  87    
Marc Gravell        23354     317.213           1.377                 107    
BalusC             157882     289.105           1.055                 120    
Dimitre Novatchev   36305      86.959           1.334                  12    
Jefromi            119963      42.441           1.124                  16

Barring mistakes (please point them out!) I think it is safe to asume that top users will get a significant percent of the top allowed daily reputation (200) daily, even if they don't log into the site for about a month.

I don't know if that's good or bad, the reputation is most certainly deserved, but it also means that reputation growth accelerates non-linearly with the number of answers, making it very hard to break into the top ranks.

What do you think? Is this intended? Has this been discussed before? Would you have some good idea on how to improve the system?

  • My criteria: I simply made a query that counts the total reputation a user has received because of votes that came more than one month after the post. You then divide the this number by the number of days since the creation of the account. It consider downvotes and excludes self-answers. Here it is: data explorer query and yes, I know this is very rough
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It is not difficult to reach 200 rep a day from new questions. – Oded Jul 7 '12 at 13:09
@Oded Not sure I follow your point: yes, a user could try and get 200rep a day every day for a year, and a top user could show up only every now and then, and at the end of the year, both would have the a similar reputation increase, but the first user has been giving answers to current questions daily, which I think is better for the community – Miquel Jul 7 '12 at 13:12
We'll never catch up to Jon Skeet. We'll just have to live with it. :( – Tudor Jul 7 '12 at 13:21
@Tudor he he he :) I don't have a problem with that :) I'm just worried about that sort of fatalism that we never will, and whether it could discourage people – Miquel Jul 7 '12 at 13:26
Your calculation doesn't take the rep cap into account. I expect I very rarely actually get even slightly that much reputation per day from old answers. I may get around 25 upvotes on average - but that's not the same as reputation. See also my recent "Revisiting the rep cap" question. – Jon Skeet Jul 7 '12 at 14:49
So Jon could get 0.01 rep per old answer per day. Well deserved, I say. I also believe that I earn at about the same rate, just being some 20k answers behind. – Bo Persson Jul 7 '12 at 15:12
Hey @JonSkeet, very happy to get your input on this. My rough calculation assumes that, to take your example, you'd get those 248 per day, capped to 200. The post you link states "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". It seems to me that you agree with the ballpark numbers, and I find your post on "Revisiting the rep cap" very insightful. That seems like a better place to continue that discussion. thx! – Miquel Jul 7 '12 at 20:09
@BoPersson I never said it wasn't deserved; however, as Jon himself says, the rep cap system is far from perfect, and it might be tweaked to improve the community; hence my discussing it here. I suggest we move it to Jon's post, though – Miquel Jul 7 '12 at 20:11
Other queries that might interest you: Votes breakdown by age, for each day; Late votes by time period; The long tail of votes. – Gilles Jul 7 '12 at 22:48
@Gilles hey, those are excellent queries. I'm glad people is looking int this. That's the community spirit I was hoping for :) – Miquel Jul 8 '12 at 8:06

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