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Noob questions, simple answers and big rep points
How can we make SO reputation more realistic

I was listening to one of the Stackoverflow podcasts today and heard that employers want to sort by reputation. Based on the current system of scoring reputation, it seems that answering simple questions will gain you more reputation and therefore more favorable employer search results than answering more complex questions.

I think that it's great that Stackoverflow answers all the questions I might have, even the stupid newbie questions. I also think that, in an ideal world, answering questions shouldn't be all about reputation. However it seems obvious that putting a game element to answering questions makes it more likely that questions get answered which is why people use Stackoverflow.

I have no idea how it would be determined, but perhaps there could be some way to determine that a question is complex or esoteric (perhaps based on number of views?) and give answers and up-votes additional points. I think this would not only be a fairer system (especially in light of employers sorting by reputation) but would also encourage people to answer the tougher questions.

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    See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/114/… – Shog9 Dec 15 '09 at 2:12
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    I wonder what happened to EndangeredMassa – juan Dec 15 '09 at 2:13
  • Thanks for posting the link. I had seen that one and intended to post the link. It is obviously the same question, but I think the careers site makes the issue fresh (others might have a different opinion of course). – Brian Dec 15 '09 at 2:14
  • I suspect the introduction of Careers might motivate a few more people to push for rep, but ultimately you've gotta either compete with other rep-hungry users for the easy questions or just spam the site and pick up stray votes where you can. Personally, I don't worry about it and still I do ok... – Shog9 Dec 15 '09 at 2:22
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    Yes Shog, but you've been a member way longer than poor Brian – juan Dec 15 '09 at 2:30
  • I have actually been a member since the very early days. I believe my SO id number is 320. I'm personally not too interested in rep points. I answer questions because I feel an obligation since I also ask my share of questions. I also don't use the careers site. Personally I would like to see this because I think it might encourage people to answer some of my more difficult questions (probably not, but worth a shot :). – Brian Dec 15 '09 at 2:52

Yes, waffles.

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    WAFFLES!!!!!!!! – Shog9 Dec 15 '09 at 2:10
  • This should be community wiki. – IAdapter Dec 15 '09 at 14:47
  • It should not.. – juan Dec 15 '09 at 15:44
  • (that's the point) – juan Dec 15 '09 at 15:45

It occurs to me that there is a sort of Joel-Koan here. When you post a job here, you are given an opportunity to salute a list of flags that he has selected as essential aspects of a good workplace. It seems to me that there should be another flag:

Would Not Try To Evaluate a Candidate by stackoverflow.com Reputation.

Really, any boss-with-a-brain can figure out the rather loose coupling between rep and utility. In fact, anyone who sorted people by rep would have to have more than a few loose couplings between their ears.

  • And I thought loose coupling was a good thing in software... – Andomar Dec 15 '09 at 6:18

Answering simple questions gets more points than complicated questions

Yes. But if you change the game, then the only result is that people will game it differently.

Reputation is nothing more than a very rough score that tells people how much your contributions are valued by the community.

In this community, easy questions are more highly valued for several reasons:

  • Easy to answer, so they are answered a lot, and get bumped more
  • Easy for most users to rank the given answers - I can't vote on answer in a topic I know little about, so I don't
  • There are more of them

It's not a bad thing to have reputation tied to such questions - it makes becoming a part of the community very easy and mostly friendly.

Yes, Jeff and Joel are 'selling' reputation as an indicator of experience, quality, and ability to quickly understand, solve, and communicate the solutions to all sorts of questions.

It has more weight than it did before.

But it's one metric out of several the employer is going to use, not the end-all-be-all.

Furthermore, many people have pointed out, rightly, I believe, that very high rep will be seen as negatively as very very low rep - but again, it's a small part of the selection process.

  • Of course this answer isn't as good or complete as the waffle answer, but perhaps it will be more understandable to those who lack a proper training in waffle-speak. – Pollyanna Dec 15 '09 at 2:51
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    Pollyana-want-a-waffle? – Rosinante Dec 15 '09 at 2:52

IMO that's not a problem at all. Yes, answering simple questions you can get a lot of points. That seems unfair. But don't forget that being able to answer a question well is very good by itself and it's a skill that employers might consider useful. So it really doesn't matter how hard the question is - newbies at the employer's office will have much more simple questions requiring good concise and ultimately correct answers then they'll have complex hardcore questions.

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