Over a long enough time, everybody who has asked a half-decent question, or posted a half-decent answer, will gain access to the moderation tools. There is a natural "inflation" to the rep system in regards to the features that unlock.

The rep system was supposed to only unlock features for users who have proven themselves "trusted" through high-ranking activity on the site... but over time, that will eventually include just about everyone, whether they've been good members or not.

Is this a problem? If not, why not?


You are missing some things in your logic:

  • Users who gain reputation very fast aren't any better than users who gain few up-votes per post and gain access to moderation tools after a few years. Their ongoing contribution brings them their privileges. (I would argue these users are usually the better moderators).
  • When people keep posting half-quality posts, they will get down-votes, which will slow down the process.
  • Usually, users that aren't really here to contribute won't even bother they 'moderation capabilities'.
  • The community as a whole can 'moderate the moderators', which usually means the effect of a single bad user with some moderation capabilities is negligible.
  • 1
    To your point two, I would disagree. With the combination that downvotes remove so much less rep than upvotes give, and the fact that so many community members only downvotes extremely bad content, and don't downvote, fairly poor content (or even upvote it) makes that effect more or less insignificant. Slowing down total rep by a fraction of a percent just isn't a noticeable effect. Those few downvoting the low quality posts of others that they see is far more likely to remove enough rep to actually be noticed.
    – Servy
    May 15 '15 at 15:02
  • I think you're missing my point Patrick. I'm talking about users who DON'T contribute in an on-going manner. May 15 '15 at 15:02
  • @DjangoReinhardt: How do they gain reputation then? May 15 '15 at 15:04
  • @PatrickHofman by getting upvotes, gradually over years.
    – Tim
    May 15 '15 at 15:37
  • How many up-votes do you need to be able to really break something? And even when you can, there is a whole community that can correct your mistakes. May 15 '15 at 15:49
  • 1
    Bullet #4 is probably key here, IMO
    – Kyle Kanos
    May 15 '15 at 16:39
  • @Servy I agree on your comment. This is a problem that isn't resolved by raising the rep bar. It should be fixed at the source. But how? May 15 '15 at 17:53
  • @PatrickHofman Well, that's really another matter that's getting rather off topic. Currently, downvotes aren't a sensible way of preventing or even slowing down contributors that provide low quality content from getting mod privileges. How we could make it become true (because ideally it would be) is not an easy question, but until we solve that problem, we should at least acknowledge here that currently downvotes aren't an effective deterrent.
    – Servy
    May 15 '15 at 17:55
  • Agree. In my opinion downvotes could be 5 rep for answers. Maybe this motivate more users to downvote. May 15 '15 at 17:57

It would be a problem if we had plenty of users thinking "I don't give a crap about this site, but I'm going to wait for my trickle-rep to get above a certain level just so I can abuse the system".

If that's their devious plan, I'd like to suggest there are easier and less time consuming ways to mess with us all. And if they would abuse the system somehow, there is still a fair chance they'll run into others in the community who will correct or flag.

Could a user come back after a long time and suddenly find themselves with more privileges than they know what to do with? Sure. But I don't really see any clear evidence of this happening or being a problem.

  • Also note that we have moderators specifically to deal with these types of users. Community moderation is great for the vast majority of situations, but there are things that it doesn't do, or doesn't do well. That's where the mods come in to handle what's left. The behaviors described here can happen, but the point is that they're rare; sufficiently rare that the handful of mods out there are capable of dealing with them as they come up.
    – Servy
    May 15 '15 at 14:51

It's not a problem because the site is growing. The number of users without moderation privileges is growing right along with the number of users that do have moderation privileges. This is one way the site is able to scale the way it does. (It has scaling problems, but it has less problems than other sites not relying on community moderation.)


This isn't a fake issue - there are users who post occasional high-quality questions, a slew of okay questions, and then several highly problematic ones over the course of their SE career, and they are given the same permissions as a user who steadily posts decent questions/answers and puts in the effort to learn how to post said answers/questions. Time, and the law of averages, is on the former problematic user's side.

But, it is not as severe a problem as this question makes it out to be. As @PatrickHoffman said, a single moderator is moderated by the other moderators and users on the site - they are not subject to exemption from the rules.

And even if they are not the best user, they have proven by merit of their long-standing existence that they are not looking to sabotage the site - whereas a user who posts one very well-received question may have hit a positive nerve on their first try, unlocked a high number of mod tools, but not actually fully understood the nature of SE, and could also become problematic.

In both of these cases - of a user who has been 'rep-inflated' and a user who had a single superstar moment - the balancing factor is the same: moderators who do care and have learned how SE works over the years, and take action accordingly to prevent and mitigate the damage.

And, of course, all the most problematic privileges are locked behind the Moderator Elections, and you can't win those simply by inflating your Rep*.

*Citation Needed

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