Let me get this straight — users ask questions, of a quality level sufficient to garner upvotes from other users. We have a problem with this because __?
- If it's because they're earning privileges, why not target the privileges directly? With all the new sites opening up with much smaller communities, that's a system that's due for an overhaul anyway.
- If it's because they "outrank" a few other users who spend more time answering questions, perhaps the thing to do is help those answerers "be more awesome" by comparison.
- If it's because that's all they do on the site, I think we need a clearer reason for why that's a bad thing. If they were low-score questions that would be one thing, but this will only target users with lots of questions that people have voted for.
The only reason I see to do this is when you look at rep in it's role as a gauge for trust. Some people feel like certain users are using question-rep to game the system, and if they're gaming the system in this way we have an inherently untrustworthy user. But again, this goes back to point #1: in light of the all new sites with smaller communities and no high-rep users, it may be time for a general re-examination of how some of these privileges are conferred.
I think my whole beef here is that just because questions are very low value, especially compared to answers, it doesn't mean that their value is 0 or negative. There must be some net-positive, or the best solution to the problem would be to do away with them entirely and morph Stack Overflow into some kind of wiki+voting blog service. After all, the questions weren't adding anything. Obviously I don't want to do that, and I don't think anyone else does either. However, that is the natural result if you really apply the low-value philosophy for questions consistently.
So sure, people may be asking questions as a game in it's own right, but, as long as the quality level is high enough to earn votes, is this actively harmful? Is Stack Overflow really worse off for having these questions?
I suppose it might be, if you consider these questions to be nothing but "noise" on the site. Each question individually might be okay, but add up thousands of them and suddenly you have a background layer of fluff that makes finding what you really want just that much more difficult. The problem here is that these questions still tend to generate good answers, and so there's little evidence that they really make searching or answering harder. And I don't think there are enough of these that they pull significant attention of answerers away from users with legitimate issues we could be spending time resolving.
In the end, I think when you have a question with a positive score the burden of proof switches back away from the poster to administration to prove that this particular question is noise and has no value, versus just assuming that's the case, or a very least a clearer explanation of how, exactly, these questions from frequent askers are actively hurting either answerers, searchers, or other askers.
I see now another reason why some feel so strongly that this is harmful: it dilutes their efforts at answering. I'll put it in the context of the career site. Two users with extremely similar resumes are both up for the same job via Stack Overflow careers: one with 3000 rep from answers and one with 4000 rep from questions. Who gets the job?
Personally, I think that's kind of silly. If the hiring manager is just looking at the number without digging deeper, are you really sure you wanted to work for this person in the first place? It does, though, illustrate the problem. How does the user who worked hard for 3000 rep feel that there are 4000 rep users out there who don't contribute?
So if we want to make it easier on the manager and other outsiders to distinguish the two individuals, perhaps the solution here is some kind of indicator on a profile that says, "This person has earned more than X percent of their rep from asking questions." The notice would only need to be displayed for users above a certain score when X is above a certain value to be determined based on meaningful examination of the the real data. Like a big asterisk next to a sports record.
I know Jeff is generally against such scarlet letters, but we already have at least two of these: the student flag and the accepted answer percentage. Another option is to just set that flag automatically on the assumption that if you're asking so many questions, you must still be a student rather than a pro.
It's tempting here to think that I may be too divorced from the issue because no one on Stack Overflow who earns rep by only asking questions has even 1/5th of my score, but my ServerFault and SuperUser profiles are much closer to the main stream. Nearly 20% of my ServerFault rep is from questions, and my total question count there is roughly half of my answer count. This does effect me, especially as I work in IT support now rather than as a programmer.
Really, I think this whole issue is rooted in the idea that reputation is an approximation of one's ability or usefulness. It's a mistake to believe this is possible. That said, if this is part of the goal I also know that just because it's not possible to be perfect, it doesn't mean we should just give up. Nevertheless, I think that if there is to be another adjustment that changes rep scores, before it happens we need a way to objectively quantify the value of questions verses answers.
The root of the problem is that 5 points for a question verses 10 for an answer is completely arbitrary, just as 10 each was before the last recalc. If there is to be another change, to support it I would want to see an object criteria for determining the value of questions compared to answers that can be supported based on data from the monthly dumps. The purpose of this request is to ensure that this is the last time such an adjustment needs to be made. Support the request from data in a way that tells us exactly where the adjustment needs to be.