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I suspect that this is a controversial idea, but I think it would be useful to allow responses to a question on the SO family of sites to be sorted by the reputation score of the responder.

Here is some of my reasoning in making the feature request.

  • There is a loose correlation between someone's reputation score and the quality (or insight) of the answers they provide.
  • Interesting answers to posts often don't get many upvotes because they are masked by the first response effect.
  • Controversial questions often get a lot of responses, and it becomes difficult to sift through all of them to find the interesting comments.
  • This seems like an easy feature to implement (at least on the surface).
  • Empirically, I've found myself looking for responses from certain people because I know that they generally have good, insightful answers that may illuminate facets of the problem that others may not realize.

I realize that there are a lot of feature requests out there and many great ideas just don't have enough value to implement. But here's why I think this idea has merit:

  • The purpose of these sites is to share knowledge within their particular domains.
  • Valuable knowledge is "promoted" to the top of the list (based on votes) to help people sift through noise by relying on the expertise of other contributors.
  • The reputation system is a powerful way of identifying contributors with a particular expertise or enthusiasm for a subject.
  • Expertise/enthusiasm is an indicator of the potential quality of a response.
  • Seeing the best responses to an answer is a valuable capability for a knowledge system.

Some of the potential downsides of this idea:

  • This could overshadow voting as a way to score the relative value of an answer.
  • People's reputation changes over time, just because someone has a high reputation at the present, doesn't mean that when they answered the question they did.
  • It feels undemocratic and may convey a negative impression to some people.
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Reputation is an indication of a users trust by the SO community, not necessarily of their ability to answer questions in a particular topic. This has been discussed at length on Meta and I strongly disagree with this option. The most correct answer to a question should be the one receiving the most votes, irrelevant of reputation.

This method will also make the entry level barrier for new users much much harder, something which will discourage the growth of the trilogy. It may not make a major dent but it will make a dent at some point.

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I understand your point of view. However, isn't trust a criteria in evaluating an answer as well? If you see an answer from someone you trust, even if it doesn't have many votes, don't you read it? – LBushkin Oct 19 '09 at 19:36
@LBushkin: If I'm interested enough in a question to be reading it in the first place, and it doesn't have so many answers that there are page buttons, I tend to read all of the answers. Then I upvote the good ones, downvote any I feel need it and if none are satisfactory, write my own. – John Rudy Oct 19 '09 at 19:56
@LBushkin. I have asked enough questions that have 100% valid answers from 100 rep users, compared to the amount of time that a high rep users has given me a right answer, that I still disagree. I read every answer, and up-vote the right one that works, irrelevant of reputation. – BinaryMisfit Oct 19 '09 at 20:08
If it's just an optional sort I see it as no more or less of a barrier to entry than sorting by newest or by score - so long as this isn't the default sort. – bananakata Oct 19 '09 at 20:36

Sorting by reputation wouldn't mean anything. Say I answer a Lisp question (I have 10.6k) and am put on top of someone who writes Lisp compilers but only has 100 rep. I am by no means an expert, or even remotely qualified to answer Lisp questions, but someone may get the wrong idea if they chose that sorting order (or even saw it as an option in the first place!)

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I'll ask you the same question I asked Diago; why show the reputation score of a user in the answer if not to provide the reader with some idea of the 'trustworthiness' or level of 'expertise' of the responder. – LBushkin Oct 19 '09 at 19:39
@LBushkin: The score is their trustworthiness within the site as a whole, not within a specific area of expertise. As John Rasch says here, why should his answer appear above a Lisp expert's? I get where you're coming from with the suggestion, I just wholly disagree with it. – John Rudy Oct 19 '09 at 19:55

I don't see the harm in adding it as a (non-default) search criterion. It could be helpful in sorting through the cruft where there are a huge number of answers provided.

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What about answers by a user with a relevant topic badge being sorted to the top of equally scored answers? (With the rest being the normal random sort.)

Alternatively, a "topic badge icon" beside the answer to catch your eye as you scroll?

Seems that should give you something similar to what you want, without giving too much advantage to the incumbents, and provide a bit of meaning to those badges.

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Heh, didn't see this when I added my answer, although they are slightly different but both taking the approach of actual merit rather than reputation. Would be good to see both of them implemented. – Peter Boughton Oct 19 '09 at 20:20

One possible way to get what the OP wants might be to use tags stats page info - if a user is in the top 20 for a tag, then they probably have at least some idea what they're talking about.

It's still not a perfect solution (how best to handle multi-tagged questions?), but it's certainly a better metric than raw reputation points.

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