How can we make reputation a reflection of trust rather than how many ambiguous, argumentative, and general questions you can answer/ask before the mods notice?

Look at any high reputation person, yes they certainly answer a lot of questions very well, but if you look at the things that actually generate their badges and reputation I can guarantee that they're almost all questions that are generic, argumentative, or horribly subjective.

I realize that this is in itself probably in the category that I speak of. But I posted a question that I was actually passionate about but it was closed for being argumentative. People even continued to favorite it after it was closed but that doesn't matter really.

So what are the common thoughts about this? Does anyone even agree with me about this or is this just the rant of every newbie to the site?

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    What was the question? (link) – cletus Dec 4 '09 at 2:59
  • @cletus: stackoverflow.com/questions/1810929/… – Jared Harley Dec 4 '09 at 3:25
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    Your question was closed because it wasn't a real question. And that's very true; it wasn't. It was an attempt to take a Q&A site and turn it into a community-edited series of, essentially, blog posts. I think the idea of the post is awesome; I'm not knocking the idea itself. But the selected venue was totally wrong. SO is not a blog. SO is a Q&A forum, and there was no Q in that post. – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 4:06
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    It wasn't a question, true. But I disagree that the venue was wrong. Normally you do not have blogs, which are editable by other "trusted" users. On SO you have this possibility. I think also that Chuck's (non-)question supported the original goal of SO: being the one place where programmers can find answers to their questions. And they could find a lot of answers in a post like this. – Ladybug Killer Dec 4 '09 at 8:45
  • Smithers: True, a lot of answers are found in a post like that. Like I said, I think it's a great post and a great idea -- just not here. Sounds like a custom wiki implementation somewhere to me. Post a comment right here and on that original post, and I'll bet that'll make for a good startup audience ... – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 15:51
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    I thought that was the whole point of community-wiki's. That the whole community could respond to something and update the answers and build something. But community wiki doesn't actually mean anything on SO because pretty much anything that's a community wiki is going to be contentious or generic isn't it? – Chuck Vose Dec 4 '09 at 16:23
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    The point of community wikis is actually at least twofold: 1, to encourage editing (you only need 500 to edit a CW post), and 2, to provide a facility for open ended questions. Not open ended documentation, questions. There wasn't a question there. Like I said, the content is valid, I just think the venue isn't. – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 17:14

Make rep earned from community wiki questions go away, even if the answer was there prior to its wikification.

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    Whilst I disagree with whining about a closed post on Meta, I totally agree with this suggestion. BTW, I say this at my own risk -- I'm very certain I'd lose about 200 - 300 rep on SO if this were implemented, and I'd be happy to do so. – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 4:03
  • It would help if after I post my nice comment about agreeing with you, I actually click the upvote button I meant to click. My bad; corrected. +1 fer relz this time. – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 4:14
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    Please don't do this. Community Wiki is muddy enough as it is. The few people who might benefit from it don't really understand what it is, and adding incentive to force more questions into Wiki would just make it the ultimate mosh pit. – user102937 Dec 4 '09 at 6:18
  • If you really need this kind of correction, just flag the question for moderation, and put "Should be Community Wiki" in as the reason. The moderators have the power to wiki both questions and answers. – user102937 Dec 4 '09 at 6:20
  • When a post becomes CW, does it lose all rep earned, or simply fail to gain any additional rep? – Ether Dec 4 '09 at 6:29
  • Robert, I'm not sure I understand where you're coming from. As it stands, when a new "should-be-CW" question comes up, some people jump on the wagon and try to get lots of rep before it becomes subjective. It seems strange to me that this would be possible. If you can't get rep on a question after it's CW, why should you get rep from before? – GManNickG Dec 4 '09 at 6:39
  • You'll have to ask the moderators, but I believe they also have the power to revoke rep, although they rarely do except in egregious circumstances. – user102937 Dec 4 '09 at 7:45
  • If a question asker does not mark a question CW, I assume that the asker of the question intends for people to make rep on a question. Only a moderator can reverse that decision, and my understanding is that they only do so when a question should clearly be CW. If people make points from the question, they do so under the question asker's original intent. Remember, the asker of the question gets to decide on CW ("make this cw" bullying notwithstanding). Whether they read the numerous FAQs available to them or not doesn't change this basic fact. – user102937 Dec 4 '09 at 7:48
  • I think your first premise isn't sound. Many times, people make questions that should be CW, but they don't know any better. The questioners original intent is not what's fair. by your logic, if something posts an answer on a CW question that wasn't always so, they should get rep for their answer since that's what the OP intended. This of course defeats the entire purpose of making it CW in the first place. – GManNickG Dec 4 '09 at 8:18
  • @Robert. Diamond moderators can't revoke rep as far as I am aware. We can however convert complete questions and answers to wiki. Also, we can re-calc rep on a user, which leads to rep generally going down due to deletions. – BinaryMisfit Dec 4 '09 at 9:36
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    Awesome idea. Once its implemented I only need maybe 4-5 other people to help me edit all of @Jon Skeet and @Marc Gravell's answers so as to reduce them to the reputation-less noobs that they are. Wait, my reputation is melting, melting...oh, what a world, what a world. Who would have thought such a little change could destroy my beautiful reputation.... – tvanfosson Dec 4 '09 at 12:07
  • To answer the question about what happens to pre-wiki rep, no you don't lose it: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/16750/… – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 15:54
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    @Chuck: You do understand that the rep cap itself helps limit the amount of rep a person gets from a single post one way or the other, right? – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 17:12
  • I've made this a suggestion: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/31902/… – GManNickG Dec 4 '09 at 21:53

Speak for yourself.

I've answered loads of questions that get either 15 rep or 25 rep. They're the hard ones to answer. Sometimes the OP is so low on rep that they can't upvote, so it's only worth 15.

Sometimes it's just a drive-by posting and the person never returns. That one's worth zippo.

I try to answer C# questions, but get Skeeted every time I try.

Any rep that I gain on the occasional question that I can FGITW that everyone happens to know the answer so they can upvote it, is payback for built-up karma from the table-scrap questions, as far as I'm concerned.

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    +1: Hear, hear. It's kinda frustrating. Occasionally a few of those pay out over time, though. – Stu Thompson Dec 4 '09 at 7:57
  • Rep is just a number, folks.Think I'm bothered by my 1114 rep on SU? No, and I did answer a butt-ton of questions. It's just the way it goes. Also, not all (and I'd hazard to say not even many) high-rep users are "meta-gamers." – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 17:16
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    Unlike rep on SO, which is sort of meaningless, rep on SU is completely meaningless. – user102937 Dec 4 '09 at 17:34
  • 'Get Skeeted'... Marvelous. Been there and seen that too. ^^ – Arnis Lapsa Dec 5 '09 at 20:48

How can we make reputation a reflection of trust?

You can't.

Reputation only shows how much the community has upvoted a person's contributions to the site. Yes, questions that are subjective, argumentative, or close to being argumentative, are going to get more community voting than regular questions.

But rep does not, and cannot, mean anything more than that.

Just like real life, the celebrities that have a good bit of showmanship and know how to rouse the rabble are going to receive more attention in the community than everyone else.

There are exceptions, of course.

The real question is - why does it matter? Why should we change rep to mean something more substantial?

Reputation is NOTHING more than an INCENTIVE to contribute.

That's all it was ever meant to be - an artificial 'scoreboard' so people would always have some drive to contribute to the site without being paid for their work.

It does exactly what it's meant to do.

If you change how the scoreboard is measured, you fundamentally change the direction of the website and how people game it. This may or may not be a good thing, but the effect must be taken into account. The reality is that even if you change the metric to measure 'trust' it still have to measure things that can be gamed, and thus must necessarily become detached from 'trust' over time anyway.

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    While I agree with the facts stated in your answer, I still hope that somehow it'd be possible to make more meaningful. – René Nyffenegger Dec 4 '09 at 15:38
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    This is actually a good point, that changing the game would only change how it's gamed. I'm not sure how this would be gamed but I'm sure that I would be equally frustrated by someone making 100 answers a day because they're unemployed. Especially considering that means they're more employable according to SO careers. – Chuck Vose Dec 4 '09 at 16:21
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    It's worthwhile to point out that subjective and argumentative posts often get a lot of up/down voting, but with downvotes still reducing rep by only 2 and upvotes increasing rep by 10 there's a natural tendency for incendiary posts to gain more than they lose. This will be helped when downvotes reduce by 5 later, but for now it's part of the system, and one of the most easily gamed aspects of SO. – Pollyanna Dec 4 '09 at 16:35

Look at any high reputation person, yes they certainly answer a lot of questions very well, but if you look at the things that actually generate their badges and reputation I can guarantee that they're almost all questions that are generic, argumentative, or horribly subjective.

Please back this generic, argumentative, and horribly subjective statement up with some evidence.

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    As if he could. – Rosinante Dec 5 '09 at 20:16
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    @bmarguiles: Badges should be pretty easy. Admittedly, I'm probably one of the worst offenders for getting badges for horribly subjective content. Reputation is an entirely different beast though. If most reputation were generated through subjective Q&A, there would be a lot more 'subjective' badges floating around. Only 10 currently exist on SO. – Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '09 at 20:56
  • You can look at the 'subjective' tag stats to get a general idea of how much reputation is being generated by questions tagged 'subjective' before they're made CW. stackoverflow.com/questions/… It looks like some of us have gotten around 10% of our reputation from subjective content. Far from a majority. – Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '09 at 21:01
  • Gosh, you took my snark dead-seriously. I want to thank you at the same time that I am somewhat abashed for having typed it in in the first place. – Rosinante Dec 5 '09 at 22:00
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    @bmargulies: I got that you were being snarky, and that's perfectly okay. I get snarky quite a bit on meta myself. I thought the OP might take my challenge seriously, though. Anyone could easily list my badges and show that over half of them are for subjective, "fun" answers. Not so for everyone, and certainly not so for reputation. – Bill the Lizard Dec 5 '09 at 22:22

Make people pay real money for answers. Oh, wait -- that's the other site.

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Wow. Can we have a special badge for unsupported, sweeping, generalizations? One that comes with, oh, a rep of -500?

For a counterexample, feel free to look at my track record on so.com. I'm over 2k. My rep is disproportionately from a few popular answers to specific, not wildly obscure, technical, questions. I don't claim to understand why some of these answers piled up 10-15 votes. I'd hazard a generalization that relatively pithy, accurate, answers to medium-simple questions get rewarded -- perhaps because those questions are likely to be searched for over and over. But I don't really know what the voters were thinking.

I suppose that there are people out there farming rep on marginal, soon-to-be-Wiki questions.

I don't care.

The case in which I could imagine this mattering to anything except ego is if someone abuses the editorial powers gained from ill-gotten rep. Something tells me that this would lead pretty speedily to an account reset.

None of us are going to Valhalla based on our StackOverflow reps. A few might get job offers.

Best I can tell, most of us do this due to a compulsion to be helpful, a suspicion that others might return the favor when we get stuck, and, oh well, a bit of intellectual peacockery. But there's a big difference between strutting a bit and getting all hot and bothered over the legitimacy of other people's feathers.

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Perhaps one answer is to delete the community wiki feature. It seems to me that anything that is a community wiki is almost guaranteed to be contentious or overly generic. Certainly it's something that doesn't have one answer. As it is CW made me think that making something CW would allow me to ask more generic questions like the one linked above, but that's not true at all.

But I also thought that according to the FAQ I wouldn't gain or lose rep by asking a CW question, this is also not true. That question is to this day both my highest rep gaining and highest rep losing post.

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  • All of the rep you gained and lost was prior to it being made CW, which is why you gained and lost it. And for the record, you only lost 6 points. You really can't take rep that seriously. Your rep will flourish over time. Give it time. – John Rudy Dec 4 '09 at 17:39
  • Oh yeah, I'm not worried about the loss to be honest. What was weird was that I marked it CW from the very beginning. – Chuck Vose Dec 5 '09 at 0:52
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    If so, then you should never have gained or lost any rep, and you should be filing a bug report, not slinging sewage into the nearest fan. – Rosinante Dec 5 '09 at 20:18

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