Any economic system is closed to some degree (i.e. money already printed and functioning). In a system like Stack Overflow, rewards (in reputation) are generated all the time and there is no upper boundary.

Would that mean that most of the people will have similar reputation level and would become dis-interested in the site's functionality?

  • 5
    Actually in a real economy money keeps increasing and new money keeps coming out of no where.
    – hasen
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:20
  • 7
    No, because a lot of people are on the site here not just to earn rep but also to help other people and get answers for their own questions. Rep may be an added incentive, but it is not the be all and end all of why to join the site.
    – a_m0d
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:41

7 Answers 7


Dark solution to this problem: everyone dies eventually.

  • singularity.com
    – Nosredna
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:15
  • 1
    +1 from me - a good laugh to start the day.
    – duffymo
    Jun 13, 2009 at 11:34
  • 3
    Servers don't last forever, and neither do backups.
    – Sneakyness
    Aug 2, 2009 at 16:14

Questions like this that aren't community wiki are what would cause this eventual problem.

Community wiki solves (to some extent) this problem.

The people who are farming reputation might get bored and leave. But the fact that it works well as a Q/A site wont change regardless of reputation inflation. I would bet few people are that concerned about catching up with the Jon Skeet's of the worl.d


Well, the current system seems to be pretty well designed, given that there's a multi-layered system of rewards or incentives: badges/reputation, as well as increased access to SO functionality (so that regular users get more privileges to help maintain this site).

In this sense, there's even a form of quality assurance and mutual interest to help keep improving SO, unlike wikipedia which -as all of us know- also attracts a great many users, even without any sort of reputation or "karma" and lots of trolls.

So, it seems SO will always be some form of "community" (again unlike wikipedia), so that users are also motivated by the mutual interaction with people who share similar interests.


If you want to use the "economic system" metaphor, then why would anyone ever become a programmer (or anything else) in the first place? After all, people like Bill Gates are already billionaires with 40+ years of experience. What chance do I have against that?

I guess what I am saying is that there will always be sufficient numbers of people who try to perform to the best of their ability... and want to show off what they can do (even if they are not immediately recognized as the "top dog").


When the reputation number get too high, you can still look at the badges.

But it's an interesting question. What chance will a newcomer have against Jon Skeet five years from now?

In a real economy prices generally can't keep going up without wage inflation. Will there be wage inflation on SO? Maybe, if there are so many users that you can get 100 points on a tossed off answer.

  • It would also be worth noting that even if there were an inflation in SO the rate of increase is capped at 200 per day so it couldn't get any higher than that, which is completely different from a real economy. Comparing the two in that sense is like comparing apples and oranges.
    – Joseph
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:22
  • Yeah I don't think taking the analogy to economics very far is enlightening here. But suppose the user base of SO grows to such a size that getting 200 points per day is trivially easy. Does that matter? Plenty of time to address the problems later. Right now it seems to work well enough.
    – Nosredna
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:29
  • 2
    What chance does anybody have against Jon Skeet now? He's China and Japan combined.
    – duffymo
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:30
  • In 5 years from now, SO will run as a neural network in Jon Skeet's brain...
    – none
    Jun 13, 2009 at 1:46

Just wonder what do you think about the inflation of StackOverflow?

Eventually there will be even more people with 'moderator' access.

Would that mean that most of the people will have similar reputation level and would become dis-interested in the site's functionality.

You seem to be assuming that people are interested in the site's functionality only because the people have dissimilar reputation levels; and I don't see at all why you'd assume that.


I don't think this is such an accurate observation. The point system doesn't inflate, at all. Answers will not be getting 20+ rep a year (or two, or three) from now.

It's awesome to see questions answered in hours by people that earn 10+ rep on their answers.

People either have the intrinsic motivation to keep coming back, or they don't. Regardless of the reputation, or karma, or badges, that they can gain. Everybody participates at their own level.

People that do keep coming back, eventually earn more points.

Keep in mind that, more questions = more points (more answers = more points) in the system. But some questions/answers get deleted (when outdated) and the reputation is recalculated.

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