I have read that reputation does not reflect technical skill. What is the purpose/meaning of reputation then? What do you mean when you vote? Isn't there any technical-skill overtone in your votes?


To the extent that the votes function "as intended", a person receives votes by asking questions and supplying answers which are deemed useful.

In practice, votes applied by human beings with their own motives and ideas, and so individual votes vary in meaning so much that no overall intent can be applied to voting as a whole. This is why it's often said that reputation is meaningless.

At a baseline level, to receive votes, you have to participate. This doesn't mean participation guarantees votes, but it does mean that the more you participate, the more likely you are to receive votes.

Therefore, votes are a very rough measure of participation. This is why reputation threshholds are used to limit access to more advanced features of the site, such as editing and moderation tools. By earning reputation, you demonstrate that you have participated enough to understand how these are supposed to work.

However, the system is far from perfect. It's a work-in-progress.

  • You can participate a lot and still have a negative reputation. How would you interpret a negative reputation ? (I've never seen any)
    – dugres
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:15
  • 3
    It's not possible to get reputation < 1
    – Greg
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:18
  • @dugres: That's why it's a very rough, imperfect measure. While it's possible to participate and not earn rep, it is not possible to not participate and earn rep. If you have rep, you must have participated to some degree. Oct 2 '09 at 16:22
  • $rep = max $rep, 1 Oct 2 '09 at 16:30
  • And you must have participated in a "good" way.
    – dugres
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:31
  • I think any single, individual vote is meaningless, but in aggregate, over a wide variety of answers, a large amount of participation and a long period of time, it can be somewhat meaningful. It would be silly to draw any absolute concrete conclusions from rep, but that doesn't mean it's not a helpful indicator.
    – Rex M
    Oct 2 '09 at 18:05

There is an small aspect of technical skill, and a large aspect of community involvement.

  • What does "community involvement" mean ? Can there be community involvement whithout technical skill ? To me, community involvement sounds like providing technical skills.
    – dugres
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:06
  • 2
    @dugres: Not necessarily. It's possible to provide questions and answers which earn votes and demonstrate very little technical merit. Oct 2 '09 at 16:07
  • Ok, but how many ?
    – dugres
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:32
  • @dugres: it has been shown some users that have hungreds of sub optimal questions earning lots of reputation.
    – perbert
    Oct 2 '09 at 16:50

You could ask a lot of questions, and not be very skilled. Also, you may be very skilled in a technical area that is not common/popular and just because of the size of the user group, you may not get a lot of points.


Votes are the currency used to establish trust by the SO software.

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