I happen to have ~36k rep on Stack Overflow, placing me in the top 0.67% overall, despite only posting about 20 questions in the past 8 years, non of which got over 10 upvotes.

This makes me happy, since I get to proudly show of my status, while not having to do anything to support it. Compound interest does the rest.

But I wonder how fair this is to people starting on the platform today.

Society has various ways to solve this problem, and one of those is inheritance tax. I wonder if we could have a mechanism that removes say 1% of your reputation every year. (The exact amount would need to be specified a bit more carefully).

This would be barely noticeable to young accounts with lots of activity - they would be gaining reputation faster than losing it.

But for an account like mine, that would mean loosing several hundred points every year. Hopefully that would roughly balance out the steady trickle of compound interest and leave these accounts with roughly the same amount of reputation they gained whilst being active.

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    I fail to see the problem. "I wonder how fair this is to people starting on the platform today." How would penalizing high-rep users make any difference for new users? If they post good-quality posts - they will also gain rep. If you once-upon-a-time posted good-quality posts that people still find useful - there is nothing wrong with you still gaining rep for it...
    – Tomerikoo
    Jun 3, 2021 at 11:08
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    Why would this be necessary to implement? Why do you consider having more reputation points than new users “unfair”? Is there really a problem to be solved here? Reputation isn’t money: it doesn’t buy you things, other than privileges, which is totally expected: the more you contribute to the site, the more trusted you are. Jun 3, 2021 at 11:10
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    You can easily implement this yourself by offering bounties on good questions that received excellent answers. If done correctly both question and answer gain upvotes (due to exposure to more eyes) and you paid your taxes.
    – rene
    Jun 3, 2021 at 11:23
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    "...compound interest does the rest..."? There's no interest in a banking sense in SE; if you keep accumulating rep without doing anything, it's because your old answers are good enough that people keep upvoting them - in other words, your answers were helpful not just immediately to the person who posted the question you answered, but to other people with relevant problems even years later. If you really think that you shouldn't benefit from that sort of thing, then you can always find a recent question or answer that you think is deserving in some way and award it a bounty... Jun 3, 2021 at 11:29
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    " the more you contribute to the site, the more trusted you are", except you don't contribute anymore. 10 year old questions just keep getting the occasional drive by upvote, that's it. Jun 3, 2021 at 11:47
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    Old answers that remain an excellent answer deserve upvotes and answers of any age that aren't helpful should be edited and improved / updated, deleted, and/or downvoted - arbitrarily removing a fixed amount of reputation for no reason except age solves what problem; it only discourages participation, that one must pay to offer charity. --- For questions with answers the editing must be done more carefully, perhaps simply flagged for a "Historical" banner - but punishing or erasing history, what made the site great, seems unwanted.
    – Rob
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:54
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    The most crucial misunderstanding I see underpinning this proposal is that rep isn't currency. Getting reputation does not require that someone else "spend" that rep (bounties aside), and one does not spend rep to gain site privileges, there also isn't a limited amount of it to go around (it materializes out of votes and accepts and edits continuously). Therefore, someone having lots and someone else having little isn't "unfair," since my "reputational wealth" doesn't have any bearing on whether or not you also have reputation. There's little reason why rep should age away.
    – zcoop98
    Jun 3, 2021 at 15:51
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    Most societies revere their oldest members because the've been around a long time, seen stuff, and have insight and perspective based on extensive experience. A user continuing to gain reputation from oldies but goodies is a little bit like this. It's okay, it doesn't hurt at least. I've previously asked about capping my displayed reputation at 99k but the proposal was thoroughly trounced. People just wanna know I guess :-)
    – uhoh
    Jun 3, 2021 at 23:30

2 Answers 2


Society has various ways to solve this problem, and one of those is inheritance tax.

At least over here in The Netherlands, the inheritance tax is money you pay when someone else dies, and you get their money/assets. The justification for having these taxes as far as I can find it, is that it's meant to prevent people from mooching off of other people's work/money. Yet I somehow doubt inheritance tax money over here is actually redistributed and that our government is some kind of good-hearted Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor.

Long rant against inheritance taxes short: inheritance tax is not society's way to solve this problem. You're (presumabely) not dead, and there's been no transfer of your contributions here: No one else is profiting of your original contributions in a way that would require them paying an inheritance tax. There's also no need for redistributing reputation points.

But I wonder how fair this is to people starting on the platform today.

Besides unlocking some site functionality (privileges), a reputation point doesn't have any value that can or needs to be 'taxed', so that newer users can still have their reputation points too. There's no finite amount of reputation points that needs to be fairly distributed across users, it's not like any site here is running out of reputation points faster than reputation points can be grown or created.

What's fair is that you wrote some good posts in the past, and that people are still thinking those deserve a reward. What's fair is that there's an unlimited pool of reputation points for people starting on the platform today, and they can earn as many as you.

Perhaps the only thing that's 'unfair' is that you had years of head-start on those that start on the network today, but that would only be unfair if there was an end-goal, a finish line. There are no finish lines on SE, so I'm going to say that anyone that compares their 10 minute old account to one that's 8 years older and expects the same numbers should probably have a lesson in interpreting and comparing numbers.

leave these accounts with roughly the same amount of reputation they gained whilst being active.

There's another point here that's tricky: You assume that just because someone isn't posting, they're not active, and shouldn't be gaining reputation anymore. But these people can still be active, just in other ways: Closing posts, deleting posts, editing posts, flagging posts, and voting on posts. Seeing people still benefit from my older posts while I'm busy doing all these other things is nice.

Upvoting or bounties are a much better way of raising new users up then just taxing existing reputation away into a black hole. Vote early, vote often lists three main benefits of voting: good content is voted to the top, wrong or incorrect content is voted to the bottom, and users who consistently provide useful content accrue reputation and are granted more privileges on the site. Especially that last one just can't be achieved by siphoning away reputation from accounts.

  • I don't really agree that "besides unlocking some site functionality (privileges), a reputation point doesn't have any value". People routinely put their SO rep or ranking percentage on CVs for instance, and the rep is prominently displayed on the site itself. (Also inheritance tax is a metaphor - in the sense that it's justification is mitigating the advantage of rich ancestors). Jun 3, 2021 at 12:00
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    @JakubHampl Why should reputation listed on a CV be any different from e.g. experience? 8 years worth of experience/reputation vs. 1 month worth of it is always going to look different. Your experience and contributions don't just all of a sudden go away, just because you're no longer active. I've made career switches, but that doesn't mean anything I learned while in university or working retail is suddenly useless now that I work in software engineering. And like I said, you didn't have rich ancestors, these reputation points are 'money' you made on your own.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:08
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    @JakubHampl Why would you want to put reputation on your CV anyway?
    – Mast
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:08
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    @JakubHampl "People routinely put their SO rep or ranking percentage on CVs for instance" 1. how is this something we have to do anything about? They chose to put down a meaningless number on their CV. That's not our problem. They might also choose to draw a unicorn in their CV. It's on them, not us. 2. How does your "tax" proposal actually help with people scribbling a number elsewhere? What, they'd scribble a slightly smaller number? So what?
    – VLAZ
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:48
  • @Mast to be honest, my SO profile helped me get a new job. I didn't put in CV, but it was asked during the interview. :) Jun 3, 2021 at 12:51
  • @ShadowTheVaccinatedWizard so...employers are also using a meaningless number.
    – VLAZ
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:54

If people keep upvoting it's not just random clicks.

It means the post is still useful, and for this, a reward is due. Reputation is this reward, and "proudly show off my status" is exactly what keeps many people motivated and making them post good posts.

So there's nothing wrong with this "trickling reputation", on the contrary. Having posts that keep gaining upvotes years after being posted isn't trivial, I'd support adding badges for this. (And no, not only because I have few on SO too. ;))

  • 1
    Most upvotes seem to come from users who are not very technically savvy (I conclude this from the popularity of questions like "is Java pass-by-reference or pass-by-value?" and "what is the --> operator?"), and therefore aren't really qualified to judge the accuracy of the answers. They base their votes on indirect cues like truthiness and, I'm pretty sure, the number of upvotes it already has. So there is a kind of compound-interest effect.
    – benrg
    Jun 3, 2021 at 18:56
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    @bonrg - Do you have actually statistics that prove your theory that votes are most likely based on users without the knowledge necessary to determine if they are helpful or unhelpful?
    – Ramhound
    Jun 4, 2021 at 9:27
  • @Ramhound I'm guessing, like everybody is. I actually think answers to questions like "is Java pass-by-value" do more harm than good because they encourage haphazard learning. Anyone who's read a good introduction to Java won't need the answer, and anyone who programs in it should have done that. It's like homework answers - complete, copy-pasteable answers to homework questions would probably get high scores, but I think they hinder more than help education. It's just speculation, but so is "upvotes mean the post is useful" (unless your definition of "useful" makes it a tautology).
    – benrg
    Jun 4, 2021 at 20:45
  • @benrg (BTW, did you rename from bonrg to benrg? If not, how did you get notifed of Ramhound's reply?) well you have a point, but 1) It can't be proven, and 2) Maybe some indeed aren't super skilled programmers, but still, I'd say that for about half the upvoting people, the answer was actually useful. Which is still enough. People don't just go over old answers for no reason. I think. Jun 5, 2021 at 7:01

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