I think it is commonly acknowledged that reputation points inflation is occurring on Stack Overflow. As opposed to this meta question, I don't think the inflation is a problem.

I think the real culprit is that a lot of users seem to gain moderator abilities and randomly close/migrate questions. The problem has already been raised here.

Therefore, I am proposing that moderator abilities should relate to the reputation in the system. An example:

There are 106 total reputation points in the system and 1000 users are registered, making an average of 1000 reputation points per user. In reality, < 50% of the users are below that threshold: the top 10% of users have 25% the reputation points.

Moderation capabilities should be restricted to the users with the top 20% the reputation points. (All numbers are completely hypothetical. A detailed analysis of Stack Overflow reputation would provide clearer hints.)


5 Answers 5


SO powers don't - and shouldn't - require that you outshine your peers by a certain amount. They require that you have made a significant contribution to the site, and are invested in the quality of SO. Over time, more and more users will attain these powers. That's fine. These users will have "skin in the game".


a lot of users seem to gain moderator abilities and randomly close/migrate questions.

Great! This is a community moderated site by definition. If the community changes over time (and it had better, stagnant communities die) then the site will change to accommodate them, by default.

If you've contributed enough material to be given these powers (and let's be honest, you have to spend more than a few hours on the site to get to 3k) then you should be given a say in how this community operates. Not only that, but you've spent some time observing how it currently operates, and since you're still around you obviously aren't terribly chafed by the current system of operation.

If we implement some sort of system whereby a curve is employed, or only the top % of users are given powers, then the division between the haves and have nots becomes a gulf, and the friction that already exists (and is relatively small, IMO) will amplify and consume more and more of the site.

The system works. It works by being self-adapting and flexible enough to meet the needs of the active users. There is some small concern for the tyranny of the majority, but that's the only real concern in this very democratic process, and that concern is mitigated by the site moderators.

So no - don't make moderator abilities relate to rep inflation.


I don't think we should do this, but for fun here's a StackQL query to help see where the "80/20" rule really is:

Looks like the top 10 users have nearly 2.5 percent of the total rep.

Edit — updated the link, looks like about an 88/12 split (12 percent of users have 88 percent of the rep.) or 84/16 if you exclude users with 1 rep.

  • 4
    I blame Tony the Pony for hoarding all the rep. Nov 2, 2009 at 23:18
  • 2
    As well you should. This is a zero sum game, after all, and any rep he gets is rep you don't get. ;-D
    – Pollyanna
    Nov 3, 2009 at 5:16

It's also good that we have a variety of moderators, with their own particular mixes of skills.

Reputation is not strictly awarded on expertise or time. Certain types of questions attract more people, and hence the questions and answers can attract more rep. With all due respect for Jon Skeet, he wouldn't be a SO meme if he contributed lots of excellent answers to Fortran questions rather than C#.

This means that high-rep users are disproportionately those who answer questions on popular topics. This isn't ideal, but I don't see any good way to change it, and it certainly isn't much of a problem the way the system is set up.

Currently, if somebody answers a lot of questions well, and the subject is of interest to even a fairly small part of the community, they'll work their way up to 3K and then 10K rep. For any topic that gets enough questions to matter, we will have people interested in that topic with enough privileges to help moderate.

Restrict these privileges to the top N or N% of the users, and you're cutting off community moderation on less popular topics. That means that the questions on the less popular topics tend to be worse, and the site will tend to converge to being about a certain number of popular topics. There's nothing wrong with specialized sites, but that wasn't what the trilogy sites were intended to be.


I don't think that rep inflation is an issue.

Look at the problem another way. As more people join the site and ask more questions and provide more answers there's more work for those with higher rep to do. So back when the site started there were a few hundred users, now there are over 127000 (3226 pages at 35 users per page). In the early days Jeff and the other moderators could cope with the site traffic. As the site grew and a few people got 2K, 3K and 10K rep they could assist in the editing, closing and deleting.

If you take the number of posts per "moderator" (10K user) we should be looking at keeping this number constant so that these users are not overwhelmed with stuff to do.

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