Note that I am asking what it should be, not how it works, and not how people feel about it. It’s all too obvious how people feel about it.

What is the purpose of Stack Overflow reputation? sounds like a duplicate, but it didn’t get answered there.

I thought I read somewhere that it was to make it easier to find better questions and better answers.

Yet I see numerous complaints, even some whin(g)ing, about losing points or not getting them, with words like “penalized” or “punished.” (I’m not talking about the far fewer curious questions trying to understand an anonymous unexplained downvote.)

So which is it? A tool to gauge quality/improve the community, or a competition between rivals?

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    From one of the posts you link to: Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you, not as you put it a representation a lot of knowledge, experience From the help center. – Martijn Pieters Mar 23 '14 at 3:06
  • It's important to separate out a user's reputation from a post's score. A post's score is a rough measure of the quality of the post. A user's reputation is a rough measure of how much the community trusts them. – Servy Mar 23 '14 at 3:13
  • Well, it’s nice to be trusted, but if someone doesn’t either I deserve it or it’s their loss. Unless they are screaming at me, it doesn’t bother me much. Though sometimes it’s interesting to know why. – WGroleau Mar 23 '14 at 3:19
  • I read that question before I posted its link. If I thought it was a duplicate, I wouldn’t have implied otherwise. – WGroleau Mar 23 '14 at 3:22
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    So, what, this is just a rant complaining about people complaining about downvotes? – Servy Mar 23 '14 at 3:23
  • Partly. But more about the difference between discussing the algorithms that affect reputation vs. posts that use language implying it’s something personal. Are we a community or a competition? It’s possible taking it personally could be counter-productive—if people think of it that way, then some of them will use their votes that way, i.e., as a weapon or, uh, what’s the opposite of weapon? Words that make me think people are taking it too personally might encourage more people to take it personally. – WGroleau Mar 23 '14 at 3:33
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    Different people will interpret reputation in different ways. Using votes as a weapon isn't terribly effective because an unfair downvote reduces 2 points - but an upvote to even it out nets them 10. Whining about reputation is indeed pointless, but it is unlikely to ever cease. – Pekka Mar 23 '14 at 3:34
  • Too true, Pëkka, too true. Just posting this has alerted me in sidebars to a plethora of questions on “how can I get more reputation?” and more than a few whines I hadn't seen before. Makes it hard for me to think that fifty means anything different than three hundred. – WGroleau Mar 23 '14 at 3:49
  • Thank you, random. It is indeed seem to be a duplicate of the first link and possibly the second. I will have to read both completely soon. (right now it’s too late at night.) And yet, I couldn’t help noticing that it starts out with “community” but slips into “reward or punish” immediately. – WGroleau Mar 23 '14 at 4:08

imo it would depend on who you ask. Since we are all humans (least I assume we are) some would see it as a challenge to others a haha I have more points than you. I win, you loose!!! While others would see it as measurement of how much the community trusts you. I would view it as the latter one (although tbh I know another user on SO and would ask them the odd time how many points would they have and if I have more I'm happy but if not I would be a bit jealous, but I am ultimately here to (try) help the community and learn, not to compete with someone).

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