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The problem with reputation: does high reputation attract too many upvotes?

The idea of getting greater privileges with greater reputation is good, but what is the benefit of publicly displaying that reputation? Since SO claims to be about good questions and answers, that purpose is better served if the reputation is only visible to the account owner (and, of course, the site admins). This would better ensure that content gets pushed up solely by its merit, and not based on the author. (See The problem with reputation: does high reputation attract too many upvotes?)

Edit (copied from comment to an answer below): Once you have gathered high reputation, you can also gather more reputation with ordinary answers, especially from newbies (newbies on the topic, not on the site) who usually choose to accept or upvote an answer on the assumption that "since a high-rep user has posted it, it is probably right". Can you guarantee that doesn't happen often?

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marked as duplicate by Martijn Pieters, Toon Krijthe, Rory, Manishearth, Tyler Carter Dec 27 '12 at 5:15

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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The other question is just like "Why do rich people have all the money?". Some people have high rep because most of their posts are good and get upvoted. Think about it, how did they get all the rep in the first place?! –  Bo Persson Dec 26 '12 at 17:46
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@BoPersson I keep my rep in a high-yield CD, so although i never provide helpful questions or answers i continue to stay rich on the interest alone! –  d-_-b Dec 26 '12 at 17:52
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@BoPersson Yes, think about it. Gathering reputation does not guarantee that all future answers are equally good (or even good at all). Also you can gather reputation by asking and answering a lot of questions, not necessarily with good quality. Moreover, giving great answers for text editor questions does not automatically make one a functional programming guru. –  Happy Dec 26 '12 at 18:03
    
If you check the numbers, you will see that the frequent posters actually earn less rep per post than the rest of us. If you write 10 answers a day, you can only count 2 upvotes per post before you hit the rep cap. The rest of the votes are lost. –  Bo Persson Dec 26 '12 at 18:06
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It's part of the gamification aspect of the site, it encourages competition and therefore, urges you to put higher quality content into the site. IOW, it's one of the many mechanisms that are in place to encourage you to continue to contribute high quality content to the site. –  casperOne Dec 26 '12 at 18:26
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I agree with you that more often than not, users with very high rep get upvoted tremendously for mediocre answers. It's a people problem. –  asteri Dec 26 '12 at 18:46
    
What would be the point of having a reputation score if nobody could see it? –  Robert Harvey Dec 26 '12 at 21:02
    
Hang in there, @ap, fight the good fight. –  Chris Gerken Dec 27 '12 at 3:23
    
@MartijnPieters Oh really? I wonder whether you have read the question fully. A link to that question is included in this question. I would not have asked this question if that other question addressed the matter. –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 4:58
    
@RobertHarvey The question starts with "The idea of getting greater privileges with greater reputation is good". Does that answer your question? Maybe you should read the FAQ again. ;) –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:10
    
What the hell are you talking about?? –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '12 at 5:11
    
Duh! You asked: What would be the point of having a reputation score if nobody could see it? The FAQ says: But the more reputation you earn, the more privileges you gain. That is the hell I am talking about. –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:17
    
ha ha ha, don't want to challenge status quo, so closing as exact duplicate. What a bunch of losers! –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:19

6 Answers 6

I am proud of my rep and I want other people to see it and be jealous!

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as awesome and funny as this comment might be.... THIS IS CORRECT! publicly displaying rep is a great motivational factor to check the site everyday.. "Ohhh did i get more points? how can I get more points!!" is probably many people's motivation. and stack exchange likes repeated loyal visitors. –  d-_-b Dec 26 '12 at 17:50
    
I see it. Hmm... not jealous. –  Chris Gerken Dec 27 '12 at 3:16
    
@iight (and to all those who upvoted) Read this part of the question again: "This would better ensure that content gets pushed up solely by its merit, and not based on the author." I understand and appreciate the humor, but it doesn't address the point raised. –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:01

Reputation:

  1. the estimation in which a person or thing is generally held; opinion
  2. a high opinion generally held about a person or thing; esteem
  3. notoriety or fame, esp for some specified characteristic
  4. have a reputation to be known or notorious, esp for promiscuity, excessive drinking, or the like

If it's not publicly-known, it's not reputation.

This isn't just linguistic pedantry; the design of Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange, from the beginning, included the idea of reputation, a public indicator of how much a community trusts any given contributor. A private points system would be a very different thing.

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Thanks for the nitpicking. By "reputation" I meant the "number" below the signature on answers. If the name is changed to "privilege points", then is it still required to display it publicly? –  Happy Dec 26 '12 at 18:07
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Well, part of the point is that "reputation" was designed in from the beginning as a way to provide feedback to everybody. You could make a private-points-based system, but I think we'd see some pretty different behaviors. Four years in, should Stack Exchange make that kind of change? –  Monica Cellio Dec 26 '12 at 18:10
    
Why not? If it makes the site better, then surely yes. (I am not assuming it does, that's what the question asks.) Refusing to change something only because it has been around for a while means that nothing can ever change. –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:05

People view public reputation as a motivator to gather more. They can gather more by posting great questions and answers.

Hiding the ability to compare reputations would remove that motivator.

Your fear that people with high reputation get more 'automatic' votes by newbies is unfounded.

First of all, people with high reputation have earned that reputation by being knowledgable about the subject, so often their answers are correct.

Secondly, newbies can just as likely award the 'accepted answer' flag to a lower-rep answerer 'because they need the points more' (and yes, I've had apologetic comments on my answers like that).

Statistically speaking, it's the best answers that get the upvotes. Keep providing good, knowledgable and helpful answers, and you'll be a high-rep user yourself in no time.

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Once you have gathered high reputation, you can also gather more reputation with ordinary answers, especially from newbies (newbies on the topic, not on the site) who usually choose to accept or upvote an answer on the assumption that "since a high-rep user has posted it, it is probably right". Can you guarantee that doesn't happen often? –  Happy Dec 26 '12 at 17:49
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I've also seen people give the accepted answer to someone else because I 'have plenty of points already". It cuts both ways. –  Martijn Pieters Dec 26 '12 at 17:56
    
And I can guarantee that usually, statistically speaking, the best answer wins. Having high reputation doesn't exempt you from having to provide a helpful answer to the stated question. –  Martijn Pieters Dec 26 '12 at 18:21
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High rep does affect which answers get upvoted and which do not. This has been observed by Jon Skeet in multiple posts. In one post, he got lots of upvotes even before he had posted a complete answer to the problem. He himself commented on that later as well as posted on meta. Its not like the problem does not exist. –  AsheeshR Dec 27 '12 at 3:18
    
> I've also seen people give the accepted answer to someone else because I 'have plenty of points already". There again you have a problem. An answer gets accepted based on the author's reputation, not based on its relative merit. –  Happy Dec 27 '12 at 5:13
    
@AshRj: Yet he is sensitive to comments, as are voters. I've seen posts of mine, that I didn't immediately realize had a crucial error, upvoted perhaps because I have high rep, then downvoted again after a commenter pointed out the error. At such times I'm grateful for the feedback and correct the mistake, and the problem is corrected on it's own, the system working as intended. –  Martijn Pieters Dec 27 '12 at 18:09
    
@AshRj: I don't think this is such a big problem, and if it is, it is not limited to SO, but to all social systems; anyone with social standing has a responsibility that comes with that standing because people tend to trust those those with a certain standing. Regular contributors with high rep have that standing, but are also aware of the responsibility that comes with that. –  Martijn Pieters Dec 27 '12 at 18:10

If anything, I found that higher reputation implied a higher standard of quality that a user should be held to, at least in my experience. After I crossed a few thousand, I noticed that it was increasingly harder to get up votes if one of my answers omitted even the most trivial details. Granted, I participated mostly in the C/C++ tags which attract a tougher crowd than many, but I genuinely felt that more was expected of me as I climbed higher up the ladder.

I also noticed down votes for things I didn't do, such as neglecting to edit a rather poor quality question after proving that I could understand its intent by answering it. I specifically remember someone going bat crap nuts under one of my answers because I failed to re-tag a question after answering it. Then I got dinged a few times for answering stuff after voting to close it, when all I wanted to do was keep things clean but give the poor soul something to start with (it was just a train wreck question).

As for reputation skewing voting so that those with it get more while newcomers starve? I started off at 1 and worked my way to nearly 18,000 rep, after being elected moderator mid way - and I'm not even a real programmer, I bend bananas for a living.

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I've noticed the same dynamic -- the "he's high rep so he should know better" factor. (Not a complaint, just an observation.) –  Monica Cellio Dec 27 '12 at 5:03

At a first look, the reliability of the answer also depends on the reputation.It may happen that one with high reputation makes a mistake as well, and that gets corrected by one with lower reputation.Of course that's totally possible, and also happens frequently.
But when there is a divergence there is the need to decide what's the truth.This should be done just watching the documentation and providing facts to show that you're right.
But this never ends: at the end, who decides what's the truth? You may look in Microsoft documentation and say that the documentation is wrong, you could even argue with microsoft.
So it's an indicator of the reliability of the answerer.Just for a first approach.

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It's double-edged, to me.

  • High reputation usually means that, if a person answers a question, they know what they're talking about.
  • It serves as a decent motivator. I wouldn't mind having north of 40K reputation someday myself!
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The system is too poorly regulated to guarantee this. I've seen users get huge numbers of upvotes for answers to very simple questions and experts get no upvotes at all for answers to very hard questions. It's just a game with rules. The only thing you know about a user with higher rep is that they have a higher rep. –  Chris Gerken Dec 27 '12 at 3:22
    
I'll give you that - I recall an instance in which a user had something like 10K or more rep with only (poor) questions, which is why I consider it double-edged. High rep usually means that someone knows what they're talking about when they answer a question, but as with all advice, a grain of salt should be handy. –  Makoto Dec 27 '12 at 3:34
    
So maybe high rep = "plays the game well"? –  Chris Gerken Dec 27 '12 at 4:12

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