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If you don't visit SO for a month or so, you can return and find that you've picked up a few hundred (maybe thousand?) rep points from people discovering your old answers in the interim. Just as a bit of trivia, how many questions do people think you need to have answered (well) before you hit the daily rep limit without answering anymore questions? My guess is it's only Jon Skeet and a few of the others who are close ..

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closed as too localized by Ladybug Killer, Troggy, jmfsg, perbert, dmckee Dec 22 '09 at 22:14

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this does occur, Jon has mentioned that some days he's hit the rep limit before he get's up. –  Nathan Koop Dec 22 '09 at 20:31
    
    
Note that you are asking two different questions, and the way you ask is confusing. "How many questions are needed to perpetually hit the rep-cap" and "How many questions are needed to hit the rep cap at least once without contributing further questions." Note that I've hit the rep can before without contributing more questions, but it's spurious - someone bumps a question or two that I've participated in, and a few others vote on them. I'm pretty sure that every 10k person has had this happen at least once, but you can query the data dump to find out. –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 20:38
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"If you don't visit SO for a month" - sorry, you've lost me. I simply don't understand... –  Marc Gravell Dec 22 '09 at 21:09
    
sorry, 'if you don't visit SO for three minutes' :p –  flesh Dec 22 '09 at 21:35
    
SO is like oxygen! SO is a many-splendor'd thing! SO lifts us up where we belong! All you need is SO! –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 22:09
    
Please, don't start that again! –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 22:10
    
All you need is SO! –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 22:10
    
SO's just a game. –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 22:11

3 Answers 3

Technically, it would take an infinite amount to be guaranteed self-perpetuating.

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I've thought about that quite a bit, especially early on when the rep cap was introduced.

Unfortunately I don't have a good answer. The system is complicated enough that there's no way to form a mathematical proof other than infinity. Even Jon Skeet doesn't hit the rep cap every single day, and he's got 6,660 answers at this moment.

In order to continue to get votes on old questions, someone has to run into them (via google) or bump them so others see them on the front page.

The linked questions on the sidebar is a double edged sword. Those who are likely to know enough about the topic to vote answers up or down are unlikely to be browsing via the sidebar. Those browsing are unlikely to know enough to pass out more than a handful of votes to such questions.

So, I think Lance is correct - infinite questions would be required to perpetually hit the cap.

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How do you define "self-perpetuating"? There is nothing to perpetuate, nothing to sustain in order to keep something alive (unless you count your ego, I suppose). Close your browser and come back in a few months, and the site will still be here, with your rep more or less where it was, at least in proportion to everyone else.

Anecdotally, I haven't seen a rep-free day go by in months, but I usually do post at least one answer a day. Almost every day sees some old post get upvoted as well, however.

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