I want to encourage new developers at my company to use tools like stackoverflow. The problem I have run in to is without the ability to vote up/down and comment on posts, my developers can't get the full use out of the site.

I understand the restriction on new users and the purpose behind reputation points, but I was wondering if there could be some system for me to "Vouch" for my employees. I would envision something where I could give some number of my points to someone that I know is reputable to allow them to instantly make use of more of the site features.

Does something like this exist? If not is there some reason that I am missing?

EDIT: This transfer of reputation points from one user account to another would probably not be a 1 to 1 transfer. More like if I want to give a user 10 points to get started, I would have to give up 100 points. This way if a user is spinning off side accounts for themselves they would need to vote up 9 of their own answers with the same account just to break even. More than that would establish a pattern that is easy enough to detect.

Second EDIT: I could also see there being some minimum level a user needs to get before he/she can vouch for someone and a max limit to the number of people you can vouch for a month, or year, or so.

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    Let's add complexity for no net gain! – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:07
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    You can easily do this on your own... just by voting each other up – tim Jan 26 '10 at 19:55
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    Since you're targeting new developers at your company, stop hiring developers that haven't established themselves on SO. I'm kidding... sort of... – Jay Jan 26 '10 at 20:25
  • I can guarantee you that anyone who mentions SO in an interview would get bonus points – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 21:03
  • There is some solid logic and reasoning... – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 22:04
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    What is with all the down-votes. I'm not in favor of the idea itself, but it isn't a bad question. I've pondered it myself before. – JohnFx Jan 27 '10 at 0:35
  • If you're against a feature-request, why wouldn't you vote it down? @joh – random Jan 27 '10 at 0:44
  • I suppose I just have a different voting philosophy. I tend to vote on these types of questions based on the value of the discussion they generate not so much whether I agree with the position of the person who asked it. This isn't UserVoice after all. – JohnFx Jan 27 '10 at 0:48
  • I was kinda wondering that myself JohnFx but this was my first question on Meta and I wasn't sure what the protocol was. There is an interesting existing thread here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12772/… – Justin C Jan 27 '10 at 1:34

If not is there so reason that I am missing?

Philosophical: reputation represents a user's interaction with Stack Overflow, not some abstract measure of their "programming goodness" - allowing users to "vouch" for others takes a value that has meaning only in a very limited scope and takes even that meaning away.

Practical: up to around 10K, increases in reputation increase what users are allowed to do on the site. The use of simple, common tools is encouraged by making the reputation required to use them low: asking and answering is available to everyone regardless of reputation, and you can easily gain the ability to vote, flag, and comment on other user's posts in a couple of hours. Beyond that however, tools start to become dangerous in the hands of users who don't understand the site: retagging, editing, closing, deleting... Each of these requires that users invest some time before being allowed to use them. And so giving new users a "leg up" would at best subvert this... and could actually make it easier for dishonest or malicious users with excess reputation to abuse the system (by bestowing high-level privileges on their friends or sock-puppets at will).

FWIW, when I introduce a co-worker to SO, it's so they can ask a question: this requires no special assistance from me or anyone else, since new users can ask questions "out of the box" - I can however help by up-voting answers until they're able to gain enough reputation to do it themselves.

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    > "I can however help by up-voting answers until they're able to gain enough reputation to do it themselves." - Cheater! – juan Jan 26 '10 at 19:07
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    Well, obviously I only up-vote answers that I like... – Shog9 Jan 26 '10 at 19:11

Why not just have them interact with the site for a little while?

It doesn't take much to overcome the voting and commenting limits. One or two decent questions or answers should take care of this, and you could even give them a hand and vote on their posts (taking the merit of the post into consideration of course).

Your suggestion would allow easier sock puppetry and is therefore a bad idea.


Plain and simple, the purpose of reputation is to give the system a way to measure how much it should trust you based on your (assumed) knowledge of the system. Your suggestion would give people that trust based on nothing but your word. If the user couldn't get 100 rep in the system by themselves in a very short period of time, then you are clearly 'vouching' for the wrong people.

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    Just be careful with the voting on each other's posts though. You don't want to trip the automatic vote fraud detection mechanisms. – ChrisF Jan 26 '10 at 18:41
  • @ChrisF: If you are considering the actual merit of the post (as I said) then this should not be an issue. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 18:42
  • @Geoffrey - quite true, but an extra warning not to get carried away to try to bump up other's reputation beyond basic voting rights can't go amiss. – ChrisF Jan 26 '10 at 18:44
  • I assumed the restriction that keeps a user from voting more than once per question was enough to discourage sock puppetry. If I had to give up 100 points to give a new user say 20 points it would take a long time to build those 100 points back up using the new account and it probably would trigger the fraud detection. – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 18:45
  • I can have them interact with the site more, but from my experience I became much more involved with stackoverflow once I could comment on other questions without having to post my comments as answers. I was hoping to make it as easy as possible for a user with programming knowledge to get involved. – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 18:47
  • @Justin C: You are not looking at it from an objective view point. How does the system know that the accounts are different people? What if you are simply registering the accounts and giving them a minimum reputation so that you can game the system? – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 18:54
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    Getting enough rep to comment and vote should take about 15 minutes for your average developer. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 18:54
  • @Geoffrey - I fully understand what you are saying. What I am saying is that the effort to game the system without triggering the vote fraud detection would be very large. If you made "vouching" for a user be a 10:1 point transfer, i.e. I give 100 points to give a user 10 points, then I don't think you would have many people at all using it to game the system successfully. – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 18:56
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    @Justin: Voting is not the only use of sock puppetry. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 18:57
  • @Geoffrey - Thanks. I'm not trying to be difficult here, just trying to work things out. How else do you think this feature could be maliciously used? Thanks for all the feedback! – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 18:59
  • @Justin: There are plenty of posts on meta about sock puppetry. I invite you to read them. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:02
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    One of the problems with the reputation-measures-trust analogies is situations like this. You can vouch for someone to give them trust. "He's okay. I vouch for him" I prefer to think of reputation as a measure of experience. Yes, with experience, you are entrusted with increased moderation. But reputation-measures-experience is a better analogy, in my opinion. – Robert Cartaino Jan 26 '10 at 19:06

Since reputation is, at its core, a measurement of someone's experience with the site, how can you vouch for experience they don't have?

Reputation gives them progressively more site-moderation abilities. But they are not using the site. They didn't author the posts, they didn't earn the reputation... you can't "give" that experience/reputation to them.

It doesn't make sense.

  • Imagein you are in a business environment and you want to introduce a new partner of yours. That partner may not have any reputation in the group, but if you do you essentially pass some of your reputation on to that person by vouching for them. Maybe you introduce them to the group and say something about their history or skills. The effect that your vouching has really depends on your own reputation. So the better your reputation is, the better you can vouch for someone. – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 19:01
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    @Justin: You simply do not understand reputation. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:02
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    @Justin, this is a QA site, not a business environment, nor a social network – juan Jan 26 '10 at 19:08
  • @Juan: But you know as well as I do that his next question here will be something like "How do I add my coworkers as friends on SO?". – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:09
  • @Geoffrey the-penalty-box-lover, that would get closed as duplicate in a second (or blatantly offensive if I get to vote first) – juan Jan 26 '10 at 19:12
  • @Juan: Nothing but B-O, baby. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:16
  • @Justin C - That's the problem with the misplaced reputation-measures-trust analogy. It doesn't work as well as, say, reputation-measures-experience. It's not about trust and vouching. With reputation comes increased moderation abilities. You are expected to have experience with the site to receive those abilities. A more apt example than the "business environment" you cited above: "Yes, this guy hasn't flown a plane but I'll give him my license. I vouch for him." It simply doesn't make sense. – Robert Cartaino Jan 26 '10 at 19:16
  • @Geoffrey: "But you know as well as I do that his next question here will be something like 'How do I add my coworkers as friends on SO' " Wow, thanks Geoffrey, very kind of you. I was using metastackoverflow to suggest a feature I thought would be helpful to the community, what I believe it was designed for. Along with offering some nice suggestions you take a little time to insult, classy – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 19:48
  • @Justin: It tells me a lot that you find that insulting, but not this question. – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 19:57
  • I see, I didn't realize that posting ideas for a feature on a site designing specifically for that and accepting an answer that agreed it was a bad idea was insulting. – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 20:55
  • @Justin: And yet, you continue to argue... – GEOCHET Jan 26 '10 at 21:36
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    @Justin, insulting is always his modus operandi – Lance Roberts Jan 27 '10 at 1:08

I consider 50 reputation to be the level where one can fully use the site - voting, commenting, put images and links in posts, etc. It is beyond all the spam filtering rep levels.

I believe that 'vouching' for another user should be an acceptable practice, once one has gained enough reputation to be trusted by the community to confer a step up to the new user. Surely we can trust our 10k+ reputation holders to know when a personal contact is worth that head start. If someone with 10k can be trusted with this power, the issue is not whether it should be given, it's what reputation one should have before conferring a head start on someone else.

I also agree with others that the reputation should have a significant cost to the person granting it - 500 rep to give a 50 rep kick start seems high, but the amount can be adjusted to balance the act. It needs to be high enough that they aren't simply free invites to spam and to give weight to the act, but low enough that a reasonable person might be able to invite a few co-workers without breaking the bank.

However - 50 rep is easy to confer on another person within a matter of days using normal voting patterns, so I'm not sure that this feature is needed.

If anything, this feature might be considered in terms of increasing SO membership more widely. There are only 40 people in Michigan that use SO. What could SO become if we doubled the number of users in each state in the US? One way to do this is to offer this incentive:

"Invite a friend to SO. It will cost you 100 rep, and they will start off with 50 reputation so they don't have to deal with anti-spam issues. Once they gain their first 1k rep (100 upvotes) you will receive a 200 rep 'bonus' for inviting a useful contributor to SO, which ends in a net 100 rep increase for you for those you invite that stick around."

Of course, the numbers would need to be modified, but it would certainly be one way to increase membership and participation in SO, which can only be a good thing.

  • Thanks Pollyanna, there are a lot of great thoughts here! – Justin C Jan 26 '10 at 19:51
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    I think you have confused reputation with air miles. – nb69307 Jan 26 '10 at 20:01
  • ... You know... if I could trade my rep for air miles 1:1, I just might do it. – Pollyanna Jan 26 '10 at 20:18
  • @Neil - what hath you wrought? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37062/trade-rep-for-air-miles – Pollyanna Jan 26 '10 at 20:22
  • I'd rather just have the money. – nb69307 Jan 26 '10 at 20:48

Not that I am advocating doing this, in fact, it would probably be extremely popular if not downright against the rules. But couldn't you achieve this using the bounty system?

  • John - I had the same thought which is what led me to a system that would be more formalized and provide more protections so the end goal could be achieved with less "gaming" of the system. I agree with the majority of posts here that it is probably more dangerous than it's worth but I was glad to hear the discussion. – Justin C Jan 27 '10 at 1:31

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