So, I was just listening to The StackExchange Podcast #20, and they're talking about how to disincentivize people answering simple, easily answered (googled) questions.

Just to be clear, I'm talking about how to keep people from answering bad questions. There already seems to be discussion of how to discourage asking, but people don't always follow those guidelines to discourage askers, possibly because they can still get rep for answering poor questions.

why not, if a question gets closed as duplicate/not useful/anything else, anyone who has answered lose the rep they gained.

I realize no one likes losing rep, but perhaps that's the point.

EDIT: multiple complexities surrounding duplicates have been pointed out. But how about if this was just for things closed as off topic, not constructive, or too localized? I'm also not wedded to this particular disincentive, and was hoping that people might offer alternative ways of using reputation to discourage people from answering questions that don't benefit the site.

I'm trying to discuss something like this question, but about things other than duplicates, which are often easier to recognize and less helpful to keep around (the non-duplicates, that is). This answer also brings up an important point about removing rep on close. Namely that closure is often temporary, and so changes in rep, or notifications admonishing users for answering a question, tied to closure could be useless or annoying.

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    It would have to be an immediate reputation loss and clearly flagged as being tied to answering this "poor" question. Otherwise people won't associate the action with the consequence.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Sep 29, 2011 at 14:57
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    I kinda like this, fwiw
    – jcolebrand
    Sep 29, 2011 at 14:58
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    This has a chance to work only if a duplicate is truly obvious and easy to find. Pretty sure this idea's been brought up before, though, so this question may be an example of the very thing you're describing.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 29, 2011 at 14:59
  • @random That's dealing with the asker, I'm wondering about the answerer.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 15:28
  • @Anna Lear do you have a link? I didn't see anything similar when I looked. I do know that improved duplicate finding is something being worked on.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 15:28
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    @Dogmatixed - Random's second link directly addresses this issue
    – JNK
    Sep 29, 2011 at 15:58
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    @JNK So Random's second link addressed the issue, but it didn't address the cure. This proposes a cure.
    – jcolebrand
    Sep 29, 2011 at 16:03
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    @jcolebrand I agree, just correcting him
    – JNK
    Sep 29, 2011 at 16:05
  • @JNK yeah, Sorry, I didn't even see that there was a second link.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 16:37
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  • @AnnaLear Sorry about that, and thank you, I had never thought to use google to find stuff on stack overflow, I will use that in the future. I believe I've now altered my question to focus on things other than duplicates, which (based on some google & SO Meta searches) I now believe to be its own question.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 18:20

2 Answers 2


I would tend to agree that answers to questions closed for any of the following reasons should not gain reputation, because these questions don't belong on the site in the first place.

  • off topic
  • not constructive
  • too localized

At the very least, I would support immediately locking any post closed for these three reasons so at least existing answers cannot continue to garner upvotes.

I'm a bit more ambivalent about answers to questions closed as exact duplicate, on the other hand. While I agree that there are a lot of egregious offenders out there, even Jeff has admitted (in SE Podcast #18, if I remember correctly) that it can be very difficult to find duplicates and that a given question may require four duplicates for minimum coverage. Furthermore, even if a question is marked as a duplicate, it may have attracted better answers than the original question it was marked a duplicate of. We certainly don't want to discourage better answers to existing questions through duplicates.

  • I think your last bolded point is very good, and I'm not sure how my idea could be altered to accommodate it.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:41
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    The problem with this logic is, if the closed question does not belong on the site in the first place, they should be deleted. Closed is not deleted, so it is not appropriate to deny rep through that mechanism. The answers were still provided and reputation "awarded" by the community. The adverse incentives lie with the failure to remove the closed question, not the reputation awards. Sep 29, 2011 at 17:52
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    I agree. It would be better to delete the question than to artificially remove the rep/votes from the answer while leaving it in existence.
    – Daniel
    Sep 29, 2011 at 18:03
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    Hm. If that's the case, why are questions closed as off topic/not constructive/too localized without being deleted? How many questions are actually deleted when they are closed for these reasons? Sep 29, 2011 at 18:08

If the question is closed as anything besides a dupe, it will be (should be) deleted eventually, thereby negating any rep gained or lost by it or its answers.

I'm not convinced that answers on dupes should be punished. It's the asker's burden to search, not the answerer's. And they may be useful answers. Perhaps merging should be done more often when there are good answers on the closed dupe.

Perhaps faster deletion of non-dupe closed questions, plus a notification to those who participated in the deleted question, would meet ChrisF's criteria (which I agree with). But if the question is not deleted I would really hesitate to strip the rep from it; if it's really worthless it should be deleted without extra gymnastics.

Maybe even a notification to the answerers on closure would be useful. For example:

  • "This question you answered was closed as Not Constructive. Please don't encourage this kind of question by answering!"
  • "This question you answered was closed as a duplicate of this questions. Consider moving your answer from the first to the second and searching for duplicates before answering."

Those could use some work, but you get the idea.

  • Any thoughts on things besides dupes? Also, @ChrisF's comment above on the need for immediacy and clear reason argues for something a little stronger than 'eventually'. And while I agree that it should be the asker's burden, in practice that hasn't seemed to work so far. The real problem askers are not people who are invested in the site and therefore not aware of guidelines, whereas people who are answering are almost guaranteed to be invested in the site (they've signed up, right?) and are more likely to be affected by incentives/disincentives.
    – Dogmatixed
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:27
  • @Dogmatixed Updated. User education and rep whoring are obvious problems here, and I'm not sure of the best way to increase the former and decrease the latter. There will always be (willfully) ignorant users and those who just want rep above all else.
    – user154510
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:32
  • Most users don't do rep recalcs though, so they don't even lose rep from deleted posts, right?
    – agf
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:37
  • @agf Rep recalcs happen every once in awhile anyways, but yes. It's been proposed before that question deletion recalc everyone involved, which I think would be useful.
    – user154510
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:41
  • They happen once in a while anyway? Source? I've never observed / heard that.
    – agf
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:43
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    @agf: "You should always expect a small amount of normal flux and variation around your reputation score, which will be reconciled through periodic recalculations like this one." - The Great Reputation Recalc Begins by Jeff Atwood
    – Jeremy
    Sep 29, 2011 at 17:55
  • @JeremyBanks Good quote, but I think Matthew Read was right in his deleted comment; it's only actually happened that one time.
    – agf
    Sep 29, 2011 at 18:09

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