Some accounts seem to be gaming the system anonymously, and I've seen anecdotal evidence of point and account selling. What are the mechanisms that prevent this? Is it possible that some people are buying accounts? Is it really that valuable?

I'll admit, I'm paying less attention to responses with anonymous numbered type names.

But if they sell their account to an incompetent with a computer science degree who asks my boss for a job one day, will that just mean that he'll consider my points as noise?

I'm putting myself out there by giving my name on my questions and answers, and I'd hate to know that people are buying what should be un-buyable. I know that there are mechanisms to prevent ring-voting, but is there a mechanism by which Stack Overflow can detect growth that is non-organic, or perhaps account selling?

And on the other hand, as the libertarian contrarian in me thinks, perhaps a market for points or accounts is good for Stack Overflow if it causes more, higher quality answers and responses. But against this idea might be that organic point scoring yields much higher quality answers than envelope-pushing point scoring.

You get more points up front for a quick and right answer, as opposed to a very high-quality answer that took more than 20 minutes to compose, and later those "great" answers seem to take a very long time to rise over the ones with the fast points, and most anonymous-type accounts with high scores don't seem to be writing the "great" answers.

I hope I'm not stepping on any toes here. I've always considered Stack Overflow to be a great resource, and I'm glad I can finally start contributing back.

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    There isn't likely to be much that Stack Overflow can do against the selling of accounts except prohibit it in their T&C (which they do)... then again, I've never seen even anecdotal evidence of anything like that happening. Do you have some links?
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


But if they sell their account to an incompetent with a CS degree who asks my boss for a job one day, will that just mean that he'll consider my points as noise?

Yes. Or rather - as you say yourself, it's already easy to gain significant reputation just by giving trivial answers that don't require any kind of in-depth expertise. There doesn't even need to be an illegal market for SO accounts (which btw I think might be an urban myth) for reputation to be only a very, very rough measure of competence (if that).

However: while reputation points don't really matter that much, your SO track record as a whole does. Any recruiter worth their salt will look at what you actually do on SO, what kind of knowledge you expose, what kinds of solutions you propose, etc. that's valuable no matter what.

  • OK, so that goes against point selling, but what about account selling? I can see it now: "My group in India got fired, but now I know some .net and Java, and Americans are paying a bundle for those skills, I'll keep boning up on those skills by creating accounts on stackoverflow and selling them to Americans who want some more cred, and that'll pay for quite a lot here".
    – Aaron Hall
    Nov 22, 2013 at 23:56
  • @Aaron I don't follow - what is the difference between point selling and account selling in this scenario? You can't transfer points between accounts so selling the entire account would be the only way to go anyway, wouldn't it? Ultimately, you can't prevent it - but it shouldn't be a problem really
    – Pekka
    Nov 22, 2013 at 23:57
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    It's fairly simple to create bounties on specialized questions and give the buyer an immediate complete answer. But SO should be able to detect this. Account selling would probably only be detectable by discerning a pattern in point collection, and then a (likely trans-continental) move. And that would have to be several of those or more to even have suspicion.
    – Aaron Hall
    Nov 23, 2013 at 0:04
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    Yeah, strange bounty transactions frequently pop up on moderators' radars. There are likely precautions for that kind of thing (but they're unlikely to tell us how exactly they work) And fair point re account selling - although even if you detect a transcontinental move, how do you prove it's not the same person?
    – Pekka
    Nov 23, 2013 at 0:07
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    If you bought an account, 'your' track record on SO doesn't mean anything. Any recruiter worth their salt will ask you a question or two to make sure your ability actually corresponds to the ability which you appear to have based on the content you posted. Nov 23, 2013 at 12:29

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