I went to Yahoo Answers to ask a question, and it said this at the bottom:

"Asking a question costs 5 points, but you'll get back 3 points when you choose a Best Answer."

Instead of banning people for asking too many questions in rapid succession, why doesn't Stack Overflow use this system?

Wouldn't it be much more convenient, and those with very little reputation points wouldn't be able to ask very many questions.

  • 4
    How would this work when a user starts with only 1 rep?
    – Kevin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:01
  • The numbers from the quote (5 and 3) don't have to remain the same, one could get 1 rep for answering a question, and then spend 2 rep to ask a question.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:02
  • They could get more rep for actively participating in the community. @KevinB
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:02
  • 1
    Right, but it still requires users to either answer a question or suggest an edit to make their first post.. I doubt that's going to go over very well.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:02
  • @KevinB or they could get a point for commenting?
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:03
  • 2
    1 rep users can't comment other than on their own questions.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:03
  • @KevinB Or they could start with 2 rep
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:03
  • @KevinB Oh. Well I'm sure there's a better way than this banning system.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:04
  • 6
    Well why are you asking questions in rapid succession? I think that's the most important issue here. Most 1 rep users who never come back post just one question, and that's all they need.
    – yuritsuki
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:04
  • The banning system doesn't penalize users who post in tags that aren't popular (cases where a perfectly valid question just doesn't get any upvotes, and often don't receive answers in a timely fasion)
    – Kevin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:05
  • @KevinB I posted 3 questions over the past week, and they've been upvoted.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:05
  • And I went from 13 rep to 31 rep. @KevinB and while that's a bit much, I've also answered many questions and been an active participant in the community.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:06
  • 1
    Then there's also the fact that, if say you were short 2 points from being able to ask another question, all you would have to do is go to one of your other questions and accept a random answer regardless of whether or not it's correct. Probably not a good behavior to encourage. You would be at 6 rep currently with your proposed system.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:13
  • 2
    Why? Because Yahoo! answers is exactly what StackExchange does not want to be. :)
    – apnorton
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 19:14
  • 1
    @MezuCobalt And that's a proposal. It's not a demand, it's a proposal. You're proposing a possible feature that SE can consider implementing. That's what a feature request is. It's a request to consider a possible feature (or change to one). And of course if you didn't even consider it a feature request when you wrote the question then why did you tag it as a feature request; clearly you thought you were requesting a feature at the time.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


For reference, the full Yahoo Answers point system:

Action                                    Points
Begin participating on Yahoo Answers   One Time: 100
Ask a question                                 -5
Choose a best answer for your question          3
Answer a question                               2
Self-deleting an answer                        -2
Log in to Yahoo Answers   Once daily:           1
Have your answer selected as the best answer   10
Receive a "thumbs-up" rating 
  on a best answer that you wrote 
  (up to 50 thumbs-up are counted)             1 per "thumbs-up"
Receive a violation                           -10

So new users start out with enough points to ask 20 questions, and earning more is pretty easy; simply logging in each day will earn you enough for another question in a week.

For comparison, the median number of questions per asker on Stack Overflow is 2 - 2 questions for their entire time asking. 95% of askers have asked 20 questions or less in their entire time on the site. Adopting Yahoo's system would effectively turn off all limits for the vast majority of people asking questions.

Which should give you some idea of why Yahoo uses this system and why we do not. Y! thrives on questions, any questions, about any topic imaginable. They don't have to get particularly good answers, or even be answerable - they just have to generate responses. This is what the top 5 questions on Yahoo Answers' home page page looks like for me right now:

None of those questions are particularly objective, and it is debatable whether any of them can be answered in a way that'll be useful to anyone... But they sure are motivating folks to try! 49 answers, 183 answers... Y! may not be helping anyone do their job better or creating a reference for the ages here, but you can't deny it is entertaining. And entertainment thrives on novelty; the last thing you want to do is to reject a question that might turn into a circus.

Here's Y!A's programming section:

Those are the top 5 recent questions in the area closest to Stack Overflow. And here's the top of Stack Overflow's weekly hot list:

I'm not gonna pretend that SO's most popular questions are great works of lasting value to humanity... Truth is, they also have a lot more entertainment value than they do practical use. But they're at least specific, answerable programming questions that can probably teach a few working programmers something about their craft. This was not always the case! Early on, before these rate-limits and quality-checks were added, you'd find the same sort of dreck filtering into Stack Overflow that you see now on Y!A - and that was when only a fraction of the number of questions were being asked. You can probably imagine what it would look like today if we hadn't put those limits in place...

...But you don't have to. You have Yahoo! Answers to look at. If that's the sort of site you want to be a part of, it is there waiting for you - enjoy!

  • I agree, it could attract more low-quality questions, but I have read a lot of questions here on meta where people are complaining that they got randomly banned. One person only asked 3 questions in a timeframe of 2 weeks! They weren't upvoted or downvoted, but he still got temporarily banned.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:42
  • 7
    "Early on... you'd find the same sort of dreck..." -- The Trouble With Popularity. That said, this answer made me think of signing in to YA and asking there a question, "Why does Stack Overflow suck?" - do you think it has a chance to get to their top page?
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:44
  • @gnat I don't think it would make it, but it would be funny to try.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:47
  • 10
    You have hundreds of people hitting those limits every day, @MezuCobalt. And occasionally one of them posts on meta. Usually they've forgotten about questions they deleted or were deleted for them, haven't read the guidance that the system provided them, and have ignored feedback from other users... But in a tiny, tiny fraction of cases, the bans are actually unwarranted - in those cases, all it takes is a few upvotes from their peers (you) to lift it. If you're concerned about good askers being banned, then get in the habit of upvoting good questions when you see them.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:51

The Stack Exchange reputation (and voting) system is pretty complex, and your suggestion is a very small and simple idea.

How would this idea fit in to the rest of the Stack Exchange rep/voting systems?

Also, why would this be better?

why doesn't Stack Overflow use this system?

On Stack Exchange sites we currently get to ask questions for absolutely free.
And we get 2 rep for accepting an answer.

If we ask a good well written question, we likely gain even more rep.
If we are lazy, and ask a duplicate, or a poor or off-topic question, we likely don't gain rep, and often lose some from downvotes.

This encourages better quality content.

Stack Exchange's model sounds better to me.

What if you don't have 5 (or whatever) rep to be able to ask? It could have been a great question, with great answers, now lost forever and no-one gets to read that great or even "just" helpful answer.

Having to "pay to ask" potentially hinders our being able to create a large collection of information, as many users won't have the rep to ask.

What benefits are there from needing to "pay to ask"?
It seems like a pointless exercise to me. Paying to ask a question in no way guarantees a well written or quality question, or even a good question, whereas on Stack Exchange sites we earn rep by doing good things - this promotes and encourages good content and quality posts.
Paying does not do this.

It also has the potential to push users to carry out rep earning tasks so they can ask.
Forcing people to do such things means their intentions are (possibly/sometimes) not in the interest of the site.
They just want the rep, so do a poor review, or post a poor answer, etc, just to get some rep.

This can be seen by comparing how much quality content is on Stack Exchange sites, to that of Yahoo Answers.

It would be much more convenient

Here you ask for free, and get 2 rep for accepting an answer.
Yahoo Answers you pay 5 rep up front, and get 3 back.

The net outcome is you lose rep for asking. I can't see why this could be considered a good model.

Some people do not want to or have an answer, and so with the Stack Exchange method people can ask if they want, answer if they want, etc. And they simply earn rep based on activities they are comfortable with (and what others believe the quality of their post is of course).

This is more likely to encourage good content, as users are not forced out of the professional or comfort zones.

and those with very little rep wouldn't be able to ask very many questions.

I really have no idea whatsoever why this would be a good idea.
Stack Exchange allowing everyone to post for free (with some posting limits of course) is much better, especially as we have a great community moderating system to be able to resolve any problems and poor posts.
And the automated site scripts can slow people down if they're posting too many bad questions/answers/etc.

Again, the Stack Exchange voting and thus rep systems are very complex, with many functions and parameters, of which have the potential to affect each anther.
So you cannot just "shove in" a new idea like yours.

Also, I just do not see why the Yahoo Answers model is any better at all, in fact I think it's bad for reasons as above.

  • But with StackExchange, you could:
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:45
  • Lose 5 points to post a question, then when you accept an answer you get those 5 points back. That way, you don't spam, and you don't lose any rep in the end. Also, you would still get rep for your question being upvoted.
    – MezuCobalt
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:46
  • 1
    Where do new users get those 5 points? Can new users not ask right away and has to answer or suggest edits to get 5 rep? Or do we give them 5 rep? Or 10 rep? Or 15 rep? What if we give them 5 rep and their answer gives them 10 upvotes, so now they have 45 rep (5 + 50 - 5). Now we "trust" them to ask 9 questions, based on their one and only question? Yes the site is like that now, but that's because we don't need to work out what/how to give them 5 rep to start with, and we also have other measures, like limiting questions being asked for too many deleted/downvotes etc. And so on...
    – James
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:04
  • Again, there is a lot of complexity in our voting and rep systems, and an idea such as yours would have to be very well thought out, with all kinds of things considered.
    – James
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:05
  • @rene - Seems ok at a glance. Not sweating it at all even if it does, cheers :)
    – James
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:25

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