I believe we can agree that answerer's come to stackexchange to farm reputation. On StackOverflow an OP has the power to reward up to 25 points to the answerer. A user who, for example, goes 7 months as a member and asks various questions...never accepting an answer. In effect, this person is defeating the purpose of participating in the site.

Therefore, I believe this to be fair grounds to downvote and remove 2 points from their reputation to encourage them to participate. The effects are small in comparison to the effective removal of 25 points by the OP who never accepts or up votes.

I also firmly believe this integrates with the purpose of upvoting question askers. They should be a part of the question asking process. We upvote them for asking good questions that encourage good answers. Why can't we downvote them for abandoning the process?

Some disagree, so I'm looking here for an "official" answer.

  • 1
    see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19665/the-help-vampire-problem there is a direct duplicate somewhere around here though.
    – phwd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:18
  • In the interest of full disclosure this question is what you are referring to, correct? I saw all of your comment get moderator-deleted just a minute ago... Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:20
  • Yes, and the comments show arguments from both sides. At least, until it was silenced by moderation. People continue to downvote the question even after all the moderators are trying to stop them. Does the community have no effect on your moderation? Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:22
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    @P.Brian Right, the question comments are not really the place for that type of argument / discussion (thus why it was removed - all it did was add noise). Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:26
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    Both sides? You were the only one commenting in favor of downvoting the post. I don't know why you even needed to ask this here, since it was already explained to you before. The guy you were downvoting has only asked six questions. He's not exactly leeching the life out of us. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:27
  • @Bill - There's no possible way I could have downvoted the question the 10+ times it has been downvoted. That's the community speaking not me. Note how they upvoted the first comment regarding accepting answers 5+ times. Your arguments are not logical. This feels more like a barrage of personal feelings than that of reason. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:28
  • @P.Brian you misread, "You were the only one commenting". Others downvoted and went on their merry way to other questions.
    – phwd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:32
  • @jadarnel27: while a dupe, I'm not sure that question was due 8 downvotes.
    – user7116
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:33
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    I'm just going to say this: if you're in here for the reputation, or if you think we are here for the reputation, you have a very misinformed impression of the word reputation and the purpose of Stack Exchange. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:33
  • I disagree. People don't downvote a question 8x just because it's a possible duplicate. That's what closing is for. stackoverflow.com/users/722756/user722756?tab=reputation Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:36
  • @sixletter I fully agree with you there. I don't think the question deserved any downvotes. Sorry if I made it seem as though I thought otherwise. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:36
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    @jadarnel27: nah, didn't think you were. I was lamenting the onslaught it received merely due to the OP's accept rate. I could have worded my comment better :)
    – user7116
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:37
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    "I believe we can agree that answerer's come to stackexchange to farm reputation" Nooooooope. Not at all why I come here. I think your opening statement is likely responsible for more than a few downvotes.
    – user229044
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:52
  • @meagar - Sure its not the "single purpose". We arent simpletons. Its a major part of why SO works over say, MSDN which just introduced a point system due to the many pitfalls of not having one. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:56

5 Answers 5


You vote on questions and answers, not people. If you feel you can predict in advance that a particular answerer will not reward you for answering, feel free not to answer. I find that good answers get upvotes from many folks other than the OP - what the OP provides is the opportunity for me to write an answer and show it to people.

But perhaps you feel in your tags your only hope for rep is from the OP. And perhaps you are doing this just for rep. In that case, don't answer. But sending a message to others that "this is a stupid question" when in fact you mean "this is a question from a person whose actions I disagree with" is just plain wrong.

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    I'm an empirical man, as many developers are. There's little need to "predict" or otherwise look into a magic crystal ball when #'s speak for themselves. A user with 0% accept rate over half a years time is not participating in the process. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:21
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    @P.Brian.Mackey: then elect to not participate in answering their questions. Problem solved, you don't "lose" any reputation, they don't "gain" an answer.
    – user7116
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:30
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    @P.Brian.Mackey notice that whether you upvoted me or not, and whether you go on to accept my answer or not, I've gained 130 meta rep and a badge as a result of answering this question. That was my point. Relax about the OP, answer for posterity, and consider that even when the OP won't give you 25 rep, they are giving you (with any luck) a great question to answer. Or, if they're not, just move on. There are always other questions. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:55
  • @Kate - Note my comment below distinguishing between popular and average questions. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:57

In effect, this person is defeating the purpose of participating in the site.

No they're not.

Therefore, I believe this to be fair grounds to downvote and remove 2 points from their reputation to encourage them to participate.

No, it isn't. How does that encourage them? You gain more reputation from two upvotes on a good answer than you do from having your answer accepted. Just move on and answer more questions.

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    No? That's not a good or reasonable argument. Please provide a logical explanation. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:18
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    @P.Brian The purpose is to share information and help the internet. That one user not accepting or upvoting doesn't change anything. If the answer is correct then the community will vote on it. How do you differentiate from user who post difficult questions have 0% accept rate should they accept answer they know are not correct?
    – phwd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:21
  • You differentiate by paying careful attention to the question itself and with good overall moderation. It's no different than moderation in general. It simply requires a decision to do the right thing and take away points from people who do not give them. I do not see how this is a difficult task to imlement nor do I see how it is unfair. If they do not respect the point system, why would they care what their reputation is anyhow? It's more of an indicator to answerer's who see a very low point user or negative votes that the question is not good for some reason or another. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:24
  • @P.Brian How is that up to the OP alone? That one vote from an OP does not necessarily say the solution is right. I can accept a negative answer because it was I want. But the community thinks otherwise. All the accepts and upvotes from an OP show is that he/she likes this question and thinks it solved his/her problem. That's it. I am going to say it again if the answer is good it will get votes and float to the the top of the answer list. You don't need an action from the OP to show that.
    – phwd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:45
  • @phwd - I believe that makes sense for the smallest %, most popular questions on SO. Generally, questions receive a very small # of votes. The OP plays a large part in the reward system for the average question. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:49
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    @P.Brian.Mackey so don't answer average questions. If you're all about the rep (and I'm not) then look for questions that will get you rep. But don't penalize both the OP and future readers of the question with an indicator that isn't technically accurate but is just motivated by your opinion that others should be motivated by the same things as you. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 20:00
  • @Kate - You are reading too much into what I'm saying. I already responded to a similar comment. I agree, nobody on SO is a simpleton who mindlessly farms reputation like a WoW gold farmer. I like the collaborative learning aspects as much as the next guy. I just disagree with you guys here. Question askers who come in and disregard the social aspects of the site (E.G. don't pick answers, don't upvote) should be down voted for non-participation. That's all. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 20:10

The mouseover tooltip on the "vote up" arrow reads "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear". The tooltip on the "vote down" arrow reads "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful".

Note how neither tooltip refers to the user. The "vote up" one doesn't say "This user is awesome and deserves a +1", and the "vote down" one doesn't say "This user is a douchebag and deserves a -1".

Votes are for questions and answers, not for users. While it's frustrating to see someone with a very low user accept rate, the correct course of action is to leave them a comment reminding them to accept some answers to their questions, not to downvote their questions or answers.

  • It should. That's part of the problem. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:32
  • What exactly is the problem? Not getting the green check you "deserve"?
    – user7116
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:35
  • @P.Brian.Mackey: No, it shouldn't. SO is a question-and-answer site, not a reputation whoring site. It's the questions and answers that really matter, not the user's reputation. I think you're missing the whole point, here.
    – CanSpice
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:37
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    No. Not "me". Answerers as a whole. People who spend the time to write up a good, well thought out answer deserve to have their efforts rewarded. They take time and risk to put down an answer with the potential to be flamed or downvoted. Their efforts should be rewarded. If not for the point system, the site would be more like old MSDN with no differentiation between good and bad. Or, like it is today with no negative reputation. Its difficult to tell good from bad on MSDN. By the same token, answers should be respected and chosen. People should know the correct solution. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 19:37

the effective removal of 25 points by the OP who never accepts or up votes

I disagree with this premise. By not up-voting or accepting answers, the OP is not "removing" 25 points from anybody's reputation. He may be choosing not to add 25 points, either directly by not wanting to participate in that part of the system or indirectly by not believing the answer to be "good" (even if it is correct) or if the answer didn't in fact solve his problem. (Or simply because he's new to the site and doesn't know how this part of the system works.)

The act of posting an answer does not inherently entitle someone to up-votes or acceptance. The former is collectively given (or not given) by the community and the latter is explicitly given (or not given) by the OP. Think of it this way: If you choose not to give me money, are you stealing money from me?

One may argue that failing to compensate for services rendered is tantamount to theft. However, Stack Exchange makes no such guarantee for those services in the first place.

Keep in mind that just because an answer is correct, that doesn't necessarily mean that it meets some key criteria:

  • The answer is useful. (This is a very subjective statement, probably on purpose. The answer may be poorly formed, may be nothing more than a link to another answer, or may fail in any number of ways to subjectively merit an up-vote from a particular user.)
  • The answer solved the problem for the OP. Even if it's correct, it might not fix the OP's problem. Even if it is incorrect, it might lead the OP down another path toward a solution. Again, it's all highly subjective.

Voting on questions/answers and accepting answers is not compulsory, nor should it be.

  • 4
    +1, you don't "deserve" any reputation at all, you earn it.
    – user7116
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 23:19

I do not believe users that come to SE to answer should be here to farm reputation. If they are, it is for the wrong reasons. What is the goal of StackOverflow specifically?

Better Programming

It is claimed we value reputation but what we do is programming. That's all we do here. Anyone putting reputation above programming is in the wrong field. Gamification is just a way to encourage the process of sharing information.

The OP does have the power to reward up to 25 points to a user. Now think about the following

  • How many times did the OP visit the site (Not how long he was a member)?
  • Did he/she read the FAQ (Check for analytical badge)?
  • Do they know how to up vote and accept answers?
  • Do they know that accepting an answer does not necessarily mean it will be upvoted automatically?
  • Is English their first language?

All these questions and more tie into how a user responds to answers. And that's what helpful comments are there for.

Is the person defeating the purpose of participating in the site?

Knowing that the goal is to spread information about better programming. I would say no.

Is he using all the features of the site?

No, but it doesn't matter. No one should force them to do that. As the goal of better programming by spreading knowledge has been established by the OP and users who answer.

There are edges, tags where activity is low

Is the responsibility now on the OP to reward users since there is not as much activity as on more popular tags? No, not at all. It's a community we all run the site. So the responsibility is on everyone to vote if there is an answer that is useful. If the answer is indeed amazing I will bet you it will be voted on, it may not be today, it may not be tomorrow but somewhere along the line, someone from a Google search will hit the question and see you answer and say

Hey, this user helped me out let me give him a +1

Boom, the system works.

So maybe this is where the true issue lies... how to deal with low activity tags.

  • A thought occurs of posting a comment accusing you of hypocritically being here for the reputation, and henceforth taking the liberty to take your privilege to edit posts on MSO away through a cruel, biased downvote. A second thought occurs that this may not be the case and that I should not be so cynical and just upvote you for speaking in good will anyway. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 20:48
  • Oh hey, 2011 rep. Just in time for the year end. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 20:55
  • True, it could be seen as that, though it was only way for me to ping Brian directly without leaving comments on other users' posts. Also it was just too long to fit my thinking of the problem in a comment. This way I could discuss on this post without making a tangent on others. So I might as well use the encouragement to post as an answer ;)
    – phwd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 21:09

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