I've been doing a bit of badge hunting recently.

I was under the impression that badges were supposed to incentivize positive behaviour. The tag wiki for even says so.

Badges are awarded to encourage and incentivize positive community actions within the site.

Most do just this (e.g. Great Answer, Booster, Teacher etc.). Some badges are just incidentally rewarded after doing something trivial (e.g. Critic). These types of badges are fine.

But then there are some badges that reward unconstructive behavior. Here's a few that I have, with an explanation of how I got them:

  • Tumbleweed
    Asked a question with no votes, no answers, no comments, and low views for a week

    This one was pretty easy. All I had to do was post a nonsense question that people are likely to ignore. (at the time the badge was rewarded, it had 0 votes, answers, comments, and 21 views.) This badge encouraged me to post pure noise.

  • Peer Pressure
    Deleted own post with score of -3 or lower

    This one was incredibly easy, as well as perversely fun. All I needed to do was answer a C++ question with something along the lines of

    C++ is an ugly language with all sorts of platform dependent behavior. Just drop whatever you're doing and use jQuery instead.

    This took a matter of seconds to accumulate three downvotes, after which I deleted the answer (getting the lost reputation back) and got the Peer Pressure badge. If this isn't a badge that promotes bad behavior, I don't know what is. This made me realize that I can freely post as much pointless and stupid content that I want with no penalty as long as I delete it later.

  • Disciplined
    Deleted own post with score of 3 or higher

    This was pretty easy, too. I just deleted an old answer that had 3 upvotes. This badge encouraged me to remove potentially helpful content from the site.

There are a few more badges that seem to encourage less-than-helpful behavior (Vox Populi, Strunk & White, Taxonomist) but I don't really feel qualified to elaborate on why because I haven't obtained them nefariously (yet).

I'm not suggesting that these badges should be removed, becase, frankly, I'd like to keep them. Whenever you introduce new badges, though, I think it would be prudent to carefully consider whether or not they are constructive.

  • 1
    Sure you can game the system to a certain extent, but that isn't anything new - your question has already been discussed many times in whole or part. It's next to impossible to prevent all gaming.
    – slugster
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:09
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    I got the voting and editing badges partially through positive and partially through neutral behavior I just did so I could get the badges, but now I'm used to voting and editing -- they got me into good habits that continue to benefit the site (I just checked and I'm several hundred edits and votes past where I had all the badges). I continue to actively flag, often when it will be a real help instead of just "safe", because I already got Marshal so I don't worry about my flag weight. Also, I hope you're planning to delete that question :)
    – agf
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:10
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    Well, for Disciplined, you don't actually have to remove helpful content. Undeleting it after the badge is awarded works fine, and has no side effects since it's only ever awarded once.
    – a cat
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:15
  • @lunboks Aw, nuts, I should have thought of that. I don't remember where the answer is now, but I could have saved myself 30 rep points. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:17
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    Also, incoming Peer Pressure badge. This was all a ruse! Wake up, sheeple! ˚▱˚
    – a cat
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:33
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    Related: The Tumbleweed badge was retired in 2019. Related blog post: Adios to Unfriendly Badges! Ahoy, Lifejacket and Lifeboat. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 22:26

5 Answers 5


Generally badges serve two purposes:

  • Reward the user for doing something right
  • Compensate the user for losing out in some other area

Tumbleweed falls into the latter category; it's a pity badge for when the question wasn't bad (it didn't get downvoted), but the author still didn't get an answer. Unsung Hero is the same way -- we don't want people to not get upvotes, but we give them a badge if they don't get any when they clearly deserved them.

As for Peer Pressure and Disciplined, the intent is to (respectively) get people to delete a sucky post that's been downvoted, and to delete a wrong answer even if it got some upvotes. In both cases the point is to reward people for removing bad content from the site. You can earn them by intentionally putting bad content on the site and then eliminating it later, but it kind of makes you a terrible person.

Finally, as for the badges you haven't earned yet but are suspicious about (Vox Populi, Strunk & White, Taxonomist), those are also clearly to encourage good behavior (you should vote a lot, edit posts that need it, and create useful tags), but yes, if you're being actively malicious you can earn them without actually being a positive influence on the site.

  • @Michael His tumbleweed question was bad - it was technical-sounding noise masquerading as a question. I suspect it didn't attract downvotes because no-one had ever heard of any of the made-up tech.
    – razlebe
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 8:21
  • @razlebe I'm not talking about specific questions, I'm explaining why each badge exists. As I said several times, it's entirely possible to earn the badges without actually deserving them, which he clearly did in each case Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 13:51
  • @Michael, you said "it's a pity badge because your question wasn't bad (it didn't get downvoted), but you still didn't get an answer." - that's what I'm referring to.
    – razlebe
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 14:46
  • @razlebe I know; I'm not talking about any particular question there, I'm just explaining why the badge exists. I didn't even read his particular question. I edited it, maybe it's clearer now Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 14:53
  • @Michael Thanks - I think that's much clearer. :)
    – razlebe
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 14:55
  • I agree with almost every thing you said, except "delete a wrong answer even if it got some upvotes". Sometimes it's useful to have that answer up (as common gotcha/misconception) but only when it has received a rebuke in another answer. I actually have an example of this (on M.SE). Let me see if I can find it. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 18:03
  • Found it: math.stackexchange.com/questions/1133083/… The wrong answer didn't get any votes, because a correct one was given soon thereafter, but I don't see anything gained by deleting it. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 18:19

You can't earn Tumbleweed with pure noise; that would get closed and deleted. It's generally considered an exception to the "positive behavior" rule, and is more of a consolation prize for the first time the community doesn't help you.

As for Peer Pressure and Disciplined, they both have good motivation. One teaches that you can remove bad content; the other is to encourage removing bad content even though you'll lose some precious Official Reputation Points.

Yes, you can obtain these badges nefariously, but if you really care that much about just getting the badges — and bronze ones, at that! — then I humbly suggest you need to reconsider your motivation for being here. Also, I happen to be proud of the fact that I've never qualified for Peer Pressure (except semi-intentionally on Meta).

  • 1
    I'm just lying in wait for a more perfect opportunity.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:16
  • 3
    Did you look at the question he linked? It's pure noise.
    – agf
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:17
  • You don't see many of mine then huh? :p
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:17
  • @PopularDemand Yes, you all foiled my attempts to get a tumbleweed badge out of this meta post. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:18
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    No, I didn't see the link. You're right, @agf. It's artistic, though. My favorite part was where it had three reopen votes.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 20:12
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    @PopularDemand Yes, it is rather good nonsense. It's just legit enough that you can't really tell it isn't, at least not at first glance. That sort of deserves the bronze badge he got from it.
    – a cat
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 20:22
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    What's funny is after destroying his question here, 6 people followed the link and downvoted the question there, too. Sort of like Rodney Dangerfield in Back To School: "The football team at my high school, they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family". Thornton-Melon Badge?
    – LarsTech
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 20:36
  • 1
    The more I look at that post, the better it gets. That's it, I'm flagging @PeterOlson as an exact duplicate of Polly Davis.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 20:47
  • I feel like I'm missing something. Who's Polly Davis? Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 21:46
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    Ah, you must not be a loser (short for LOng-time meta uSER). Adam Davis, formerly known as Pollyanna, is known for such great posts as Question title that doesn't describe the problem and Don't close questions where the user has requested that it not be closed.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 21:52

I got all those badges without gaming.

There are legitimate reasons for them, and legitimate ways to earn them.

It's too bad you felt you had to have them at any price.

  • 5
    Let's not jump to conclusions -- in contrast to your reading, this sounds to me like an experiment. Sort of a "pen test" for badges. :) (Although OP did in fact use the word "nefariously"...)
    – jscs
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:42

Badges are also for entertainment. Even though you get a Peer Pressure badge by purposely making a bad answer, you only get one Peer Pressure badge. After that, you sort of lose the appeal of leaving bad answers. Besides, you do have to delete your answer to get it, so the badge works.

As far as Tumbleweed is concerned-- almost everyone gets them. Same issue since you can only get it once.


Badges are given for incentivizing positive behaviors, but also for letting the users familiarize with a Stack Exchange site. That is the case with the badges for leaving ten comments, for having posts on the meta site with at least two votes, for flagging the first post, for having visited every section of the FAQ, for the first rollback, etc.

If you notice, for most of those badges, there is just a bronze badge; for example, you don't get a silver badge after you rolled back X posts.

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