With the recent changes to reputation gain from asking questions, I just received a whole bunch of reputation on StackOverflow, where I now have over 15k reputation. This now means I have access to the "Protect questions" privilege. However, I must admit, I have not been an active contributor to StackOverflow for a while, and I've become a more casual user on the site recently, only posting 3 questions and 1 answer there.

After thinking about this for a second, I thought it was kind of weird that I got this so to say "promotion" in privileges on the site, despite my inactivity there. In this case, it's a bit of an exceptional situation because of the changes in reputation, but still, my reputation has been trickling in for a while based on questions and answers posted there a few years ago.

So this caused me to wonder, why don't privileges depend on activity on the site you have privileges on? I mean, I am sure I won't abuse these rights at all, but I am very doubtful I have any legitimate use for them any time soon, and the only time I would be able to use them would be if I get more active on the site again. This is kind of with the idea of the Principle of Least Privilege in mind: inactive users have no legitimate use for some of the more powerful tools available to users with high reputation, so it would be better to remove those kinds of rights from those users.

I am in no way implying these users cannot be trusted; anyone who has at one point spent enough effort in a site to eventually get a high reputation will probably have the best interests at heart for the site. I'm just saying it's probably a better practice to only give access to some of the unlockable privileges for users who can constructively use them, and not to those who have no legitimate use for them.

With this, I don't mean that people who have not cumulated 15k reputation in the past 3 years should lose their privileges, I just think that it might be better if some of the privileges become temporarily locked if a user does not meet a level of current activity on the site, which would then easily be unlocked again by simply participating more actively.

More specifically, I am thinking of something that only locks privileges after a user has posted <10 questions and <10 review queues in the past 6 months or so, ie. something very easily reachable for anyone who is still in any way active on the site. And as soon as the user then reaches that level of activity again, the privilege lock would automatically be lifted again. Of course this is just a rough and very arbitrary amount, but it illustrates the rough idea I have about this. Also, my idea is that this would only apply to for example just the privileges that require >5000 rep, because the other ones are relatively harmless.

As indicated in this question's tags, this is mostly meant as a discussion. I'm wondering what others think about this, and if anyone else thinks this is something that might be useful to at least look into.

tl;dr: Should users who have high reputation privileges be restricted to only the users who have a legitimate use for them?


You want people to design, write, and test a pile of code, and run into edge cases and strange things, to what end? You say yourself that you don't think a user who doesn't bother interacting with the site at all will come and interact maliciously. And of course as soon as they interact with it at all, they're not inactive any more. If they're editing, flagging, voting, then they're active (even if they're not earning rep.) So deciding that earning rep (which you can do while literally never visiting the site) is somehow a marker of being active strikes me as a wrong first guess. Asking questions? On some sites I've only ever asked one or two, though I answer plenty.

I don't think there's a better guess, either. Either you come to the site and use your privileges (nobody currently records that I looked at a deleted answer, so that's an example of using a privilege that if you wanted to track, you'd have to add and test a bunch of code), or you don't. If you do, great, you do. And you're probably doing it right whether you're still earning rep or not. If you do it wrong, we have safety mechanisms for most of it - closed things can be re-opened, for example. Tag synonyms can be undone. And if you never come to the site then the fact you could do things you're not doing seems completely irrelevant.

So this seems like a bad plan all around to me. Let's not worry about privileges expiring in any way.

  • I think you're misunderstanding parts of what I said/asked; first: I never meant to imply any correlation between rep gain and activity. That's exactly why I mentioned the asking/answering of questions OR the reviewing in queues as signs of activity, not reputation. I also never said you need to be active in all areas. I said, perhaps if a user is not active in asking/answering AND reviewing, they can be considered inactive; implying: if they do start doing one of those things again, they're active again. To answer "to what end": as I cited in my question: following the P.O.L.P. – joeytje50 Nov 14 '19 at 12:16
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    Yeah but you don't do things like take away my key to my mother's house just because I haven't visited for a while. There has to be some thing you're trying to prevent. So what are you trying to prevent, keeping in mind that the moment an "inactive" user uses one of their privileges, they are by definition active again. Trying to come up with a definition of actions that don't cause you to be considered active, and thus that you somehow shouldn't be allowed to do, seems really weird. You say review queues. I don't use them, but I flag and VTC a lot. There's so many things people do. – Kate Gregory Nov 14 '19 at 12:18
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    You do make some good points, but I'd like to respond to a few of them. First, I disagree that using a privilege directly makes you active again. I don't at all consider myself active on SO right now, but I have occasionally downvoted questions/answers I came across, which is using a privilege. Simply performing one action doesn't make you active, it just means you dropped in for a second. Actually investing some time into the site would make you active, in my book. Also, you mention flags/VTC; my q/a/review examples are just examples. Other actions would of course also count in my question. – joeytje50 Nov 14 '19 at 12:26

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