When I ask questions on Stack Overflow, most people who answer/comment have crazy high reputations. Rarely do I see people with lower reputations (like myself) reply or comment.

Now that makes sense and it may seem like I am stating the obvious (they have higher reputations because they do more on the site), but my question to Meta Stack Overflow is whether this apparent over-representation of people with high reputations and more importantly, the importance given to reputation is causing people with lower reputations (which I assume is a large majority - and it will be great to see a reputation vs. number of people chart if one exists) to reduce their participation on the site, and is in fact hampering it.

Don't get me wrong. Credit should be given where it is due, and it is due in most cases on Stack Overflow. Just that I don't see the importance of making it front and center of the site (under every answer for example). We already know how many people found it relevant and that is the criteria that should be used to judge the answer.

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4 Answers

It's because people with a high rep achieve some sort of zen state where they can state a fact and crush your soul at the same time. I can't find the link, but someone mentioned the echo function, and within less than a minute a guru informed him how echo is not a shell function but something else.

This is good because it encourages people to dot their i's and cross their t's, but at the same time I am too frightened to answer any questions.

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Are these the droids you're looking for? stackoverflow.com/questions/8154830/… IIRC whether echo is or isn't a function wasn't the real point of contention... –  Piskvor Nov 18 '11 at 8:52
    
@Piskvor'sSemifiniteMonkeys no it wasn't that, it was a question about the default linux kernal functions (or something like that) and someone said 'echo' and 'function', and someone responded (correctly no doubt) that echo is not a function but instead a sarcasm inherent native routine binary sentient indestructible anti matter life form. –  puk Nov 18 '11 at 9:30
    
@Piskvor'sSemifiniteMonkeys +1 for A New Hope reference –  puk Nov 18 '11 at 9:31
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The point of SO is to build a repository of quality answers to programming questions. It's more important that new users feel welcome to ask questions; it doesn't matter so much how often they answer questions.

The existing base of prolific answerers makes SO work. There is always room for more people to participate, but don't let the site turn into a rep contest for you.

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On SO, I have a 'crazy high' enough reputation to be on the front page of users. I look at answers to a question, and if there is a worthy answer from someone with a low or medium reputation, I give that an upvote - in preference to a someone else with a crazy high reputation who has given a similar answer. If there's a major difference in quality (there often is), then I go with quality, but I try to ensure that those who are newer on the site get my votes when they've earned them. But there is an element of "to those that have much, much is given".

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A page listing users by rep? I never noticed that it was there before. :-) I suppose it just shows that the reputation part isn't important to everyone; let the questions and answers be the stars. –  Donal Fellows May 6 '10 at 13:26
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Didn't seem to stop me. I started with less than 200 rep in early December (of '09). I can point to a few other users who also went up the ranks.

I think you're confusing cause and effect. People either participate or they don't; the only rep that matters to most people is their own, not what other people have. The users who participate a lot (and know what they're talking about) accumulate high rep; the ones who don't contribute as much, don't. Simple as that.

It is important to display, because if you're asking a question, it tends to mean that you don't already know the answer, and rep goes a long way toward filtering the answers most likely to be useful/correct. You can't always rely on upvotes; I've seen a lot of upvotes go to answers that were completely wrong, and a fair number of downvotes go to answers that were essentially 100% right. The score of a single answer on a single question isn't always that great an indicator, but averaged out over hundreds or thousands of questions, it tends to be a lot more reliable.

And the corollary is that reputation would cease to be the motivational factor that it is if it weren't prominently displayed. That is kind of the point, after all. What's the point of getting a trophy if you don't get to show it to everybody?

And what is a "crazy high" reputation anyway?

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+1. I joined SO a year ago but I only really started participating/answering a lot around October time. I remember at that time Pekka, who only joined 6 months ago) was around the same rep as me and he's flown through the ranks with rep and badges. Similar sort of thing with Pointy and Sarfraz, their reputations have built very quickly. I can think of a few members who I've noticed recently whose reputation has grown quickly. The high reputation people stick in your mind more because, IMO to begin with you have more respect for them. You don't notice the little people at first ;-) –  Andy E May 6 '10 at 9:00
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