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I remember listening to Joel Spolsky's talk at Google about the way that SO-style websites encourage certain behaviours. When you compare the concept of "reputation" to "tokens" in a token economy it's fair to ask if there's any connection between the two? There are certainly similarities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Token%5Feconomy

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It is interesting to compare and contrast the two.

In both, good behavior is immediately rewarded. Collecting enough of each gives benefits, in a token economy they are actually turned in for a reward, in SO you obtain new editing privileges the more reputation you have, and you can turn them in as bounty to highlight a question.

However, I think that while they have similarities, there is only fairly divergent theme:

In a token economy one obtains tokens and they are only worth what you can get for them. You don't gain any particular benefit from 1) holding onto them and getting as many as you can and 2) you don't obtain any greater social status with your peers if you have more, so there's no real need to display how many you have.

Reputation to some degree mimics some of the earlier forum websites such as slashdot, where users could 'rate' any given contribution, and authors would be rated as 'good' or 'bad' contributors based on how their posts were rated. In the case of slashdot this was called karma, and the highest level one could reach was "Excellent."

So while the two systems have similar goals, and are credited similarly, the "awards" are figured very differently. Reputation is merely a 'status' compared to your peers, and is meant to be a public badge of honor, whereas tokens are meant to be spent to buy one-time priviledges.

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