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Over time I realized a very annoying property of the stackoverflow reputation system: Easy answers to popular question are rewarded with a lot more reputation points than actually great answers. In case anybody actually needs examples for this, here are two examples from my own profile:

This answer gained me 420 rep, I invested 2 minutes writing it, and it only was a wild guess:

This answer took me about an hour for the research and the math and gained me 40 rep.

Now I know that you are bound to get more rep for answers that are useful to more people, and I'd say that’s fine. But the current situation is quite extreme: 30% of my reputation is from 5 of my 330 answers, and they are definitely far from being my best ones.

A final example that is not from my profile, but more extreme: Do you really think this answer is worth 40000 reputation?

My proposition to improve that situation would be to make the reputation gain from a single answer non-linear, maybe even have it capped at a certain point. I’m not sure on how that non-linear function should look exactly, and would leave good propositions for that to users with more experience than me.

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Related: Revisiting the rep cap (yes, again) –  Pëkka Oct 15 '13 at 1:05
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The rep cap ends up eating a lot of the rep of highly voted answers/questions, which address this to a point. –  Servy Oct 15 '13 at 1:06
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@Servy I disagree: It also guarantees that once you have a lot of popular answers that are steadily upvoted, writing new and great answers is rewarded not only with comparably little, but actually no reputation at all. I think that balances out any good it does regarding this problem. –  Chronial Oct 15 '13 at 1:11
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@Chronial Tell that to Jon Skeet. He's one of just a handful of people who actually consistantly hits the rep cap basically every single day. Very few people hit the rep cap more than just occasionally. He provides more valuable content than just about any other contributor, despite the fact that, for quite some time now, he could just walk away and hit the rep cap every single day. Clearly the people capable of hitting the rep cap regularly are people that aren't here just to earn rep. –  Servy Oct 15 '13 at 1:20
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@Servy I still don’t see how it helps the issue – I never hit the rep-cap with my “easy rep” answers, I only hit it when I spend a lot of time on SO during a single day. –  Chronial Oct 15 '13 at 1:27
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@Chronial Most questions that get a lot of votes don't get it as a steady trickle over time. Some do, but most of the really highly voted answers get posted on reddit or some other social networking site and get a ton of votes over a few hours/days, and then it trails off to nothing after that. The questions that both get a lot of votes and get it spread out over a long period of time account for a minuscule percentage of the questions on this site. –  Servy Oct 15 '13 at 1:29
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I generally try and answer niche, particularly not easy questions. Recently though, I had a go at a few "noob" questions and got much more reputation in one week than for the previous month - (at least) I believe that there's most certainly something to this effect occurring on SO. –  Qantas 94 Heavy Oct 15 '13 at 2:38

1 Answer 1

As a counterpoint, I present my own most highly voted answers. Almost all of these took a lot of time to research and write, and most of my simpler answers fall way below these in terms of votes. My most highly voted answer turned into a multi-page tutorial for a class I taught.

Sure, there are many examples of simple, quick answers to popular questions that rack up a lot of votes, but in my experience detailed, useful answers have a very long tail when it comes to voting. I keep getting votes years after writing many of these.

Your proposed solution would also work against answers like this, which seems to contradict your core goals. Lengthy answers can get lots of votes, just maybe not as quickly as shorter ones to popular questions. Do you believe that I should not have received as many points as I did for my more detailed answers?

It's all unicorn points, anyways, and the only value they have is in directing behavior. Let's say we implement a per-answer reduction or cap on reputation gained. What behavior would that drive? Well, since you couldn't make a lot of reputation on a single answer, it would encourage people to shotgun as many answers as they could. It would discourage you from spending time to improve a single answer, since the reputation you could get from that would be limited. That seems like the exact behavior you're trying to fix.

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