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professions, there should be no shame in contributing valuable information just because it eventually goes out of date – and there shouldn’t be a penalty for deleting it when it does.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 It should be edited, ideally to contain up-to-date information, or at least to indicate that the information is out of date.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).