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Reputation doesn't work quite as simply as:

Here's how it works: if you post a good question or helpful answer, it will be voted up by your peers: you gain 10 reputation points. If you post something that's off topic or incorrect, it will be voted down: you lose 2 reputation points. You can earn up to 200 reputation per day, but no more. (Note that votes for any posts marked "community wiki" do not generate reputation.)

There are rep recalculations, the cap isn't always 200 if things get removed, per day is not clearly defined. Sure all this stuff is defined in various posts via the meta site. But why not have an official page for the reputation rules? So change it to something like:

Here's how basically it works: if you post a good question or helpful answer, it will be voted up by your peers: you gain 10 reputation points. If you post something that's off topic or incorrect, it will be voted down: you lose 2 reputation points. You can earn up to 200 reputation per day, but no more. (Note that votes for any posts marked "community wiki" do not generate reputation.) If you want the details of all the ins and outs of reputation, which you probably don't really need to know, see the link:reputation rules.

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Rich B: Rolled back, I don't think the explanation should be changed. If you changed it to the full system, people would probably just thing 'This is just too complicated'. But there should be the details on an official page I think. –  Kyle Brandt Aug 13 '09 at 14:17
    
What you're asking for is impossible - even we don't know how it works! –  Jarrod Dixon Aug 14 '09 at 0:00
    
@Jarrod: Rep is calculated by the ghost in the machine? That's a good explanation! –  Ladybug Killer Aug 14 '09 at 6:47
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3 Answers

My suggestion for the official reputation page:

SO Logo

Reputation:

It's confusing, get over it.
You can gain it and/or lose it, that's the important part.

If you want reputation just ask good questions or provide good answers. The rest will take care of itself.

But, if you really must know, below is how it all works...


<Explain how the rep system really works, in full glorious detail>

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Add: Reputation is not currency. Stop trying to account for every single point. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 13 '09 at 13:57
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I think people like to know how things work, especially programmers / IT folks. It is the main thing what makes the site different from every other PHPBB forum... –  Kyle Brandt Aug 13 '09 at 14:10
    
I think it would be far too confusing to start talking about how every single point worked. There's many <s>intricacies</s> flaws, in the system that simply don't need to be discussed up front. I would immediately be turned off if there was a wall of all the conditions that could result in rep or not. –  Ian Elliott Aug 13 '09 at 15:01
    
I agree that it isn't the most attractive thing to new users. However, it should be documented clearly somewhere for people who actually wanna know. –  jjnguy Aug 13 '09 at 15:06
    
Ian: Exactly, that is why I figure keep what it says in the faq, and maybe just link to the details –  Kyle Brandt Aug 13 '09 at 15:34
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I hate walls of text:

post         |  Is Normal Post       |  Is Wiki Post        |  Max./Min
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
cool stuff   |  upvote   => 10 rep   |  upvote   => 0 rep   |  200 rep per day
crap         |  downvote => -2 rep   |  downvote => 0 rep   |  Oblivion (=1 rep)
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The problem with that is it doesn't explain all of the little complexities of the rep system. Then again, neither does my suggestion. –  jjnguy Aug 13 '09 at 14:05
    
We could keep that link, Klye Brandt suggested. –  Ladybug Killer Aug 13 '09 at 14:14
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How about just adding a small '?' or icon to each entry on the user's reputation history page that would link to a description of that particular reputation change (or lack thereof), or perhaps to a post on MSO describing that behavior.

Or, to keep the page clean, use the existing rep score icon and add a tooltip to it, or make it link to a description of that reputation change.

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