It is very easy in some SE sites to obtain a gold Publicist badge by sharing a link on popular sites such as reddit. Such links contains your user number; by changing the user number, you can attribute the link to someone else, and they can obtain the badge.

Is it inappropriate to use this method to give a gold badge to someone whose work you appreciate?

  • 17
    Dunno about appropriate or not, but it would surely make them super confused when they'll get the badge! Apr 15, 2015 at 14:49
  • 3
    If the link is worth it, it will get publicist eventually. If it isn't, it hardly will. What is the fuss about badges anyway? They are just some shiny things in your profile. Feels envious
    – M.A.R.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 14:52
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    FYI, my user number is 2915. Just in case you needed to know.
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 15, 2015 at 14:57
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    I would point out that when SE was publishing Programmers.SE content on Ars Technica, they used the share link for the author, not the community evangelist. I never shared the link for this badge.
    – user213963
    Apr 15, 2015 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure about it being "inappropriate" exactly, nor do I know if it's against site rules (you should check), but I don't think it's something you should do.

What if they don't want that badge?

What if they want to earn it themselves? Can the user wear the badge with pride knowing it was actually someone else who earned it?

Even if you'd discussed it with them and they said yes, a user should earn badges based on their own actions IMO.
Where do we draw the line - If we could pass rep to others somehow would this be ok?

to give users you admire

Place a bounty on a question they've answered as "Reward existing answer".

Upvote their answers and questions which you find useful.
Although don't go seeking them out to do this, as you'll end up having the votes you cast revoked, which helps no-one.

And other than that, just admire that they are a good user. The sites have lots of good users, many who probably deserve more (rep, badges, etc) than they currently have. But working around the system to give them such things is not really fair on the others IMO.


Is it inappropriate to use this method to give a gold badge to someone whose work you appreciate?

That's a very interesting question. If I didn't want the badge myself, I'd be tempted to use the author of the post I'm promoting - they generated the content. I don't see a problem with this usage - so try promoting their own material.

The badge is designed to encourage users to share links to SE content on other platforms. Switching out the user isn't going to subvert the purpose and goal of the badge - in fact your desire to get the badge for someone else indicates that the badge is working, despite the fact that you personally don't want it.

As Shadow Wizard points out above, the main possible negative is that since the system doesn't provide enough information to know exactly why you got the badge (ie, where it was shared and by whom) then it may be confusing.

Another possible issue may be that the person doesn't believe they deserve the badge. Beyond simple modesty or humility, they may feel guilty for receiving something they themselves didn't earn.

Remotely possible is that there may be users who feel that using their user number is the same as them choosing to share a link themselves, and signing their approval to the content represented to the community on which it's shared. Imagine, for instance, an unrelated user sharing a divisive post to a big community using another user's number. Even if that community doesn't react negatively, the user may feel that others are putting words into their mouth. Communities that have a history of attacking others online may be fooled into finding and harassing a user based solely on the user number shared in the link.

I think, on balance, users should be discouraged from tampering with the URL and inserting another user's number in there. However, like voting, the ability is provided by the system. How the community uses it is up to the community. If SE doesn't like it, they will modify it to avoid bad uses.


I don't think it's appropriate for the reasons given by Adam Davis and James gave in their answers. What I would like to add, is that doing what you propose seems to be a largely unnecessary means of showing your admiration. If you share a link that generates a thousand or more visits and gains you the Publicist badge then it's likely the user's post you shared will gain a significant amount of up votes as result. That will give that user both reputation and likely one or more badges. I think most people would prefer that over a gold badge not obviously connected anything they did.

If you still really want to "give" the user a gold badge, then there's one way to more or less legitimize your scheme and deal with the concerns mentioned in the other answers. Just ask the person if it's alright if you promote their content on their behalf, specifically mentioning your intent to modify the URL to give them credit for sharing it. If the person agrees you'd essentially be acting as that user's agent. It wouldn't be all that different than a celebrity's social media account being operated by someone hired by the celebrity.

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