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To get high reputation, it is easiest to answer trivial questions on popular topics.

  • Trivial answers get votes, because everybody can judge.
  • Very popular topics get more votes because more people read it. (You can say that it is fair to get more reputation for more popular topics, reputation is about popularity somehow. But combined with triviality, it is not fair anymore.)

Also consider that many users want to earn the Civic Duty badge, which is easy to earn by voting for trivial answers. On the programmers Stack Overflow, it are typically beginners questions about C# and LINQ.

Sometimes I answer complicated questions on not "top-popular" topics. After spending an hour or more to give a brilliant answer, I get accepted and - when I'm lucky - up-voted once or twice. Which is ridiculous compared to ten or twenty or even more up-votes for trivial questions. I'm not the only one I'm sure. Most people are in the "non-top-popular-topic" area.

I know, "Reputation is not a measurement of your expertise", no need to remind me of that. But I would like to encourage people to spend time on more complex and a bit less on popular questions. If reputation should be a "measurement of contribution", then should putting more work and uncommon knowledge into a single answer also count as more contribution.

Some suggestions to "fix" it:

  • Reduce reputation for votes compared to acceptance. For example: accepted answers get five time more reputation than votes.
  • Reduce votes reputation when the number of votes gets higher (for example, the first vote gets 10 rep, the second gets 8, the third 6 and so on until they only get 1 rep).
  • As above, but the number of votes is counted on all answers together. So if many answers get many votes, they all earn less reputation.
  • Rate questions' difficulty by votes (too complicated?)

Any thoughts?

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I very much agree with your assessment of the current situation. I don't think your solutions are a good idea, though, and I can't come up with any of my own that would truly solve the problem. I think this issue has been discussed several times before, and that's been the general consensus. Yeah, it's a problem, but fixing it would break too many other things that we hold dear (or at least think are important). –  Cody Gray Feb 28 '11 at 15:01
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The problem with making accepts more important than votes is that often the accepted answer is the wrong one ;) –  Billy ONeal Feb 28 '11 at 20:03
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That's life, you have to deal with it. Your solution might be good for SO, but for lower volume sites it is not acceptable. I recently spent 2 days thinking about one question and answering it on stats.SE. To spend 1 hour answering question in math.SE is pretty normal, for mathoverflow 1 day might be not enough. –  mpiktas Feb 28 '11 at 20:35
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You may be interested in these previous related discussions: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21433/encouraging-good-answers, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21189/… –  ire_and_curses Feb 28 '11 at 21:43
    
@mpiktas: "that's life" is not an acceptable answer. You can always think and discuss about possible improvements. On the other side, I didn't say that I want to compare reputation on different sites. I just want to compare on one site. It is the whole purpose of the repetition as a number to make it comparable. –  Stefan Steinegger Mar 1 '11 at 8:03
    
@ire_and_curses: Thank you for the links. The first one is pretty close to mine. –  Stefan Steinegger Mar 1 '11 at 8:03
    
@Billy ONeal: Yes, that's true, the accepted answer is sometimes the wrong one. But more often it is the right one. I still think that the accepted answer should get more reputation. –  Stefan Steinegger Mar 1 '11 at 8:05
    
@Cody Gray: What you say is very true. You may write this as an answer. –  Stefan Steinegger Mar 1 '11 at 8:06
    
related (possibly a duplicate): The bikeshed problem and Stack Exchange –  gnat Jun 23 at 9:16
    

4 Answers 4

I agree with your main point, that easy questions produce more rep. However, many of those questions have fierce competition, and you could spend some time writing a good answer, but 5 other people will beat you to it. I do, like your suggestion about increasing the rep from an acceptance, maybe not to 50 though.

A few opposing viewpoints:

  1. The bounty system provides a way for tougher questions to get more attention when they need it.
  2. Reducing reputation from high vote answers will also reduce it from the really good answers as well, not just the easy questions.
  3. This would encourage the opposite of sportsmanship, because a vote on a competing answer would in-turn reduce your rep.

In response to:

Also consider that many users want to earn the Civic Duty batch, which is easy to earn by voting for trivial answers.

I would disagree. It is just as easy to vote on non-trivial answers. (Single mouse click in both cases).

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Good points. But I still don't believe in the "fierce competition". In reality, most people don't answer anymore if a trivial question is answered (after one minute or so). Often the same answer is given multiple times, one of them gets the votes (not always the first one), the others get ignored. –  Stefan Steinegger Feb 28 '11 at 12:41
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@Stefan, yes that is what I mean, there are a lot of people who go for the easy questions. Therefore you have time to focus on the hard questions even if unanswered so far. –  jzd Feb 28 '11 at 12:45
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yeah, sure, you never need to hurry to answer hard questions. But you don't get much repetition for it. –  Stefan Steinegger Feb 28 '11 at 12:53

The radical solution to the problem is to eliminate its source, i.e. trivial questions from help vampires. This could be done by introducing a general reference close reason for example.

As you can see from the proposal status, this is not going to happen. I persnally regret this, because it sucks away the time people could use to answer interesting questions if those were rewarded properly. Instead, I often find myself answering trivial questions on topics I'm not expert in (for example, half of my current rep on SU is awarded for curl, a program I've never used).

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I feel like this is a cure for the symptoms, rather than the disease.

Yes, it's easy to get a lot of votes by answering popular questions - that's by design. Answering a question that holds a lot of interest to other people brings more people to SE and keeps it more active.

Short, vote-hunting answers that resolve the question all too quickly are not great, but those types of answers usually aren't upvoted that highly, or even accepted, unless they're either very insightful in very few lines (Good) or the question itself was too easy to answer in the first place (Bad).

What I'm saying is - the problem is in the question, not the answer.

We already have some ways to counteract this - downvoting, and VTC on questions that show little research effort or that are too broad - but we still occasionally get questions that are very simple, but garner a lot of attention.

IMO, most of the answers posted to questions like that that do get highly upvoted are, in themselves, good answers. And a good answer to a low-quality question is still a good answer: We even have a badge for that.

In short: I think this problem is overstated, and if questions like this lead to good answers that get a lot of votes, that's not really a problem at all as long as the answers are good. If they're not, do your duty and downvote 'em.

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Note that a lot of this answer is based on personal SE experience. If your experience on SE is drastically different, downvote and comment as to how - or answer and explain how this is a problem, and how that fool Zibbobz hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. –  Zibbobz Jun 23 at 17:48

Often times the trivial questions are far more beneficial to the site and attract far more traffic, help far more people, etc, than the more complex questions because the more complex questions tend to be so localized that only one or two people end up benefiting from the question. From that point of view, it certainly makes sense for trivial questions and their answers to gain more reputation because they are more useful to more people.

The only thing that I dislike about this situation though is when a "trivial" question is a duplicate and receives upvoted answers, because then it won't be auto deleted after it is closed. Though, that's a different problem entirely, stemming from how difficult it is to find duplicates. It's often far faster/easier to answer, and you get rep for doing so.

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