I have noticed a couple of kinds of behavior that seem to crop up in the SO community, and it really seems to artificially boost reputation. There may not be a solution (or it may not be a problem!) but here are some thoughts.
The first is the fact that "celebrity" users, or users with lots of reputation, are treated significantly better than others. Take Joel Spolsky's most recent question:
It was closed, opened, closed, and re-opened. And the question has earned Joel - what -
1030 reputation 103 votes, and lots of reputation! Wow! I'm not saying that Joel's question is a bad one. But lets compare to other questions that one might consider to be in the same equivalence class - easily answerable, specific questions, short questions:
If you look at the hightest-voted questions, I can hardly find any which are specific technical questions. So that Joel's question was so upvoted could only mean that:
- It was upvoted based on his celebrity
- People have been interpreting the questions as a sort of zen-like wakeup call, designed to get people talking and thinking about they way they vote.
I do not mean any disrespect toward Joel, and again, I think his question was a good one. This post isn't about Joel! But the boost in reputation did not (imho) mean "Joel is really good at programming, and he has earned my trust as someone knowledgeable about computers." It may be true that Joel is a proficient computer expert, but not based on the merit of that one question.
Which leads me to an example about myself. I recently gave this answer (130 reputation) to a question about PHP's image-creating libraries. I am very appreciative of the community's support for my answer - an answer which I believe was well-thought and that I put effort into.
At the same time I can't look someone and tell them, with a straight face, that my reputation is a great reflection of my computer-related knowledge. Billions of people on the net have created tutorials for PHP's GD image library - I just happened to be the person to post a few of them. Heck if I know why it got 13 votes! (oh, but please don't downvote it!!)
SO is built by the community - so the community absolutely gets to decide what questions are important, and how they choose to dispense reputation. But in practice, I feel like peoples' reputation would be much lower if the community were more discriminating about the way they voted.
So: am I totally off base here? Is this even something that can be corrected with a different reputation algorithm? Or am I the only one who sees this as a detriment to the SO community?
(And, to be completely clear, I do not intend for this to be an ad hominem, and I am not jealous about not having a higher reputation. But I do take reputation with a grain of salt, in part for these reasons, and I thought I'd bring it up! It is meta, after all!)