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It seems to me that there is a lot of interest from people to do edit of questions and other pluckings of "low hanging fruits" to snap up reputation points.

I wonder whether that is the true nature of a "reputed" expert of the field?! I would have thought that a field expert would be snapping up points mostly by answering a question or asking a very relevant question that would interest a lot of people.

It looks like gone are the days when it was hard to earn points on stackoverflow, unless you knew your stuff! It looks like the reputation points have been devalued! It will be quite interesting to see what an economic analyst will make of the state of devaluation of the "reputation currency" !

EDIT: Looks like there is a related question here; " Has SO experienced any freakonomics since the introduction of careers? "; yes the introduction of careers seem to have given it the wrong purpose in a subtle sense!

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Gilles, Martijn Pieters, Danny Beckett, psubsee2003, Rory Jun 30 '13 at 12:10

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I can't even imagine how you could compare economics to reputation points here. There is no way for a 'bubble' to form, in the way you mean. I think you should remove the economic comparisons, and make your point much more simply. Your analogy is simply going to create arguments about your analogy, instead of about what your real point is. Which I can't divine, actually. –  Andrew Barber Jun 30 '13 at 9:05
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Thanks @Andrew, point taken. My idea was to compare the reputation to a currency, which is true on stack overflow; we trade in a subtle sense using that currency. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:10
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See Raghav's answer. No; we do not 'trade' in that 'currency' at all, except in a couple extremely rare cases, which aren't really affected by what you are talking about. –  Andrew Barber Jun 30 '13 at 9:11
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I will hold up my arms and say, I am not an economy expert, but I am having a feeling somewhere in the background that such parallels can be drawn, if we analyse it enough. Surely there is a subtle link that could be looked into. It seems that "possibly" the solution to this is to restrict the number of points that one can amass on an account by those easy means. Again it sounds like an authoritarian central bank that is trying to pull strings to make the economy work better. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:23
    
Devaluation of rep is an interesting idea, but how does it address the problem you describe - namely that it's become too easy to gain reputation points - at all? –  Pëkka Jun 30 '13 at 9:23
    
I doubt that careers had a significant effect on SO itself. Simple questions giving easy rep is a problem, but it's unrelated to careers. –  CodesInChaos Jun 30 '13 at 9:25
    
@Pekka, I am not suggesting to devalue the reputation, but control the allocation units such that those easy points are hard to accumulate. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:26
    
Ah, OK, but how exactly are you suggesting we do that? Maybe I'm not seeing it but I can't find it in your post. –  Pëkka Jun 30 '13 at 9:27
    
@Pekka, I don't unfortunately have a solution, ready made! I wish I did! I only wanted to raise an early flag in case if someone hasn't already. The flag that says, "keep an eye on the point allocation", and may be also, " keep an eye on how one can get to the level of a 'community mentor' ". The current community mentoring is quite democratic, but like many democracies in the real world, it will work only if the society continues to be fair. A great level of fairness is still there, but we need to make sure we have that, going forward. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:41
    
I see. Maybe you should put it differently then - like, say, "Is the increase of low-hanging fruit devaluing reputation on Stack Overflow?" I'm fairly sure there is previous discussion on that, though. –  Pëkka Jun 30 '13 at 9:45

3 Answers 3

The main difference between reputation and actual money in an economy is that reputation is mostly worthless to begin with, from a materialistic point of view. You can't buy stuff with it (bounties aside). Even if for some reason reputation did get devalued, it would change absolutely nothing.

Moreover, you are probably feeling that reputation is booming right now for a few reasons:

  1. Older users are getting the benefit of having been around for a while, and have a portfolio of posts built up which can still be voted on. This now gets them reputation for little to no effort.
  2. There are a lot of users on the site now, and hence a lot of questions being asked. This provides a huge opportunity for people to answer the questions, and hence gain reputation.

As for you edits, it can be attributed to:

  1. New users editing posts to get reputation (yes, we all know it happens)
  2. Older users (or even new ones) coming across posts and editing them to improve the quality of the posts for others. On an average work day, I'll come across several SO posts for help with whatever problem I'm facing, and will edit to improve them if required.

Aside from all that, you're missing one major point here: Reputation is not currency. It is a rough measure of how much the community trusts you and has gained from your contributions.

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yes you are right, almost. Now that is just my opinion. What is more important is how each individual see the purpose of SO. Some use it for community mentoring, some for gathering knowledge. Some use it for getting their daily work a bit more of a learning exercise but at the same time getting the work done faster (if I may say that). So for the latter category, they have to use reputation as their currency of trade. They trade and amass points by trading in ideas as their cheques. Like we write out cheques in the real world. Still the currency is reputation. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:13
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@CodeMedic How exactly is reputation currency? The only "trade" you can indulge in is bounties, and even those can't be started for two days after a question is asked, so if you're doing it to get an answer quickly, you're out of luck. Bounties are meant to draw attention after two days, or to get authoritative or highly detailed answers. –  Raghav Sood Jun 30 '13 at 9:19
    
Down voting, closing etc needs certain level of points; so what I am getting to is, there is a level of wealth that need to be amassed to do certain things; so if the means to get to that level is easy by exploiting those easy channels, it in effects creates inequality. Suddenly we can see someone who is just quick at edits and votes mentoring the community. Like I said in my original post, it is a subtle comparison. We can some how draw parallels, even though the lines are vague and blurred. –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 9:28
    
@Code I agree with you on what the problem is, but there is no easy fix. People will always vote most readily on the stuff they understand, and the more complex an issue, the fewer people will understand it. For this reason, reputation is not a reliable measure when evaluating how good a developer someone is - it can, if at all, serve as a rough indicator to give you a list of people to look at more closely. It's been that way forever, though. –  Pëkka Jun 30 '13 at 9:50

Let's take your points in turn:

It seems to me that there is a lot of interest from people to do edit of questions and other pluckings of "low hanging fruits" to snap up reputation points.

Good, we want people to be editing well; it's just as important to the sites as someone answering or asking questions well. You can only get 1k reputation from editing so you can't get any of the hard stuff from this alone.

I wonder whether that is the true nature of a "reputed" expert of the field?! I would have thought that a field expert would be snapping up points mostly by answering a question or asking a very relevant question that would interest a lot of people.

Reputation in no way defines an expert. Forget this. Reputation is an indicator of how good someone is at using a particular site.

It looks like gone are the days when it was hard to earn points on stackoverflow, unless you knew your stuff!

Are you joking? In the early days all the easy stuff went quickly and people got thousands of reputation for answering questions about calculating age in C# or what the information schema is. I'll admit that there are almost certainly people with reputation who don't know their stuff but, see above and check out what tags they normally answer in.

It looks like the reputation points have been devalued!

You'll have to come up with a better reason why than "I think it was hard to earn points a few years ago".

One last thing to note, there are only 15,819 users with more than 3,000 reputation. That's 0.86% of the user-base. There's hardly a lot of people who've somehow snuck into some more than 3k rep cabal without doing anything.

It will be quite interesting to see what an economic analyst will make of the state of devaluation of the "reputation currency" !

Assuming such a devaluation exists what would you expect an analysis of the economics of reputation to say? There's almost no trade! There's no much to talk about; everything is one way and anonymous unless you "out" yourself.

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I'm going to suggest that the analogy between reputation and currency is too much of a reach.

A comparison that might be easier to follow and more useful is between reputation and John Nash game theory. Nash's contributions to game theory have been used to model the evolution of technical standards among many other human interactions. While that's still not the same thing as reputation, it's a lot closer than currency.

Some participants may be treating reputation as a game, whether or not they are aware of this. The question might then be asked whether there are strategies that responders can adopt that are good for their own goals in terms of reputation but not good for the joint goals of the SE community.

This might be a more productive avenue than the one this thread is currently pursuing.

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Yes may be it is; Iam willing to explore that avenue. For me it is the "easiness of earning a point", thats what made me make the original posting ... learn something new everyday! –  CodeMedic Jun 30 '13 at 18:18
    
@CodeMedic, I took that to be your main point. That is why I didn't criticize your overall post, but only suggested that the use of game theory might advance the discussion better than the use of currency. Game theory can, of course, be applied to currency transactions, but it's more generic. As far as the merits of your main question goes, I'm still in the process of making up my mind. I think people will game the system no matter what, but how much damage, if any, that does to the system's mission remiains to be clarified. –  Walter Mitty Jul 1 '13 at 10:30

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