When a user has been on SO (or any SE site) for a long time and has a large bank of good questions and answers, he might get old questions and answers upvoted when they are found by users via a search, especially if the questions are popular enough to show up on Google. This is not unlike earning interest on money in the bank.

My question, to high-rep users with many popular questions and answers, is how much rep do you actually get from these old posts? Does it eclipse what you get from answering on a day-to-day basis, or is it a drop in the bucket?

  • Define "high-rep". Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 15:29
  • 3
    Probably would have to be at least half a deciskeet to have enough answers.
    – smcg
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 15:42
  • 2
    Also, what sparked this is that when I google a question and a previous SE question answered it, I will almost always upvote it.
    – smcg
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 15:46
  • 1
    This has come up before, and the data explorer query My Money For Jam relates - but I can't find the original meta q that raised this; Is it more difficult to earn reputation on SO than couple of years ago? is relevant too.
    – AakashM
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 15:52
  • It actually depends on the nature of the question (problem that people encounter frequently and the question appear high in Google search) that generates rep over a long period of time (high rep user answers many questions, so there are bound to be a proportionate number of such questions). For me, it is this question stackoverflow.com/questions/10795628/… . I only gain 2-3 upvote in one week from that answer, but I got around 10 votes in the duration of 3 months. Most of my other answers only generate vote on the day it is answered.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 16:00

6 Answers 6


Here's my experience as the lucky odd-man-out.

Even though I'm a relatively new user (1 year), I've gone through about three "phases". I'm not a particularly active user at 900 answers. And nowadays I skip all the easy FGITW questions so I only post about 2 or 3 answers a week - mostly on specialized topics involving performance and optimization.

During my first few months on SO, these so called "residual votes" (votes on old posts) were extremely rare for me. I never really got votes on anything older than a day and I rarely ever got a lot of rep on days that I wasn't active. So in this sense it was less than a drop in the bucket.

December and February were when I found myself on the lucky receiving end of a "linked" question. Both answers were popular and went 400+, but they generated less than a vote a day each after the initial hype died down. I went on vacation for about a month in May and averaged about 2-3 upvotes a day - most of which were from my two 400+ answers. So in that sense, it was about a drop in the bucket.

Then at the end of June... was the big one. That one capped me for almost the entire month of July and now it generates more than half of my rep.

From what I've seen, the type of posts that generate a high volume of residuals are usually those that are very common problems and are highly Googleable. Unfortunately, they have mostly been "taken up" in the early days of SO.

None of my top answers are easily Googleable. So I find that popularity doesn't help much unless it reaches "epic" proportions (as least that's what Joel called it).


For me, it's a drop in the bucket. Every once in a while I get an up-vote on an old post. When I'm active it's not a problem to hit rep cap, but on days when I'm not active, I get maybe 20 rep a day, and usually that's from more recent answers (e.g. the day before).

I think the vast volume of StackOverflow makes it pretty rare that Google searches will lead to a number of answers by the same person on the same day. Most of the voting, in my estimation, occurs from active members on specific tags.


Jon Skeet gives a bit of an answer to it here

I've had a couple of times when I've been away from SO, or at least unable to post significant numbers of answers.

In May I was in Venice over a long weekend, and received 80 on the Saturday and 95 on the Sunday. Weekends are always harder though in terms of reputation - there's far less activity.

In August I was in Southwold with occasional access. On Monday 24th I had a very good day - 328 - due to the "% accepted" change. 18 accepted answers. On Tuesday 24th I hit 260, with 5 accepted answers and mostly rep from older answers.

But this was almost 3 years ago, so it's changed since I'm sure.


It depends on the user: Alex Martelli has not logged in for years, yet he hits the rep cap on seven days in the last month.

My own observations, on the other hand, show that I get very few points from the past questions. Notable exceptions happen when a bounty is assigned to one of the questions that I have answered, in which case I get some points due to increased visibility of that old question.


Another "drop in the bucket" datapoint.

It varies quite a bit by day, too; some days I might get a couple upvotes on a few old answers, some days I might get a few for recent answers, other days I'll get essentially nothing.

I certainly won't ever hit the rep cap on a day I don't actively participate.

One caveat is that the bulk of my answers are on relatively low-traffic questions, although there are a couple of Java and JavaScript answers that see sparse but regular traffic.


It is easy to tell from the rep graphs of popular users that suddenly stopped posting. Like Alex Martelli, cletus, Pascal Thivent, Eric Lippert. They tend to hit the rep cap on busy work days only. And of course don't get the rep for answers anymore, typically around 30%. So it's around 50%.

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