Is the birth of Stack Exchange documented somewhere? How did the system trust users in the very beginning before there were any users with any reputation?

  • 3
    Note that each site has its own reputation system, so the whole network didn't 'boot' at once. The Beta site process may be informative, though I expect the Trilogy may have worked differently in some ways. Surely someone who knows more will come by and answer, instead of ramble pointlessly, as I am!!! Jul 10, 2012 at 17:05
  • 9
    It was CHAOS!! CHAOS!!!
    – juan
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:05
  • 8
    @JQAn was? It was chaos? ;) Jul 10, 2012 at 17:06
  • @OlegV.Volkov Not really. The new sites have a very specific way of working, built around Area51. That system did not exist when all of this first came online
    – yoozer8
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:11
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    @Arjan that, along with with the other, seem to focus on new sites being made, where this one seems to focus on the original sites being stood up in the first place.
    – yoozer8
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:14
  • 5
    @random, I think he was asking about the birth of SO... but meh
    – juan
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:15
  • 6
    Jon Skeet was given all the power.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:51
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    @JQAn I don't think so... pretty sure CHAOS has only been around for about a year.
    – Pops
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:55
  • @PopularDemand, I'm gonna go and close all your questions for contradicting me. Oh, right, they added voting :(
    – juan
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:59
  • Still the same way to build up from a base of 1 reppers @jqa
    – random
    Jul 10, 2012 at 20:05
  • I'll bootstrap your reputation system, buddy. Jul 11, 2012 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


In the earliest earliest days of Stack Overflow, there was no rep requirement for voting, and reduced reputation requirements were later adopted for newer Stack Exchange sites:

Private   Public
   Beta     Beta   Graduated    
      1       15          15    Vote Up
     15       15          15    Flag Offensive
      1       50          50    Leave Comments
      1      100         100    Edit Wiki Posts
      1      125         125    Vote Down
      1      150         150    Create New Tags
      1      200         200    Retag Questions
    500      750        2000    Edit Posts
      1      500        3000    Vote to Close
   2000     2000       10000    Access Mod Tools

Remember that the most basic functions (asking and answering) require no reputation at all, so you can build up reputation simply by asking and answering questions and reputation is awarded to you through the community vote.

Vote Early, Vote Often

The reduced reputation requirements allow the early adopters to vote and to start taking control of the community sooner rather than later. Users who have experience on other SE sites also get a 100-rep bonus to get them started. But until the higher-rep users kick in, the Stack Exchange Community Team runs the higher-rep moderator functions.

But going back to the beginning of it all—

The closest thing we have to something documenting the process are the original Stack Overflow podcasts:

Stack Overflow Podcasts Archive (#1-32)

The first site, Stack Overflow, started with a private beta. Essentially, founders Jeff and Joel developed and launched this experiment in full view of an enthusiastic and interactive community. The earliest days were a bit of a wild-west endeavor where behaviors and ideas were tested and coded into the system publicly from day one.

So, I guess you can say the earliest Stack Exchange was "bootstrapped" by trusting the community through a process of openness and experimentation until they "got it right"… and the whole thing snowballed to what you see today.

  • BTW, why is the word bootstrapped often quoted (in other questions as well) ? English in not my mother tongue so I'm not able to feel if it sounds weird. I know this term applies to the compiler generation problem, but I'm not sure for the reputation system.
    – alecail
    Jul 11, 2012 at 14:53
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    @Antoine quoting a word is generally shorthand for preceding the word with so-called and is often used to recognize the specific usage of a word without necessarily indicating acceptance or agreement.
    – user149432
    Jul 11, 2012 at 15:14
  • @Antoine: An explanation of where the word comes from can be found here on Wikipedia. I had originally heard that the term came from the phrase, to pull oneself up by his bootstraps, which pretty much describes what a computer does to get itself started.
    – RobH
    Jul 11, 2012 at 16:22

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