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Why is the reputation of a post's author shown on all questions and answers? I don't mean the technical meaning, I mean what is this information supposed to convey, when seen under a question or an answer, as a poster or as an editor? What is the reader supposed to think about the score? Does it have a purpose?

For example, if there are two basically equal answers given around same time, should rep affect on downvotes or upvotes, like being more harsh about high rep users bad answers, because they should know better?

And a followup, whatever the answer to the above question is: does displaying the total reputation have the desired effect, or would it be worth thinking what could be displayed instead of or in addition to it, or if info could be displayed differently than as a raw number? But let's not get carried away with suggestions (there already are many here on meta), first paragraph above is the main question an answer should address, and this followup is just context for answering that.


After reading the discussion and the current one answer, it seems the displayed reputation of post's author is supposed to tell two things:

  • Reputation at Stack Overflow, as a person; the product of the effort they have put to the site, and how well their contribution has been received.
  • How much of an expert or how reputable they are in the subject matter (which I take to mean, topic of the question).

To me it seems 1st point is well covered, and showing current (increasing) reputation is not counter-productive. However, the 2nd point is not covered at all (it does not show subject matter expertise at the time of creating the post, and it includes for example all VB reputation when answering an R question).

Is 2nd point important to how SO works?

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    I really find it hard to believe that with 8,623 rep of your own you still got no clue what it is??! – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 3 '13 at 14:35
  • Funny that you asked that. I answered this question 5 minutes before the moderator but yet he got 7 upvotes and I have none. Pretty much the same answer. People tend to trust users with higher rep. – SeanWM Oct 3 '13 at 14:36
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    @SeanWM - I didn't vote for anyone there, but the mod's answer is more complete than yours. He addresses the other point about why people don't suggest where to ask a question. – chue x Oct 3 '13 at 14:39
  • @ShaWizDowArd (not implying you did, but) that's no reason to downvote. – Cole Johnson Oct 3 '13 at 14:39
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    @SeanWM Or perhaps they simply thought that the other answer was better. Keep in mind that users with higher rep often know how to provide better answers, and know what qualities viewers tend to like seeing in answers. It's not necessarily because the voters are voting off of the user card. – Servy Oct 3 '13 at 14:39
  • @ShaWizDowArd Well, as a personal opinion, I find the visible reputation score in questions and answers something between irrelevant noise and distraction from objectively evaluating the post. Which is why I ask this ask, what am I "supposed" to think about it? – hyde Oct 3 '13 at 14:41
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    @Cole yes it is, lack of minimal research. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 3 '13 at 14:41
  • @ShaWizDowArd oh! You mean that thing that no one reads (FAQ)? People are supposed to read it? What if I don't know it exists? What do I do? Ask a question? It's a duplicate. Duplicates should help people having the same problem find the same solution through different wording! Downvoting is not what we want to do to something like this. – Cole Johnson Oct 3 '13 at 14:44
  • @Servy It's a bit more detailed but the additional information isn't providing anything helpful to the question. I'm just saying that I know a user will upvote a user with a higher rep over a user with a lower rep if answers are similar and/or the same. It's the way it is. – SeanWM Oct 3 '13 at 14:44
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    @hyde that's not what you asked. You asked "What is the meaning of reputation score". You may better change your question and focus on "Is displaying the reputation score of post author is good or bad?" though I'm pretty sure it was already discussed on Meta at some point. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 3 '13 at 14:45
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    @SeanWM That's your opinion. You're a bit biased in this context. Personally I do think that Oded's answer is better than yours, and would think so regardless of the reputation of each poster. – Servy Oct 3 '13 at 14:45
  • @ShaWizDowArd I edited the post, since it wasn't clear to me either at first. – Servy Oct 3 '13 at 14:46
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    @Servy You should check out that link above that Sha Wiz Dow Ard provided... if there are two identical contributions from a new and a veteran user, that of the veteran user is more likely to get upvoted.... not the only one who thinks that (and it's not a big deal, just making a point) – SeanWM Oct 3 '13 at 14:54
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    @SeanWM I've seen that post, and it generally seems similar to what I've observed. My point was simply that you choose a bad example that doesn't actually demonstrate your point, not that there aren't any examples of it out there anywhere. – Servy Oct 3 '13 at 14:58
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    @Mołot Well, based on Pekka's experiences, it's not that people aren't friendly to new users, they're just somewhat more skeptical of their content and are less likely to mistakenly upvote an incorrect answer from a newcomer over an experienced user. It doesn't say that the site is mean to new users or is critical of correct content, so no, it doesn't seem that there's a major problem. – Servy Oct 3 '13 at 15:13
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Why is the reputation of a post's author shown on all questions and answers?

Because it's about the most important single stat about a user, after his/her display name. Reputation is the blood running through Stack Overflow veins: it gives privileges, it makes users happy and more.

Where other sites will display a name and details like age/location/gender Stack Overflow is more focused on things like reputation and badges, hence those are always showing.

Take it away, you totally change Stack Overflow, and not in a good way.

What is the reputation of a post's author supposed to convey?

Taken from the faq:

As a registered user, your reputation on the site is a part of your identity on the site. It reflects, to an extent, your familiarity with the site, the amount of subject matter expertise you have and the level of respect your peers have for you.

Regarding "subject matter expertise", usually user will gain most his/her reputation in a narrow set of tags i.e. field of expertise - for example Jon Skeet is active in mostly and I don't think you'll see him take part in questions so you can say he's expert in C#. It's true that even in case he does answer question tagged with it will still show his full reputation and might be misleading as he's not R expert, it was suggested several times to show tag-specific badges to solve this but so far without much progress.

  • @chuex yep, that's answering another sub-question feel free to post as new answer, unless you prefer me to embed it into my own answer? – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 3 '13 at 15:11
  • @chuex cheers, done. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 3 '13 at 15:15
  • I edited the question to expand on "subject matter expertise", which doesn't seem to be discussed in duplicates (still, not really expecting this to be reopened, doing it just in case). The "subject matter", does it mean "topic of the question" or "topic of Stack Overflow"? I've taken it to mean the first, because 2nd is kind of broad. – hyde Oct 4 '13 at 5:49
  • @hyde see my edit, that's the best I can think of at the moment. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Oct 4 '13 at 7:24

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