Some companies hire outside hackers to demonstrate for them just how bad their security is.

I took SO for a test drive. Some people enjoy robbing me of 100 pts reputation, but they spend more time policing me than I do screwing around. The goal of "eliminating the greed" and those who "game the system" is very labor-intensive, IMO.

Why not think hard about proper incentives on SO? Make the system simple, self-regulating. Currently I do not see them as working.

In real life too - blame the greedy bankers all you want, but with cheap loans, hints at bailouts, FDIC, loopholes I think it was only a matter of time.


  • 3
    This is so incredibly vague, and wrong. Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 17:55
  • 1
    Excuse me, but what is it exactly that you are asking? Make the system simple, self-regulating. ==> any suggestions maybe? I don't see the problem actually, as I find the system quite simple and self-regulating. What exactly is not working?
    – fretje
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 17:57
  • 3
    Is that you, lpthnc? Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 17:58
  • Why are you asking? Because you are emotionally biased against me?
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:01
  • 1
    I can't understand the point of this question, or if it even is one. Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:02
  • 1
    I'm not biased, I simply noticed that this user (stackoverflow.com/users/231677/lpthnc) was getting hit with a lot of offensive flags lately, too many of which will cause the loss of 100 Rep that you mentioned above. Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:08
  • 1
    @gnostradamus: I thought you mentioned lpthnc because of this one: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/34409/…
    – Kip
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:13
  • @Kip: I was also thinking of that as well, due to the "I took SO for a test drive" comment. Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:20
  • Ipthnc also had a question deleted as spam, which costs 100 rep (I didn't know that except a user, I think gnovice or something?, pointed out in comments, and I later looked and it was gone). And it appears he lost another 100 rep the same way since. And "biased against me" seems to give away that it is him.
    – Gnome
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 1:19

4 Answers 4


Stack Overflow and its sister sites seem to be reasonably self-regulating already. The sites are productive, noise is mostly kept to a minimum, and people are exchanging a vast amount of knowledge every day. It doesn't seem to me that there is a lot of labour involved in keeping the sites this way, as the work is distributed among a large number of people -- e.g. on SO, there are currently 427 10k+ users, and another 1727 3k+ users.

This is not to say that there aren't some small flaws -- e.g. search the site for [users] [behavior] for many discussions of "problem users" who aren't asking good questions, are obviously gaming the system, or both. Additionally there have been many constructive suggestions made on this site for ways to improve general usage.

Can you give some examples of how you feel the system is not working? Offering constructive solutions would be ideal.

  • for example: +1 = 10pts, -1 = -2pts, so +1 + -1 = 0 still gives you 8 rep.
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 17:58
  • I can gain 3k rep by asking someone to help me with hw all semester long.
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 17:59
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    @unknown: What's your point, exactly? Asking questions is not gaming the system, it's the system's entire purpose!
    – John Rudy
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:08

You really need something to back up your claim that the system "isn't working."

The aim of the site as I see it is twofold:

  • It should become a repository of useful questions and great answers
  • If you have a programming problem, you should be able to post it as a question and get a good answer

To my mind, Stack Overflow is working exceptionally well in both regards. The incentives (reputation, badges etc) are simply a means to those ends, by keeping users interested.

Can you gain rep without doing anything truly productive? Probably. Is it easier to gain rep by contributing positively? Absolutely!

  • Ok Jon, here is one: sometimes I wish to delete an answer with -6 votes but I cannot because there are too many "answers" where elitists tell me that I live under a rock, that it is Friday in Iceland and other things that are not funny. The question is obviously useless, but once it is locked in, the only way for it to disappear is through a loss of 100 rep points, when someone finally nukes it. Imagine people were not allowed to go bankrupt on CC debt. One mistake and they are outcasts for life. A better alternative is to allow them to self-correct and generate wealth going forward.
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:49
  • 4
    So flag the post and ask a moderator to delete it (or post a constructive question on meta asking what to do). That's hardly an intractable problem. Is this the entire basis for your complaint?
    – Ether
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 18:59
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    There is even another possibility: Edit your question to make it useful. Even your "Is there a German version of Python?" could have been improved. For that question I even think you deserve -100 points, because you hadn't an honest interest in it. Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 19:38
  • 1
    You can always delete an answer with downvotes. You can't delete a question with downvotes.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 5, 2010 at 20:21

but they spend more time policing me than I do screwing around

Well. You could stop screwing around.

Seriously. The system does self police pretty well most of the time. Oh, some rotten, pointless junk manages to slip past the close brigade, and a few worthy questions are closed be the over-zealous, but it mostly works.

The fact that you keep seeing the same names over and over again is no guarantee that people are following you around: some people are just very active. They may frequent the same tags as you, they may find your work on the 10k-tools lists if other nominate them, or they may just have become attuned to your name/gravitar. Or they could be keeping tabs on you (notice the "User feed" link at the bottom of you profile page.).

The best cure for too much attention from empowered users is to use the site well. Ask good, on-topic questions and provide useful, responsive answers. If you are doing that and feel you're being picked on, you can contact the team (see the link at the bottom of every page), but I'd take care to understand the site ethos before doing that. You don't want a reputation for crying wolf in the event of real abuse in the future.


your questions get downvoted and closed quite rapidly

so it looks like "the system" works quite well

  • Ok. I lost another 100 points just 1 hr ago. Did Joel Solsky himself go into database and reduce my points? I do not get it! I worked so hard to get to 750 this afternoon!
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 2:07
  • The system simply shot the messenger - that is all.
    – Joe Polski
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 19:12

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