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The Problem with Reputation: Does High Reputation Attract Too Many 'Up-Votes'?

I am pretty new to Stack Overflow, so I don't have a lot of reputation or badges. I used to surf at Experts-Exchange before they got greedy.

Let me premise this with one note. I am not complaining, as this hasn't exactly happened to me, but I do jump around to interesting and new questions when I have free time.

Something I notice here that happens a lot: An answer comes in for a question and it seems to be pretty good and gets a few up-votes. Then along comes a more experienced user, lots of badges, high reputation, who's answer is the same, but not as thoughtfully prepared or with as much useful information. Within minutes, the answer from the experienced user has 10, 20 or more up-votes. Am I missing something? Is there some sort of comradery amongst experienced users?

I do admit, I tend to wait on difficult questions for an advanced user to voice their opinion or expertise, but when the same answer is provided, it seems like the little guy can't get ahead.

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    Can you share a link to an example? Sometimes the answers are roughly the same, but presented in a clearer way, better formatting, less verbose, etc. by users who are accustomed to posting on SE frequently. Easier to read is often easier to understand. Also, sometimes being confident in your answer will win upvotes, even if it is not entirely accurate. Seeing a high rep user post a confident answer will often lead to less scrutiny of the answer itself.
    – user159834
    Aug 11, 2011 at 17:41
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    I will definitely provide the next one I run into. Just something I noticed and finally voiced my thought.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:12
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    I think, despite the viewpoints that may claim otherwise, that this does indeed happen - at least to a certain extent. I have the tendency to upvote the "underdog" more frequently, so it may also be offset to a degree by similar behavior. This can be seen frequently on one-liner answers where 10 users post the exact same thing within a matter of seconds - often the higher rep user gets voted to the top, regardless of who was "first" (not that being first matters, but that's another can of worms).
    – user159834
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:18
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    The one liner answers are where I see this the most often. The experienced user tends to take control without regard for timing.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:22
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    And we all wonder how these high rep users got their rep. Did they all start at 50k?
    – Bo Persson
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:28
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    It would be nice if a newbie would provide a nice answer for us all to upvote... just saying.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:29
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    My first posts on SO were very awkward compared to what they typically are now, although my knowledge has not changed significantly - but my communication skills definitely have. Being able to communicate is just as important as having something to say. I actually received a raise partly due to writing better emails to our clients - all attributed to writing posts on SO.
    – user159834
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:47
  • I believe that's a reasonable observation. But it actually goes both ways. It's also more likely for a high-rep user to attract downvotes for rushed answers.
    – mario
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:49
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    On that same note, I tend to see lots of high-rep users rush crappy answers, only to fix them into a well written answer with an edit.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:55
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4 Answers 4


This idea recently appeared in a blog post. The conclusion?

But it appears on average these high rep users always had a high score per answer, even before they gathered a high reputation.

I can't say I've seen more experienced users come in with less thoughtfully prepared answers very often. Of course, if you're saying it happens a lot, you presumably have several examples...

  • That's definitely interesting to read and nice to know (assuming it is correct). What I meant by more thoughfully is, instead of just "look at this function," "look at this function... as it applies to your example" as well as providing links to man pages or documents. Noting, most high rep users do that, but there are times where that is not true.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:11
  • @steveo225: I dare say there are some occasions when it happens. I suspect there are also occasions where that happens without the user in question having a high rep. Is it possible that you're seeing that happen too, but not noticing it because it doesn't seem as incongruous?
    – Jon Skeet
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:12
  • Very possible. I'll be more alert in the future.
    – steveo225
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:14
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    Moderator Note: Please keep comments on topic and constructive.
    – Tim Post
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:09

Keep in mind that you only get super high rep by posting great answers frequently. Thus users with high rep are, largely, earning that rep.

There are certainly some cases where an answer gets upvoted because it comes from a "legend", but as the blog post in Jon's answer describes, this effect is statistically insignificant. A bad answer from one of these users would probably get extra downvotes as well, since they get more attention. Overall it seems to balance out; people generally deserve they rep that they have, and systems are in place to prevent abuse.


I would disagree with your observations. Here's an example of a new user (and quite a young user) who joined only two months ago and already has nearly 10k rep and frequently breaks the 200 rep daily ceiling.


Gaining rep and accepted answers isn't about fame, it's about providing great answers.

  • Not actually related to your answer, but... man does it look ominous to see a big bold omega at the end of a "closed as..." banner.
    – Pops
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:15
  • Well, there are few unique answers I have answered faster, and looking same as another's answer with a lot upvotes for other post. I cannot find it now, though, however, I think, it's 50% about quantity (I've got 800+ answers) OT: whooo, GOING FOR 10k !
    – genesis
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:41
  • Whooo! I'm above 10k now :)
    – genesis
    Aug 12, 2011 at 19:00

Well said, steveo225.

I've been a SO user since near the beginning and while I enjoy the SO community, I've observed the same exact thing.

The problem is there is a large contingent of users cruising SO each day just dying to answer to questions. As they do this, they get a feeling for the common questions/themes of questions, and their ability to field these questions with rapid quality answers increases.

People have embraced SO as a game -- and any time you have a game, people are going to compete. Unfortunately, this creates a barrier to entry to new players, the effects of which you're observing.

For new users, it would be more enjoyable other people would just be more generous with their upvotes. If high rep users would upvote other users that post good answers in their area of expertise, the world would be a better place. But as it stands, there's no incentive to upvote your competition so SO remains broken.

  • It is very much possible to enter "the game" successfully even now. There are many examples to that effect. Still, you have a point with your last paragraph - when a question is answered correctly, veterans should refrain from answering, and upvote instead. It is my great hope though that this is happening already.
    – Pekka
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:04
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    High rep users play space invaders with the short-answer questions. "Oh, there's one!" boom! typetypetype First! Aug 11, 2011 at 20:09

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