Since reputation is relatively 'cheap' to gain, it can be awarded to others 'for free', and can only seldom be lowered, does this mean overall reputation scores will get higher and higher and, effectively, become meaningless?


14 Answers 14


Even in this limited beta there are uses with over 3000 reputation earned in just over a month. I don't begrudge them,they earned that rep, but it seems if you can earn an average of 100 a day then it would seem in a years time you would have 30,000 rep.

So I think you are probably right, that it could become really high for active users. But the real question is if this is a bad thing. If a user really wants to make that kind of commitment to answering questions, then their reputation will reflect that. There are still a lot of users who do not have vary many reputation at all, so that means it does take an effort to get reputation.

So my answer is NO, it will not become meaningless, but it will be hard for late joiners to catch up with active users.

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    "it will be hard for late joiners to catch up with active users." sounds just like every MMORPG – Ben Collins Sep 9 '08 at 23:36
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    I'm more worried that once we hit the 100,000 of points people might be discouraged. But none the less, I think Jim is right here. – icco Sep 10 '08 at 0:05

If you think of reputation as a spam-filter it makes sense. The goal is to prevent people from getting a new account and having any sort of power until they've proven they're here to participate in a positive way.

Once you know they're contributing, they're past the spam filter.

  • I would add one thing: its a multi-layered spam filter. As Jeff says: "The system will learn to trust you" (I'm paraphrasing a bit). Each time your reputation hits a given threshold you've passed another layer of spam filtering, and you get new abilities. (voting, editing, closing posts – Justin Standard Sep 9 '08 at 18:50

The point of Stack Overflow isn't to gain reputation.

Ultimately, this site is meant to be a wiki. Reputation's primary purpose is to serve as heuristics used to determine a form of worthiness or trust before allowing you editing capabilities.

That said, it doesn't mean there will not be idiots that eventually have as much power as everyone else, but hopefully there will be enough good people around to police the idiots.

EDIT: It's sad that people feel they should be rewarded for helping others - 7 years ago, I received a lot of help in Usenet newsgroups and tried to return the favor when I could, but did it purely because it was nice to give and receive help. Now people want some arbitrary number next to their name to be larger than someone else's? Help me live.

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    Human beings have 5 psychological motivators - Prestige, curiosity, security, experience, or connection. Everyone has a bias towards one or two of these, and you have a primary and secondary motivator. Why is it that you believe humans are 'less' somehow because numbers appeal to our motivations? – Pollyanna Sep 9 '08 at 6:03
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    I think, in this specific case, the reward for helping others, and the reputation score are (or can be) quite separate. It is quite simple to JUST chase after reputation without really helping. It is equally simple to help others, without really gaining rep. I fear that the motivation for gaining .. – Bobby Jack Sep 9 '08 at 9:01
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    ... rep will, in some cases, outweigh the motivation for helping. The system should only allow people to gain rep through genuinely helpful actions. – Bobby Jack Sep 9 '08 at 9:01

The point of Stack Overflow isn't to gain reputation.

Then I don't think you understand the rules of the game properly.

The site rewards high reputations, so it's absurd to suggest that the point is not to gain reputation. If that were not the point then there would not be any reward for high reputation.

  • The 'rules of the game' are not the same as the 'purpose of the game'. We all are not here for the badges and reputation alone, are we? It is the content that draws us. The reputation points just make it sticky. – Stu Thompson Sep 8 '08 at 23:39
  • Are you a troll generally? Many of your posts imply you are. Didn't you read my entire response? Are saying that the whole point of this website is for people to gain reputation? Your ignorance is showing. Or should I say idiocy? I think I understand properly - this is a wiki, not a video game. – Jason Bunting Sep 8 '08 at 23:40
  • Also, I am curious - what "reward" are you getting out of high reputation? Ego stroking? The higher the reputation, the more ability to edit this site. Are you some kind of power-hungry person that will wreak havoc on things just because you can? I don't know what reward you are ref – Jason Bunting Sep 8 '08 at 23:49
  • Stu: oh please. The content here is a sea of mediocrity. It's no better than expert-sexchange or MSDN Forums, and noticeably worse than Usenet or dedicated sites like Gamedev. We don't come here for the content; the content is banal. We come here for the game. To achieve a high score. – DrPizza Sep 9 '08 at 1:28
  • Jason: Reputation gives me a nice number under my name. The higher that number, the better. The goal is to have the highest number: to win. The number is its own reward. It is an extrinsic motivator and it has replaced the intrinsic motivators on e.g. Usenet, other forums. – DrPizza Sep 9 '08 at 1:30
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    Personally, part of the appeal of StackOverflow is the reputation and the badges. Sure, it has better usability, focus, etc. than other forums, but to be honest the reputation/badge system is the main "hook" that drew me in in the first place. Sorry you are getting hammered for this com – Guy Starbuck Sep 9 '08 at 1:54
  • if this site were about pizza, we'd not be here, doc. – Stu Thompson Sep 9 '08 at 6:36

I think that reputation (and voting for that matter) should decay over time, so that newer people have a chance to catch up. If someone stops using the site for a while, they should (slowly) loose rep points (I'd suggest exponential decay), because it is likely that etiquette will evolve, and they won't be used to the new style.

If there is an old discussion that has become stale, and the answer that has lots of votes is no longer true or relevant, a new vote should be worth more than the old votes.

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    I like this in the opposite way. Let new people gain reputation exponentially faster than people who have been around more. That way everyone could keep their score, and we would have awesome DBZ myticlorean or whatever (reputation) scores. – SoloBold Nov 2 '08 at 17:33


It's sad that people feel they should be rewarded for helping others

I think you greatly misunderstand.

I contribute on plenty of forums that don't have stupid reward schemes. I don't need a reward at all. But if the extrinsic motivation is there it WILL destroy intrinsic motivation.

Good god, Joel himself wrote about this stuff. If you "pay" people to give answers, they will start giving answers only because they are paid.

Kill the reward scheme. Get rid of reputation. Get rid of badges. Get rid of user privileges based on points. Remove the extrinsic motivation.

  • Badges are not money, they are role-playing game. – gabr Sep 22 '08 at 16:25
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    I agree, but I've noticed that a lot of users who reach the "Edit Posts" "Close Posts" etc level basically stop answering questions as their main activity and start editing and closing posts and screaming abuse at newbies (not neccesarilly screaming, or abuse, but you know what I mean) – Shaun Austin Sep 23 '08 at 9:07
  • How about Slashdot, where after a point everyone is in "the top" echelon (say "User Moderator" here). No one can see their exact score, the displayed score is capped, and one can measure "rank" while keeping it as a secondary consideration. – SoloBold Nov 2 '08 at 17:38
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    Yeah, that is a bit ironic that Joel wrote that article. – BobbyShaftoe Dec 13 '08 at 2:23

Its main purpose is to get the system to trust you. When you have enough reputation, you can be trusted fully and reputation won't matter too much.


I think it will become a problem, or at least, it will become less meaningfull over time for the reasons already talked about (it's linear, people who start early win, late comers lose)

It's almost like you need two displays for rep, the rep we have now (which you keep on adding too) and some kind of rep 'velocity' which basically shows how active you are in the community. This velocity would be the rep everyone sees beside your name, and could for example be the last 90 days of rep.

This both allows users to constantly gain rep and also remove the everest that presents to any new user who wishes to have a compeditive amount of rep.


Following on from some previous answers, I like the idea of some kind of 'rolling' reputation along the lines of the ranking system in tennis (and possibly other sports) - players' rankings are determined based on their performance over a rolling 12 month period. At each tournament they have to at least match their achievement the previous year or they lose points. If a player's level drops over time, so does their ranking.

Applying a similar approach to reputation, where rep drops over time if people's input decreases, means that latecomers will have a chance of catching up, and it will also differentiate between those who are active on a daily basis, and those who were active once but don't get too involved any more.

It will also get around another problem I envisage - it seems to me that at the moment as the site is so new, there's loads of questions being asked that haven't been asked before. Over time, as the database of questions build up, there will be fewer unique questions - people will either find their answers already here, or will have their questions closed as duplicates quite quickly. This will decrease the opportunities for earning reputation and give highly knowledgable latecomers no chance to compete with early arrivers, many of whom may be less knowledgable but will appear of greater repute. With a rolling system, the reduced opportunities to earn rep will affect everybody equally.

Finally, perhaps to avoid putting any noses out of joint, there could be one score for total rep ever earned, and another score for rolling reputation.


Yes, there is no natural cap or limit that we've been told, and it's linear progression.

But it's very simple to understand, which I think is key. They could implement a log conversion, or simply cap it at 10k or some arbitrary number, but that only makes more special cases.

Since there's a limited number of votes, everyone is policing everything, and there are limits to how many questions you can post (ie, once every two minutes or similar) then the damage a high point hacked account can inflict will be little and can be handled by the community.

Now, if someone hacks the top 50 accounts, they could probably ruin the front page for a day or so until Jeff shuts them out...

But I don't think it's a problem. The DOW just keeps going up, right? Why not stackoverflow reputation?

Besides, if you cap it (aside from eliminating e-size measurements) you also reduce some people's desire to answer questions. There are questions I answer only because I haven't hit my daily cap, where I wouldn't have because it takes some work and time to do right.

There has to be some payment for good work...


  • There is an automatic assumption there that say the top 50 rep holders on SO have achieved that through "good work" – Shaun Austin Sep 23 '08 at 9:05

Should repuation points expire? Or perhaps only points earned in the last year count.

Otherwise when this site has been up for 10 years just about all the original members will have reached super-overlord level. This might discourage new members or lead to old-timer clique where only (then) ancient c# questions get voted up.


Perhaps the events that affect reputation should have a time multiplier applied.

You can the full impact for (say) six months, then only 80% up to a year, then 50% for a year and so on. Users would have to stay active to keep their reputation up.

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    I disagree - once again, reputation is used to show trust. Does that trust diminish just because you don't come visit? I don't think it necessarily should. – Jason Bunting Sep 8 '08 at 23:42

I agree to some extend. I guess beyond a certain level (maybe 10,000), it will be levelled out and reputation wont matter any more.


Reputation != trust always. There will always be people gaming the system to achieve a higher reputation score.

  • And that is fine - the point of the repuation though, again, is not to have reputation. It is a metric used by the system to determine whether or not you should be allowed to edit things. If people want to play the reputation "game," let them. But that is not the site's purpose. – Jason Bunting Sep 8 '08 at 23:41

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