I'm firmly of the belief that the stack concept is badly designed but haven't known why until I read this article:

meritocracy doesn't exist and believing it does is bad for you

The display of a score to others as a core design point is deeply flawed for the reasons pointed out in the article:

simply holding meritocracy as a value seems to promote discriminatory behavior

Almost every argument about the stack exchange concept invokes the idea that it is a meritocracy and at the same time users of stack sites are continuously complaining about 'noobs' not understanding the system.

I propose that scores for individuals should be made private and only be displayed to that individual. Helping people in order to increase an epeen score is a bad form of incentive.

  • 5
    It sounds like you mean reputation point total? My first impression when you said "score" was that you meant post score, which is quite different. Could you please edit to clarify what you mean?
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 13:09
  • 2
    If we don't display scores, how will we show the content that the community has deemed most valuable? As a sidenote, there's just as many articles supporting meritocracy as criticizing it; it's easy enough to find any amount of supporting material, no matter your stance.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 15:05
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    Not complaining about noobs not understanding the system; complaining about noobs not trying to understand the system.
    – user204841
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 15:26
  • 1
    Of course meritocracy doesn't exist. Neither does democracy, aristocracy, or any other "acy." They're all just frameworks of ideas and ideals. Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 15:41
  • Also, the article you link seems to be about the workplace. The Stack Exchange network isn't a workplace. We don't get paid at all, so our salaries can't depend on how well we do here. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 1:45
  • Between this and your answer to my question at meta.SO, you must realize that you're trying to upend everything the site is about. It's logical to get criticism for that upfront
    – Magisch
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 10:03

2 Answers 2


Your overall position and argument doesn't really make sense. You start by declaring that meritocracies don't exist, and that things which do claim to be meritocracies usually select based on something other than merit.

But then you suggest that the remedy for this is to... stop displaying "score". Presumably, you mean a user's reputation. That doesn't actually solve the problem.

See, a meritocracy tends to fail at being a meritocracy because it selects the "meritorious" based on something other than genuine merit. But what people upvote and downvote is typically not based on a user's current reputation. Yes, there are cases where users will upvote anything posted by a low-rep user (so-called "pity upvotes"), and there are cases where some user may have to choose between two equally good answer and upvote or accept the one from the higher-rep user simply because of their high rep.

But these are outliers. Bad questions accumulate downvotes, not because they're from new users, but because they're bad questions. And this is easy to prove; just get a high-rep user to ask a bad question on a reasonably popular tag, and you'll see them get plenty of downvotes.

Furthermore, the way meritocracies fail tends to be that the existing meritorious class only allows admission into that class by those who behave "correctly" or otherwise agree with the meritorious rather than selecting on the basis of objective merit. Well, to the extent that high reputation represents a "meritorious class", and that high-rep users can bar entry to that class, that wouldn't change just because you hide a user's reputation. Users can still see how other users behave, and therefore they can vote based on that. And reputation would still be how privileges are obtained, so nothing would change in that regard.

So at the end of the day, even if we accept your premise, your suggested solution doesn't even fix the problem.


People will complain about noobs even if scores are not shown. Plus, it's still easy enough to tell from the profile for anyone determined.

On the other hand, withholding the reputation score will make it harder to moderate the site. It's not helpful to tell someone to leave a comment if they don't have the reputation. New (i.e. low-rep) users may need to be given links to the Help Center and detailed instructions, while that could be seen as patronizing if you're talking to an experienced member of the site. And I also find it useful to help quickly differentiate people who have generic accounts (mostly people named user#### who use an identicon).

Note: Reputation and badges are now hidden on MathOverflow at request of their moderators (who have a special contact with Stack Exchange that allows them to make such requests).

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