Imagine if Stack Exchange set aside some of its proceeds to help pay a set of those users who have impacted the most people or have some of the highest reputation scores, which would in turn cause those people to give back even more to the Stack Exchange network, or possibly build full careers out of it, out of helping others.

Just like YouTube's model had started the changed back in 2007 it seems this has led to even more growth on their network, and in turn more people being entertained. Much the same this model would help growth for Stack Exchange, increasing revenues, number of questions asked, question and answer quality, and much more. I'm a bit biased but I think some sites (cough Stack Overflow cough) deserve a larger market share because they are more technically demanding of quality answers than others, but that's just me.

The question is, what does everyone else think?

  • 2
    because that's not what we're about
    – ArtOfCode
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:05
  • 1
    Bring in payments and you'll get the "customer is always right" rubbish
    – user335633
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:06
  • 1
    Wow, I didn't realize people were so against this business model. I feel like I'm being villainized for asking the question. Its a touchy subject :)
    – Alexandru
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:09
  • I can see it being abused if introduced
    – user335633
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:11
  • 4
    @Alexandru don't take it personally, downvotes on meta often mean disagreement
    – user335633
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:13
  • @DamienPaul Thanks Damien, I appreciate that. I didn't quite understand one thing, the customer is always right comment you made. Can you elaborate for me?
    – Alexandru
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:14
  • @Alexandru if there is a payment system, then some will expect all the answers due to their perception of being an (entitled) customer
    – user335633
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:15
  • I reopened this. Its a fair question, and the duplicate didn't address this feature request at all. This may have already been discussed elsewhere, but please point it to a post that answers the question. Oct 26 '16 at 19:54
  • 7
    This might bring you an idea about why this is a bad idea: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/42481/…
    – Oded
    Oct 26 '16 at 20:00

Because paying people per post… or per point… or for becoming a top contributor… isn't the type of motivation that leads to better content and that sense of personal satisfaction that brought folks here in the first place.

Stack Exchange was created to build a lasting collaboration between users for sharing knowledge. Service like Exchange work because there's a strong sense that you're helping those with a question while creating a valuable artifact for everyone who comes after. That's how the site remains interesting and enjoyable and involves an activity that folks are passionate about.

Paying you makes it a job… When someone changes a self-driven desire to contribute into the potential for financial gain, you suddenly find yourself doing the math. While I'm happy to drive a friend to the airport, if they offered me $0.69 for the ride, suddenly my help doesn't seem all that big-hearted, or even worth the effort… it might even sound silly. Why is that, if I was getting more than I was offered before?

And if you're not one of those "top contributors", there's no financial reward at all, so those folks will be gone — "I can't win, so don't play". Now a purpose-driven community is replaced with a site where folks are competing to be "fairly compensated". Folks will figure out how to either generate enough typing-points to make it worthwhile, or they'll simply move on to another job.

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us


They kind of already do, in a few ways.

  • Currently, the top users on a beta site when it graduates get some sort of swag (historically). This is slightly different now that design-independent graduation is being used, but it still happens nonetheless.
  • Moderators get swag sometimes, if they win elections or are appointed.
  • Users who pass 100k or 250k on a site get some swag.
  • Jon Skeet's swag beats all other swag, hands-down.

These exceptions aside, does Stack Exchange really need to pay users? I don't think so; enough people are motivated to participate just for the sake of helping others. Any extra stuff is a secondhand reward.

If a user needs to be paid to contribute, I don't think their heart's in the right place.

  • LOL I didn't even know about the swag loot. This is hilarious
    – Alexandru
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:15
  • 3
    Moderators do get a swag package for winning an election (there's a link to a form to fill out in the welcome email). Appointees can request a hat, but there's no automated form for that - they have to know about it and request it. All users get swag packages for reaching 100k and 250k on any site.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:34
  • @animuson Thanks.
    – HDE 226868
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:36
  • @animuson: Are there repetitive rewards/swag at other levels as well? 100k, 250k, 500k, ... ? Is there a question like that on Meta Stack Exchange?
    – Werner
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:36
  • @Werner No, there's not. We currently only have 10 users above 500k and nothing else special to send them at the moment. We were thinking about adding another level (it was discussed like a year ago) but nothing ever came out of it.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 26 '16 at 17:39
  • There were also a few contests with quite large prizes in the earlier days, most of them on Arqade. There haven't been any in a while, I suspect they were too expensive for the benefit they brought. They were probably the most direct way SE ever paid people for contributing to specific sites. Oct 26 '16 at 21:42
  • Sadly, this answer is now mostly obsolete.
    – PM 2Ring
    Jul 22 '20 at 8:10

Why doesn't Stack Exchange pay users who contribute the most? Because it doesn't need to. It's a for-profit: so it won't incur costs that it doesn't need to incur.

Remember, if a service is free to you, you're not the customer, you're the product.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .