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If a marketplace existed for Reputation, it would render it completely meaningless and pointless for all Stack Exchange sites.

What's to stop someone from selling Reputation on a virtual currency auction site? A Seller could offer 500 Rep and then easily transfer it to the buyer through a Bounty, could they not?

Indeed, people are already searching for ways to do this:

enter image description here

Obviously many people don't consider Rep to be worth money, but I'm sure somebody does. How can Stack Exchange sites prevent this from ever becoming a reality?

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We already have a great community of users who are really good at tracking down and reporting this kind of behavior. I'd say the big ban-hammer would stop them. Ultimately, though, we can only control this on our network. We can't be responsible for users being taken advantage of and having both their account and their money stolen if a company elsewhere decides to allow these sales to take place (I'm pretty sure eBay wouldn't). –  animuson May 21 '13 at 13:00
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Also: don't overestimate what reputation gets you? It doesn't get you better answers when you ask a question and it doesn't get you more upvotes when you answer one (you'll actually get more downvotes, if you've got a bad highly-upvoted answer). It's just a number next to your user name. –  Joachim Sauer May 21 '13 at 13:20
    
Don't need to tell me -- but people still value it! –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 13:24
    
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We don't need a marketplace for reputation to be completely meaningless and pointless. –  user414076 May 21 '13 at 15:39
    
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Even if it happened, what difference would it make? Don't be distracted by the blinking lights. –  skinnyTOD Jul 13 '13 at 16:26
    
I don't really see the issue for this... I mean I sometimes peruse people's accounts and I can see where people gain their reputation. If I see them get a +500 bounty on an answer, I sometimes take a look, especially if it represents a large amount of their reputation. (This is because I am genuinely curious as to what sort of magnificent answer they gave so they deserved that much reputation. It shouldn't be hard to see them post a crappy answer and get rewarded for it to know their reputation is fake. –  aug Jul 14 '13 at 0:55
    
Wouldn't one ideally want to be selling an entire account? "Top n% on n tags, < n% for the year, n many helpful flags, n many gold badges..." etc...? –  Jon Clements Jul 14 '13 at 16:58
    
@DjangoReinhardt please give me your bank account details, I would like the bounty ;-) hahahahahahahahaha –  user223277 Jul 15 '13 at 12:11
    
Do I need to clarify that the above is a joke, don't want the cyber police knocking on my door –  user223277 Jul 15 '13 at 12:12
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Please don't drastically change a question after it has many answers, it removes context and creates an overall mismatch or addressed content. If the question changes that much, ask another question. –  Nick Craver Jul 16 '13 at 10:11
    
@NickCraver I didn't "drastically" change the question. –  Django Reinhardt Jul 16 '13 at 10:16
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You have, also buying is not selling, you have people searching for operation #2, when you're asking about #1. Plenty of people would just buy a congressman if it were for sale, ok bad example. –  Nick Craver Jul 16 '13 at 10:20
    
@NickCraver I actually think this is a fair edit, a little creepy that people want to buy it, the harder part is viably selling it –  user223277 Jul 16 '13 at 11:23
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10 Answers

that there's nothing really stopping someone from selling Reputation on a site like eBay

Sure there is, eBay explicitly doesn't allow this.

Besides that, I think this is a theoretical problem. If it ever happened, we have plenty of tools to deal with the account afterwards.

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From that link: "There are lots of sites out there that sell game gold and other virtual-items..." Also, how exactly would anyone be able to tell who had "sold" their rep? –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 15:46
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@DjangoReinhardt Let me pause you there, do you know of any instances of this happening? I could debate theoreticals all day but are we solving an actual problem here? I have about 93 problems that need solving today, but this one seems imagined. –  Nick Craver May 21 '13 at 15:49
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Um, no-one is forcing you to engage in this discussion, Nick. –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 15:52
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@DjangoReinhardt I didn't say anyone was - just pointing out that we've been around for about 5 years now, and there's not one known instance of this happening. You're starting at question #2: "what's to stop this?", I'm starting with the first question: "what's to encourage this?" –  Nick Craver Jul 13 '13 at 16:15
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The focus of this question has never been eBay. –  Django Reinhardt Jul 16 '13 at 10:20
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@DjangoReinhardt ok...that doesn't make it any more of a real problem though. Broadening it to any case imaginable and it still hasn't happened in 5 years just further proves that there's just not enough motivation to sell in the first place. –  Nick Craver Jul 16 '13 at 10:24
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I don't think anyone has claimed that this is a current problem. This has always been a hypothetical question. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. –  Django Reinhardt Jul 16 '13 at 10:29
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The community will take care of that by itself.

Reputation is just a number that represents what you have done so far on Stack Overflow. IMO, it is only important when it comes to privileges you unlock along the way. Other than that, it's just a number.

  • I would not accept an answer simply because the user has a lot of rep.
  • I would not answer a question simply because the user has a lot of rep.

So why would someone buy reputation? The only notoriety you can have here is by showing of your acquired badges which are, in some cases, pretty impressive but that's all there is to notoriety on SO.

tl;dr

Hey I just paid $200 for 500k rep. Now what?

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I agree. It's pointless, but then again, so is WOW Gold! :) –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 15:54
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Probably.. i'm not a WOW player but I know I don't get anything for my rep here. –  ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd May 21 '13 at 15:58
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Some people would accept answers/questions just because the user has a lot of rep - and I do think that rep is beginning to have another value: If people provide their SO-profile when they submit a resumé, high rep and a lot of badges in specific tags could signify a quality that the user just wouldn't have in that case. You even have the career site here verifying whether you are good enough by rep, if I'm not mistaken. –  user213634 Jul 12 '13 at 21:31
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Is that profile real? almost 600k points and only 1 gold badge seems so hard to believe. –  Ataraxia Jul 13 '13 at 1:31
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@phoenixheart6 It is my profil. I used to have that name. I simply changed the HTML and took a screenshot –  ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd Jul 13 '13 at 16:39
    
@AndersUP My two best friends are engineers and program and have been programming for decades, before most of the languages we use existed, when I asked them have you heard of stack overflow, they both answered yes and when I asked what they thought of it, they gave their opinion of stack overflow in programming and had never heard of this site!! So I really don't think rep and badges will help many get a job, besides anyone with any sense, would build a CV with programming skills in real life, not on a Q&A site –  user223277 Jul 16 '13 at 16:43
    
@AndersUP perhaps sensible people wouldn't be debating this?? hehehehe –  user223277 Jul 17 '13 at 3:01
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A bounty still requires a decent post to award it to. Sure, someone could award a bounty of a considerable amount of rep to utter drivel. But with the community we have, it is unlikely that nobody would notice. In fact, bounties were designed to be highly visible.

So while it would technically be possible to sell your rep (or part of it) and award it to a user, I hardly think it's a practical concern.

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I can think of a ton of ways around the system that would make it imperceptible to everyone. (Pre-arranged Q&A for example.) –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 15:49
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@DjangoReinhardt In which case it would be far less of a problem. Good on-topic answers (non-dupe) with a decent answer.... sounds like a win to me for a mere 500 points. –  Bart May 21 '13 at 15:50
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So you don't mind people exchanging rep for cash provided it's adds to the quality of the site? –  Django Reinhardt May 21 '13 at 15:53
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@DjangoReinhardt Nah, not at all. It shouldn't happen. And I think it's very unlikely to happen. But if it were to go unnoticed through the addition of good content, at least we're left with good content. If I were to notice something suspicious however, I would certainly flag it. –  Bart May 21 '13 at 15:56
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And, further, how practical would this be?

You can only give bounties up to 500 points. Anyone who has been here for any length of time isn't going to find 500 points all that helpful, so only someone brand new would want it. And what does that give you? The ability to re-tag questions? Someone would pay money for that? Well, maybe, but enough to make it worthwhile for the "seller"? I doubt it.

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You can get an invitation to Careers.SO: "Wonderful! Because of your activity on Stack Overflow, you qualify for a profile on Stack Overflow Careers." I currently have some 1500 rep on SO (haven't recieved any bounties), and I apparently qualify for Careers. The algo is hopefully more sophisticated than just rep, but your profile on SO is to some degree marketed as a function of your qualities. –  user213634 Jul 12 '13 at 21:34
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Say that a potential employer wants to base their hiring decision on your StackOverflow reputation. If they even bother with just a little bit of investigation, they really only need to look at your reputation history. It wouldn't be too difficult to see through the sham, because a huge spike in rep, +500 at a time, in a relatively short period of time would be blatantly obvious.

If I were that employer, I would definitely remove you from the running. Or, maybe hire you if I needed a charlatan.

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To have an ongoing business selling Stack Exchange reputation one has to have drum roll
a high reputation on the site.

For the purposes of my answer, I am going to refer to the Stack Exchange site Stack Overflow, as this is the Meta Stack Overflow site ;-)

Now this presents the following problems:

  1. To achieve this, one has to be dedicated to spending time asking and answering questions on drumroll
    programming

  2. The person has to have a reasonable knowledge about drumroll
    programming

  3. People interested in programming are usually pedantic and often literal. So the rep is a useful tool to monitor one's own progress (until it grows boring ;-)).

  4. A person capable of writing good answers to questions, would be capable of answering genuine bounties and earning there own reputation. Given this:

    The rep vendor is going to also have to provide a suitable answer to the buyer. to purchase such rep would be able to provide a good answer.

  5. To create interesting and unique (as in not duplicate) questions and answers the rep vendor is going to to need a good knowledge base of at least one programming language. Making the following more likely:

    Any person with a reasonable knowledge about programming, is capable of making money through fair means or foul. (and yes, I do understand this is open to debate)

  6. I do realise I waved the this is Meta Stack Overflow banner.. so this is not How to Make Money Exchange and I am no expert on either site (real or imaginary) ....[actually - must go to Area 51 and propose new Stack Exchange site ;-) ] ... I have posted the following question, but I suspect, if there are viable answers, that this would be a very poor way to make money.

  7. Let's say (and I'm being generous) 500 rep goes for $100. You are going to have to be working pretty hard on the site to keep getting enough rep to create bounties. So let's calculate an hourly rate some time down the track.

I am not going to reiterate the other valid points made in answers here, as to the sites mechanisms to catch spurious user behaviour.
Suffice to say a user making a living from doing this, would require that many URLS, and phony SO accounts, with so much activity to avoid detection...... (that hourly rate is seriously dropping)

Soooooooooo drumroll In answer to your questions:

How can SE sites prevent this from ever becoming a reality?

I really don't think SE sites need to prevent this from becoming a reality ;-)

A Seller could offer 500 Rep and then easily transfer it to the buyer through a Bounty. Right?

Yes they could, now:

My ebay receipt number is ##@#$###%##8##!

Give me my 500 rep ;-)

Wow, can't wait to become next moderator!!!!

edit
Already fishing for potential buyers ;-)

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NOTE The site is NOT farmville ;-) –  user223277 Jul 14 '13 at 9:06
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and thank goodness for that! Now, I got the Sound of Drums in my head.... –  user226423 Jul 14 '13 at 9:39
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@damien oo wooboo wabba wooboo wabba in the jungle the mighty jungle... I dunno sounds of drums reminds me of this song –  user223277 Jul 14 '13 at 9:42
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I think this is the best answer here. For a start, Yve actually answers the question. –  Django Reinhardt Jul 16 '13 at 10:31
    
@DjangoReinhardt thank you for that, I infused humor, as Meta tolerates that, but I was addressing it seriously in my answer cheers.. ps I don't really want to purchase your rep ;-) oh and I saw your edit, it's a creepy screen shot, then nothing should surprise me, I think it's the generating it to sell it that's the hard part –  user223277 Jul 16 '13 at 11:21
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What's to stop someone from selling their reputation?

How about common sense...

The points don't matter

Why pay money for something that you could otherwise get for free?

The only real value that rep has beyond opening features on the site is a sense that the community trusts you a little more (not much, but a little) and an ego boost. Neither of the latter two reasons would be met with purchased rep.

More or less purchasing rep would be a bit like intentionally purchasing botched plastic surgery, you would be laughed at by the community you were trying to impress.

And don't think people wouldn't find out, with 2.2 million users on SO alone the chances of posting a rep sale anywhere on the net and getting away with it are pretty slim.


Migrated from comments, because I thought it was a good question.

What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling.
– Jan Dvorak

You would face a basic black market marketing issue: How do you at the same time advertise that you're in business and remain hidden? Selling smaller amounts of rep to more customers means more exposure and a higher risk of getting caught, which eventually leads to a higher price as the risk reward ratio gets skewed, but customers aren't likely to be willing to pay a higher price, as rep is otherwise freely available.

Some market forces still apply in a black market.

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What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling. –  Jan Dvorak Jul 14 '13 at 4:17
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The only thing stopping someone from selling their reputation is if the price isn't right.

Like most other tangible things in life you can put a price on a reputation point, it will probably be a function of the amount of time it takes to generate said rep point and the monetary or emotional value (translated to monetary value) each point carries.

I don't see anyway I won't sell my rep for say, 100$ a point. I got a wife and a dog1 to feed!

But there is a bigger issue, Who in her right mind will pay for rep?

reputation has no monetary value!

there is nothing to gain from rep points.

1:

dog

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Ah HA! –  Adam Davis Jul 12 '13 at 21:26
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I know I know it should be a cat –  raam86 Jul 12 '13 at 21:50
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Yes, a cat ;) –  Mottie Jul 13 '13 at 15:50
    
What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling. –  Jan Dvorak Jul 14 '13 at 4:21
    
@jandvorak I dont belueve any of these privilges is worth any money. You need a good 5 captchas to even make it worth a dollar and I dont think short lived comments (due to flagging). Have high conversion rates –  raam86 Jul 14 '13 at 5:16
    
I wonder if the downvoters think that rep DOES have monetary value.... –  raam86 Jul 16 '13 at 12:38
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Why would someone want to buy reputation in the first place? There's no practical benefit from it. Yes, you can close questions and make tag wiki edits - but it's something else than being able to kill orc boss. The lack of people wanting to buy something is a great factor stopping you to sell it.

Second, the mechanism you've described is very highly inefficient. Someone would have to earn 500 reputation first, in order to be able to award it as a bounty. Then that reputation would be lost. It would be more rational to sell upvotes, since no reputation is lost. Honestly, I see so many low-effort questions (mostly I-don't-understand-this-Java-code-I-know-only-PHP question - no offence, I'm just using PHP as an example) that I don't think someone would mention.

Third, buying reputation would be like buying spam articles from spam generator. People don't buy that, they make it themselves.

Fourth, every advertisement on the internet leaves traces. It's easier to send a private message to your friend on Facebook to give you some upvotes. And only NSA will know.

edit

I think it would be much more viable to sell good questions and answers. Just like people write blog articles for money.

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My 2 cents:

  1. 500 rep points doesn't get you a lot these days. The only really important place you don't want this corruption is with moderators. But then you need multiple 10K reputation points, years of activity and mostly experience and proved ability in editing and moderating.

  2. Repeated bounties for no real reason will start to raise flags on that user, and with a justified flag nothing matters. I've witnessed hi rep users (gold badges etc) getting suspended very quickly for playing a foul play.

  3. For the case of a theoretical potential employer, I doubt reputation is what they'll look upon. Sure you need it, but then the important thing is: was it gain by many many simple answers? or by significant impact answers and brilliance?

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can you pls elaborate on hi rep users (gold badges etc) getting supspened etc –  user223277 Jul 14 '13 at 11:07
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I'm answering mostly questions with the matlab tag. In the passed month I witnessed two users, one above 10K rep, the other above 3K (both with multiple gold badges), get suspended for 7 and 30 days. What exactly they did I can only guess, but when suddenly their rep got be 1 I understood someone flagged them. –  natan Jul 14 '13 at 16:01
    
wow, wasn't expecting that... thanks Django Reinhardt! –  natan Jul 18 '13 at 6:47
    
how much did you have to pay for that ;) –  user223277 Jul 18 '13 at 6:54
    
lol!. I have a feeling I got it because I was the last answer or worst one (or both). consolation prize.... –  natan Jul 18 '13 at 6:57
    
Natan, I think could be linked to the fact, you have the lowest rep and it was a good answer ;) I gave you an upvote –  user223277 Jul 18 '13 at 6:58
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Hey it's a good test, does it really make a difference to your life hahahahhaa can you buy yrself a pina colada now?? ;) –  user223277 Jul 18 '13 at 6:59
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Yve, you had me at drumroll ... –  natan Jul 18 '13 at 7:06
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