A major change was suddenly introduced in the way reputation is calculated yesterday:

if you’ve contributed something worthwhile to the site, you should keep the reputation for that even if it eventually gets deleted. “Worthwhile” here is defined as,

  • A score of 3 or greater
  • Visible on the site for at least 60 days

This makes no sense: if the answer contribution is worthwhile, why would it be deleted?

Even if the contribution is a positive contribution to the Internet but is off-topic for the site, it should not count in the site's reputation. I may write the greatest ever post about gardening¹, but if I post it on Stack Overflow, it should not count as reputation on Stack Overflow. Because my Stack Overflow reputation is supposed to have some connection with how good I am at programming, not with how good I am at gardening. If you say that a contribution is a contribution and should count, you might as well display a single total reputation figure combining all Stack Exchange sites. That's not what Stack Exchange is about. If we want a questionable unified organization of random answers, we know where to find it.

I can't figure out the justification for the score threshold. I think I see why the visibility threshold was introduced: only posts that have probably had views to match the votes are thus enshrined. The thresholds are an incentive not to clean up bad posts until they meet the threshold. Let my bad posts stay under the radar for at least 60 days, and I'll get rep for them.

The argument for the change is bogus:

In fast-changing professions, there should be no shame in contributing valuable information just because it eventually goes out of date – and there shouldn’t be a penalty for deleting it when it does. Naturally, editing to bring an answer up-to-date is preferable – but if someone else already posted a good answer with current information, you should be able to remove yours and keep the reward for the time it was useful.

No! An answer with obsolete information should not be deleted. It should be edited, ideally to contain up-to-date information, or at least to indicate that the information is out of date. Obsolete information is still valuable. A post about version 3 of a software program does not become irrelevant the day version 4 comes out; it should be updated, if the information does not apply to version 4, but it should stay for the sake of people who still use version 3.

There are a few cases where information about older versions is not directly relevant, but it can still be useful. For example, if a web application has changed its API, a post about the old API won't help people who are programming for the new API, but it can still be a godsend to people who are trying to upgrade an old, poorly-commented application written for the old API. Stack Exchange in general frowns on time-sensitive questions (that's why we have the “too localized” closed reason); that does enough to keep obsolete content out, because we do not allow much content that will become obsolete in the first place.

A lot of Stack Exchange sites (Stack Overflow first, of course, and the pattern repeated on many other sites) went through an early experimental phase where a lot of things were tried. Reputation is an indication of participation based on competence in the field, not on participation in building and maintaining the site; that's why moderation actions and meta posts do not count in participation. The deleted² side of the experimental phase is participation in building the site, it does not belong in the reputation calculation.

To give an example, on Science Fiction & Fantasy, my reputation jumped by almost 1000 overnight, because I had participated in our early “list” questions. After a while, we realized that lists questions were harming the site and purged them; they should not be reckoned in my or any other participants' reputation.

My reputation should reflect my visible posts on the site, same as users who came in later and never had a chance to participate in the old stuff we swept under the rug. Reputation for deleted posts is effectively a bonus for the old-timers. This is not desirable: it tells newcomers that no matter how hard they try, they'll never look as good as the people who jumped on the bandwagon a bit earlier.

TL,DR: **Do not include any deleted posts in reputation calculations.**³

¹ Generic I. I am incapable of writing a great post about gardening. Oh, you know what I mean.
² Or should-be-deleted.
³ And more generally — but this is not part of this feature request — don't spring such changes without first discussing them with the community (not even with moderators were informed before the fact).

  • I'm not sure: are you asking for reputation to be restored when a post is deleted? Which is the current policy, if I'm not wrong. – Alenanno Mar 6 '12 at 13:37
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    @Alenanno he's asking for it to be removed when a post is deleted, which used to be the policy until yesterday – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 13:39
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    -1 but counts as -100 in my mind. "Reputation for deleted posts is effectively a bonus for the old-timers." Old-timers that have spent a lot of their precious time answering in-topic, at that time, questions; part of the Stack Overflow foundation in term of traffic, knowledge and entertainment. – systempuntoout Mar 6 '12 at 14:49
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    Yeah, well, +eleventy times infinity in my mind. Old timers that have also accrued thousands upon thousands of legitimate reputation over the years, old timers that will absolutely not miss the few hundred or even few thousand points lost due to deleted content. Old timers that may have even deleted that content themselves and perhaps even long since gave up the reputation via manual recalculation. – Anthony Pegram Mar 6 '12 at 15:38
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    @Ant "old timers that will absolutely not miss the few hundred or even few thousand points lost due to deleted content" you are not an old-timer, aren't you? How do you know? – systempuntoout Mar 6 '12 at 16:55
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    @systempuntoout I am an old-timer (on Science Fiction & Fantasy, not on Stack Overflow), and as I wrote I won't miss the lost points, in fact I actively oppose these lost points. Pekka is an old-timer on SO and doesn't miss the lost points either. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 17:01
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    @Gilles sorry but "Science Fiction and Fantasy" Old-timer is an oxymoron. – systempuntoout Mar 6 '12 at 17:07
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    The title of your question seems misleading, it change meaning with the point of view. Because if a post is deleted you're asking that the rep should change to reflect that. – Rik Poggi Mar 6 '12 at 17:07
  • @RikPoggi “Deleted posts should not influence reputation” means that your reputation should be the same if the deleted posts did not exist at all. It seems you understood “Post deletion should not influence reputation”, which indeed would have the opposite meaning that deleted posts keep granting reputation. If you need further clarifications, this is probably a suitable question for English Language & Usage. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 17:15
  • @Gilles: I uderstood very well the content of your question, I was expressing the feeling that the title could be ambivalent, nothing more. – Rik Poggi Mar 6 '12 at 17:19
  • @systempuntoout: Most of the stuff in question has never been on topic in the first place. Those questions usually went through a few close/reopen cycles and have always at best been borderline questions. – sth Mar 6 '12 at 18:48
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    What?? This is exactly the opposite of what at least I personally wanted when my question was deleted. I want the links fixed, the content back (but not searchable from within SO), but the rep can stay gone. Crazy. – darron Mar 6 '12 at 20:18
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    Closed as "we just worked out a solution, now everyone stop bitching kthx" – Cody Gray Mar 6 '12 at 21:05
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    @Cody: So the problem was after all just that people got rep removed? – sth Mar 7 '12 at 0:39
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    @CodyGray, trying out something like this is a terrible idea. If it goes wrong, and you try to undo it, you get two sh#t storms instead of one! – Benjol Mar 8 '12 at 5:49

12 Answers 12


I'm not as hard-core a deletionist as Gilles is, but I agree with this 100%: when something gets deleted, rep points should be eliminated as well. For one, because this new policy has a terrible side-effect: it further encourages answering duplicates - even if the dupe gets removed eventually during some purge, people get to keep their rep. That is potentially setting a bad precedent.

At the very very least, the required upvote threshold should be raised massively to 10 or more.

But even with that - as Gilles points out, the policy is likely to favour mainly us veterans. It doesn't set a good example for the site. It will give fuel to people complaining about how newbies will never reach the top rep scores. That argument is largely nonsense, but how can you refute it when there is an elite of users who have thousands of points from popular deleted questions?

This is not a fair change, and it feels like it was designed to assuage some users' whining about lost rep rather than establish a guideline for future high-quality contributions. Please change it. You know I'm all for preserving the cool old stuff somehow, but bending the rules so people get to keep their points is a step too far.

Plus, it replaces what was a simple, straightforward system by a very complicated formula.

Please revert this.

Edit - some make a social argument along the lines of not alienating users that does have a point, especially in light of the tensions over the past few days. I still don't feel comfortable with it, but that's a point of view I can respect. However, I'm leaving this answer unchanged so not to change the meaning of the votes.

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    Full disclosure: I think I have lost a significant number of points from deletions, although probably not as many as others. But the bottom line is: rep is meaningless. Especially when you have 10k+ or 50k+ or 100k+ of it. – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 13:25
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    Good point about the dupes, I hadn't even tought of that nasty consequence. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 13:26
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    I agree. If I have deleted content of my own accord or it has been deleted by the normal process, it is not helpful by definition and therefore should earn no reputation for me. And why should the new rule only apply to those with upvotes? You could make a better argument that highly downvoted content reputation should remain, lest people think those contributors are actually trustworthy (note: not proposing this) (I regained 130 rep on Programmers and 178 on SO, so I have "benefited" slightly from this new policy). – Anthony Pegram Mar 6 '12 at 13:26
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    it feels like it was designed to assuage some users' whining about lost rep rather than establish a guideline for future high-quality contributions Exactly! – Dennis Mar 6 '12 at 13:27
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    I don't think it does much to duplicates, actually. Most duplicates don't get deleted in order to retain the whole "higher searchability" thing, and those that do get deleted, I'm willing to garner tend to get deleted within the 60 days. – Grace Note Mar 6 '12 at 13:38
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    You should stop worrying and love dupes. – user1228 Mar 6 '12 at 13:38
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    They're already getting reputation, even without 3+ upvotes, if they're sitting there in 5000+ count and no one is deleting them. That's the thing - most of the problems with duplicates gaining unnecessary upvotes is already still prevalent with the lax nature of handling them already. Amongst other things one could pick apart the new policy with, I don't really think dupes is a particularly strong point. – Grace Note Mar 6 '12 at 13:50
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    Also, the +3 requirement is for the post itself, not necessarily the question. Any incentive to upvote a question for purposes of garnering upvotes for your answers is unchanged by this policy. – Grace Note Mar 6 '12 at 13:51
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    -1 refunding rep lowers resistance to deletion => makes cleaning up SO easier. As for "fairness", both rep refunding and removal feel slippery to me => no ground to make a preference. Full disclosure: the only rep I got refunded so far seem to be 30 points (<1%) and I do not expect this to change much in the future – gnat Mar 6 '12 at 14:10
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    @gnat yeah, I do acknowledge that deletionism and making rep disappear feels a bit like Stalin having executed former comrades removed from historical photographs. But all in all, I think it's the much cleaner and more transparent way. Rep stays connected to actual contributions; what gets removed, gets removed, period. (can you clarify which neighbours you are referring to though? I'm scratching my head. The Austrians? :) – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 14:36
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    that doesn't feel like a moral high ground to me, sorry. Look, "actual contributions" = "ones that fit current rules", what's moral about this? Please don't forget I like current rules and I want SO cleanup based on these - I just find them to be a shaky foundation for moral assertions. As for neighbors you got it right I meant Austrians (and Australians, too! :) – gnat Mar 6 '12 at 14:59
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    @Adam, my "compromise" would be to instead not automatically deduct from the reputation, but not add any either until you are back in sync. "Have content deleted and lose 200 reputation? Fine, keep it. Your next 20 upvotes will net you nothing. Have a nice day. Feel free to perform a manual recalculation to get in line right now." – Anthony Pegram Mar 6 '12 at 16:39
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    "Rep is meaningless" Oh, so that's why it appears next to every question and answer I post, is at the top of my screen, is included on my Careers profile, and my profile includes a tab with everything that impacts it? Because it's meaningless. Right. You can't have it both ways -- you can't build an intricate and visible system on reputation points, and then lecture people who disagree with it that it's meaningless. – JohnMcG Mar 6 '12 at 18:25
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    @JohnMcG I didn't build the system. And yes, rep is meaningless when 50k+ users complain about the loss of a couple hundred points. IMO. – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 18:26
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    That still doesn't explain the "terrible". Like you say, we already have a lot of duplication, and some duplication is downright essential. So given your vision of the site, more duplicates might be suboptimal, but terrible is a pretty strong word. Apart from that, I'm far from convinced that people will intentionally game the system like this, and intentionally refrain from closing duplicates just so they can score a few more rep. – jalf Mar 7 '12 at 11:37

I don't think reputation means what you think it means. Reputation doesn't mean you are good at programming, but rather that you've been able to help someone on this site. Reputation is your reward for having taken the time and energy to think about someone's question and produce an answer that at least 3 people found helpful. The fact that it was on the site for 60 days shows that at the time it was likely within the bounds of the site's topic.

Honestly, I'm more concerned that useful, historical information is still be deleted and that leaving the reputation when that happens really serves to hide that fact. The jury is still out, but it's possible that the deletionists have actually won, with the exception of a few notable, historical questions. For example, @casparOne deleted this College Degree question. I know that I found it useful because I up voted at least two of the answers. P.SE doesn't want it, but it was up voted enough that I think it should fit the historical definition. In this case, perhaps, with a link to P.SE indicating that more relevant information can be found there on career aspirations.

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    The thing about many of these old questions is - they're really cool. I love to read them when I have some free time. But how many of them can be classified as help? Are the answers in the "Worst UI" question help? I don't think they are. The example you mention is much more helpful, of course, but how would you tell one apart from the other? I still think - if something moves off the site, you lose the rep for it. It's just fair. – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 13:33
  • Your answer makes me think you didn't read my question and jumped at me because I proposed lowering your reputation. Regarding your first paragraph, I explain this in my question: reputation is not supposed to reward off-topic contributions, even if they fell under the radar. As for your second paragraph, it's an unrelated rant, you should post it here. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 13:37
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    @tvan "The fact that it was on the site for 60 days shows that at the time it was likely within the bounds of the site's topic." So after 60 days the site policy changes? If by chance I don't see an answer for 60 days (remote, but not impossible), and I delete it after seeing it the 61st day, this means it was still off topic. – Alenanno Mar 6 '12 at 13:56
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    @Gilles - For myself, I'm perfectly ok with not getting rep for old, now "off-topic" posts. I answered quite a few "community wiki" questions when I KNEW I wasn't going to get any reputation. I just don't like seeing the work that I contributed in good faith being dumped into the ether by a single mod years after the fact. The loss of rep is annoying because I did EARN it according to the rules in place when I answered it and my preference would be to keep it, but if that means the deletionists win because I get to keep my rep, I'd rather give up the rep and keep the content. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 14:06
  • @Alenanno - 60 days may not be long enough, I don't know. I assume that someone did some data analysis and chose to draw the line in the sand there. It has to be drawn somewhere. The point is that the initial period serves as a barometer as to whether the post is considered "on topic" at the time. Remember it has to get both 3 up votes AND survive for 60 days. Would I argue if it were 5 up votes and 120 days, probably not. The stuff that's being deleted now has survived much longer and, often, has dozens or even hundreds of up votes. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 14:10
  • @tvanfosson: what if it wasn't deleted by a single moderator? What if it was deleted by ten users? Would that feel better? – John Saunders Mar 6 '12 at 15:17
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    @JohnSaunders let's see how the "historical status" designation works out. I'd like to see old questions with some level of upvotes automatically convert to "historical status" when some number of delete votes have been cast instead of being deleted. To address the issue of longevity, perhaps the threshold of votes has to be achieved within a year. Perhaps only questions that achieve the "good question" badge (25+ votes) qualify. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 15:39
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    I wouldn't say the deletionists have won. Popular questions will require 3 to 10 delete votes from the community to remove them, which is still a pretty high bar, and now that the community has the power to remove them, you're not going to see me anywhere near them. – user102937 Mar 6 '12 at 15:41
  • @tvanfosson: ok, we'll see. But let me suggest an exercise. In the Questions tab, view by "Newest", then page to the "end" of the list. Scroll backwards through the history of the site. There's a lot of good stuff there - we had some very good questions the first few weeks. Those are not closed and are not candidates for deletion. The closed questions stick out like sore thumbs. – John Saunders Mar 6 '12 at 15:43
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    @RobertHarvey - that's only true if moderators stop exercising their binding deletion votes, which you indicate that you will. If others do as well, that's good news. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 15:49
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    Moderators will not completely stop exercising their binding deletion votes. There are still situations where a dispute erupts and a moderator must decide; that's why binding votes exist. But those situations are far less frequent than the cleanups that have been taking place. – user102937 Mar 6 '12 at 15:54
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    @RobertHarvey - I was speaking in the context of historical questions with lots of up votes. My advice to moderators for questions that qualify for the Good Question badge or that has answers that qualify for the Good Answer badge and are now off topic would be to just leave it alone or lock it as a historical oddity. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 15:57
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    Counter-example: Every question in the [career-development] tag qualifies as a historical artifact, under the new rules. Every one of them is egregiously off-topic. Many of them are too localized, of benefit only to the asker. I don't think any of them are really the kind of question you are talking about. Most of the people complaining about those questions being deleted are people losing reputation when they are deleted. – user102937 Mar 6 '12 at 16:01
  • @RobertHarvey I'm not sure what you mean. If I do a filter by tag on [career-development] and sort by votes I only see 7-9 questions that would qualify for a Good Question badge, maybe 350ish that wouldn't have rep deleted under the current rules. Perhaps we're conflating two discussions. There are "historical" questions and "deleted but not rep removed questions." I'm not saying that everything that fits the latter definition, fits the former. I'm just saying that the current policy doesn't preclude the deletion of the former at all. There ought to be a way to protect them automatically. – tvanfosson Mar 6 '12 at 16:20
  • @tvanfosson: I don't look for "Good Question" badges when I'm moderating. That's not something I take into consideration when evaluating a question for deletion, and it's not something the new algorithms consider either. – user102937 Mar 6 '12 at 16:23

No system implemented and maintained by people will ever be perfect.

The argument that rep for old posts that are far off topic shouldn't count toward rep is perfectly logical. Rep should reflect the community's trust in you, and the value of your contributions, and shouldn't be skewed by fun diversions that were accepted a few years ago.

But life is never that simple. I can see how some people would be bothered by being told—"You know those great contributions you made in 2009? The ones we all loved and up-voted highly? Well they're off topic now, and deleted, and we took back the rep from them."

This policy trades a bit of consistency in what rep is and means, in exchange for not alienating parts of our community. I think we all need to remember that it's the community that makes Stack Overflow what it is, and throwing a wrench into that just for the sake of a perfectly consistent rep policy would be bad.

Full Disclosure: I'm not an old-timer, and I didn't get any rep back from this new policy. None.

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    I guess another way to look at is those questions should have been CW if allowed to stand, hence no rep gains. Remaining would be rep gained assisting people with actual problems. (disclosure: I'm a pseudo-old-timer, but never caught onto the subjective question craze so I had no rep to lose or gain) – user7116 Mar 6 '12 at 15:57
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    I don't necessarily disagree, but it's worth noting that that lack of consistency may contribute to alienating some newer members. They are part of the community too. There's nothing special about the old timers that means we should tip toe more softly around their interests. – joran Mar 6 '12 at 15:59
  • @sixlettervariables - you're saying the questions should have been CW, and so the rep should be taken back because it never should have been granted in the first place? I'd say my answer is the same: the community back then decided these posts were fine as real posts, so let's not give the users a slap in the face now that we're fixing this oversight. Delete (or better yet lock) the questions, and let's just move on – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 16:00
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    @joran - that's a good point, but newer members have to answer a very straightforward question: what right do you have to be offended that bob over there kept 100 rep earned from the site years before "you" joined? I am a newer user, and I have no right to be offended that Pekka is keeping some rep from times before I joined this community. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 16:01
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    @AdamRackis: correct, no points for bike sheds, points for actual helpful content. There were CW wars when the community wavered as to if they were "fine as real posts". It's the same problem today, just the possibility exists to keep the bike sheds but ditch the points! Problem solved. – user7116 Mar 6 '12 at 16:04
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    @AdamRackis Once we've settled that old, popular content should be preserved (as I think we have), all that remains is old timers hurt feelings at losing rep, and newer folks resentment of "unearned" rep. Both are equally irrational, but real and understandable sentiments. As I've stated elsewhere, my way out of this is to say that everyone's contributions should be evaluated by the same standards: that's fair. Hence, ditch the old rep. – joran Mar 6 '12 at 16:07
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    @joran - if there is a lot of resentment from new members about unearned rep, then your point is definitely a good one. Honestly though I just keep seeing this come up from deletionists who hate this content, and don't want it coming anywhere close to SO – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 16:14
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    @AdamRackis: One point I'd like to make about this quote from one of your above comments: "...the community back then decided these posts were fine as real posts..." I don't know how true that is. I remember early on, when fun or subjective questions that weren't CW showed up, they were usually hit with a number of "this should be CW" comments or were prone to open/close wars. I think early on people didn't really think the Rep gain on such posts was valid. Calling these posts "accepted" doesn't seem correct. Many were quite contested, and the Rep considered ill-gotten by many. – gnostradamus Mar 6 '12 at 16:27
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    I'm starting to get on board with the "not alienating parts of the community" argument. A reluctant +1 from me. – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 19:23
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    @Gilles - you have a much more difficult case to make to convince rational people that you are being alienated. Nobody is putting trash on the site for you to see (quite the contrary, it's being deleted or at the very least quarantined), and nobody is taking anything away from you. The policy is simply that you can keep the rep you earned years ago. How does that alienate you? Does a 100K user keeping 150 rep for posting a picture of a cake really offend or affect you at all? – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 20:54
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    @Gilles On a more serious note, I don't see how any rational person can find SO any less awesome because of this. Helping people with their JavaScript or C# problems is incredibly rewarding for me. I don't know how it's possible for anyone to feel otherwise since old rep continues to exist for some people, but so be it. I won't speculate as to how it's possible for you to think this way; such speculation inevitably offends. Let me try a different approach: you live in the most beautiful country in the world. How can you be so angry over this? – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 21:07
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    @AdamRackis I'm not angry. A bit sad, because it's a few egocentrics who get their way (noooo! don't take away my preciousssssss repssssss!) and I'm here for the content, not for the people (if I wanted Usenet, I'd know where to find it). But for angry, you'll have to work a hell of a lot harder. (No, this is not a suggestion.) – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 21:38
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    I see it like this. I don't begrudge any their reputation. I love reputation. When I answer, I want a million upvotes. I am also not a hardcode deletionist. If some of these older suspect questions can be quarantined, locked, adequately marked as unacceptable in the current landscape, I am fine with that. But once content is deleted, normal rules should apply. Not rules for content that is older and of a given score. Either keep it and the rep, or delete it and the rep. And if I willingly choose to delete my own content, which I do from time to time, then I should also live with the fallout. – Anthony Pegram Mar 6 '12 at 21:43
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    It seems like the rep change is a reaction to the reaction to the deletions. So resolve whether or not content needs to be deleted, that's the issue. Leave the reputation rules alone. – Anthony Pegram Mar 6 '12 at 21:46
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    @Anthony - most of the complaints I saw were in reaction to the content and not the rep. I'm not sure this policy was really necessary, but I'm certainly not convinced it does much harm. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 21:48

For years now, I've been explaining this reputation system, with the core philosophy of "rep as a measure of experience on the site" coupled with the following behavior: reputation gained from (or lost to) deleted questions will be lost (or regained) once it is deleted... eventually.

And it never made sense.

Oh, it was easy enough to explain. Especially to Stack Overflow users - this is exactly the sort of system a programmer understands. We've slavishly documented all the rules and exceptions in the community FAQ, reverse engineered edge cases, dug up bugs in it...

But every so often, someone would ask the obvious question: "if reputation measures experience, why do I lose it when stuff is deleted? I still have the experience!" And so I used the same rationalization you've used here: if the posts aren't visible on the site, they effectively count for nothing - the experience is meaningless in the context of the site.

But of course in practice it didn't even work the way it was described to work. Reputation recalculation was done on an ad-hoc schedule, usually when something major changed. Individual users might see their reputation recalculated in response to a voting anomaly, suspension, or moderator intervention. Eventually, individuals could request recalcs - but most didn't do so regularly. So you effectively lost nothing when a post of yours was deleted.

Pay attention there: regardless of how we understood the system, explained it to others, and documented it... In practice, it has never worked that way. You kept every last point gained from a deleted question, until months or years later it suddenly disappeared with no apparent rhyme or reason. My rationalization was just that - hand-waving to explain away something that wasn't actually reflected by reality: that number, that "reputation", didn't exactly correspond to anything on the site.

We fixed that. And in the process, dramatically changed the actual reputation system, even while preserving almost exactly that ideal model that was documented but never actually existed for most users.

So what's more important? Maintain the system you and I and a relative handful of other users know intimately? Or the experience that the vast majority of users have known and grown to love over these past few years?

Well, I guess you already know my take on that question.

The exact numbers aren't all that important. We needed a fairly simple formula, and then we played around with the parameters for a while, looking for a balance between rewarding legit participation and preventing easy gaming. There are a few holes that still need to be plugged, but initial observations seem to indicate this hit pretty close to the mark in terms of preserving reputation as a reward for useful effort.

So I hope that answers your implicit question. But there's one point I do need to address:

Reputation for deleted posts is effectively a bonus for the old-timers.

Two months might seem like a long time on a site like SciFi, barely a year out of private beta. If you've only faced the task of removing a single type of question, and are still fully confident that criticisms leveled against another popular bit of fluff are without merit, I can understand how this might seem like it would never benefit that site.

But three years ago, there were folks arguing just as vehemently that career advice was a perfectly good sort of question to ask on Stack Overflow. Some still are.

I don't think for a minute that these sites will ever stop evolving, or that the questions of what is and is not on-topic will be ever perfectly settled. I do know that reputation is a distraction in these discussions. An unnecessary one.

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    the elephant in the room is that a lot of these old off-topic questions should be retroactively made community wiki (and anything with 30+ answers will be by definition, or 15+ answers on prog.se and su), thus rendering a lot of this change moot. I don't have any serious objection to this policy, but it makes the rep system substantially more complicated for IMHO a trivial reason, which is not a plus. And then you still have the broken window of a user getting 200 rep for posting, say, an xkcd cartoon that happened to be on the site for 60 days. Still a public distortion. – Jeff Atwood Mar 7 '12 at 9:32
  • it also looks worth mentioning that straightforward removal approach has been "tested" for a several days (between Big Removal and Big Refund) and per Meta discussions has been found to be not quite constructive (likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion, borrowing an excellent definition from close reason description) – gnat Mar 7 '12 at 10:34
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    I still don't get it. It feels like you're saying that all those angry hoards who came complaining about deletion were in fact being duplicitous; they really prefer losing the posts and keeping their rep to losing their rep, but keeping their posts? – Benjol Mar 7 '12 at 10:54
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    Sorry. One more comment then I'll shut up (I feel a bit guilty 'cos I didn't see this change in time, otherwise I'd have shouted louder and sooner). I just don't see the logic of this particular 'spoonful of sugar': say you delete 'the center cannot hold', and in return you leave bobince his millions. What about me and the 1495 other people who've favorited it? We're all still pissed off, so your change has a minimal effect. If, instead, you'd fast-tracked the archives/museum/whatever idea, you'd have had one pissed-off user (bobince, losing his precccious rep), and 1496 happy bunnies. – Benjol Mar 7 '12 at 10:59
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    @Benjol: everyone is duplicitous about it. Well, not everyone, but a good number of folks on both sides. That's what I meant by "reputation as a distraction" - jealousy and greed are powerful motivators, even when talking about imaginary points. We're gonna have an archive - I'm going through a ton of locked and deleted posts right now - but it's critical that in doing so we focus on the content worth preserving but no longer useful live on the site... Not reputation. – Shog9 Mar 7 '12 at 14:42
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    @Jeff: yeah, I keep thinking back to "CW as rep-denial", a tactic which appealed greatly to me but worked so poorly when it came to actually fixing those broken windows. Joel Coehoorn described it as a lottery back then, and that's exactly how people treated it. Gotta actually get rid of the stuff that isn't real Q&A, keeping it around and denying rep doesn't do anything. – Shog9 Mar 7 '12 at 14:50
  • @Shog9. Once the SO time machine is made I look forward to the Meta posts on why certain questions make it and others don't. – Some Helpful Commenter Mar 7 '12 at 15:27
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    @Jeff - pretty crappy of you to leave right before the crap hit the fan :) Gotta say though, Shog did a pretty good job of cleaning it all up. – Adam Rackis Mar 7 '12 at 15:37
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    Heh... Jeff would've probably seen this coming; he was pretty sensitive to stuff that exposed deleted posts. I know there are probably a dozen declined feature-request for deleted search and so on with "don't stir up trouble" as the underlying rationale. Let's hope the twins keep the smugness under control... @Adam – Shog9 Mar 7 '12 at 15:41
  • @adam of course, Shog is the man! As I said, no serious objections to this, other than IMHO it does make the rep system more complicated for kind of arbitrary, and a bit silly reasons. It's not something I would oppose or even strongly oppose. – Jeff Atwood Mar 7 '12 at 20:56
  • @Jeff - well you have thicker skin than most, and can withstand sh_t storms from users better than any human I've ever seen. – Adam Rackis Mar 7 '12 at 20:58
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    @Shog9, take your time on this archive business. We would really like to participate in the discussion. One big question which isn't clear to me is if you anticipate 'new' material going into it, or if it will be fixed for all time? You could have fun.stackoverflow.com, which would have voting, but no rep. A letting-off-steam place, with a deliberate 'this is not the real thing' look. – Benjol Mar 8 '12 at 5:43

Repution should reflect the status quo, if content gets deleted all the rep should go away with it.

Rep is a fun side effect, but is not why we're here.

Simple is better than complex, there are already enough arbitrary thresholds (at 2k one gets to edit posts, at 10k moderator tools, etc.), let's not add others (60 days and 3 points).


<Disclosure> Recouped 0 on stackoverflow and 1,000 on programmers.SE due to policy change </Disclosure>

While I agree with all your reasons why rep from deleted questions is bad, one very positive benefit with this change is that it removes a barrier to vote to delete bad posts. Including Self-Deletes.

Edit JaredPar describes this well in his feature request Change the way really old questions are deleted

I understand the need to delete bad data from the site. But I think you need to balance the removal of bad data with the negative effects it has on people who are contributing. I propose a small change to this process to help balance the scales a bit.

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    It does???????? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 17:28
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    @Gilles - of course it does. Keeping rep means one less reason for people to complain when their old questions get deleted. And creating the ability for everyone to see these deleted posts in a modified state removes probably the only other reason for people to complain. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 17:40
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    @AdamRackis When people complain, I listen to their arguments. When their arguments don't budge from Waaaaah I lost rep you meanie, I stop listening and consider what's best for the site. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 20:59
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    @Gilles - you know, you have a point. Honestly. I was completely ok with rep going away for this stuff. But there's another dimension you're ignoring. People complaining creates noise and distractions on Meta. You might say to just ignore it, but Shog has every reason to minimize the drama so he can continue to run SO without distraction. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 21:11
  • @AdamRackis Shog has lost at least one janitor on SO, and probably more. Is it a net gain? I don't know. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 21:40
  • @Gilles - Janitor == mod? Did the mod quit over this? Shog is in a difficult position of trying to run the site, and find compromise and consensus, and I think he's done a fantastic job. Dropping the hammer and saying the reps gone, suck it, might make for a consistent policy, but it's not good at building consensus. No policy will make everyone happy, and I think the middle ground he's chosen will come as close as possible. I'd hate to think a mod quit over this, but that's his choice. There are many other dedicated users who would love the opportunity to replace him. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 21:44
  • @AdamRackis No, me, on SO (I'm not going to resign as a mod on SFF and French over this). I'd been spending a lot of time in /review lately, also looking for closed posts to delete (not specifically going after highly voted crap, just after crap in general), but now I don't see the point. And I'm less inclined to participate on SO, too. I don't claim that my departure will be felt. I have no idea how many people feel the same way. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 21:50
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    @Gilles - there are reams, and reams, and reams of trash that get deleted forever on SO. The fact that a few highly popular posts were un-deleted and quarantined is hardly a reason to think people don't want to keep the site clean. I believe Shog also said these posts would be de-listed -- it sounds like all the reasons why people want this stuff deleted are being satisfied by the new policy, while still making them available for people who do find them interesting. This policy really should make everyone happy. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 22:04
  • @Gilles, I think that in this case, the decision was taken too fast. Feels too much like a case of 'panic OMG, do something, do anything!'. As I have commented elsewhere: as SE gets better, the statistical probability of 'improvements' screwing things up just increases... – Benjol Mar 7 '12 at 10:40

The system will work best if your score never goes down unless you've done something wrong. Downvoting is so effective because when you start seeing your score drop, you have a strong, psychological desire to correct the problem. But when a question is deleted, you are powerless to fix the problem. It's action at a distance and it's a bad idea.

Reputation goes up two ways:

  1. The initial increase when people read an answer or question for the first time and agree that it's correct and
  2. Over the course of many years as search delivers people who find the answer helpful.

Deleting (or archiving) a question forever eliminates the second type of reputation gain, which is a hidden, but potentially severe punishment. To also eliminate the first type of reputation gain adds (literal) insult to (virtual) injury.

By the way, when the site was younger, the first type of reputation gain was potentially much smaller than it is now as more users mean greater potential score. That's because there are so many more users who can upvote posts. That's balanced by the greater amount of time you could be getting upvotes over from the second type of gains.

To be honest, reputation has always been a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes you are first with a great answer that racks up a ton of points and sometimes you are a little bit late with an equally great answer that is ignored. Some of the posts I am most proud of (on all SE sites) have languished with +1 or something like that and may never be recognized as the brilliant insights I know they are. Then I answer a Perl FAQ and "earn" +34 on the third best answer out of three. It's humbling sometimes.

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    Having a question/answer deleted does tend to imply that you did something wrong. There may be some innocent bystanders but that is the exception that proves the rule. – Aarobot Mar 7 '12 at 6:14
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    @Aarobot oh I see. So these were some innocent bystanders who filled Meta with complaints about deletion during last black weekend – gnat Mar 7 '12 at 7:18
  • Sure, if a question is deleted, the fault by definition lies with the person asking the question, and not with overzealous deleters. And anyone who disagrees are "exceptions that prove the rule". rolls eyes – jalf Mar 7 '12 at 11:44
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    @Aarobot: Most of these old questions were, at the time, approved by the community to some degree. That's the usual reason they were upvoted and not deleted immediately. But even for cases that are really wrong (I asked "Should I telecommute?") how does providing the (relatively large) negative feedback teach me the error of my ways? I can't fix the question (even if I wanted to). I already knew it would be a bad idea to ask a new question like it. Other users won't be effected by my reputation loss. It's just punishment that I can't learn anything from. – Jon Ericson Mar 7 '12 at 17:04

Well, I'm pretty certain I wrote a comment here, but it appears to have disappeared, so here it is again, from memory:

This doesn't make any sense to me. If that reputation is worth something, it means that the associated post was worth something, so why delete it?

To me, this seems like applying the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

I think you should stop implementing this right now, and work on Pekka's idea of 'archiving' (or some variant of it).

  • In other words, I agree with Gilles... :) – Benjol Mar 7 '12 at 10:25
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    You actually wrote it here – Shog9 Mar 7 '12 at 14:33
  • @Shog9. Hah, silly me! Thanks. – Benjol Mar 7 '12 at 15:04

Reputation is meaningless. With the recent grandfathering changes, they've managed to make it even more meaningless.

Now the flimsy bar you all self-evaluate each other on about who has more programming chops has even less basis in reality with power ties, wowing people in interviews and marzipan over straight frosting into the frothy mixture.

{Topic du jour and adjunct chatter about spandex, university courses and plastic bagging as analogous comparison for other SE sites.}

There is a truth undeniable that you can't escape the EXP, they will never let you give it up or let it go. It is definitely not going to desert you.

Reputation is the reward you get for clinging on for dear life and obfuscating the historical archives in guise of preserving content. Them riches are the reputation and you must placate the user base in their inflation.

You don't rack millionaires by comparing them against people late to the party.

  • +100, +5000, +1000 in terms of more visited account site ages – random Mar 6 '12 at 17:34
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    Wow, you're slipping. I couldn't tell the you were the author until I got to the second paragraph. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 17:36
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    Needs more hyperbole. – Adam Rackis Mar 6 '12 at 17:49
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    This is the best answer on this page. – Josh Darnell Mar 6 '12 at 20:18

Full Disclosure: I lost about 300 points when the correction happened a couple weeks ago. I then just this morning saw that I gained all/most of it back. I know several times I deleted my posts when (a.) I later found them to be partially incorrect or otherwise inferior, but (b) they had garnered a lot of votes. I'd be worried the OP would go with my answer, and I'm a little embarrassed to be the top-voted answer when it's clearly (a little later) not the best. If I later found my answer to be inferior but had only 0 or 1 upvotes, why bother deleting? It was already getting the votes it deserved! Not sure if this accounted for all my points: Maybe 1 or 2 of my other answers were considered dups and deleted by a moderator.

I certainly agree with Gilles about not deleting "outdated" material. That should be kept indefinitely if not forever. If a would-be archivist wants to improve the tags to make clear the previous version or tooling for which it's relevant, then they are doing a great service. I also agree that the 3-or-more cutoff and been-around-a-while is not a "balance" that helps.

As for duplicates, I would suggest the poster be given half-value (5 points per upvote) for any gained rep, no matter how much. This is a balance that I believe would motivate people to take the most-desired behavior. It certainly would with me. I believe myself to be a typical somewhat-selfish, yet somewhat community-oriented and helpful stack-overflow user.

I deleted my own posts at first because I found myself to have really misunderstood the question, yet had gotten votes. (The Disciplined badge helps that first time of course.) Like making your first kill, it was easier later, but always somewhat painful because I knew the question would, if left, get me more rep. Once I saw that it didn't seem deleting my posts cost me the rep already gained, it was certainly easier to do! It cost me a little, but not a lot, and it was the right thing to do, so I did it. If I lost all my rep for deleting my own post, hmmmm, well, I would do it if the situation was really bad, I guess, maybe, but I'd be a lot slower to do it. If I was going to keep half however, I'd certainly want to be a good citizen.

And if I got half-points for an answer to a duplicate question, that would eventually be deleted, I'd (a.) not be really pissed off if it disappeared later. And you know, I did really help that guy, and I should get some credit for that. But if I only got half-points, I might be more motivated to not jump in with an answer, but do the research to close it as a duplicate. That's the main thing we're after, right? We want to decrease motivation to answer duplicates, to answer off-topic questions, but still give some credit for helping people quickly and effectively, and yet not completely punishing people who mistakenly answered duplicates.

Imagine you're a new user, answering questions you can, all excited, and then you get caught in a crackdown on duplicates and/or off topics, and you see your points drop from a hard-earned 180 to 70. You are pissed off and de-motivated and not having fun. Well, if it instead dropped down to 125, your not as pissed off at least, and that's good. Bottom Line: If someone quickly and effectively helps the OP, and is recognized for doing so, completely removing their rep later is a bad move. Reducing it, on technicalities, is not nearly as bad, is fair.

It's balance. Is losing 1 rep for downvote fair? No, but it's good balance. Is 10-for-upvote but 2-for-downvote fair? No, but it's good balance. Partial credit for deleted content is good balance.

  • Hmm - interesting idea to keep half the rep from deleted posts - presumably the 3+ score, 60+ day rule would still apply to this? – ChrisF Mar 6 '12 at 16:37
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    I just finished rewriting most of the reputation code to be sane, now you want me to make it a decimal instead on an int? Must resist urge to hunt users with salad fork... – Nick Craver Mar 6 '12 at 16:52
  • @ChrisF I didn't like the 3+ score | 60+ day rule, actually, for the same reasons as Gilles. Seems very arbitrary. – Patrick Karcher Mar 6 '12 at 18:43
  • @Nick Craver. You mean for the Question? Yes, obviously, 2.5 would not be good! Some integer of course, probably 2 for Questions, 4 or 5 for Answers. – Patrick Karcher Mar 6 '12 at 18:44
  • @Nick decimal? That's loser talk. float or death! – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 19:50
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    In fact, I worry about my sweet repz now, knowing that they are being stored in coarse ints. Who knows what kind of scratches and dents they could get in there. I demand better storage! – Pekka Mar 6 '12 at 19:53

I think I agree that on the main sites, deleting means losing (or gaining) rep, but on meta, especially this meta, deleting old bug reports should not change the reputation gained from finding them.

  • Mark - this meta is "special" (in many ways) not least because it has it's own reputation that's not tied to a main site. With the MSO/MSE split that aspect should be addressed (to a certain degree). – ChrisF Mar 7 '12 at 9:00

Old timer chiming in...

Reputation is a number. It used to be referred to as trust in the system. Someone with 200 rep on META may not seem like someone who has been around as someone with 75K rep (apply same pattern to all sites). Reputation is also a reward for effort. While we answer questions to try and be helpful, once someone decides the question is "off topic" or "not constructive" it gets deleted. Never mind the fact that the OP had a real question that had a real answer.

A great example of a real question that provides value to stackoverflow was Joel's "How do you move a turtle in logo?". I can't seem to find this question now which leads me to believe it is long gone. Was Joel proving a point with his question? You bet. But is there a programmer out there somewhere who may have sought that information? You bet. The last time I looked at stats for web traffic to SO, it was clear that direct traffic was a very small percentage meaning the site received hits from search engine traffic. So why remove questions that provide hits to the site?

I actually think there is a better analogy for what is really happening here... In the US there is a bit of class warfare going on. Whether it is the rich oppressing the poor or politicians trying to steal from the rich to feed the poor, having money makes you a target. I believe that folks in their 70's have had the best chance at acquiring vast amounts of wealth because of the opportunities that they've had in life. These folks in their 70's are probably similar in nature to those "old timers" on stackoverflow. Now these younger generations in today's world want everything their parents and grandparents had, and they don't want to wait for it. They also don't really want to work for it. Instead they try to point out the injustices in the system because you used to be able to do X, Y, and Z to quickly make money and you can't anymore... I think you see where I'm going with this.

At the end of the day, there are undoubtedly useful questions on this site that are being deleted. Maybe as the FAQ and guidelines have evolved, these questions fall out of favor... But I still don't see the point in deleting them. What injustice do they serve? Who is paying for them? The last time I checked, StackOverflow is FREE to you and I. As a business, StackExchange needs to make X amount of dollars and removing questions that provide search engine traffic just doesn't seem right. I know that Jeff and Joel have gone out of there way to try and let the community self manage some of this stuff, but behind all of this is a business.

Ultimately I see all these deletes as being a negative for the business, for people on the web seeking help, and for all the people who contributed content to those questions and answers in the first place. The only injustice that seems to have happened here is having users lose reputation (their reward) after they spent the time to be helpful. There are no other injustices out there. If you want rep today, operate under today's FAQ rules.

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    @Giles - don't edit that out... Its valid. Real. – RSolberg Mar 6 '12 at 18:27
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    -1 for a terrible analogy. – gnostradamus Mar 6 '12 at 18:39
  • @gnostradamus - I guess it depends on what end of the analogy you might fit... – RSolberg Mar 6 '12 at 18:44
  • No, it doesn't. It's terrible because it isn't at all an analogy for what's happening here (plus, it doesn't even fit what's happening in the US either, but that's a whole different discussion). – gnostradamus Mar 6 '12 at 18:47
  • We can agree to disagree on both fronts... – RSolberg Mar 6 '12 at 18:50
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    I do think that one element to deal with is the perception that a lot of people gained reputation through means that are now considered ill-gotten, and are slamming the door behind them to prevent others from doing the same. – JohnMcG Mar 6 '12 at 19:13
  • +1 Don't make me have to use the wayback machine to find an answer I posted here. just redirect to archived.stackoverflow.com where all answers get a preformatted header that disclaims that it may no longer be current/useful/valid ... for +50, allow newly edited archives to be requested for relocation – technosaurus Mar 6 '12 at 19:23
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    You could have made the same point without the political analogy. Introducing a wholly unrelated, and potentially emotionally charged political issue into this doesn't (IMHO) constitute a constructive contribution. It feels more like trolling to me. – joran Mar 6 '12 at 19:44
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    @RSolberg This content is not appropriate for Stack Exchange. This is not a platform for your political views. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 6 '12 at 20:26
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    I've tried to remove the very specific opinions, etc about the U.S. socio-political climate (without changing the meaning of your post in any way). The analogy is ok, but the other stuff isn't really necessary. Feel free to rollback or chat with me in the Tavern if you don't agree with my edit (or whatever else you'd like to do, it's your post =P) – Josh Darnell Mar 6 '12 at 20:33
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    My god.... My opinions on class warfare aren't even in that post... But for anyone on this site to tell me that part of the problems of late is not related to folks feeling like folks acquired rep unfairly is complete BULL$!@^. I don't know why people have such a hard time with analogies in today's world. Maybe it is that they are so damned hard headed that they have a hard time placing themselves in someone else's shoes for a very short time? – RSolberg Mar 6 '12 at 20:49

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