I see a potential revenue stream for StackExchange and a great feature for users. There have been a couple cases where I felt so happy after a person answered my question that I would spend $5, $10, $15 to send them a gift.

What if SE partnered with product or service companies (per SE site) to make this feature possible.

It could be done completely securely with SE as the broker, with SE receiving a commission for each transaction of course.

It's a chance for SE to pay for its developers by monetizing the compulsive behavior of people who just had their day, week or project made thanks to a question answered. Completely optional and unadvertised. When the user makes an Answer they could be prompted, "feeling generous? send a gift...".

Food for thought... :-)

[Edit] Removed a point I made about adding a gift as a bounty... I agree this is the wrong direction.

  • LOL, this will probably draw more downvotes but... the downvote rules are pretty clear - question shows lack of research or clarity. If you don't "like" a question than add a comment, don't downvote based on your opinion of the subject matter. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 17:50
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    Actually, downvotes on meta are different than on the regular SE network. meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences – Brandon Nov 17 '11 at 17:53
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    @Brandon I stand corrected. Sorry, the hover over text on the downvote still says the same as the other sites but I read the clarification in the link you provided. My bad, thanks for keeping me honest. :-) – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 18:00
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    @Brandon et al, it occurred to me that the META reputation system might be flawed given the nature of changes to the meaning of downvoting. It seems like the logic, that downvoting implies disagreement vs. poor question, would simply promote status quo questions and deter people from asking a question that is controversial... and that's bad for progress. Just a thought. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 18:15
  • That's been brought up before as well: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/93910/… – Brandon Nov 17 '11 at 18:30

Absolutely not. I do not want money to play a part in how Stack Overflow works.

This would create an incentive in the system whereby the questions of the wealthy (known "gifters") would receive significantly more attention than the questions of the average. It takes the focus off of the content and puts it on the contributor, which is not what Stack Overflow is about. Even if Stack Overflow itself keeps the gifting anonymous, websites would pop up all over the place where people share that data just through their own experiences.

There has been no shortage of discussion topics in the past to try to create some form of monetary value to reputation, and I see this as being the same thing. It's not a direct conversion of rep to cash, but the effect is similar enough to put it in the same category. The value of the content is defined by the community, not by wealth.

Indeed, imagine the sea of useless/incorrect/noisy answers you'd get for your questions if you were known to provide money as an incentive. A $10 gift may seem reasonable for a one-time situation, but your questions would quickly become targeted by some rep-farm warehouse in some other country where "contributors" spend all day "answering" in order to bring in a few "gifts" here and there.

I'm glad someone was able to help you, and I'm glad that you're appreciative of it. Thank you for contributing (after all, a good question is just as valuable as a good answer). But I don't think I'm alone in wanting the pat on the back to pretty much end with a "thank you" and some rep.

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    The key to the success of such a feature is a content-specific or Stack-site-specific gift of a small monetary value. Slightly more than a "token gift" but not work significant cash. I can see your concern in relation to a cash/gift bounty but when it comes to "impulse" gifting I don't agree with your doom scenario of "known gifters" being targeted... that just doesn't make sense at this scale or at the gift types I'm referring to. But I do appreciate the point you are making, even though I think it's a little sensational... nonetheless, something I hadn't considered. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 17:48
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    @kingdango We already have people that won't answer questions from askers with low accept rates, because there's less of a chance they'll get the 15 rep from an accept. The 15 rep is a "gift" that's worth absolutely nothing, and people still care -- you don't think they'll care when gifts worth actual money get involved? – Michael Mrozek Nov 17 '11 at 17:51
  • @kingdango: True, I'm sure the reality lies somewhere in between the current state and my doom and gloom predictions. However, it's still a step in the wrong direction. As well-intended as it may be, and as well-managed as it may be designed, it's a slippery slope that I'd much rather avoid entirely. – David Nov 17 '11 at 17:51
  • @MichaelMrozek If I understand you correctly, that non-monetary incentives are already very powerful, I agree completely. Guys, I am NOT talking about incentive-based gifting (well I might have been with the Bounty thing) but rather the opportunity for StackExchange to pay for it's developers by monetizing compulsive behavior of people who just received an answer that made their day, week, project. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 17:54
  • @kingdango: "monetizing compulsive behavior" Do you work for a tobacco company, by any chance? :) I like the intent of your idea, I really do. But that quote alone demonstrates that it's dangerous ground. – David Nov 17 '11 at 17:58
  • @David that's business speak for paying for this awesome service you leverage on a regular basis. making money is not wrong, believe me this place makes money or else you wouldn't have it. Do you do any gaming or ever go see a movie... that's monetizing compulsive behavior my friend. Sounds scary but it's just the most descriptive and succinct wording. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 18:01

There have been many sites that have tried this model. They have all failed.

Google Answers is one site that readily comes to mind but there is also another where you pay a subscription fee for access to a forum (or just scroll to the bottom of the page for the "hidden" content.) That site was full of people providing poor or wrong answers in hopes of getting a few pennies for their efforts.

When I say failed I don't necessarily mean they went away, I mean they lost their quality/interest. There are studies in psychology (that I've heard of but can't readily cite) that suggest compensation motivates to a certain degree but can also demotivate.

Unless your gifts are adequate to provide a knowledgeable professional with a fair livelihood (which is very expensive, and I would argue there isn't enough of a market for this degree of compensation on a typical questions site), all you'll do is attract mostly low-quality content.

  • I can think of two Google Answers and Yahoo Answers. Both failed for other reasons. Are you thinking of another example? – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 17:51
  • I updated my answer some. – user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 18:04
  • again, the gift is compulsory not an incentive. The questioneer, once marking a question as answered, might have an option to send a gift. Could some put put in the question "and I'll gift the right answer" sure but I don't see that as a real sustained problem (or a problem at all for that matter). – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 18:11
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    A tip at a restaurant is optional. Do you think you can go to a restaurant and not tip? An option to some (many?) may imply an obligation, especially if that person has the means to provide a tip/gift. At that point I believe there is effectively no difference between the idea and direct compensation. – user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 18:18
  • Patently false. Most guests are anonymous to a waitress... she will do the same job regardless of tip history and won't know what kind of tip she gets until the end. If a guest does not tip her she still will have provide the same job -- and in this cause she gets the reputation (base compensation) already provided by the restaurant. Your argument so far has compared my idea to compensation-based sites which failed -- not at all related to my suggestion, and now you are suggesting that a compulsory gift OPTION will become "implied" like a tip is at a restaurant... that doesn't add up. – kingdango Nov 17 '11 at 18:22
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    Please do not use an aggressive tone. I am only trying to help your question. If you do not like my answer you may disagree but please remain respectful . . . I disagree on your analysis that to a restaurant server a tip is random. Good service results in good tips and vice versa. Moreover, as you may know, restaurants do not have to pay workers the same level of minimum wage as jobs that don't require tips. There is a very well-grounded understanding that part of these people's compensation will be in tips and most people are well aware of this fact. I don't personally deem a tip an option. – user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 18:31
  • Sorry if that came off aggressive. People on SO aren't answering questions for money, min wage or not. does an option to send a gift really require that all existing altruism vanish? – kingdango Nov 18 '11 at 0:07
  • Your cultural bias is showing: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_(gratuity) – Andrew Nov 18 '11 at 6:24
  • Shall I respond in kind with the exact same response but a different link? No, I will abstain because neither comment would add any value to the discussion, it would just erode civility. – kingdango Nov 18 '11 at 13:54
  • Apologies if that came across as rude; my observation was that "tipping" is not a universal custom. What was yours? – Andrew Nov 20 '11 at 6:57

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