There has been a lot of talk about the daily reputation cap and what counts and what doesn't count and so on. But why is there a cap at all? I've seen lots of questions about whether the cap number should be changed, or whether certain things should or should not apply to the cap, but I've never seen any reasoning behind why it exists in the first place.

If I write a great answer to something and get 30 upvotes in a day, why should I be deprived of 100 reputation points? What is the difference between getting 30 upvotes today and getting fifteen yesterday and fifteen today?

  • See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3709/…
    – Troggy
    Commented Sep 17, 2009 at 17:58
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    Podcast 65, the first thing they learned about SO over the last year "First, never have any unbounded behavior in your website."
    – Troggy
    Commented Sep 17, 2009 at 18:20
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    A simple rationale: to prevent newcomers having more reputation than you have. Control freaks don't like losing the control... (Anyway I never ever made more than 50 rep a day.)
    – Calmarius
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 17:08
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    The rep cap hurts SE since it results in a decrease of user participation. Many users stop posting Qs/As once they hit their rep cap, and won't post again until the next day. So perhaps they only spend a few hours per day on the site. But if there was no rep cap, then they might spend 18 hours a day on the site and the site would have a lot more user participation. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 20:42
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    -1 for "deprived" as if an extra 100 rep can make any discernible difference in one's existence. Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 5:05
  • What @pacoverflow said. Also, I'm not inclined to trust the judgement of someone who'd spend 18 hours a day on the network. ;)
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 5:31
  • @pacoverflow true, and in the past I've been tempted to "game" the system by waiting to post a post that I think will "cap" until the middle of the day, where I can "cap" just before midnight system time (when the cap resets). Of course this doesn't apply to FGITW answers, but FGITW is gaming in a different way. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 0:14

10 Answers 10


It stops the site from being gamed

A user like Jon Skeet will gain 1000+ points in an hour if this didn't exist for example. Jon objects to the cap himself for other reasons. PS: I am using Jon as an example that we all know

It is to level the playing field

It allows for others that won't gain reputation as quickly not to fall behind. Also considering that the reputation is based on how much you are trusted, it prevents users from gaining abilities without having spent enough time on the site to understand how it works. I would not want someone who has been on the site for 2 days to suddenly have the ability to close questions or edit my posts, if he hasn't had time to understand the nature of the sites.

The latter unfortunately has been proven to not work so well, some users still don't understand SO after a year.

Courtesy of AnonJr:

A better example of gaming is posting dozens of (generally poor quality) questions in rapid succession and rapidly gaining rep through typical drive-by voting and/or sympathy voting. (I'm all about voting questions up when they're good, but some questions just seem to get votes for no apparent reason...) Since rep is a measure of trust, this type of rep-farming could garner enough rep for someone who is most likely not trustworthy to do things that they probably ought not to be able to do. (IIRC that was listed in a blog post/meta topic related to the caps)

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    I find it extremely sad that I keep hitting my rep cap on Meta, but can barely get a vote on any of the other sites. I should seriously get a hobby. Commented Sep 17, 2009 at 17:51
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    A better example of gaming is posting dozens of (generally poor quality) questions in rapid succession and rapidly gaining rep through they typical drive-by voting and/or sympathy voting. (I'm all about voting questions up when they're good, but some questions just seem to get votes for no apparent reason...) Since rep is a measure of trust, this type of rep-farming could garner enough rep for someone who is most likely not trustworthy to do things that they probably ought not to be able to do. (IIRC that was listed in a blog post/meta topic related to the caps)
    – AnonJr
    Commented Sep 17, 2009 at 17:52
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    Why can't Meta be your hobby? ;) Commented Sep 17, 2009 at 17:52
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    Welcome to the club of Meta sadness Diago. But at least you're on the first page on SU.
    – random
    Commented Sep 18, 2009 at 1:11
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    If you've legitimately earned enough votes to get 1000 rep, I wouldn't say you've gamed the site. Commented Oct 2, 2009 at 15:01
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    It doesn't level the playing field, it maintains the status quo. It is not possible for a new user to catch-up to Jon Skeet unless Jon stops contributing. He gets his 200 points per day and, as nobody else can exceed that (other than the few holes in the cap), he will always stay ahead.
    – Dan Dyer
    Commented Oct 3, 2009 at 15:38
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    +2 or more, if possible for that insightful comment, Dan D., but I don't want to push you over your cap. But suppose there was no cap. On average, the legacy of left answers and questions, will someday average on or over the 200 and will only increase. First-timers that are continuously active always have a large advantage. Weighing a vote based on the question's age is the only (?) way to balance that out and keep the system fair.
    – Abel
    Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 23:28
  • I've been wondering what the intention of the reputation cap was for a couple weeks now, and finally found this. Thank you for a clear explanation; I now appreciate the reputation cap.
    – antiver
    Commented Feb 11, 2010 at 1:15
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    Mentioning "stopping the site from being gamed " and "levelling the playing field " right next to each other seams a bit funny to me :)
    – Kos
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 15:59
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    @Diago So do you have a hobby yet? ;-P
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Mar 10, 2011 at 21:45
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    How has Jon Skeet gamed the site? He's a legitimate contributor. Commented May 12, 2011 at 0:04
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    If somebody know where Jon Skeet objects to the cap, could the link be edited into this answer? Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 20:19
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen This about covers it I think. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 17:34
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    @DanDyer OK, Jon gets 200 rep/day and no one can exceed it, but without cap he would simply get a LOT more. Now Jon and some other people are at constant distance, progressing by 200 / day. Without cap Jon would leave them behind even more. So yes, cap maintains the status quo in a way, but removing it would not help new users to catch up. It would "help" them to be further behind each day.
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 8:14
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    "leveling the playing field" - this is the weakest (to put very diplomatically) argument that could have been behind this. Who cares if people fall behind. They either don't have as much time as others or don't have enough knowledge and that's fine. They're providing answers for free on their own time and the cap is removing any significant incentive to do so once the cap comes into play. Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 12:51

A major reason for the rep cap is to get people to come back daily. If you miss a day, you cannot make back that rep you might have gained on that day, so it increases user participation. Further, you can't simply participate once a month for a day or two and get thousands of rep.

Far from preventing or limiting addiction, it feeds the addiction by forcing users to come back every day to get their hit.

It is, quite simply, a feature designed to grow the community by encouraging frequent small amounts of participation, rather than infrequent binges.

  • 39
    Your reputation should be based on what you do, not how often you are on the site; many people do not live on stackoverflow and may not be able to spend time exept on perhaps one day a week. I would rather see such people give quality answers once a week than be encouraged to rush through a few answers everyday.
    – Hawken
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 14:57
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    That's a good retention method by playing hard to get.
    – Ascendant
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 23:23
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    True SE is a drug
    – user345817
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 21:43
  • @Hawken, but what if you're the creator of the site?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 3:19
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    @Hawken “many people do not live on stackoverflow” well that’s their fault, they should :) Commented May 13, 2021 at 17:27
  • Probably should be max 200 per day averaged over the last 7 days. That would level the playing field between weekend warriors and daily users.
    – phil1008
    Commented Jan 7 at 23:48

It's about Trust.

The system learns to trust you based on your reputation, and gives you new abilities as your rep increases. Part of the trust relationship you develop is not just reputation, but also time: that you've used the site over a period of time, and over that period you should come to understand the community and accepted procedures for how it operates.

So the reason the reputation threshold for certain abilities is set at a particular level is because, thanks to the daily cap, the system can assume that even a well-qualified user who hits the cap every day from day zero has spent at least a certain number of days actively using the site. A particular threshold choice equates to at least certain number of days actively using the site.

For example, vote to close at 3000 means you've actively used the site on at least 15 days (accepted answers aside) — hopefully long enough to understand what closing a question really means. It gives the community a chance to assimilate the user.

It's not fool-proof. If you're Alan Kay, for example, you could post twice, come back a year later, and find you've earned quite a few privileges. But it's a pretty good measure.

  • 17
    I'd argue Alan Kay is "trusted" by the community...
    – mmx
    Commented Nov 12, 2009 at 19:50
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    Apparently, even in 2014, he still hasn't returned.
    – Claudia
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 21:38
  • That would be a bizarre way to implement a time limit, that seems to be a byproduct more than an explicit aim.
    – user630541
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 6:23


I'm not sure if Jeff has done this intentionally but it has a major role in having resources (procrastinating programmers) available on a regular basis and making it a habit for users to come and answer questions everyday rather than having irregular bursts of answers some of the time and a bunch of unanswered questions other times.


To control your addiction.

If you reach the rep cap it is time to return to your real life. It works for me. And I really think it is a good thing. If we would not have it some people would just go on and on and maybe could not stop chasing that rep all the time.

  • 1
    +1 Though I understood, do you refer addiction towards points?
    – Praveen
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 16:38
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    It's because the site designers think we should spend some time with our kids. And eat. And sleep. And bathe.
    – MathAdam
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 21:59

I've only recently started hitting 200 rep per day on a semi-regular basis (on rpg.se), and it seems to me the cap has the following benefits, in particular on a site with relatively small active membership:

  • It stops certain individuals from answering too many questions, as they are likely to stop answering once their daily cap has been reached.
  • Conversely this encourages less active users to get involved by answering questions once the more active users have eased off.
  • It encourages people to do other things once their cap has been reached, like editing questions and answers, adding comments and flags.

All three of these things contribute to the overall quality of a small stack.


Due to the Bike Shed Problem answers to easy questions tend to get more votes since more people are able to recognize the correct answer when they see it. Without the rep cap those that answered simple questions would gain rep a lot faster than those who answered an equal amount of difficult questions.

  • 1
    That's a very bad example actually. That user actually got those upvotes slowly over a long period of time. I don't believe that answer ever got more than 20 votes in a single day.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 20:26
  • @Mysticial - I agree that is a bad example for this question and I have removed it. The link (stackoverflow.com/questions/477816/the-right-json-content-type/…) would be a better argument for introducing a per post rep cap.
    – bdoughan
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 20:31
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    The problem with per-post caps is that it's unfair to answers like this: stackoverflow.com/questions/231767/…
    – Mysticial
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 20:33
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    @Mysticial - Depends on who you are being fair to. An equivalent answer on a different tag may gather much fewer votes. Should one answer alone put someone in the top 1000 rep holders, regardless of how good the answer is?
    – bdoughan
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 20:44
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    Yes I believe it should if it's good enough. This site isn't just about quantity. Quality is important as well - and yes it is possible for a single post to be better than 1000 crappy ones combined. The point I'm making is: There's no way you will get a system that is fair to everyone. The per-post cap was already discussed and rejected. The fairness of stuff like the JSON question is discussed here and here. You may want to voice your ideas on those questions.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 20:51

For most users, most of the time they only hit the rep cap when a question or answer they have posted appears on the Hot Network Questions list.

Although not originally designed for this reason (as SOLO's answer explains), the rep cap serves as an important mitigating force against the worst side effects of the HNQ, namely that very quickly but for a limited time the voting on a question is driven by users who are not familiar with the site in question.

Not all questions on the HNQ adhere to their site specific rules, and many get closed, but after the 'damage' has already been done. I put damage there in quotes because it's entirely legitimate for the questions to be asked, answered, and voted on, and most questions which do get closed have votes and answers. Closed HNQ questions are not normally deleted if they were asked in good faith. The HNQ just amplifies activity on its questions in a semi-artificial manner.

The rep cap means that users' contributions to the sites still get recognised and rewarded, but in order to gain community moderation privileges users need ongoing contributions which are positively accepted and voted on by the site regulars, not HNQ visitors.


The intention is to get the user to come back to the site daily, for ever.

A site is (also) measured by the number of users. It makes a difference having 50k users for 20 years and more, vs having 100k users for 2 days then just 100 thereafter.

It's well-researched, that games implement such features to keep the users on the site; a wheel that you can spin once a day, a scratchcard that is re-available after six hours, etc etc. For it to work, what is lost must not be recoverable (ie you can't get an extra spin tomorrow if you miss today's one) and it's supply must be lesser than the user's maximal demand (eg limiting boss kills to 99 mobs per day is pointless if the best user takes two hours to kill one anyway).

However, it's badly implemented on this site because users get the carrot regardless of participation. For example, my old posts can continue to hit daily rep limit regardless of any present participation.

  • 1
    This attempts to answer why users on SE are warded rep, badges, and privileges in the first place; not why there is a cap on the number of rep (200) a user can “earn” per day. Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 5:02
  • @Mari-LouA, ?? As for the rep cap, the intention is to get the user to come back to the site daily, for ever.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 14:17
  • It's not at all easy to hit the rep cap daily but in any case the entire system is geared towards earning rep, badges, and privileges. The rep cap is there to stop hi-rep users or extremely popular questions or answers (HNQ) from ammassing 400, 600, 800 rep at a time. It actually incentivise users from logging on to check how many points they have accrued during the day. Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 15:46
  • @Mari-LouA, so instead of today, the user will return tomorrow and the day after and so on. (paragraph 2)
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 18:13
  1. I think preventing addiction is not the answer - the rules are determined by the company, and the company has no reason to prevent us from becoming addict.

  2. I think, “gaming the system” is not an answer - writing well-received posts is everything but not gaming. This idea is very contraproductive and suppressive.

  3. I think, “leveling the playground” is not an answer - getting the rep for your posts is not something what should be leveled, but your well deserved reward for creating valuable content.

What can be the answer:

  1. Rep represents the usefulness of the posts of the user. This roughly relates to the upvotes what he has got, but not entirely. You can check the highest voted SO posts - yes a post with 8000 is typically useful, but not 8000 times more. The ratio of the real usefulness and the post score is not entirely linear. The well… “simplest” option is to handle these is capping them, and the SE system has a habit of using always the possible… well, “simplest” rules. (Well, maybe capping the post scores at +10 would be yet more “simple”1.)
  2. Posts with extreme scores tend to cause troubles in generating stats. Compare someone with 1 answer with +8000 and 800 answers with 0 - this is luck. Another user writing 800 answers with +10 - this is an unthinkably useful answerer. This might be a try to decrease the count of such “spikes” (or, at least, to decrease their effect to the rep).
  3. Some leveling might be still a reason - Jon’s first place on the SO will probably remain in the next 3-5 years, despite that his activity hugely decreased in the last years. But the second, third and fourth most high-rep SO users seem to have a quite strong race. The relation of their rep depends mostly on the accepted answers and the bounties won (these are not repcap-affected). Without a rep cap, there would be no race, because the third and fourth users had no reachable way to get over the second.

1If a company employee reads this: please dooon’t!

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