When a user joins a new Stack Exchange site, if they have 200 or more reputation on at least one other site, they get +100 reputation on the new site. This allows them to avoid some of the restrictions on new users. Such a person would be able to participate in meta, post additional links in content, vote up, flag posts, use chat and create new chat rooms, comment on any post, and set bounties. These restrictions apply to both beta sites and graduated sites.

Some of these features are essential to understanding how sites work. As a community, we require that answers be answers, yet prevent people who have never used SE before from using our comment features to ask for clarification, provide constructive criticism, or attach some minor relevant information. We offer Meta as a place to go to understand the community, but prevent people new to Stack Exchange from going there to ask questions.

I'm looking at this from two angles.

First, is there any data to support that this turns SE sites into sites "for X who are also into Y" where X is likely something like "programmers", "software developers", "technical people"? The bulk of SE sites and even most of the early sites are technical in nature. Are people from a single background tending to be the early drivers of a site because they come in with additional reputation and can use features that experts (the core, stable community of a site) in Y who aren't active on other SE sites don't have the capability to participate?

As a follow up, if the people who use SE sites tend to be from a technical (software) background, what impact does starting with the rep bonus have on community norms and rules? If you are a software developer by education and experience, and are given bonus reputation on a site for personal finance when it's in beta, are you really the right person to be participating early on Meta to drive the direction of the community? Or should it be experts in personal finance who understand how they think and can help establish a community that attracts other experts in personal finance?

Second, a lot of sites are very reactive when people break the rules or norms. For example, a low rep user who can't comment may leave an well-intended comment as an answer on a question because it's the only thing they can do. But when they are met with down votes and comments explaining what an answer is, they get frustrated and leave. Is there data about low-rep users leaving the things intended for comments as answers or as meta discussions on the main site, what happens to those posts, and how that impacts their future participation on an SE site?

  • also known as Stack Overflow outsiders problem (because impact of users with bonus rep from smaller sites is likely negligible to that of SO)
    – gnat
    Jul 11 '17 at 11:45
  • I struggled with whether to close your question as just a rant or to answer it. I am not sure you really want answers, but I am going to assume good faith and provide one. Jul 11 '17 at 12:33
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    It's worth mentioning that for private betas, most of the rep requirements are even lower than for public betas. This means that in the really early days of the site, it's possible for new folks to still use some of those privileges early on and have a large impact.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 11 '17 at 12:40
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    What does "Is there data about low-rep users leaving the things intended for comments as answers or as meta discussions on the main site, what happens to those posts, and how that impacts their future participation on an SE site?" have to do with the rest of the question? Jul 11 '17 at 12:53

You do not need to understand personal finance, or farming, or vehicle maintenance, in order to be granted privileges such as commenting or voting. You do need to understand the difference between an answer and a comment, what makes a question good, and what sort of content should be flagged (spam, rude, etc.) Giving the bonus to people with 200 rep on other sites reflects this position.

That is the answer to your title question. The rest of your question is the usual rant about how totally mean and unfair it is that newbies can't leave "clarification request" comments and therefore will never be able to earn any rep even though they are probably total experts who know more than the clique members with their 100 bonus rep from other sites. I've read more variants of this complaint than I care to think about. Everyone with any rep at all on any site has overcome this supposedly unsurmountable problem. And preventing experienced other-site users from commenting won't enable total newbies (indistinguishable from spammers) to comment, it will just mean that nobody can comment at all, which isn't going to help the site, is it?

Further, you seem to misunderstand beta. Personal Finance is not still setting its direction. People who can participate in its Meta are not "driving the direction of the community" in the sense of the very basic topic areas, which are set in the first few weeks. And even if they were, so what? Being an expert in personal finance is great when I want advice about my credit cards, but not so much when we're trying to decide if taxes count as personal finance or not, or where to draw the line on "requests for legal advice" and such. That wisdom, very early in the days of a site, tends to come from people who have seen it happen on other sites. Being able to do compound interest calculations in your head or knowing when to file joint or separate tax returns, doesn't help you come up with a list of possible custom close reasons.

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    (1) I don't think it requires reputation to understand the difference between a "question", an "answer", a "comment", and the difference between main and meta. It requires the ability to read the Tour - something anyone with at least a minimal understanding of English should be able to do on most sites. The tour is localized on the foreign-language Stack Overflows, too. Tying reputation to basic functionality is a flaw and a poor user experience. One does not need to have high reputation to understand the basic functionality of an SE site. Jul 11 '17 at 17:51
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    (2) I want data. My hypothesis is that many people are turned off because they are new to Stack Exchange, don't have access to core features, and are treated poorly when they use the functionality that they have. For example, I want hard data about users who come in, post an answer that is a clarification comment, and are met with down votes and deletions. Do they get fed up and leave? If so, this is bad. How about people who visit the site and post a Meta question on Main because they can't post on Meta. Do they also have a low rate of return because of their poor experience? Jul 11 '17 at 17:54
  • (3) This may be another rant, but it's more than that. It's a request for data from the SE data team. I've seen more than a handful of posts recently from low rep users who were working around the system because they didn't have access to key functionality. Across the network, how are we doing at retaining people who are legitimate users but are encountering roadblocks that the system puts up? I believe that the permissions are a roadblock, so I want people to share experiences and to get the attention of the data team to look into this potential problem with user retention and site growth. Jul 11 '17 at 17:58
  • (4a) I don't misunderstand beta at all. And personal finance was a random example of a site that was totally unrelated to software development / programming. I think you have a misunderstanding that every site has to have the same rules or policies. We've proven that to be false. On Software Engineering, we have rules against resource requests because we've found those questions to be very typically low quality. Other sites have had success with such questions and permit them. Jul 11 '17 at 18:01
  • (4b) Each site is a community that can have its own rules and norms. It shouldn't be up to experts in the system to make rules and norms. It should be subject matter experts who will be the core community of the site. Also, reputation has no bearing on knowledge of the system - just because you have reputation doesn't mean you use all of the tools available to you and know how to use them well. In fact, it's not even a likely measure of how knowledgable you are on certain subject matter. I'm not sure what it's a good measure of. Jul 11 '17 at 18:05
  • (4c) Being an expert in personal finance is great when I want advice about my credit cards, but not so much when we're trying to decide if taxes count as personal finance or not, or where to draw the line on "requests for legal advice" and such. I totally disagree. From beta through graduation, we make it hard for subject matter experts to participate fully. I do think it's helpful for users from other sites to share their experiences. But sites should be driven by SMEs. I think we are driving these SMEs away by restricting them from using the platform fully. Jul 11 '17 at 18:09
  • I am not saying your points are wrong. If you set any limit (including 0) there are two "wrong" outcomes: that people do X who should not, and that people can't X who have a lot to offer. You are arguing only the latter. You ignore the former, especially that spammers do a lot that you don't see because it's quickly cleaned up. It is true that some experts on a subject who don't know how Q&A works or what a comment is for, or what is on topic here etc may have a bad first experience and leave. It is not necessarily true that this cost is so large that all the antispam and antidriveby work... Jul 11 '17 at 18:22
  • ... that is in place should just be tossed aside and spammers welcomed, cleanup workload increased etc, to avoid the bad thing you are talking about. You must always look at the balance. Pointing out there is a cost to rep minimums is easy. Pointing out the cost is huge enough to remove the minimums is different. You have yet to concede there is any point to these minimums because apparently you don't believe in spammers. Plus you are conflating "give the newbies permission" with "hey, how come those undeserving outsiders get permission?" and not very politely either. Jul 11 '17 at 18:24
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    I don't agree that spam should be a consideration. The system already has tools in place. Whitelist URLs for low-reputation users in all types of posts (SE sites, Wikipedia generally, others perhaps on a site-by-site basis). Text analysis to block people from posting things that don't look right (identify spam, answers as comments, meta questions on main to either suggest alternatives or block the post - less strict filtering on trusted users). Time limits on frequency of posts. Jul 11 '17 at 18:30
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    You can have all the anti-abuse and anti-spam measures in place that you want. If you are putting up roadblocks that are frustrating experts who could become core users of your site and driving them away, that is a total failure of the system. Jul 11 '17 at 18:30

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