I was flipping through some old questions when I came upon this one:

The Problem With Reputation

One of the answers touches on the idea of making the reputation and username of the answerer invisible until you, the viewer, actually upvotes or downvotes the answer. While I'm not going to go over my old answers to every question on SE/SO, I will say that on at least one occasion a diamond user (Mod? I'm not really proficient in proper SO lingo) got substantially more upvotes to an answer, and their answer came after mine and didn't add much to my already-supplied answer.

I'm just thinking that this might actually "level the playing field" for those who give great answers, only to be outvoted because a diamond user also supplies an answer.

I realize this is akin to asking politicians to vote in a clause that prevents pay raises, but maybe the "average Joe" users might find this useful.

EDIT: Forget my example, because it's not relevant. The question is centered on; Would it give more weight to what you know and not who you are if the answers were anonymous until you upvoted/downvoted it? And if the downvoters to this question could explain why this is a bad idea, I'd appreciate it. It's meant for discussion!

  • 1
    I'm sorry, I'll stop answering questions :( (Yes, a diamond indicates that a user is a mod.) – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 7 '13 at 17:22
  • 1
    Perhaps the answer did add something that yours didn't. In most such instances of this that I see, it's the case. Maybe it was worked more clearly, maybe it added a few key supplemental facts that really made the difference, or maybe their answer had authority that your answer lacked. (Which is something you'll need to learn to live with on meta, because it is relevant to the value of an answer.) – Servy Oct 7 '13 at 17:24
  • 2
    That would defeat the whole purpose of reputation. I know I'm looking at a solid answer when I see a high rep, which saves me time. – RobVious Oct 7 '13 at 17:28
  • 3
    @RobVious - Are you inferring that high-rep answers are always the best ones? – Johnny Bones Oct 7 '13 at 17:31
  • 1
    @JohnnyBones Most of the time they do. – Josh Crozier Oct 7 '13 at 17:31
  • @JohnnyBones Always, no, but they are more likely to be better. – Servy Oct 7 '13 at 17:33
  • @JohnnyBones - yeah. Bandwagon effect sucks, and getting a high rep is an uphill battle when pitted against mods and such, but quality is a higher priority than egos on SE, as I think it should be. – RobVious Oct 7 '13 at 17:34
  • @RobVious - Exactly why I think rep should be invisible until the answer is voted on. Too many people upvote based on the answerer and not the answer. If SE is going to stay high-quality, the higher quality answers should get the upvotes. – Johnny Bones Oct 7 '13 at 17:36
  • @JohnnyBones Alright - lets assume the user is invisible until I vote. After I cast that vote and see who the user is, I can retract my vote, or even change it to a downvote - based on the fact that I can now see the person. – Josh Crozier Oct 7 '13 at 17:38
  • 3
    @JohnnyBones You need to prove that assertion. You need to supply evidence that a considerable number of people are voting based on the reputation of the poster without considering the quality of the post. Until you've supported that assertion you can't really advocating making a dramatic change to the system to address it. – Servy Oct 7 '13 at 17:40
  • @JohnnyBones - it's an interesting argument. I'm not saying you're wrong, but as far as UX goes, I'd prefer to see reps so I can quickly direct my attention to the most-likely-to-be-correct answer, instead of combing over everything. Anonymizing answers would piss me off, tbh. – RobVious Oct 7 '13 at 17:40
  • 1
    As usual, this completely overlooks the fact that users with high rep once had a reputation less than yours. Leaving little but an assertion that there's a new kind of "favoritism" at play, without any evidence to back that up. – Uphill Luge Oct 7 '13 at 17:49
  • @Servy - Look at the first answer by "Perhaps Pekka". He did a sock-puppet experiment and confirmed that higher rep users get more upvotes for answers, even if the answers are near-identical. I don't have the rep (or time) to replicate that, but I think that at least puts the assertation on the map. – Johnny Bones Oct 7 '13 at 17:50
  • 1
    You say his answer didn't add much over your answer, but even slight improvements might make it a better/clearer/more well rounded answer. And when there are two basically correct answers, the "nicer" one should tend to get upvoted more. Couldn't that also explain the upvotes the other answer got? – sth Oct 7 '13 at 18:01
  • 1
    You might want to read this blog entry that does a statistical analysis on the effects of reputation on upvotes – Some Helpful Commenter Oct 7 '13 at 19:03

If you use this site for a while, you begin to recognize certain users and to trust what they have to say based on great answers they've posted in the past. Those users are typically trusted by other users as well and they get a lot of votes (and thus have high reputation). The've earned the respect and trust of the community through their great contributions. While your answer may have contained roughly the same content, other users clearly felt that the answer from a more trusted source deserved to be a bit higher up the page.

Just like mechanical advice from a trusted friend is going to carry more weight than the same advice from some guy in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, the advice from a well-known user (who happens to have high rep) is going to resonate more with many users than that of a less-well-known user. (There are also some high rep users that I definitely do not trust.)

But you still got upvotes! That's the important thing. Sure, a mod is more trusted than you at this point, but your reputation is still growing. With time, you will benefit from the labor of love which is Stack Overflow... or not. You get what you put into it.

| improve this answer | |
  • @Servy quality comments and questions correlate with quality answers, I'd say. – RobVious Oct 7 '13 at 17:36
  • 1
    @Servy - It's not about reputation! Well, it sort of is, but it's really about people voting for the best answer, and not the best answerer. – Johnny Bones Oct 7 '13 at 17:38
  • 3
    @JohnnyBones - I don't know about you, but I generally like to know that my mechanic knows what s/he's talking about before pouring some liquid I've never heard of into my engine. A confident but wrong answer can waste hours or days of my time. If you spend enough time on the site, you begin to recognize certain users and you generally know that their answers are good. I don't vote based on rep only, but I know that if Servy or Jon Skeet or Eric Lippert or SLaks suggests that I'm doing it wrong, I'll probably pay attention. – JDB still remembers Monica Oct 7 '13 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Cybȫʁgϟ37 I'm a bit scared to see my name in that list. I just makes me think that Servy, like Eric Lippert, thinks you're doing it wrong – Servy Oct 7 '13 at 17:50
  • @Servy - I don't think I could list all of the account names I've come to recognize. Not in a comment, anyway. Pretty sure that would count as polling if asked in a question. Anyway, I recognize you so you're an expert now. Congrats! – JDB still remembers Monica Oct 7 '13 at 18:37

While I'm not necessarily opposed to some kind of change in the way reputation is displayed in order to level the playing field, so to speak, for new users, requiring an upvote / downvote is not the right way to do it.

If I know a solution is correct and complete, I will upvote it / downvote it based primarily on its correctness and completeness, not on the reputation on the user that posted it. Hiding the username (or just the reputation) in this case would not affect me too much.

On the other hand, if I am not sure about the correctness of the answer, I will tend to trust a user with high rep more, because a high reputation is an indication that a user can be trusted. Hiding the username / reputation in this case would definitely be bad. I would have less information on which to base my actions. Users would have to test the solution for correctness (which wouldn't necessarily help them understand if the answer is truly complete) or even worse, vote on the answer without having tested it, just to know who answered it.

So in the first case, this change would have little beneficial impact on voting patterns (mine at least), and in the second case, this change would be significantly detrimental.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .