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On Stack Exchange there are some old questions—3-4 years old—that have something like 3500 votes. Now I understand that over time the questions will naturally accrue the odd vote, but this is ridiculous.

Did everyone go through a phase in the early days where they were just giving each other excessive vote, like a pat on the back?

And some of these 3000+ vote answers to questions aren't so great either. I often come across 200+ questions and answers that would go into negative territory if they were posted nowadays.

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One of the key reasons is that several of those older questions are the first good answer to very commonly asked questions. These questions get a lot of hits from Google based on the fact that they're using these very commonly used terms. This is exacerbated by the fact that the age of the content, and the amount of incoming links, gives it more Google Juice. Since SO is primarily accessed through Google this feeds on itself. The questions with the most views get more views, and the questions without as many views have a harder time getting new views (for the more common search terms anyway), so the questions at the top stay at the top.

  • does that mean they got less rep points in the early days? I think for an upvote we get something like 10 points. My only concern is that early adopters are a little too overvalued. If i kept on using SE for four years starting from now, there is no way I could get anything near what an early adopter would have after 4 years. I respect that early adopters DO get more credit though. – Oliver Watkins Jul 11 '13 at 13:59
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    @OliverWatkins Well, the rep cap often eats up a lot of it for bigger questions, but the rep cap, at the same time, makes it virtually impossible for you to ever surpass, for example, Jon Skeet, in rep. If you're here just to see your name at the top of the leaderboard, the system isn't designed to really allow it. If you're here to ask and answer questions, learn and teach programming content, and to help others, then you're in the right place. – Servy Jul 11 '13 at 14:00
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    @OliverWatkins - I once thought the same as you do. I had a friend who was in on the beta (which I just missed out on) and who built up 14k in reputation by answering the many common, foundational questions that were there at the start of the site. I never thought I'd be able to catch him, so I focused on answering questions I found interesting. I passed him a long time ago, and at 100k, that "impossible" 14k target looks small in comparison. I also remember that BoltClock flew by me in reputation after his first six months as a member, so things aren't as static as they seem. – Brad Larson Jul 11 '13 at 14:25
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    Why does rep matter? It's like SAT scores and GPAs ... very rarely does anyone ask for them when interviewing a seasoned candidate. – swasheck Jul 11 '13 at 16:18
  • @swasheck Outside of SE, it matters very little (if at all). Internally, it provides a (very rough) indication of how well the community trusts a user. As a result, privileges are granted as reputation is gained. – George Cummins Jul 11 '13 at 17:36
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I can think of three reasons:

  1. SO today gets a lot of questions. We have a limited number of votes that we can use per day. Back when fewer questions were posted, there were more votes to spare.

  2. Standards have changed. Today, questions should be well-researched and should show some effort. In the past, questions showing much less effort could be posted and well received.

  3. Many of the "good" questions have already been asked. Real gems become harder to find.

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