About a year ago, I answered this question.

And lots of people seem to like it. But it seems strange to me that so much of my reputation comes from just this one answer. I get 10-30 reputation per day without involving myself in the community at all.

And I'm sure other users get much more than that.

Is that fair? Shouldn't rewards diminish over time to encourage active involvement?

Check out my rep growth here.

  • 37
    I'll take it if you don't want it...
    – Oded
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:42
  • 28
    If you think it's a problem, award it as a bounty on contributions you find excellent. Problem solved.
    – Bart
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:43
  • 8
    Seriously though - you gave a good answer, something we do wish to reward, why shouldn't it have a lasting effect?
    – Oded
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:43
  • 4
    You got partially lucky and answered a popular question with an equally popular answer. Congratulations :) The reward for that is that you get points for each upvote; I don't feel it has to be any more complicated than that. Do you feel it discourages you from participating more?
    – Dan
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:44
  • 7
    I think it's not a problem. First: such answers (with 100+ upvotes) are rare. Second: you do solve a problem for many peole (just look at the view-numbers on that question). And third: you did go to the trouble of producing (or at least finding) a decent illustration that's often more useful than the plain text. Jul 19, 2013 at 9:44
  • @JoachimSauer Actually someone else suggested the screenshot.
    – Antony
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:47
  • 2
    Wondering if downvoting the question will make you feel better by offsetting your Stack Overflow reputation with Meta reputation...
    – Oded
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:47
  • @Oded It's interesting that [mso] doesn't work the way like [so] does.
    – Antony
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:48
  • @Antony: well, then he got lucky ;-) But he still got a good solution (quicker than the highest-voted one at least) Jul 19, 2013 at 9:48
  • I did and continue to get what I think is an absurd amount of rep from this similar answer. I don't even use IntelliJ!
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 19, 2013 at 9:49
  • 1
    You can make it a community wiki if you don't want to keep earning rep from it. Jul 19, 2013 at 12:44
  • 1
    @Bart: No, that doesn't solve the problem. It works around it for this one case, but if the OP thinks that there is an inherent flaw in the system's attempt to be fair, then him awarding a bounty to someone isn't going to change that at all. Jul 19, 2013 at 12:53
  • I enjoy the huge number of upvotes that question has now recieved today Jul 19, 2013 at 13:00
  • 4
    I upvoted the answer in question to annoy you :)
    – Mansfield
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:00
  • 1
    @voidstate: it all comes out in the wash, your better answers will receive no attention. This is the way of the world.
    – user7116
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:33

7 Answers 7


Is that fair?

In the Stack Exchange model, yes that is fair. When your post is found useful by a user, it is upvoted. It is upvoted not to give you reputation points but mainly to make the most useful posts rise to the top so that future visitors can get to it quickly. Reps are just one of the by-product of voting mechanism but a good one :). Voting is highly encouraged by Stack Exchange. However, if you still don't want reps on old questions then you may get your answer converted to "Community Wiki" and you'll stop getting reputation from that post.

Shouldn't rewards diminish over time to encourage active involvement?

To encourage active involvement, there is a huge influx of new questions every day. I don't think diminishing returns would spark much active involvement. If high reps users still feel good in helping new users they will remain active.

  • 1
    "yes that is fair" So Skeet's impossible to beat reputation is fair?
    – Cole Tobin
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:58
  • If he continues to be active on the site then he will be impossible to beat anyways :) Sep 13, 2013 at 14:11
  • 3
    @ColeJohnson: there is a cap of 200 pts per day earned on votes, so Skeet's rep can only go up by that much on the back of old questions. If he wants more he has to remain active and get new accepted answers or bounties. It should therefore be possible to catch him up if you start answering more than he does and getting more accepted answers/ bounties. He's currently earning around 250-350 points per day, which should be achievable if you really wanted to. It will still take a while to catch him, but it could be done.
    – Spudley
    Sep 13, 2013 at 15:28
  • @Spudley I know. That's why I said "impossible to beat". The only way to beat it is to hit the rep cap everyday and get even more from bounties and accepts.
    – Cole Tobin
    Sep 13, 2013 at 19:54

I would simply consider it just compensation for all the answers for which you have spent considerable time researching and crafting and get bupkes for votes.

Or, perhaps, consider it a carrot to give you incentive to maybe, someday, dash off another quick and easy answer that attains "rock star" status.


Well, look at it this way, you provided an answer that may seem minor to you, but is one that many (including myself) have found to be very useful and helpful - so, yes, your rep increases are perfectly fair. Enjoy the rep increases in the knowledge that something that you took the time to write has helped many people and I would say is appreciated.


The community often awards quality, and yours is the first answer with a screenshot I have seen in a long time without hand-drawn red "circles" of dubious artistic quality.

Just keep the points and let's hope your answer will serve as an inspiration to others.

  • 10
    The hand-drawn red "circles" are a meme and are to be REWARDED! Jul 19, 2013 at 12:53
  • 4
    You have no soul.
    – Doorknob
    Jul 19, 2013 at 13:10
  • 2
    Yeah, no soul... In my lame defence I'll point out that the circles are a meme on meta!
    – Monolo
    Jul 19, 2013 at 13:39
  • The Freehand Red Circle is one of the signs and symbols by which a Meta Initiate may recognize another Initiate; to display it before the profane masses of Stack Overflow would be a dangerous violation of our secret trust. Fnord.
    – jscs
    Jul 19, 2013 at 18:44

Trivial answers that for some reason amass gigantic amounts of reputation aren't only unfair to the authors of other, more elaborate answers that tend to gain a handful of upvotes at best; they also devalue the concept of reputation as a whole. How is rep any indication of ability if you can score tons of it by writing a 30-second answer that happens to be correct and popular?

The solution to this would be per-post reputation limiting, as has been suggested e.g. by Jon Skeet here: Revisiting the rep cap (yes, again)

  • 1
    rep is never going to be a good indication of ability. That can only be gauged by looking at the content. Sep 13, 2013 at 16:06
  • A post that receives a steady trickle of upvotes over time because a lot of people have found it useful is more worthy than a post that received 200 upvotes in one day because it was linked on reddit. A per-post reputation cap is a disincentive to write posts that are useful in the long term. It is a horrible idea. Sep 13, 2013 at 17:22
  • 2
    @Gilles so you seriously think the answer the OP is talking about should earn 2760 rep points? Or this one of mine, 2290 points? A relatively high per-post limit is going to change nothing in answer quality. In my experience, most steady-trickle answers are trivial, bike-shed answers that were never intended to gain that number of votes... while thousands upon thousands well-researched, great answers stay obscure.
    – Pekka
    Sep 13, 2013 at 18:16
  • 1
    @Gilles when I look at my own top-voted answers, I see only a handful where I think the value:rep ratio is somewhat okay. I'm sure it's the same way for many, if not most other veteran users. That doesn't mean we haven't contributed truly valuable stuff, as well... but it doesn't necessarily tend to be the most upvoted.
    – Pekka
    Sep 13, 2013 at 18:21
  • 1
    Oh, definitely, the correlation between my most-upvoted and my “best” answers by any reasonable measure is poor (though better on SE sites other than SO than on SO, I think). But blocking reputation after a while doesn't solve this at all, and it is counter-effective in that it hurts the most valuable ones more. Sep 13, 2013 at 18:30

Currently used system if not fair and doesn't encourage solving complex issues, it tells us to answer simple questions as soon as possible - after all most highly upvoted entries are simple questions that people ask using google and find the answer on SO.

Even simple idea like "more reputable users' upvotes are worth more and give more points" would work better in my opinion.

  • That last idea has been suggested before: Scaling rep earned by the rep of person upvoting .
    – S.L. Barth
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:00
  • 1
    The bounty system can be used to give both direct and indirect (via greater exposure) rewards to complex answers if you come across one and feel it is woefully under appreciated. Why should a complex answer that helps few people be rewarded more than a simple answer that helps many? Sep 13, 2013 at 13:03

Look at it this way: the top 1.7% of your answers account for 77% of your reputation. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, the top 1.7% of Jon Skeet's answers account for 110%1 of his reputation. So I think you're doing OK.

Update: Taking into account the reputation cap, it looks like the top 1.7% of Jon Skeet's answers only account for about 30% of his total upvotes. Still, while your vote distribution might be a little more skewed than most, I don't think it's out of line.

1 I'm guessing he gives out a lot of bounties?

  • 1
    Not really, no.
    – ale
    Feb 12, 2016 at 21:22
  • Somebody who knows more of the inner workings of the rep system than I do will have to explain it, then. Feb 12, 2016 at 21:23
  • 5
    Mr. Skeet loses a lot of reputation points to the daily cap.
    – ale
    Feb 12, 2016 at 22:10

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