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The surest way to gain lots of reputation on Stack Overflow- ask questions
Can there be a badge encouraging answering a certain ratio of questions?

As I understand it, we have the reputation system on SO mainly for two reasons

  • Reward helpful users
  • Indicate a user's experience level

The second item tends to work pretty well most of the time. However, I have noticed occasional extreme disparities between a user's reputation level and experience. This usually occurs in questions but can also occur in answers.

When I notice this, I usually look at the user's page. In every case (in my limited experience) the user has ~10:1 question:answer ratio. In extreme cases I've seen 300-400 (or even 1000) questions with zero answers.

Example: This user has asked ~ 1800 questions and this is their most recent one

The main reason I ask is because I hate wading through horrible questions when I could be answering good ones and I have to at least READ the question before I can determine its quality. It's true that it's just more work - but SO isn't a job. The less work I have to do to find good questions (that deserve an answer) the more questions get answered. And the less cluttered and easier to use the site is.

What would be a good solution?

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    "There should be some obvious indicator of a user's general contribution to the community". Why? What would you do with that indicator? Why not simply evaluate the contribution you're looking at? – Bart Aug 1 '12 at 17:37
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    Contributing questions is contributing to the community, especially if they are good questions. Without questions, what would there be to answer? – Joachim Sauer Aug 1 '12 at 17:38
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    Well, we have tag badges to indicate a user's general experience with a tag, although I just became the first user to receive the gold [css3] tag badge but have never really used CSS transforms, animations, gradients, flexbox, columns, grids, calc(), filters, regions, etc... :( – BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 1 '12 at 17:40
  • @Bart The same reason reputation is shown on a user's answers. – Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 17:41
  • @JoachimSauer, you're right, I guess I didn't phrase that well. – Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 17:41
  • "The less work I have to do to find good questions (that deserve an answer)" Why do questions from users who have had a lot of upvoted questions deserve an answer any less? – David Robinson Aug 1 '12 at 19:39
  • @David, that's not what I'm saying. It's just that users with enormous numbers of questions and very few answers tend to have a lower quality of questions, and these questions clutter the question feed. I don't know what the solution is but it seems like a problem. – Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 19:51
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    @Dustin: While you did cite one extreme case, I see far more low-quality questions from low-rep users than from high-rep users that ask a lot of questions. – David Robinson Aug 1 '12 at 19:52
  • @David, true. But the high-rep users should know better - there's no way that someone hasn't called them out before. But you may be right that this problem isn't incredibly significant. I just know I tend to run into it once or twice a day. – Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 19:54
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    Anyway, the solution is to downvote those low quality questions. That both decreases the asker's rep, if only very slightly, and more importantly helps get the question off the front page. – David Robinson Aug 1 '12 at 19:56

This is part of the reason why:

  • upvotes on questions only award 5 reputation points to the writer (instead of 10)
  • downvotes on questions are free to the downvoter (downvotes on answers cost -1 to the downvoter)

Why do you think more needs to be done? You have been voting to close and (ultimately) delete bad questions, right? You are aware that askers of chronically bad questions eventually lose the ability to ask, yes? (It'd be nicer if they didn't all seem to come to meta and ask why, but we can only guide them so far.)

Yes, help vampires can be a problem, but this site (and its sisters) won't work if there aren't questions to answer.

Requiring some sort of question/answer ratio will result in either a) more questions left unasked, and/or b) more not-very-helpful-answers.

It seems to me that there are some solutions already in place.

| improve this answer | |
  • This is definitely true, and after browsing Meta I see the various arguments for/against different strategies. It just seems to me that the current solutions aren't necessarily good enough. The main reason I ask is because I hate wading through horrible questions when I could be answering good ones and I have to at least READ the question before I can determine its quality. Lazy me. – Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 18:34
  • @sha: Thanks for that fix. – ale Aug 1 '12 at 18:47
  • Cheers, those small things just glare at me and I can't resist fixing them! ;) – Shadow Keeps Social Distance Aug 1 '12 at 18:50

I've never looked at the reputation of answerers before I looked at the content of their answers. It's hard to imagine a situation where that would have an effect on my voting.

Reputation isn't meant to be a perfect indicator of experience or expertise, and it couldn't be if it tried. A user might be an expert in another field or another programming language, and earned his rep from questions in that area. Points can come from answering many very easy questions, or very popular ones.

Having said that, reputation is still very well correlated with expertise. It is difficult to earn a lot of reputation without answering, by nature of the system: Questions are more rarely upvoted than answers, and each upvote is worth twice as much as an answer. Just take a look at the top few dozen contributors to SO: most have a high answer/question ratio.

Finally, if something like "% of points from questions" appeared next to each user's name as some kind of mark of shame, it would act as a punishment for people asking good questions. Users with bad questions would still be able to ask away. That's the last thing the community should want to encourage.

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Stack overflow has already taken steps to give more reputation to answerers. The reputation system is designed such that it is more costly to downvote answers and more rewarding to give an upvote for answers. There will always be people that can find a hole in the system, and honestly this is a self-fixing problem.

If people are posting good questions and getting reputation for that, they are probably a fairly experienced user. It is hard to come up with really good questions without having a solid foundation of the material (excluding questions such as "What is your most controversial programming opinion").

Lastly, if someone is asking great questions but never answering questions, then naturally not many people are relying on their advice (because of the infrequency of their answers). Even in the rare edge cases, the chance that your reputation count makes or breaks whether someone takes you seriously is pretty small.

Possible Solution: Have Question Reputation and Answer Reputation separated out. Total reputation would still be what matters for permissions, but it could be like reddit where link karma and comment karma are separated so that you can see what kinds of contributions users make. That way both are still encouraged.

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  • This seems like a good idea. – Dustin Aug 8 '12 at 19:37

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