I am relatively new to Stack Overflow (about 2 months) and still getting used to how this site works exactly. My main objective here is helping (and getting help) and giving something back to the "community" (never active in programming forums until now). Thus, reputation is not the most important thing to me, although well... it is certainly encouraging seeing how your effort is rewarded via peer-recognition.

What I usually do is answering and most of my activity is focused on low-interest questions. I have tried to participate in "popular questions" but I guess that I am not good at that: you have to answer really quickly on very specific, generally-known topics. I am much more helpful when providing a general insight into a more complex problem, advising how to face a non-standard situation or developing small algorithms. As a consequence from all this, a big proportion of my reputation comes from the +15 per accepted answer, I don't get too many upvotes per question, my "unsung ratio" is really high and my statistics per tag (reputation vs. answered questions) are not too good.

My question is: other than for the reputation gain (+15), having your answer accepted has no effect at all, does it? For example: if I answer 5 questions, all of them are accepted by the asker but I don't get a single upvote, I would get a raise of 75 reputation, but no increase at all in the specific tag score. That is, if the 5 questions belong to , in my profile page, the number of questions tagged answered by me would increase by 5, but my tag score wouldn't change.

I do understand that this site puts its major focus on peers-recognition but I think that the fact of considering the "selected-by-the-asker" character in one ranking (reputation) and not in other one (tag score) implies some kind of internal incoherence of the system. In the aforementioned example, in terms of tag score, having 5 answers accepted with no upvotes is the same as the answers being completely ignored. On the other hand, in terms of reputation, having 5 answers accepted means a gain of +75.

Lastly I want to make clear that I am not asking this question because of, potentially, being beneficial for myself; as said, I don't care too much about reputation, but about fairness and formal correctness. Also I don't expect that this question will provoke any change in the ranking system, just want to share my thoughts and read more opinions on this.

I look forward to your impressions, programmers/staff.

PS: today I have signed up here in Meta just for asking this question and have got a +100 reputation increase! Is this reputation gain really justified?

  • Regarding your PS: it is association bonus. given for linking at least one SE site which has at least 200 reputation – hims056 Aug 3 '13 at 10:43
  • @hims056 wow! you are really quick! reading/answering. Yes, I know that. My question is: is such an increase really justified? For a non-programming issue, I would expect something smaller, like +20? – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 10:45
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    -1 for questioning the system. How dare you! :P Nah, always found that slightly inconsistent as well. Here you are, apparently giving helpful answers on a topic as judged by the OP, but you get no recognition for it as far as tag score is concerned. Seems a bit strange. – Bart Aug 3 '13 at 10:46
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    @Bart LOL. Yes, I have been a bit disrespectful with the stackoverflow gods, please, pardom me, almighty ones. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 10:49
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    Welcome! Just as an aside, there is nothing wrong with being the slowest gun in the east, as long as you fire true each time. Often, those rapid-fire answers to relatively simple questions on hot topics are not very good. They certainly don't show much evidence of effort or deep knowledge about the topic. I learn very little from reading them. You're not missing out on much there. Going for the accept mark (and one or two upvotes here and there) is a perfectly viable strategy. I know several of our top contributors that do that, as do I myself. – Cody Gray Aug 3 '13 at 10:56
  • @CodyGray thanks for the nice words. But I am not complaining, I am pretty happy with my situation, just asking something I have throught about some times. BTW, do you know why I have got a sudden +50 increase in my stackoverflow profile? :) – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 11:00
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    It's a fair question; I agree with Bart's last comment. As far as the reputation, posting on Meta does tend to attract some attention to you. Lots of active participants here have a tendency to check out someone's SO profile and sample some of their contributions. Sometimes this works out in people's favor, which is probably what happened here—someone or multiple someones upvoted 5 or so of your answers, which gave you +50. – Cody Gray Aug 3 '13 at 11:03
  • I can see that votes lost their originaal meaning and values, what I expected: voting was for (Originality, creativity, correctness, Good quality) However, what I see here is all votes will be for first-mover, this because of the fact that: when answering lately, people will not be there for voting, the only person that may see will be OP that probably accepts the best one... – user210003 Aug 3 '13 at 14:55
  • @Akam and not just the quickest one, but also the top users. I read about that somewhere (that users with very high ranking tend to get more votes) and have observed this phenomenon various times: even wrong answers from a top user can get quite a few upvotes. In any case I do accept the system (in general terms I do think that is pretty fair); what I don't quite understand is the poor status of the accepted answers in some cases (equivalent to nothing). Bear in mind that, some times, the OP cannot even upvote because of his low ranking. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 14:55
  • Also, I found many answers that currently outdated, but having hundreds of up-votes, in the mean time, many good quality answers remains with few votes, this leads the reader (people who navigating the site and looking for answers): to select the one with higher vote which is probably incorrect... – user210003 Aug 3 '13 at 14:58
  • @Akam you have also to bear in mind that there are lots of highly-prepared answerers and a big proportion of the questions are more or less easy to them. If you have lots of people capable to give a good answer, the quickest one is the winner. If you have problems to find questions fitting within your specific expertise, you might have to look a bit harder for your specific niche and you will surely find it out (I did it: I am posting this question, but I am quite happy with my current situation). – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 14:59
  • @Akam all this derives from the complex reality (as said, lots of highly-qualified individuals); I am not criticising the system as far as I do like it quite a lot (and well... my ranking is pretty high for just 2 months; I cannot complain); just popping up an issue which might need some update. Please, don't take this question as an excuse to criticise stackoverflow because this is not my intention (at all). If you have problems to find the best fit for you in this site, you might have to try a bit harder, but I am sure that you will find it: lots of options here. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 15:02
  • @Akam I have taken a look at your profile and you shouldn't complain either :) – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 15:07
  • why you fear to complain! I am just commenting :) – user210003 Aug 3 '13 at 15:38
  • @Akam fear?! hehehe No, I don't have fear (in general :)). I am just making clear my position to avoid misunderstandings: I honestly think that the current system is pretty good; do see weird issues but consider them normal outputs from a so difficult reality. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:04

First of all it sounds like the work you are contributing is likely more valuable than much more widely recognized contributions. Thanks for that.

Secondly, it sounds like you make a good case here for "accepts" to count in the same way as an upvoting in counting up upvoted answers in a tag.

Personally I wonder if it wouldn't also be useful to remind a user to upvote an answer if they accept it without having done so first. It seems quite common for people to accept without upvoting, but it seems rather rare that there would be a justifiable reason for this.

Lastly, the 100 point bonus for signing up on another site is justified because it gets you past the early restrictions that low rep users have specifically because they are expected to learn the SE system piece by piece. Once you have a couple hundred rep on any site, you are expected to know when to upvote, when to comment or not comment and other wise know the basic use of some functions. The 100 point bonus gets you post those basic restrictions on any SE site.

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    Perhaps make the system so that either an accept, or an upvote by the OP count toward your tag score, but not both. So if an OP both accepts and upvotes, you don't get a +2. – Bart Aug 3 '13 at 10:49
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    @Bart How bad would it be if they did get a +2 out of the deal? Shouldn't having a high volume of accepted answers in a tag count for something extra? – Caleb Aug 3 '13 at 10:51
  • Thanks for the nice words, but I don't think that my work is better than others' one; but neither worse (what the current system seems to indicate). Good one regarding my PS and +1 for you. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 10:51
  • @Caleb Meh, I see a slight distinction between helpful to the OP and helpful within a tag. You already get a +15 rep bonus. I don't necessarily think the same should go for your tag score. But I wouldn't necessarily object to it either. – Bart Aug 3 '13 at 10:53
  • @Bart bear in mind that the person who better knows the problem is, in many cases, the OP himself. Or, at least, he is the most interested one in getting an actually valid solution. I have observed pretty curious situations where WRONG answers (not even compiling) got upvotes; usually for high-rep guys, the upvotes come almost automatically. All this rarely happen when the OP accepts the answer. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 10:56
  • @varocarbas I've also seen plenty of cases where the OP is the least likely to know what the best solution to their problem is. They often accept the "easiest" answer even if it brings significant dangers that expert users have warned about and provided overall better answers that are upvoted by other knowledgeable users. I don't know how to statistically say which is more common, but my gut tells me the person asking the question might now what got them moved on to the next problem but they usually are NOT in a position to recognize the best solution. Otherwise they wouldn't have had to ask. – Caleb Aug 3 '13 at 10:59
  • You might be right (some times). But as said I have seen pretty curious situations (not just once or twice). I insist: I am not complaining or anything similar but all this tells me that the +1s is not an extremely accurate system. In any case, the motivation for my question is knowing why this difference? why not considering the accepted character at all? Anyway... I guess that my point was made. I will wait to see if there is more answers (with different views/opinions, as far as this was the whole point of starting this question). – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 11:10
  • @varocarbas You're right about +1 not being an accurate indicator of anything. Same with accepts. Only in conglomerate does it really begin to say anything. +1 (or +3/-1) doesn't tell much of a story. On the other hand +40/-1 tells you something. With most of your answers being of the "unsung hero" type, the vote volume isn't really doing the job it should be doing. At best it's an inaccurate measure because you are working bellow the relevant significant digit threshold. – Caleb Aug 3 '13 at 11:14
  • @Caleb this is clear. But is the lower level (where I am) accurately being accounted for? If you consider 40 (top user), having 1 or 0 is not too relevant, but if you consider a limit of 1/2 (unsung hero), it becomes relevant. And what is more important: is right considering 0? If you build a tool capable to multiply billions of billions times billions of billions, you would have to make sure that it also works fine while doing 1 times 1, don't you think? I insist: thanks for your answer, has been really helpful. Will wait a bit to see if there is more answers, otherwise I will accept it. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 11:20
  • I couldn't agree more. Logically, I think accepts should be more relevant to the tag score than upvotes. And many new users don't even realize that when you accept an answer you can also upvote it. They think an "accept" is the one and only way to recognize a helpful answer. How many questions you've actually answered is a greater measure of expertise and helpfulness on the topic than how many upvotes you get. Also, the upvote rate is strongly correlated with the tag's popularity, and the acceptance rate for answers is not. – Adi Inbar Aug 5 '13 at 2:07

You are correct, an accepted answer serves no mechanical purpose.

However, that doesn't make it valueless. It indicates to onlookers that the asker's problem has been solved, and they are no longer in search of more answers. Before we make any changes, we need to bear this in mind as the primary purpose of accepted answers.

It makes sense for an accepted answer to carry the weight of one upvote, provided the asker hasn't already upvoted your answer. Posts should count for at most one upvote, but either the accepted answer or the upvote button should do this.

  • The main intention of my question is highlighting the incoherent treatment of accepted answers: +15 in some places and 0 in others. I think that everyone agrees on that accepted answers have some value (solving a problem for someone vs. not giving any valuable input) and the current version of the system reflects this via +15 to your ranking, but why not having any kind of reflection in your tag-ranking? Does it make sense? Just from the theoretical correctness of the system this does not sound too right. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:02
  • See the second part of my answer; I agree with you already. – user206222 Aug 3 '13 at 17:00
  • I read that (I did +1 you). I am commenting something to each answerer and in your case I didn't know what to say, so I just highlighted the important points :) – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 17:07
  • Ah, okay! Makes sense. – user206222 Aug 3 '13 at 17:39

A good SO question starts with research conducted by the questioner. None of it producing a good result, even though the issue is not uncommon and workarounds or approaches well documented. A vexing problem.

Such a question typically gets, oh, 50 views when first asked. From 48 SO users that are well familiar with those known workarounds and approaches. And typically will upvote an answer that describes those common solutions because it matches what they already know about the problem.

But two users that actually know the real solution. The guy that posted the answer. And the guy that had the problem and knows that the answer actually solved his specific problem.

An answer mark identifies that answer. And distinguishes it from the popular but unhelpful answer.

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    Your speech is nice but, coming down to the numerical SO reality, how this goodness is reflected by the current ranking system? As said, I am not too worried about the ranking, but it does certainly feel good to see the numbers going up (mainly when you think that you are doing the right thing). Actually I do like how numbers go up with the non-upvotes answers which are accepted (+15 per answer sounds more than reasonable). My question is: why a so coherent and reasonably fair system is only applied in certain part (global ranking) and not in other one (tag ranking)? – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:13
  • BTW (I hope that you don't mind the question), you are changing the name from site to site for fun or you are different persons sharing the same picture or what? :) – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:15
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    I actually specialize in posting non-obvious answers to vexing common problems. SO is a lot more fun that way. While they don't attract many votes, it certainly hasn't hampered my "rep" very much. They do trickle votes over a long time, probably googlers that find the answer and had the same vexing problem. This is how SO is supposed to work. – Uphill Luge Aug 3 '13 at 16:17
  • "specialize in posting non-obvious answers" -> getting your ranking via +15 per answer sounds quite difficult :). You are a VIP and that's why you get upvotes much easier than others. In any case, don't misunderstand the right sense of my question: I am happy with my ranking-increase rate (today I have got 220 and don't feel better than yesterday when I got 50). I have highlighted what seems an incoherent duplicity in the treatment of accepted answers; just to fire a discussion and get some feedback on that, nothing else. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:22
  • Hmm, no, there is only one VIP at SO. Pretty sure I only ever get votes because SO users like my answers and not by mugly-shot. Counting rep gets boring very, very fast. Sounds like you already found out. – Uphill Luge Aug 3 '13 at 16:28
  • I guess that nobody really cares about reputation. Most of people just want to increase it to accomplish a goal (getting known) and, in the moment, when answering a question, it is rewarding when someone appraises your effort. I am not saying that top users, like you (you cannot argue with that), get undeserved points; but clearly tend to attract the votes from "more influential" voters. This is not bad, it is the reality. It happens even to me: the better is my ranking, the most likely is that I get upvotes. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:34
  • I can certainly argue with that. I don't think they are undeserved. I'm pretty happy with my answers and I think they are often technically accurate and helpful. Sometimes they are not and I delete such an answer. Maybe I'm full of it, but other SO users seem to think so as well. It may well look like it is undeserved, such is the hazard of posting non-obvious answers. This is all pretty simple, it is just the answer that counts and nothing else. There's no point in trying to find a "deeper truth", there isn't any. – Uphill Luge Aug 3 '13 at 16:41
  • If I post the same answer than you (a popular one with lots of potential upvotes), I would certainly get a lower number of votes. I am not saying that I have an equivalent knowledge/expertise because clearly it is not the case. But you have an attraction capability (completely and absolutely well-earned) which you cannot hide. There is a simple experiment to prove/dismiss my point: create a fake profile, don't tell anyone, answer the same (popular) question with both profiles, write a not-so-good answer with your main profile and a perfect answer with the fake one and see the results. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 16:50
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    I don't see much point in such an experiment, I already performed it. Every SO user started at 1. I got about 2 votes per answer back then, as I do now. Pretty stable with a slight down-trend, SO users don't vote as often as they used to. Getting substantially more requires good English skills and living in the right time-zone, hard to get when it isn't your native language and you live in the wrong country. Let's do this the more productive way: you post 10K non-obvious answers and let's compare notes then :) Which is what it takes. – Uphill Luge Aug 3 '13 at 17:02
  • OK. We can do it in this way. Just a couple of comments: the "wrong contry" part is pretty offensive (just kidding); and I have done some quick calcs in your profile and here are your values: an average of 31 points per answered question and 6416 points per month (during almost 5 years). These numbers do not seem to support your statements :) Anyway... thanks for you time and talk you as soon as I get to 10K answers. – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 17:15
  • 2 votes + answer = 35 points. Not every post becomes an answer. Having 10K answers helps getting 6K rep in a month. Nothing offensive about my country of residence, it is just in the wrong timezone to be active when a lot of SO users are visiting. – Uphill Luge Aug 3 '13 at 17:42
  • Ah! with "isn't your native language and you live in the wrong country" I thought that you referred to me not to you. Anyway... all clear. Let's wait for me to reach 10000K and will see who is right :) – varocarbas Aug 3 '13 at 17:48

I've noticed the same thing with bounties. You can answer a bounty worth 300 rep (which typically indicates a fair degree of knowledge of the subject in question), and yet have that bounty count for nothing towards your tag score if you don't receive any upvotes (which is not that uncommon in my experience).

So basically I agree with you, but if the Stack Overflow developers ever decide to address this issue, I would hope they also consider doing something for bounties as well.

  • You are right: winning a bounty is not the same than getting an upvote or being awarded in a "normal" answer; the prize is higher and so the competitiveness, what makes it more difficult. This fact should be reflected in some way. Also I do understand that some limits are required in order to avoid bounties to have too much weight. I guess that something on the lines of what Emrakul proposed should account for both realities: awarded and no upvotes (from OP), equals +1; bounty and no upvotes (from OP) equals +2; and perhaps mixed situations like: +1.5/+2.5 (normal/bounty accepted+up) – varocarbas Aug 5 '13 at 7:27
  • While I'm not opposed to the idea, I don't think there necessarily has to be a limit on bounties. Simple answers to common questions often get huge numbers of upvotes, which translate to high tag scores, and nobody seems to care about limiting that. Whatever you do, the scores are going to be fairly arbitrary. And I'm sorry to say, that's also why this issue will quite likely be ignored. – James Holderness Aug 5 '13 at 12:16
  • Yes, you are right. My proposal was just an example of a limiting approach to avoid bad assessment; but actually there is no limitation with upvotes and thus there shouldn't be either with bounties. Something on the lines of the bounty size / 100 sounds acceptable too; even size / 50. And you don't have to be sorry: I prefer it to be ignored than it getting the unanimous "how you dare?" of the community (what has happened with my other questions). I wouldn't have any problem if people prefer to maintain the system as it is. The whole point of this question was showing the uneven treatment. – varocarbas Aug 5 '13 at 13:15

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