I, like many other new users, struggle to get enough reputation do contribute in a way that fits us, like upvoting and providing helpful comments (one example here).

One argument for the limits is sock puppetry, but is it really that hard to handle? I use Wikipedia too, where they also have sock puppets (see policy here), but that doesn't seem to stop them from allowing ANONYMOUS (e.g. no registration!) accounts.

So why not use some more effort on limiting sock puppets, bots and things like that, so limits can be lowered and allow for more newcomers. Previously (for many years) I have just been a passive reader, but I feel I have a lot to give, so now I'm trying to be active too and have created a user account. But I get frustrated when I can't comment, upvote, make edits and flag, to mention some examples of what I can't do so far.

So again, how hard can it be to stop!?

From a hopeful "contributor-wannabe"

  • 4
    Very glad you want to be a contributor! But I’ll tell you it will be significantly less time for you to post an answer or two to earn ~100 rep than to wait the 6-8 weeks for SE to change its spam protection model to lower the requirement ;) Bear in mind the format and audience of WP an SE are different enough that the threat models posed by and incentive structures driving spammers and other bad actors require different responses. It’s apples-and-oranges.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2018 at 20:54
  • 5
    I'm really confused... there's no restrictions on having socks... only in using them for nefarious purposes... I have one... lots of people do. How does allowing sock puppets affect reputation requirements?
    – Catija StaffMod
    Feb 4, 2018 at 20:55
  • @Catija He means the rep requirements imposed by the site to prevent nefarious sock use, as well as other forms of abuse.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2018 at 20:57
  • 2
    @DanBron But edit suggestions earn you rep if they're accepted... killing them by lowering the reputation requirements for instant editing just makes it harder for new users to earn reputation.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Feb 4, 2018 at 20:59
  • 7
    Even if the sock-pupperty is stopped (assuming it is a problem) the reputation requirements shouldn't be dropped. It is there to prevent low quality contributions. Your valuable attributions earns you reputation. Failing to do so doesn't. That has always been its design goal and will not change. That it keeps out puppets is a welcome side-effect.
    – rene
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:02
  • Maybe relevant for those contributor wannabe's: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17204/…
    – rene
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:03
  • @Catija I didn’t bring up edit suggestions?
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:03
  • 2
    @DanBron It's in the question. But I get frustrated when I can't comment, upvote, make edits and flag, to mention some examples of what I can't do so far. Edit suggestions don't require any reputation at all.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:07
  • @Catija Best direct your earlier comment at OP then, not me. I didn’t mention anything about edits and the sentence about SE changing its model in 6-8 weeks in my first comment was a joke. The implication was that ain’t happening. I go on to explain why.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2018 at 21:08
  • 1
    On Wikipedia, "anonymous" contributions are even less private than those made through an account, as the user's IP address is publicly visible. Feb 4, 2018 at 23:36
  • Regarding, "I can't ... make edits", I came across a question earlier, where I was restricted by "You need ... points to edit this". I can't find it now, and I can see I can (make suggested) edit(s) everywhere I tried today, so maybe it was some old/closed/restricted question.
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:49

6 Answers 6


Handling "bad" sock puppets (e.g. one person using several accounts to upvote themselves, gain unfair power, etc) requires manual intervention of moderator or Stack Exchange staff.

While not "hard", it requires time and efforts, which are more than SE/moderators can allow themselves on big scale, having only small amount of those.

Assuming you mean you want the upvote restriction to be lifted, allowing even 1 rep user to upvote, it would be really bad idea, and way too tempting.

  • 1
    Well, that gives sense, if it can't be automated "enough" and there are "too few" moderators, which I suppose want to use their time on other things, like answering questions or developing the sites :-)
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 23:49

Folks tend to fixate on the worst forms of abuse. And these restrictions do help reduce the occurrence of truly horrific forms of abuse...

...but far more important is that they also reduce the occurrence of fairly benign forms of misuse.

Restrictions exist on commenting because we want folks to write answers. Every active forum under the sun gets an endless stream of comments: "thanks!" "help?" "Go Eagles!" "[inscrutable emoji]" "U suck" "I like turtles." If you want to wade through that, or contribute to it, well... you don't need to be here; plenty of BBSs and Slack chatrooms to choose from.

"But I can't answer the question without more information from the asker!" - then you can't answer the question. So go find a different question; questions are common as grains of sand along the sea; either you think you know the answer to the one you're looking at and should just post it, or you have no clue and shouldn't waste your time on it. You wanna know why so many folks complain that earning rep is difficult? Because they're wasting all their time on inscrutable questions that no one - including the author - care about. If, upon reading the question, you're not so excited to hammer out the answer that has popped into your head that you can barely sit still and type... Then you should find something more fun to do instead.

Voting and reputation is what allows us to put meaningful restrictions on crap like being able to leave comments. If anyone could vote, then one vote would be almost meaningless - we'd have to put the reputation levels for everything else 10x higher at least. You think earning the comment privilege is hard now - how'd you like to have to attract 50 votes first (instead of the 5 it currently requires)? How about 2000 votes to edit? Look around at how the sites that let anyone vote work: any privilege worth having requires an insane amount of popularity to earn, because they just assume that 90% of those votes are from bots and friends and coworkers and random people who stumbled in while searching for queso dip recipes and like clicking things. We get fewer random votes, but in exchange there's a much higher chance that the vote comes from someone who knows at least something - anything - about the topic of the site.

The best things in life are free

The three most important actions you can take on these sites require no reputation at all; heck, two of them don't even require you to create an account:

  1. Answering is, let's be honest, what these sites exist for. Everything is geared toward getting folks to write answers and rewarding them when they do so. And you don't need any reputation to answer; heck, you can skip creating an account and hammer in a fake name and fake email and we'll still post your answer instantly. That's how important answering is; if someone stumbles across a question they can answer, we want as few roadblocks in their way as possible.

  2. Editing is what keeps this site from being as much of an embarrassment as every other Q&A site, forum, message board and blog on the 'Net: if you see a problem, you can fix it. We don't even bother with the whole "enter a fake name" bit - you can submit an edit entirely anonymously.

  3. Asking may or may not require creating an account, depending on the site... But once done, there's still no reputation requirement. Heck, you can even earn reputation if folks like your question, although the chances of earning much that way are small compared to what you get for providing a useful answer. Still, questions are grist for the answerers' mill, and so we make creating them fairly easy and don't impose any reputation requirements.

Those three activities are what make these sites worthwhile; we could remove everything else, and the sites would still work surprisingly well... But remove any one of them, and this whole thing falls apart. So if you're looking to contribute, pick one or more of those three as your place to start: at the end of the day, they matter in a way that comments and votes don't and never will.

  • Thanks for your effort to answer, even though you didn't answer my question about stopping sock puppetry. I see your point, but I can't see how the sites will be useful without voting. Ain't that necessary to determine which answers are the most helpful? The questioner might mark one answer as most helpful, but all other people - which have the same or a similar problem/question - mark this by voting, as I see it. And I think that's what I have been missing mostly so far, to provide some feedback of what have been useful for me.
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:26
  • A single accepted answer earns you the right to upvote, @PatrikN; two upvotes on an answer do the same. The bar is really low - just high enough to limit voting to people who've demonstrated some ability to participate constructively.
    – Shog9
    Feb 19, 2018 at 22:25
  • Yes, that's true, and now I have earned it on two sites, but I would like to reach 200, so I can get associated on all sites. That requires some more work, so I just have to keep on. I think the key word is patience. It takes some time and effort.
    – PatrikN
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:25

Here's an absolute worst-case scenario if those barriers are lifted:

A person - spammer, troll or someone else acting in bad faith - creates a few dozen accounts. Each account makes a couple posts, and the other accounts upvote those posts. Each user has 40 votes they can use per day; that means that each account could, in theory, deliver 350 reputation points to the other accounts. That gets really bad really quickly.

However, if you keep some rep requirements - 15 to upvote, 50 to comment - then it makes it really hard for this person to do anything. They'd need an account with at least 15 reputation from the start, and even then, they'd have to dish out two upvotes to each account to just get them voting privileges. The 40 vote cap limits how quickly this can propagate.

Now, mods can dismantle a network like this. We've got the tools to see patterns and important information. But it takes time to fix this mess - hours, maybe days to make sure we've taken care of everything. We'd have to check all the accounts to look at IP addresses, destroy them individually, delete all the posts, etc. Calling in a Community Manager could make this quicker, but they've got enough on their plates already without having to shift into crisis mode. On some of my sites, we have problems on a daily basis without having to worry about webs of spammers ready to strike at any moment.

And this is all if we catch this as soon as it starts. If the troll/spammer/puppeteer manages to play their cards right, the network can form quietly over some time without anyone being the wiser. The system, by setting these limits, starts fighting the puppeteers simply by making it hard for them to do anything. And yes, it makes it a bit harder for users to get started. I sympathize. We all started from the same spot. If you're acting in good faith, you'll be able to gain privileges with a bit of effort.

But if we take away these barriers, things go south real quickly.

  • Thanks for some information about the topic of my question, but can you explain it a bit further!? If this person creates some "irrelevant" questions and answers and upvotes these by his/her own other accounts, who would care? Wouldn't that just be "grains of sand along the sea"? And what is "bad really"? Is that if these accounts gets higher privileges? Wouldn't the patterns of these accounts answering and upvoting themselves be "easy" to detect (before they reach any higher privilege) so they can be stopped? That's really the essence of my original question :-)
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:39

It's really not that hard to gain rep. I'm relatively new to SE, and I've found all I really need is three decent questions or answers to give me the ability to comment.

Sock puppets are not the only reason you need 50 to rep to comment.

Also, the association bonus means that once you've established yourself on one site, you'll get a bonus to bypass the new user restrictions on other sites you join.

  • Thanks for your uplifting answer and link, even though you didn't answer my question about stopping sock puppetry.
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:54

Its worth remembering a good many limits are not for regular users. Spammers and trolls ruin things for everyone.

Comments don't bump posts, and so visibility is minimal. And spammers are fine with creating thousands of accounts if it lets them spam - even as actual posts typically get swatted in minutes or even seconds on more active sites.

Its worth remembering unless you break some fairly common sense rules socks themselves aren't a problem - I actually use a sockpuppet on the rare occation where I want someone to review an edit, am on a shared/untrusted PC (since my main account as mod powers) or to try to educate folks just a little snarkily on why kali dosen't make them a 1337 haxxor.

Aibo, by the way is supposed to be a low rep sock. I kinda messed up there.

So socks on their own aren't an issue - until they start crossvoting, or doing other less than ethical things.

And while initially hard - hitting 200 on any site basically unlocks commenting anywhere.

My advise is really, pick a site, and start by contributing answers on your area of expertise, and see what happens. I see no posts except for here, so, one basically starts contributing by starting to contribute.

  • Well, when I wrote this question/post, I hadn't found any questions I could "easily" or quickly answer, as other people suggest, only answers useful for me I wanted to upvote or comment on, and I also couldn't edit somewhere and I can't flag either :-( But today I looked around some more sites and finally found some questions I could answer on SuperUser, but no (positive) reputation yet...
    – PatrikN
    Feb 18, 2018 at 23:59

Aside from evil sock lords and their dark domains, trolls, and other nasty characters, I believe there is another good reason to give those privileges a rep threshold.

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value." - Thomas Paine

It is a commonly observed fact that things taken for granted are most readily abused. On the other hand, if someone has to work to earn a privilege, they are more likely to take it seriously for at least a while. This is a part of our human nature.

I know that when I earned the voting and commenting privileges not long ago, I took them more seriously, because I have to work in order to get them. Seeing the ability to perform certain actions (commenting, upvoting, downvoting, answering protected questions, etc) as privileges not as rights is important.

Giving privileges to those who will be able to use them constructively also makes sense.

Gaining rep from asking and answering questions also proves that you are able to make meaningful contributions to the site. Using the comment privilege as an example, to me it makes more sense to give users who have proved that they can contribute meaningfully the ability to comment, rather that allowing everybody to comment whether they can give useful input or not.

The benefits of restricting privileges far outweigh the costs. After all, those restrictions help preventing bots and trolls from wrecking stuff, give the privileges more meaning, and encourage questions and answers. As mentioned in earlier answers, the reputation needed is not hard to earn. Things are better the way they are.

  • Nice point! Well, I suppose I have to just try harder :-) Thanks for encouraging!
    – PatrikN
    Feb 19, 2018 at 0:05

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