Thank you everyone for the feedback you have provided. At this time, we will work through the feedback we have received to help us determine where to take our research on reputation next.

Please remember that this is just research and does not impact any product decision now or in the immediate future. We look forward to returning to the community to discuss more related and adjacent topics before embarking on any product development.

Having incentive systems to participate in online communities (like Stack Overflow) is not a new concept. Basically every Q&A site or forum has had some type of points or karma system, and they all work to varying degrees.

But as we’ve seen, our system and community in its current state has a high barrier to entry. Asking or answering a question back in 2009 was a lot easier as we were building the library of knowledge that exists today. There were a lot more questions yet to be asked!

We still want users to be able to participate on our site and feel as though they are a part of this community. But unfortunately, we’ve heard from so many of our users, particularly newer ones, that the learning curve is steep and it’s difficult to find ways to engage on the site.

In order to combat some of that, we’ve been experimenting with the Staging Ground work and with better onboarding for new users (currently only on Stack Overflow). These are just a few early attempts, and we know there could be additional solutions out there.

However, as the network has grown and changed, we’ve started thinking about our reputation and privilege system and how we might want to evolve it. Our Research and Community teams internally have been doing a lot of work to understand incentive systems more broadly, but we also wanted to hear from you all about what you think works really well with Stack Exchange’s reputation/privilege systems, as well as what is broken with reputation. We’d also love to hear about other rep/karma/incentive systems from other online communities that you think are exemplary that we could learn something from.

We don’t have any concrete plans yet. This is really the first part of a long process to see how we could potentially rethink reputation and privileges on this site and our larger network. We’ll be doing several rounds of research as a part of this larger exploration, and will update you on our findings as we go, so please be on the lookout for future updates.

So, for now, our questions for you are:

  • What is really great about our reputation & privilege system? What do you think makes it great, and why is it worth keeping?
  • What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?
  • What other systems work really well that we could learn from?

Since there are many answers already written now, if you'd like to add one but want to check first that someone hasn't already said what you want to say, try using the searchbar with inquestion:387356 is:answer ....

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    Possibly related: Help us identify new roles for community members (some of them are also related to reputation/privilege) Mar 9 at 15:23
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    How is reputation connected to there being an entry barrier? The only privilege that newbies frequently miss is the ability to post comments, they mostly don't care about moderation tools. Mar 9 at 15:31
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    Don't try to fix something that is not broken. You will just break it, without any shred of doubt. Mar 9 at 15:35
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    FWIW, I joined about three years ago, and a few minutes with the site tour was plenty to make the workings clear. The rep/privileges/badges system was and is, for me, a great incentive system.
    – Aaron
    Mar 9 at 15:37
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    "its current state has a high barrier to entry" - This is good. Quantity dillutes quality. The problem is frustration, not the barrier. You minimize frustration putting good explanation in the barriers BEFORE any interaction, so people understand why this barriers are protecting and promoting knowlege and trust. Currently the network says "c'mon, you can do everything", then slaps the rules at the user's face after his actions with close and downvotes. Somewhat like a carnivore plant. Also, you need to choose between qty of users, or the original network mission (so we know what to follow).
    – Largato
    Mar 9 at 16:14
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    Also remember: views is not tied to # of registered users, but content. The recent inflation of registered user numbers maybe was very good to sell the company, but we are past that, so maybe we can focus on content again to atract views, help people (mostly in read-only mode) and keep the high reputation the network still has only because the "tough old times".
    – Largato
    Mar 9 at 16:32
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    I agree with @Bacco's comment: "you need to choose between qty of users, or the original network mission (so we know what to follow)". Decide once and for all what you want. The official position is still "quality", but all actions in the last years favors "quantity". And we've seen how incompatible those two things are. This is one of the main reasons behind new users frustation, BTW. The site says they can ask anything, but users worried about quality says: "wait, there are rules" - and then the latter are called "toxic" by the former.
    – hkotsubo
    Mar 9 at 16:32
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    @ShadowWizardChasingStars Slow down there. There are no plans to remove reputation or privileges. This is quite literally the opening question to the community before we have even engaged in serious research on our reputation system. We want to hear what people consider pain points, opportunities, and things they love.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Mar 9 at 16:53
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    @CypherPotato well, I don't think SE are doing it out of greed, they just see so many people complain about reputation, how broken and toxic it is (try to have a comment discussion with a new user who got a downvote, their vocabulary of bad words is amazing) and since the amount of those people, who rant and complain and send tickets is x1000 than those few who trust the reputation system, they are doing what they deem right for more people. Mar 9 at 17:00
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    @SpencerG The most crucial point is how hard it is to instruct new users to understand what our community is actually about. It's not clear enough for them to understand, and that is why thousands of posts are closed every day. Also, the entire community's effort to filter content is decreasing because we don't have the right tools or the community entry point is not effectively doing its job in showing what Stack Overflow is for. Mar 9 at 17:03
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    @SpencerG it's clearly mentioned in the question here: "as well as what is broken with reputation" - not "if something is broken" but rather "what is broken", word choice means a lot, in this case it means SE thinks reputation system is broken, due to "we’ve heard from so many of our users, particularly newer ones, that the learning curve is steep and it’s difficult to find ways to engage on the site" which means great many new user keep hammering you with contact forms and emails after getting downvotes, complaining how the system is broken. Mar 9 at 17:04
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    @ShadowWizardChasingStars I can understand how that can seem to indicate that; however, that is not a position of SE. We do not internally believe that reputation is broken and needs to be replaced. We think there are opportunities for improvement, like any system as old as ours. This is a healthy process for us to hear what the community thinks/feels on the matter. Our only intention is to collect and consider feedback to help guide our research to see if suggestions made here could help improve the system.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Mar 9 at 17:21
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    This SE's positioning leads us to understand that SE intends to attract both Q&A and social media audiences to their products. Q&A users and social media audiences interact differently, behave differently, and seek different things. Mar 9 at 17:28
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    BTW, I believe the reputation system isn't a problem (or at least not the biggest concern right now). There are other things you should focus on. Ex: IMO, if you do things like this, the user experience would improve a lot and it would solve (or at least minimize) the problems reported by new users (regardless of the reputation system).
    – hkotsubo
    Mar 9 at 17:44
  • 9
    @OverclockedSkid that doesn't make sense: it takes no rep to answer but there is a minimal rep before you can comment, so how were you "answer[ing] things as comments" when you did not have reputation?
    – terdon
    Mar 10 at 10:30

71 Answers 71


What is working:

The rep cap, as I explained in 2012: it incentivizes posting not just an answer (for votes which are capped anyway), but the answer (the one chosen by the OP).
It is at the core of what makes Stack Overflow unique: a Q&A site where finding the right answer is actively promoted.

It is not perfect, as others explained in their answers to this question, with the "passive income" issue. But the main goal remains important: more points above rep cap means posting the right answers.

What is not working:

Most of everything else.
As Mithical explained, votes represent too many things (expertise, site familiarity, gamification, but also curation).
See also Mithical's answer on this page.

In particular, I would like a better way to assess expertise: I have 2000+ rep on on more than 200 answers (and a gold badge!), and yet, I used those answers to learn enough of that language to understand it was not a good fit for me (as I mentioned in "How to earn a million reputation on Stack Overflow: be of service to others").
Or: I have 1300+ rep on (and a silver badge), but I know next to nothing about the language: those were questions about Git or Docker, involving Ruby.

The main other pain point is "what does a downvote mean?":

Take a legitimate question, validated by Staging Ground, about programming, showing research and what has been tried.
But what has been tried is a bit "dumb" (because you are a beginner on that topic): chances are, the question will be downvoted (strike 1).
And, after a few of those (again, good questions, but showing a poor understanding of the topic, as a beginner), you won't be able to ask other questions (strike 2: "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account")
The experience is quite dreadful for newcomers.
Don't take my word for it: this video "Uncovering Stack Overflow's TOXICITY" from Alex Ziskind illustrates the point nicely.

I do not dispute the merit of downvotes, as they help curate the site and prevent "bad" questions (vague, without research), and I hope the staging ground new review process will help mitigate the current questions "downvoted/closed in mere minutes".

But I would like to see a way to express the difference between:

  • your question is valid, but expresses an incorrect idea/comprehension (should not be downvoted)
  • your question is bad (off-topic, not enough focus, ...) (can be downvoted and/or closed)
  • 5
    The first of those two things ("your question is valid, but express an incorrect idea/comprehension") should be addressed by answering the question. So, we already have this feature. No changes needed. :-) I do agree that we currently offer a very poor experience for new users, which is pretty well epitomized by Alex Ziskind's video, if you can get past some of the wrong and/or grating things he says and just look at how the system's operation would be perceived/understood by a new user, even one who was genuinely conscientious. Mar 10 at 0:20
  • 3
  • 11
    Not to me it doesn't. I strongly disagree with Catija's comment. I've never once thought downvotes were personal, even when I was a brand-new user. I still struggle to understand how reasonable people can see them as an insult. Yet, there's a lot in Alex's video that shows how poor the education/guidance provided by the system is. None of that has anything to do with downvotes. None of the real problems have anything to do with downvotes, except possibly not having enough downvoting. Mar 10 at 6:46
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    Re the video: I don't blame users thinking Stack Overflow is a forum or a help desk (a free service where the unpaid servers are expected to oblige) when it looks like a forum or help desk where the unpaid servers are expected to oblige. I blame the site designers. Mar 10 at 11:48
  • 3
    @bad_coder linking to a comment on a clickbait video that's expressly designed to paint SO in the most negative light possible, is not a successful way to make an argument.
    – Ian Kemp
    Mar 10 at 16:06
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    @CodyGray Can you see how calling someone who disagrees with you "unreasonable" might be an insult? Because "I still struggle to understand how reasonable people can see them as an insult." implies you feel that people who do see them that way must be unreasonable. -- Yes, you might not mean it that way, but that's how it comes off. Just like how when you downvote you might not mean "Not only do I feel your contribution isn't valuable enough for an upvote, but I feel it's so egregious I will go out of my way (and spend reputation) to chastise you for it".
    – R.M.
    Mar 10 at 16:21
  • Hi Von, I strongly believe that the issue you highlight with question asking isn't voting related, but related to what users consider to be "on topic" at Stack Overflow. This gets into closure reasons more than voting, as users who view a post as not useful due to being off topic will ultimately downvote that post as well.
    – Travis J
    Mar 10 at 18:20
  • A passing thought - that video touches on the very thing I had identified back in '18 as a problem. But it represents the double-edged sword of perception in that comments are just far too elevated for what they are. Something to help address the "hey, you know that people are asking the question because they don't know this, right?-gap we have could help in that regard, as you're alluding to.
    – Makoto
    Mar 10 at 23:39
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    Not really, @R.M. People can—and do—behave in all sorts of ways that are, upon reflection or dispassionate consideration, unreasonable. Calling an action or a behavior unreasonable is not an insult. (I guess this gets to the core problem, of some people being so sensitive that we can't have a rational conversation without them being offended?) And, I mean, yes, when I downvote a post, it means that I'm going out of my way to mark/indicate the post as not containing any value whatsoever. I'm not chastising anyone for it, though; that's not what it means, and that claim is unreasonable. Mar 11 at 11:28
  • Hmm. This answer is a mixed bag for me. I think that vanishingly few people are significantly impacted by the "reputation from accept votes is exempt from the daily cap" rule, and I also think that the OP is often uniquely unqualified to choose "the right answer". I absolutely agree that votes represent too many things. Mar 14 at 22:41
  • "your question is valid, but expresses an incorrect idea/comprehension (should not be downvoted)" If it actually is valid, then it should be neither downvoted nor closed; I agree. If it is bad (off-topic, not enough focus, lacks MRE, is unclear) then it should usually be both downvoted and closed. So it's hard for me to see why there's a need to do anything else to distinguish these questions; that's a social issue, not a technical (design of the rep system) one. Mar 14 at 22:44
  • There is a related problem that showing a bad attempt often detracts from a good how-to question. However, this is also social rather than technical: the problem is that people apply the "what have you tried?" mindset too mindlessly, and lose track of the purpose - to have focused, clear questions with a proper MRE (for how-to questions, "MRE" means precise input and output specifications, and occasionally a rough framework with a "what goes here?" comment). Mar 14 at 22:46
  • After all, the biggest part of "trying something" to solve a problem is breaking it down into steps. If the problem has steps to break down into, then it inherently needs more focus. So the main reason to get people with how-to questions to "try something" is so they can find a more specific how-to. Unfortunately, what happens is that both askers and comment-feedback-givers interpret this as "you should show code for the whole problem", and then you get an unfocused mess where now it's both a how-to and a debugging question, and there are multiple bugs. Mar 14 at 22:48
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    "this video "Uncovering Stack Overflow's TOXICITY" from Alex Ziskind illustrates the point nicely." Simply looking at the thumbnail for this video makes me want to discount anything that it has to say. The idea that "I'm new, please help" ought to be positively received, or that it is "toxic" to keep that out, reflects such a profound and fundamental misunderstanding of the site's goals that no further discussion seems possible. Stack Overflow is not about "helping" the OP. Mar 14 at 23:53
  • ... On the other hand, as I mentioned in comments to other answers, downvotes are always going to be perceived that way by an overwhelming fraction of the population, no matter what you say about them. If that's "unreasonable" then I've scarcely met any reasonable people in my 40+ years on this planet. A brief scroll through Reddit is all it should take to prove the point. Mar 15 at 21:34

It is hard to answer uniformly for every site because the cultures differ. For example, on the physics site answers are closed if they don't show research or if they are homework like. This is valid. We don't want to do people's homework for them. On the other hand, this is the prime use of Stack Overflow. I am a professional programmer. That is where I go for documentation or to get an easy answer to a problem. And this is valid.

Reputation keeps me coming back to answer questions at the physics site. I do it because I like to be helpful. Reputation is what makes me feel helpful.

It also motivates me to write good answers that get lots of votes. It is disappointing when number of votes often does not relate to the quality of the answer. That's life. On the average, better answers get more votes.

Downvotes discourage new posters. New posters don't know our rules about what we answer and what we close. They don't know our preferences to how we like questions to be posed. The wrong kind of question often gets downvoted and closed.

We justify downvotes as a way to encourage better questions. But a new poster doesn't know this. The user feels unwelcome and doesn't come back. I often feel that a courteous explanation of why the question doesn't fit our site and restraint on downvotes would improve this.

Here is an example question of a homework-like question that was closed with downvotes. I don't feel this poster should necessarily be discouraged. He should be encouraged to reframe his question so it fits the physics site better. That might not fit his needs - he might be looking for someone to solve the problem for him. If so, he is free to look elsewhere. Or he might ask again in a way that we accept. Unitary operator corresponding to Galilean transformations

Duplicate answers are a problem. Closing duplicates does keep us from having lots of duplicates. This does have benefits.

But answers more than a few days old don't get votes. I don't believe many people read them. When I add an answer to an old question it rarely ever gets a vote. When I link an old question to a new one (because it's a duplicate or related or relevant), the linked question seldom gets votes.

When a new poster asks a question and it is closed as a duplicate, it can be discouraging. Particularly when the duplicate answers at an expert level, and the OP is a beginner.

I don't know how to best handle this.

Downvoting and closing questions that could be answered. This is similar to duplicates. Some questions get closed too hastily. There are some common reasons for this.

The question contains a mistake or misconception. Or the poster is too confused or new to physics to pose his question clearly.

This is often interpreted as the poster being too ignorant or hostile to physics to understand the answer. There is no point to answering.

This is a valid concern. We get many such posters. Some are religious. Some genuinely confuse physics with movie special effects. Some have their own homemade physics theories and cannot be convinced that anything else is right.

But other posters are just confused. A clear explanation would be of real benefit.

Some posters just pose their question wrong. We only address questions about mainstream physics. A question like "Why can't I go faster than light?" may well get an answer. But "Suppose I go faster than light. Would time go backwards?" smacks of a personal theory and/or poor understanding. It is likely to get closed.

More thought before downvoting and closing these would help.

Update on questions that could be answered

Here are some questions that illustrate what I mean.

If you could zero out your momentum, could you travel faster than the speed of light

This is obviously one of the lowest quality questions. The poster had heard something ridiculous and wanted an explanation. Most of the responses were in line with that. But though the poster was not familiar with physics, he was a reasonable person and was willing to listen. Giving a straightforward polite response that this is nonsense was helpful. He learned from it.

Special Relativity and Simultaneity and Movement

This poster has a better understanding of physics. He is learning special relativity (SR). Like many students, he is finding the concepts confusing. He sees what appears to be an absurd implication of SR and asks why it isn't so. This is a perfectly reasonable question right up our alley. If he had worded it differently, it would have been answered and maybe even up voted. People were hasty to down vote because they thought the poster expected silly implications. They were hasty to close as an inappropriate duplicate.

Is the Multiverse just a new religion?

This one is dubious. Many religious posters have the idea that truth comes from God, and physics disagrees with this truth. They are often unwilling to listen to ungodly answers. Such posts are downvoted and closed almost as a knee jerk.

You can see that this poster is somewhat sceptical of physics and has some misconceptions. Still he doesn't sound utterly convinced that physics is hogwash. I would have been willing to explain that the many-worlds interpretation is a speculative thought, something that might be true. If we find evidence, we will be more convinced. This makes it different from religion. This means physics isn't as unreasonable as he had thought.

He might have listened, and he might not. But as is, he deleted his question. I would be surprised if we ever see him again. His take surely must be that he asked what he considered a reasonable question. He was shouted down. Physicists are unreasonable and physics is hogwash.

The common thread is that a more tolerant response benefits the posters. It fulfills the mission of the site. It counteracts the reputation the physics site has built of being elitist.

Are time crystals real?

Here is one more, a video that shows how Don Lincoln of Fermilab handled one such issue. I wouldn't necessarily answer like this. But it is a lot of fun and clearly explains the misconceptions and the real ideas.

  • 8
    "We justify down votes as a way to encourage better questions." Not really, no. The justification for downvotes is as a content-rating mechanism. If they "encourage" anything, they encourage the system not to show poorly-received questions to users who are browsing the list of questions. "[A] new poster doesn't know this. [Thus, the] user feels unwelcome and doesn't come back." I tend to read this as "new users who come to our site and ask low-quality questions feel unwelcome and don't want to come back", and I very much want to say in response: "mission accomplished". Mar 10 at 6:48
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    "New posters don't know our rules about what we answer and what we close. They don't know our preferences to how we like questions to be posed." I fundamentally agree with this, and I think this is what needs to be fixed. The site needs to do a better job of communicating what its expectations are—both to new users (most critically), but also to any/all users with the privileges to close questions. The preferences and rules are both communicated exceptionally poorly. The site tour is great, but it could be a lot better, and built-in, on-page guidance would be even better. Mar 10 at 6:49
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    Wikipedia isn't exactly an inviting community to new contributors, but that works really well for them, since their focus is on high-quality content and getting more viewers. Why wouldn't the same model work for us? It's been working nicely for us for the past decade or so. There's a big difference between being elitist and being toxic. Stack Overflow has always been elitist, in the sense that there's a huge barrier to entry, and that's entirely by design, because good content is harder to create than mere content. I agree it's harmful to "slam the newb" simply because they're new. @tets Mar 10 at 10:29
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    @CodyGray - Wikipedia is to all intents & purposes, read-only for 99.9% of the population, including me. Had a look once, barrier to entry too high for me to bother trying to grok it all. SO isn't all of SE, in fact it's one bit I almost never look at because I've no clue what they're talking about ;) I tend towards the computers but not coding sites, plus some 'arts with tech aspects'. I consider myself a skilled computer operator, I don't fiddle with the nuts & bolts.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 10 at 10:36
  • 1
    @CodyGray - We will have to deal with these problems until we get new posters who read before posting, If they are not posting what we want to read, we can still let them know without ruining their day or making them sorry they visited our site. I do spend time and effort at the site. It makes me feel a bit of ownership. But it is a public site. I don't feel like doing someone's homework for them, but I can tell them that politely. I don't want to stop them from looking for that kind of answer online. I want them not to do it again here.
    – mmesser314
    Mar 10 at 17:41
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    Downvoting is discouraging by design. It is an indication to go back and review what was produced because there was a problem with it. If downvotes were encouraging, then that would defeat the entire purpose.
    – Travis J
    Mar 10 at 18:17
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    "We will have to deal with these problems until we get new posters who read before posting." Unfortunately, that appears to be true. However, this is what's great about downvotes: we only have to deal with these problems a limited number of times because after enough downvotes, the users who don't read before posting get blocked from posting by the system. I've no problem with making people who don't read feel sorry for having visited the site. Where I have a problem is that we don't currently provide the info we want users to read in a sufficiently accessible way, so we have some blame. Mar 11 at 12:09
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    @CodyGray I disagree that being an uninviting community is working well for Wikipedia. The contribution process is so politicized that I gave up on contributing to it long ago. And because that process deters all but the most agenda-driven contributors, there are huge problems with bias. There has been plentiful criticism of Wikipedia due to its bias... anyone curious can do their own research. I try to steer clear of it these days even as a reference. One thing's for certain: it's now too big to fail. (Sorry for the off-topic rant. Couldn't resist.)
    – Mentalist
    Mar 14 at 2:15
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    "When a new poster asks a question and it is closed as a duplicate, it can be discouraging. Particularly when the duplicate answers at an expert level, and the OP is a beginner." If beginners can ask a question, it should have beginner-level answers. If they're missing, write one yourself, or offer a bounty. If you know that a canonical has a beginner-level answer that is under-appreciated, mention it in comments when dupe-closing. Mar 14 at 23:01
  • "Some posters just pose their question wrong. We only address questions about mainstream physics. A question like "Why can't I go faster than light?" may well get an answer. But "Suppose I go faster than light. Would time go backwards?" smacks of a personal theory and/or poor understanding. It is likely to get closed." - So, close the latter as a duplicate of the former. The best answer to someone who has an impossible question on a flawed hypothetical, is an explanation of the flaw. Mar 14 at 23:04
  • @Tetsujin even with "wiki" in the name, I suspect most readers of Wikipedia nowadays would not even have it occur to them that it can be edited - and most of the rest would want to do things like edit the page about dogs to ask whether Rover's condition is serious enough to go to the vet. (which is a big part of why they have a page protection system.) That said, I agree with Mentalist that the site has huge problem with bias, particularly WRT its "reliable sourcing" policy. Mar 14 at 23:07

40 answers and counting, so I won't rehash what's been said, and sorry if my point has already been covered and I missed it.

There's a reputation problem on many small sites, but it isn't due to the design of the reputation system. For reputation to serve its purpose, people need to vote. The majority of the benefit of the Q&A knowledge, and the voting that sorts it, is for people finding the information in a search. They can't vote.

All of the voting is done by site users who have at least minimal reputation, generally meaning they have done some posting that was well-received by the community.

That's all great in theory. But many small sites have very little participation by users with voting privileges. Few of these people visit regularly. Of those who do, few bother to vote.

It becomes a vicious circle, where sites get fewer answers because investing the time to write good answers isn't rewarding on those sites. Lack of interest in writing answers and fewer answers by others means less reason for regulars to visit the site often.

For new contributors, it takes so long, and so many posts, to build the reputation to fully participate, that few continue to do so. Of the few who do, even fewer build the rep for community moderation. So small sites atrophy as participation by experienced users wanes and they are not replaced by involved new users.

Reputation plays a key role, but it doesn't work on many small sites because so few people vote. Tweaking the algorithms won't fix it, and radically changing it corrupts its purpose. It's a user behavior problem, not a reputation system problem.

  • 1
    Would smaller sites really thrive if there were no reputation thresholds (or much lower ones)? With a small community it still wouldn't be worthwhile to write good answers because still few people would see them and the vicious circle would continue. Sure, you could try to tweak the system a bit but fundamentally, small sites will always fight an uphill battle. Free reputation for all would probably not improve anything. Mar 11 at 22:13
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    @Trilarion, changing the reputation system wouldn't be the solution. During beta, there are lower thresholds, and they work while there's an active core of users. People can accumulate rep an order of magnitude less than on big sites, but that is still enough that with subject matter interest and a sense of community, people find it rewarding. Sites retain the reduced thresholds after graduating. But if the site doesn't grow to a self-sustaining critical mass of users, it slowly atrophies through core user attrition. Rep is the face of the problem, but the cause is a people problem.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 11 at 22:34

I'm a long-time member of Stack Overflow and many other sites on the Stack Exchange Network. In fact, I think I joined before even the trilogy, when Stack Overflow stood alone. And I've never cared a jot about rep.

I like seeing the little green flag which means that someone somewhere found something I wrote useful. I always click to check which post received an upvote. (It's often something I wrote yonks ago off the top of my head with no effort involved.) It gives me warm fuzzy feelings, seeing that green flag. The actual number attached to it is completely irrelevant. Certainly I have no idea what my reputation on any given site is without checking, and I'd like it to be made less obvious.

(I do care about having enough rep to edit posts, because I do a lot of editing. I actively enjoy proofreading.)

What is really great about our reputation & privilege system? What do you think makes it great, and why is it worth keeping?

Allowing basic moderation abilities on the basis of experience with the system and value provided to the community makes sense, and rep is a reasonable proxy for that. Perhaps some people also find it rewarding in some way? I cannot claim to understand that.

What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?

It's too big a deal. It's in our face all the time, and people are encouraged to chase it. See The problem with extrinsic motivation for more. I cannot imagine that any of the truely great contributions to Stack Exchange (https://stackoverflow.com/a/11227902 comes to mind) were made by someone chasing rep points.


A frustration for me (I currently have ~1300 reputation on Stack Overflow) is that when I want to edit posts, I usually get an error saying the review queue is full. I can't do anything about this because I don't have sufficient reputation to review things in the queue. I usually avoid making edits as a result.

Most of my edits are obvious changes (spelling, fixing broken links). I think it's sad that I've been contributing to Stack Overflow for over 11 years and am unable to make these simple changes.


This is quite a late answer, sorry, but I think the initial premise is wrong; the question is wrong (at least, for Stack Overflow, which is still, I understand, the biggest site in the SE network -- bigger than all the others added together).

SO shouldn't be trying to gain new users. It should be trying to grow the number of programmers on the site. I realise that this is a very similar thing, but I think it's an important distinction and recognising it may throw some light on the problem.

First, there's the 'growth' word. Attracting new users is part of growth, but it also recognises that retaining existing users is also important.

Then there's the 'Programmers' part. We don't want new users -- half the posts I close are off topic for SO. We specifically want to attract programmers. And, mostly, we want (trigger alert) professional programmers.

I've heard it repeated often that SO is unfriendly to new users. I think that anyone working in this community is probably not a snowflake and a couple of rude comments aren't enough to dissuade people. And, the learning curve is ok for programmers because we're programmers.

Having said that, I think the privilege system is broken. The system currently encourages answering duplicates and off-topic questions rather than flagging or downvoting them. That should change. And, I agree with previous posts that reputation doesn't demonstrate good moderation capabilities. Though, length of tenure might. I've been here ten years, and I know how to moderate, but I can't edit a tag wiki without having it reviewed first, which is a bit silly.

I'd remove rep penalties for downvotes, and I'd add a rep penalty for answering a question that is later marked as a dupe, and double that for answering an off-topic question.

I'd give more moderation rights to people based on tenure, but only if requested. We can decide for ourselves if we want that privilege.

  • 1
    "The system currently encourages answering duplicates and off-topic questions rather than flagging or downvoting them." See Dharman's answer (and their other answer) and my answer and others.
    – starball
    Mar 12 at 8:21
  • 3
    maybe try to think bigger than just SO? This is MSE after all. And do you really mean professional programmers? Or this an XY, and you really want people who can ask good questions as defined in How to Ask?
    – starball
    Mar 12 at 8:25
  • 5
    I'm not a programmer, and quite a few sites I frequent involve no programming whatsoever. Mar 12 at 9:05
  • 1
    Sorry, my mistake. I do use some of the other SE sites myself. In this case, I'm talking specifically about SO of course. And yeah, I really mean professional programmers. SO is primarily used by professionals for professional purposes. I'd be happy to pay for this service, if we could keep all the non-pro stuff away. And, the SO survey indicates that most users are professionals, so I guess a lot of the industry would feel similarly. Mar 13 at 22:36
  • People answering questions are trying to be helpful. Removing rep gained from answering dupes etc would be fine, but it's unduly draconian to punish the repondent for the laziness of the querent. As a rank amateur I agree that SO itself arguably has enough users, and needs not more but better ones, i.e. professionals
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 15 at 14:22

Users without up/downvoting privileges should be able to vote up and down on answers to their own questions

I find it odd that users who haven't yet unlocked the up/downvote privileges—typically new users—has no voting ability on answers to their own question, but has to earn reputation in order to do this. I have no problem in even allowing downvotes in this specific case (to mark an answer seeming to be not helpful).

  • 4
    I endorse this, but only as a package deal with removing the accept system completely. Mar 15 at 20:27
  • 6
    There might be a small inflation problem. And spammers and voting rings would have a field day (the required effort is much lower (just create two accounts, plagiarise some questions and answers, and start upvoting). We saw what happened with ChatGPT when it replaced mindless googling and mindless copy-pasting some search result). Mar 15 at 21:01

Speaking about reputation without speaking about voting (the main source of reputation) will be the opposite of intelligence. All the woes caused by reputation that people complain about are caused by our voting culture. One of the most damaging behaviors of our voting culture is penalizing and discouraging downvotes. Users should be able to vote their votes without worries. Negative feedback is more important when there's so much noise, so let’s fix that by removing all disincentives on downvotes: downvoting isn't a separate privilege; it is a single one with upvoting, the voting privilege; upvoting cost nothing, so downvoting should also cost nothing; downvoting makes a post total score to be reduced by one. It should also happen with reputation; the amount of reputation gained by an upvote is the same than a downvote.

Once you implement the first two, track the behavior of the ratio between upvotes and downvotes between users with the voting privilege and users without it (include both anonymous and registered ones). That would address some of the most egregious behaviors of the voting culture, and help towards creating a better voting culture.

The third is mostly aimed towards creating actual disincentives that the voting culture caused: post as often as possible. These three in tandem will steer the communities towards more productive behaviors and reduce further damage.

Those actions however, do not do anything to address the damage already done. I have a couple of ideas:

  • More pruning: questions that are asked frequently (by the number of questions that are closed as duplicate against it), should be soft limited to 10 and hard limited to 50. Add some sort of expert queue so that users with knowledge about the topic (make it a badge privilege) can evaluate why users aren't finding the target post and take actions to make it either, easier to find or harder to misinterpret. Allow those users to see the deleted linked posts even if they don't have 10k yet. The limits should be enforced by the roomba and all posts deleted with by this should have the same effect as if it was deleted before the 60 days rule on reputation. How will this fix reputation: this will disincentivize and revert back the damage done by answering duplicate questions.

  • Questions locked that are also closed by unclear, too broad or opinion based should have the same treatment deleted posts. All reputation gains of the question and associated answers should be invalidated. Locked posts are usually reserved to posts that would otherwise be deleted, so let’s make sure they have the same treatment as a deleted post without the actual deletion.

Those are the most lowhanging fruits that would disincentivize certain undesired behaviors that are done for reputation points. Others will take more time or require a deeper change of culture, like incentivizing edits to older posts, reducing the effects of popularity on voting behavior, and incentivizing posts that demonstrated both deep knowledge about the topic and accessibility in the presentation.

  • "Once you implement the first two, track the behavior of the ratio between upvotes and downvotes between users with the voting privilege and users without it (include both anonymous and registered ones)." I address this in my own answer, BTW. We don't have accurate stats right now because users in the 15-125 rep range get their up-arrow-clicks counted as "upvotes" and their down-arrow-clicks counted as "feedback". But last I checked (with the "moderation tools"), "votes" on Stack Overflow are more than 90% positive, close to 95%, while "feedback" is only about 60% positive. Mar 14 at 21:14
  • "questions that are asked frequently (by the number of questions that are closed as duplicate against it), should be soft limited to 10 and hard limited to 50." Do you mean to have additional duplicates automatically deleted when closed, or just what? I think there is a problem whereby new duplicates of a question might be noticeably higher quality than existing closed ones. There's also a huge problem on Stack Overflow with duplicates simply going unrecognized and not closed as such. Mar 14 at 21:16
  • But yes, I absolutely am in support of reversing reputation gains from old, historical-locked questions. Mar 14 at 21:17
  • @KarlKnechtel "Do you mean to have additional duplicates automatically deleted when closed, or just what?" not when closed but regularly, like roomba, to limit the tail end and prune the lowest scored ones. The soft limit is more about informing close voters that the target question has already many duplicates closed against it, so they have double check whenever the target is valid.
    – Braiam
    Mar 15 at 14:49

Not working: minimum rep to add comments

This has been broken forever. The way people want to enter a complex system like Stack Overflow is by dipping a toe in the water: making a tiny contribution and seeing what happens. The obvious way to do that is to add a comment on a question or answer: "I have a tiny bit of information that may be of use".

But the current system prevents that. It basically says "The only way you can participate here is by taking big, bold steps and doing them right".

It sucks. And since everyone who participates in these discussions has long since passed that minimum threshold, we forget how bad it was.

  • 7
    It does suck, but comment moderation sucks harder. (I may be one of the people moderating comments, but I recently watched a friend struggle to get started on SE and she only made it to 20 rep or so.)
    – Laurel
    Mar 15 at 1:44
  • 5
    While I agree that comment moderation is a pain (and that folks often misuse comments for things that should be posted as answers or new questions, or sometimes not posted at all), I can see your point that the site doesn't really offer a simple "entry point" unless you know how to ask a good question or post a good answer.
    – V2Blast
    Mar 15 at 2:11
  • 3
    That said, users are able to suggest edits even if they don't yet have the privilege to edit directly (and on most SE network sites, they can even do so without registering an account), which does seem to partly address this issue – especially since the main purpose of comments is to either suggest improvements to the question/answer, or request clarification from the author about it. Suggested edits can be used to make those improvements themselves (which, generally, is what folks should be doing for issues that they can fix on their own without changing the meaning of the post).
    – V2Blast
    Mar 15 at 2:11
  • Editing an existing answer is a pretty different path to adding a comment or an answer, and I would guess is even more daunting for a newcomer. Imagine turning up at your first day on the job, and being told, you can't give feedback on someone else's work, but you can just go right ahead and make changes if you want. Mar 15 at 3:36
  • 4
    @V2Blast "Suggested edits can be used to make those improvements themselves (which, generally, is what folks should be doing for issues that they can fix on their own without changing the meaning of the post)" Overwhelmingly IMX, when new users make these sorts of comments-in-the-answer-section, they want to ask OP to clarify a particular point, or add a specific piece of missing information, etc. IOW, edits that only OP could possibly make. If it were something they could suggest as an edit themselves, they would presumably just answer as if that edit had been applied. Mar 15 at 3:50

What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?

It's not broken in the sense "needs to be fixed", but something that could maybe be modified/extended. I'm talking about janitorial services. I participate in some stacks, where, for some of them, it's more about reading, and, for some others, about answering/reading. But, for most of them, I'd like to be able to clean what can be, and put some extra efforts in it.

In order to do that, I need to gain reputation, and I can't always do that on that particular stack. So, I see many things I could improve/correct without being a diamond mod or "trusted" user (of this stack). But I am a trusted one on others. If I can edit some posts, VTC/VTD because I'm trusted, why would that trust stop at the border of another stack?

I'd like to think and talk about moderation rights' portability. Not for all privileges, but some basic ones (to be determined). The ones you can use to clean some mess, to improve a post by correcting some spelling/typo/grammar. At the moment, on some stacks, I have to go through some process and steps. It's a fair and logical process. But doing so gives more work to the "cleaning team" in the review queue. Maybe we could gain in "productivity" if a trusted user on one (or more) stack(s) could gain access to more janitorial tools.

In accordance with procedures to be laid down by SE, for some duties/tools, it could be immediately, or after a kind of probation period, or a number of duties achieved or a lowered thresold for reputation, or even a combination of some of those.

  • 3
    Wikipedia has a waiting period and a certain number of edits (4 days and 10 edits for "autoconfirmed users". 30 days and 500 edits for "extended confirmed users") to prevent drive-by edits, etc. It only applies to a few pages, like Justin Bieber and Arab–Israeli conflict, respectively. Mar 16 at 15:58
  • "If I can edit some posts, VTC/VTD because I'm trusted, why would that trust stop at the border of another stack?" Some edits, close reasons and deletion decisions will require subject matter expertise. For example, I wouldn't want the top users of Math Overflow coming to Stack Overflow and VTC questions about Excel formulas because they think it's "not programming". Mar 17 at 23:32
  • @KarlKnechtel: very true indeed. That's why I'm really walking on eggshells here and mention only this as an option. Of course, there's room or not for portability as every stack could have its own specific rules or area of knowledge.
    – OldPadawan
    Mar 18 at 2:11

And one more answer:

For me reputation points are mostly gamification and that has only very limited value. It's something attached to a user and may incentivize users to do more of the "right" things and less of the "wrong" things. I mostly treat content as detached from its creator and try to value it based on its own merits. The score of the content gives me a hint how good a certain piece of content could be. That's all I need (want) to know.

However, as a means to control behavior it's working okayish. The following aspects could maybe be tweaked.

  • Moderation privileges (maybe the rep thresholds are not optimal, you could play around with these thresholds if only you had a way to measure how well people are performing in moderation)
  • Asking privileges (ultimately the capacity of the network to curate, improve and finally answer new content is limited, so the asking privilege might be tied to positive prior interactions like editing, commenting, ...)
  • Rep on questions and rep on answers was made equal some years ago, but it was never evaluated if this was actually beneficial to quality or rather decreased the value of the content. There is no intrinsic requirement for this rep to be the same, so maybe play around more with it, if you have a meaningful quantification how it affects content quality.
  • Reward people for finding duplicates (but I have given up hope because that idea is super-old and discussed at length without being even experimented upon.).

But all these things might also work without reputation. For example the editing privilege could simply depend on a certain number of approved edits, the review privilege could simply depend on a certain number of approved reviews, .... Reputation mingles all that together into a single number and that is in my eyes its greatest weakness. I would like to de-emphasize reputation more in the future and instead control on quality as the central topic of every action on the network. Always ask yourself: "how does this improve the overall quality of the content". That's the right mindset. Of course keeping a sufficient large user base is part of the endeavor. Somebody needs to ask those really good questions that others then answer.

One of the strongest points of reputation is that you can lose it (via downvotes on created content). That influences behavior a lot and should be kept additionally to the downvotes.

Maybe related: What does Stack Overflow Inc. actually see as purpose of the site. "We ... want users to be able to participate on our site ..." doesn't really say how users should be able to participate on the site. Would for example just reading be a kind of participation?

  • 4
    With edits - I wonder if parallel paths would be possible. Either someone who does a lot of good edits, or has an understanding of the site (reputation based) ought to be able to do edits. This might also help SO's edit queue issues, especially if the former group is allowed to do major edits unattended. Mar 10 at 8:25
  • With regards to the asking privileges, I would rather see someone ask a question rather than goin in the wild to edit other posts or to place their problems in comments. There is also no way to measure quality of edits and comments, aside from a minor amount of rep and hidden comment votes.
    – Travis J
    Mar 10 at 18:07
  • This quote sums up a lot of issues the exchange faces in my opinion, "the capacity of the network to curate, improve and finally answer new content". Content creation is the pinnacle of actions. Curation cannot improve the overall state of content in the same fashion as creation, and I am curious why it is more common to go in the direction of bonzai rather than forest; especially when every tree is geotagged and indexed.
    – Travis J
    Mar 10 at 18:12
  • "Asking privileges (ultimately the capacity of the network to curate, improve and finally answer new content is limited, so the asking privilege might be tied to positive prior interactions like editing, commenting, ..." and who will review those edit suggestions and flags? (speaking of limited human resources in the nework)
    – starball
    Mar 21 at 23:15
  • @starball You're right in that somebody must do it but I'd argue that evaluation an edit is less work than evaluating a whole question where you have to check that it's on topic, clear, complete, not a duplicate, ... Assuming that everyone can ask a high quality, new question is kind of asking for too much. This is not a small task. Mar 22 at 6:41
  • @TravisJ you're saying that in a place where we nip duplicate trees?
    – starball
    Mar 22 at 6:50
  • @starball - You are asking me like I am not familiar with duplicates? It's not that we don't need to cull these duplicate sets, it's that there is an abnormally large amount of focus on removing content rather than creating it. Look at what got all this started, a group of content creators. How many of them are left?
    – Travis J
    Mar 22 at 8:32

What works - it works extremely well in all the obvious ways that you already know about. It was developed as alternative to forums, where valuable information is buried under a huge tide of noise. As a general principle, it does what it's designed to do, which is foreground good questions and good answers to same, and occlude the bad ones.

Bear that in mind while I say this next bit.

What's broken - humans are animals. If other people like something, you are predisposed to like it too. If they dislike it, you are predisposed to dislike it. No amount of intelligence or education makes you more immune to this tendency than any other human - or animal.

There's a snowball effect. Often vaguely good posts get rewarded way out of proportion, especially if the user posting them already has high rep.

As I don't want to disparage the efforts of other users, I'll use one of my own answers as an example:


Why, in old movies and TV series, do they always use such extremely exaggerated wheel turns when driving a car?

My answer

In old cars you had to turn the wheel a lot further, because there was no power steering. For a feel of that, push a car when the engine is dead and try to steer it without engine assistance (it's hard!).

Also the actors would have to act driving with no idea what the screen behind them was doing, and often still do.

There are other answers that are a lot better - go into more detail about old filming techniques, describe how power steering and old cars work more accurately, and even one where someone went and asked a living 1950s actor that they knew. (one of those answers was from a user with higher rep than me but answered 3 days later, so admittedly there are other factors at play).

This snowball effect is not a particularly big deal - there's no way a user will start to rack up points without making some posts which are actually good. The snowball won't pick up lots of snow unless it had already picked up enough to start rolling down the hill. I honestly believe everyone who has rep of 100k plus has that much because they know something useful (note: I am not in that category and don't ever expect to be).

However, the snowball effect is a big deal in the opposite direction. As the question observes, asking an acceptable question these days is really hard. I'm not a newbie on my main site (History SE) but I still consider myself one on SO, even though I made my first post there 9 years ago. If I manage to ask a question that isn't closed, it will still usually not receive any upvotes - and part of needing to ask a question is being unable to always recognise it when answers to other questions tell you what you needed to know.

Looking at other (real) new users' questions, they often get a lot of downvotes before their question is closed. In other words they get much less slack that someone with lots of rep would get. You'd better make your first question perfect, or you're screwed.

For that reason, I strongly believe that for new users (not me, real new users) should have a reputation 'floor' on their questions. I'm aware that a user's rep can't fall below zero. I am saying that a new user's questions should never receive a score below zero, and they shouldn't receive notifications telling them that people are downvoting their question. And if a new user actually manages to ask a question which isn't downvoted or closed, they should get an automatic upvote. They won't stick around if their only reward is a zero - better than minus whatever, but still.

If a question is bad enough that it needs to be closed, then there is a mechanism to do that. If a user is trolling, again there are mechanisms to handle that - flagging and deleting questions, destroying user accounts. Neither needs to involve a horrible negative number shoved in a new user's face. (Comments are also a problem with new user's questions, but probably out of scope for this topic).

Second problem with rep system - cultural biases. I went into this one at length here. Just to add - this is mainly a problem at non-technical stacks like History. This is part of the bigger problem that the non-technical stacks don't receive as much attention as they should.

Third problem - you are not a gadget. This part is too radical for SO to accept, but I'm going to say it anyway. SO is a company which relies on the free work of very talented people in order to make millions. The real problem with rep is, ultimately, that it's meaningless internet points - this is people's only reward for creating huge wealth for SO's owners and shareholders. If you really want to make it sustainable and better, reward those 100k-plus users - financially. They are the people who, by moral right, own Stack Overflow.

  • 6
    That's a big no from me. You are making post scores about users. A post score should reflect the quality of the post, not whether the user who asked it is new or not. Imagine that I open a new account and post a question: should it be treated differently than if I did so from my main account?
    – Dharman
    Mar 9 at 18:33
  • 3
    If you want to be rewarded, make yourself available on freelancing site and offer your services there. The whole reason behind the SE network is that users can share unbiased knowledge for free and receive it for free.
    – Dharman
    Mar 9 at 18:35
  • I am saying it is immoral for someone to make millions off work that other people do for free. Full stop, no qualifications, no exceptions. You clearly don't agree, which is fine. Re shill accounts, non-issue because methods already exist to detect them... and what would your motive be? To get the authentic new-user-getting-dumped-on experience?
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 9 at 19:03
  • One other thing re financial rewards - I am not and never shall be in the category of 100k plus users who I said should be paid. Nor did I suggest that users should have to pay to view se content - se has no problem making money without doing that!
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 9 at 20:28
  • 3
    They used to award unicorn paintings for 100k. A lot of users appreciated that, not because of its monetary value, but because of at least the recognition of contribution. However, the current trend here doesn't seem to be in the direction of rewarding content creators.
    – Travis J
    Mar 9 at 22:39
  • 1
    Re shill accounts, non-issue because methods already exist to detect them -> this is only used to detect multiple accounts that are used to break rules, e.g. to do things that you couldn't do with a single account. There is no problem with me having multiple accounts and asking questions from either of them, as long as I don't "cross the streams" so to speak. Mar 10 at 5:15
  • 2
    Re "Reward ... users ...financially": The financially incentive is already perverse today (it is indirect): Paid homework (a sort of corruption), CV stuffing with paid-for reputation points, purchased accounts, voting rings, etc. Mar 10 at 10:23
  • 1
    I heartily agree with this… right up to the end, then you lost me. I'm all for a less toxic experience. I don't really think the remunerative part of the post belongs to the rest of the answer.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 10 at 10:42

I'll offer my thoughts as a new-ish contributor, who's slowly contributed maybe a dozen or so Q's and A's over a span of several years.

What about reputation is working to make me a good contributor:

  • The existence of a reputation system. When I've thought of an unasked question, or found a question I can answer, the carrot of increasing my rep does motivate me to do more research, pay attention to the approachability of my prose, etc.
  • The +10/-2 up/down vote disparity. I don't have the rep to see downvote totals on any sites yet, but I can infer from seeing notifications like "+38 rep from [answer]" that even my good contributions get a fair few drive-by downvotes. The smaller rep impact of downvotes makes this a lot easier to not take personally, and doesn't change the fact that I'm still plenty incentivized to delete a net-negative voted contribution (which I have done before.)
  • The association bonus. It's much easier to get comfortable with a new site when I'm able to ease into contributing there by leaving helpful comments. I do wish that comment votes generated notifications; I understand why they don't generate rep, but I'd like to get the feedback on whether I'm leaving helpful comments without having to remember to go back to the question to look later.

What about reputation is not working to make me a good contributor:

  • Low rep gain from niche answers. I'm getting far enough in my life to have some expertise on some subjects, and I do occasionally go tag spelunking to find niche questions I can answer with that expertise. This is probably the most value I can offer SE as a contributor, and it's the thing I get the least rep gain from doing. It takes a lot of valuable time watching a tag to find an appropriate question, and if I write a good answer it might get an accept and 1 or 2 upvotes.
  • The HNQ reputation effect. The vast majority of the rep I've earned on most sites has come from answering HNQ questions when I get lucky and catch one that doesn't already have the answer I'm thinking of. This incentivizes me to use SE casually, checking HNQ every so often like I'm scrolling social media. I just discovered, after writing this answer, that there is a "filtered questions" view on the homepage which partially addresses this problem from the question discoverability side; I'm certainly going to give that a try. (It's not exactly prominent, it appears above the self-promo banner on the page and is hidden when logged out. By the time I started logging in regularly, I'd already tuned this part of the page out as self-advertisement.)
  • 1
    "and the lack of a cross-network home page other than HNQ" stackexchange.com? "if I could simply have a home page with a feed of tag searches from multiple sites." RSS feed?
    – starball
    Mar 14 at 17:06
  • @starball huh, closer inspection of the main page when logged in reveals there is a tab which is basically exactly what i described. editing this answer now
    – Willa
    Mar 14 at 17:11
  • 1
    I'm mostly in agreement, except the point about up/downvote disparity. If the system told you that you got +30 rep, you wouldn't know whether it was +3/-0 or +4/-1 votes, so you still wouldn't take the downvote personally unless you went to the question and expanded vote counts (requires 1k rep). I do think that reaching a net -1 on a Q or A shouldn't count as much against a user as a net +1 helps, though, yes. Mar 14 at 21:02


In general, the reputation system might be doing a good work as the large user base is using the system properly and most of those having a high reputation have fairly earned it. Unfortunately, there are a few that are taking advantage of some system cracks, like neglected tags or some sites with low participation or have found how to game the system.

The reputation system might be benefit from being analysed by using a systems approach, i.e., by using a framework / model like Viable System Model (VSM).


Improve the contingency / correction measures to better palliate the perverse incentive effects, better help to avoid game the system, and avoid usage vices.

Add more visibility to helpful information for the user and community explicitly pointed to facilitate and require a standard (minimal) self-regulation / self-organization.

Better align the reputation system to the welcoming, helping goals, participation and community health goals.

Using the VSM, the reputation system might be seen as a concrete component that interacts with several conceptual systems of this recursive analysis model.

In VSM, the "system 1" refers to autonomous recursive components. In the case of the Stack Exchange (SE) Network, each user could be seen as a system 1 who is part of a community that also could be seen as a system 1. Each community is part of the SE network, and that could be seen as the system 1 in focus.

The core concept of the reputation system is that reputation points are earned by each SE user as the result of their interactions with other SE users through the SE software. Unfortunately, many users and apparently many communities too, don't look to have the requisite variety to achieve the autoregulation "standards". In other words, the environment and the tasks to be done are too complex in relation to capacity installed understood as the skills, knowledge, being able to participate, willing to participate.

On the other hand, there is also an alignment problem as not all users are willing to participate according to the goals and policies, but they still found ways to earn reputation. Sometimes this is referred to as "game the system".

When a user is suspended, their reputation is temporarily set to 1, but once the suspension finish the reputation is restored completely. The suspension records aren't public.

There are automatic and manual applied bans to restrict specific privileges. The ban records aren't public.

The access to higher privileges is merely based on reputation points, and it doesn't consider suspensions and bans.

There are some pages that show aggregated data about users, i.e., new users, editors, voters, and moderators, and there are leaderboards, but there isn't any clear guidance, and apparently there is a lack of management knowledge and skills (requisite variety), i.e., about how can users as individuals and as community might use the reputation system to take control and policy decisions as individual (self management) and as community (self organization).

Reputation system points

IMO, ideally the reputation system, besides tracking the current points, might do a better representation of trustiness than nowadays do, if it also tracks an indicator about give the community parameter about how the user behavior is aligned to the community values, let’s call it the "karma" indicator. The karma indicator might be calculated based on user participation in tasks that doesn't give reputation points, but contributes to the community like comments, votes, etc. will make earn karma, by the other hand getting spam flags, abuse flags, suspensions, that some way go against the community will make that the user loose karma.

The karma points might be used for instead of the reputation privileges, i.e., to participate in the per-site meta and in the a site chatroom for new users. Also at a certain level it might earn some "one-day pass" that can be given to new users to allow them participate in the per-site meta and in a site chatroom for helping new users to learn the ropes of the site.


Flag for Moderator Attention and CM escalation process

The automatic algedonic (pleasure and pain) channel is responsible of handling the notifications about the good and bad expections. The reputation system triggers inbox notifications or emails about achieving milestones that are related to earning a priveling or badge.

The replies to flags and suspensions are other notifitications of the overall system that should be more clearly related to the reputation system. At this time only the user and the moderators of the correspondig sites might see them in the user profile but they aren't not clearly linked to the reputation system. The closer might be user community moderator process that have a nominee score card showing some metrics and that might block the participation of users for having suspensions.

The reputation systems doesn't have warnings levels and there are important things that are not throwing notifications that help / guide users and communities to better self regulate / organize.


After the site graduation process, the reputation system doesn't track / recognize commitment.

The reputation system incentives to interact with the users from other communities and with the environment are minimal. I think that the only incentive in the reputation system are badges earned for views through shared links.

The reputation system incentives have shown causing undesired effects. Probably it might be qualified as perverse incentive system as in a certain grade, it has caused problems like:

  • very low quality posts being answered and upvoted instead of being downvoted, closed and deleted when they aren't improved,
  • "fastest gun in the west" (be the first to answer to take advantage of the chronological sorting, being seen first),
  • "tactical voting" (to make a post to have a better ranking to another for other reasons than the post content)
  • "balance voting" (to compensate an "unfair" vote)
  • "welcome voting" (to allow the user to post in the per-site meta and or use the chat)...


Sometimes good-intentioned users take advantage of the flexibility of the system to deviate its usage in order to help a user that "deserve it". The recurrence of this might relax the attention and eventually that might opened opportunities for gaming the system.

Meta System Relative to the whole SE Network

The reputation system aggregates reputation across all the sites only in the chat and in s.

https://stackexchange.com/leagues shows the leaderboard for each site showing only the reputation points.

Reputation box

When your fellow users vote up your
questions and answers on a Stack
Exchange site, you generate
reputation. Reputation is a rough
measure of:

  • how much the community trusts
  • your communication skills
  • the quality and relevancy of your
    questions and answers

These friendly reputation leagues
are an informal way of tracking your
reputation within the community on a
particular Stack Exchange.

Reputation is capped at 200 per day,
but remember that bounty awards and
accepted answers are immune to this
daily reputation cap.

It might be helpful that also shows a leaderboard of participation (comments, votes, reviews, participation in per-site meta, participation in the site main chatroom)

Network Wide Policies

All users starts in Meta Stack Exchange with reputation 1 or with the association bonus. That might be fine for certain type of posts, but for posts discussing stuff that might affect all the network it might be convenient to have a better idea of the contribution done across the network without having to individually navigate to the network profile of each user.

Thinking loudly, posts with might show the regular user card (reputation earned in Meta SE only). On posts with might be shown a user card similar to showing the total network earned reputation and a selection of the sites where the user have being participating recently more frequently.

Related answers

Perverse incentives


  • 1
    What is the point of both an image and (HTML formatted) text? Mar 20 at 10:33
  • 4
    @This_is_NOT_a_forum posterity and accessibility Mar 20 at 15:03

It is one of the parts needed to make community moderation work, and that is a really important part. It's also flawed enough that only using reputation for access to mod tools is problematic. It's useful enough as a very, very rough measure of how much someone has participated in a positive way.

It is a fundamentally flawed measure and it won't ever accurately measure knowledge nor moderator ability/qualification. But it's useful enough and I think it would be problematic to try and make it more accurate. I don't think you can get a really accurate measurement anyway, and additional restrictions would likely just make the whole thing more complex, harder to understand and more frustrating. It's useful enough as it is right now.

One huge problem is that on larger sites like SO new posts get so few votes on average that achieving the reputation necessary for participating in community moderation can seem impossible to achieve. A large number of questions and answers simply don't receive any votes at all. I'm not sure how to fix this, but this is a rather large barrier for new users compared to users that started much earlier.

My most controversial opinion on the voting system is that I don't think downvotes are useful enough on questions (please visit this meta post of mine if you want to downvote this idea). My impression is that new voters perceive downvotes and close votes as very hostile. Closing is necessary to keep the site working, but close votes at least carry some more constructive meaning and a chance to fix the question compared to downvotes which pretty much just tell new users that they suck. Downvotes on answers are necessary to ensure the good answers are sorted on top, they don't have the same purpose for questions.

  • 13
    "new voters perceive downvotes and close votes as very hostile" This perception needs to be changed, not the vote system.
    – Dharman
    Mar 9 at 18:15
  • 8
    "downvotes which pretty much just tell new users that they suck" This is absolutely no true. No part of the voting system refers to the person. Upvotes don't mean "you're cool". Downvotes should only be used to rate usefulness of the content, which they do pretty well.
    – Dharman
    Mar 9 at 18:16
  • 8
    @Dharman that's a distinction that new users won't understand, and I don't see any promising way to change that. Mar 9 at 18:22
  • 14
    Heck, I'm not a new user and have been inundated in the rhetoric of "downvotes aren't personal" and all of that... and I still really don't like it. I see it as valuable and important but the content I created is mine. Telling me my house is ugly and a mess isn't insulting me but I'm still going to take it personally.
    – Catija
    Mar 9 at 20:20
  • 3
    "Downvotes on answers are necessary... they don't have the same purpose for questions", yes, yes they do. Downvotes on questions serve the same purpose as those on answers, they indicate a lack of quality and make moderating that lack of quality possible for users. And it also 'sorts' questions of the homepage, and like with answers, downvotes allow votes for deletion to happen.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Mar 10 at 7:51
  • 5
    @Catija Lots of people, including me, have problems with accepting criticism - but that is their problem, not Stack Overflow's. Similarly, learning to accept criticism gracefully - and distinguishing between criticism of self versus criticism of content - is also a personal growth area.
    – Ian Kemp
    Mar 10 at 16:14
  • @IanKemp The problem with a downvote is that it's not really criticism, or at least not effective criticism. It's someone shouting "you(r ideas) suck" out the car window as they drive past. Just like an upvote is the equivalent of applause, a downvote is the equivalent to a boo. And yes, it allows you to "read the room", but (depending on culture & context) I'm not sure there are many who would view getting booed an opportunity to learn to accept criticism gracefully or be a personal growth area.
    – R.M.
    Mar 10 at 16:35
  • 1
    @R.M. Then what is effective criticism? That can work for a Q&A format?
    – Ian Kemp
    Mar 10 at 21:37
  • @IanKemp I'm not claiming to have all the answers. I'm just pointing out that there is a difference between feedback that's intended to help someone improve, and that which is solely intended to berate ... and that which is indistinguishable in information content from that which is intended to berate.
    – R.M.
    Mar 10 at 22:51
  • 2
    Main problem with DV on Qs is that they remain even after the problems have been resolved Mar 11 at 3:40
  • 5
    @R.M. The problem with pointing out differences is that doing so doesn't produce something actionable. The same has been true of the Stack Exchange format since its inception: I've seen the "downvotes are hostile and bad because X" argument too many times to count over the years, yet I honestly cannot think of even one single practical, constructive, actionable alternative that has been proposed. Without an actionable plan to address it, an argument really is just a complaint - and complaining about the same thing ad infinitum isn't useful to anyone. You're welcome to do it, (cont)
    – Ian Kemp
    Mar 11 at 9:49
  • 6
    @R.M. (cont) just be aware that those of us who have been around for a while are really, really, really tired of hearing this complaint, and really, really, really disincentivised to give any credence to those making it. Bring us a solution to the problem you perceive with downvotes, and we'll listen; but don't expect us to care when the 1,000th boy cries wolf.
    – Ian Kemp
    Mar 11 at 9:52
  • @IanKemp For questions close votes are the alternative, to handle most low quality content. We have two systems there right now with overlapping purposes, close votes and down votes. There are some downstream systems that need the downvote signal right now like automatic question bans, so those would need to be handled in a different way. But I don't think the actual Q&A needs question downvotes if you have close votes. You could also make closing (and reopening) easier to compensate. Mar 11 at 9:55
  • 1
    @R.M. Re "The problem with a downvote is that it's not really criticism, or at least not effective criticism. It's someone shouting "you(r ideas) suck" out the car window as they drive past"...., downvotes are necessarily impersonal; they are indicating that a question or answer is not good enough to meet site guidelines/requirements. If you want to place a bizarre interpretation on what downvoting means that's on you, not the downvoting system. Downvoting is a vital component of SE sites. Comments can be personal of course, but not downvotes (excluding the edge case of revenge downvoting).
    – skomisa
    Mar 14 at 18:49
  • 2
    @Dharman "downvotes which pretty much just tell new users that they suck" This is absolutely no true. No part of the voting system refers to the person. Upvotes don't mean "you're cool". Downvotes should only be used to rate usefulness of the content, which they do pretty well." Sure, that's the intent. However, there is nothing you can write, and no font large and bold enough for the message, that would convince new users to see things your way. Putting a negative number next to content will make a large fraction of authors feel personally judged, no matter what. Mar 15 at 3:07

Concur with NeMo in general outline, but I have a slightly different take. I spend 90% of my time on history, so my opinion may be skewed.

I think it might be more useful to group contributions (questions or answers) into a couple of categories where the reputation system works differently.

Bad contributions aren't really affected by reputation scoring - they are dealt with by votes for closure/deletion/moderation. So let's ignore bad contributions.

I think there is a weak correlation between good contributions and reputation. @NeMo identifies some edge cases where upvotes do not indicate optimal answer. I'm not sure what policy implications I take from the gap - I'm not sure I'd go to the effort of changing anything. (see below for additional thoughts)

I think the really interesting case is contributions that need refinement, most especially contributions by new users. I perceive the downvote spiral, and I'm not fond of it. Increasingly I'm finding new contributions by new users which have merit/worth/value, but which don't fully participate in the SE culture or the site culture. The reputation system does not serve this category well.

If I were to offer a suggestion, I'd wonder about broad categories of option (refinement welcome - these are outlines, not fully developed). For questions where "refinement" is the correct intervention, downvotes don't count (or are fractional value). Upvotes count normally. Users are encouraged to edit & contribute. Gamify this - upscale the badges & incentives that come from refinement of contributions that are on this margin.

How do we decide which contributions belong in the refinement category? Could be either:

  • Users with <= 100 reputation stay in the refinement queue until they exceed 100 rep. That provides time to acclimate to the site culture.

  • "refine" becomes a special label (like "protected") Normally users vote to apply the label. Mods can apply the tag. So long as the question has the refine label, downvotes are discounted, and positively voted edits garner reputation.

The goal is to incentivize refinement and community curation ,and to guide users towards meaningful contribution that aligns with the site culture.

(site culture can always be changed through appeal on Meta)

  • 2
    "Increasingly I'm finding new contributions by new users which have merit/worth/value, but which don't fully participate in the SE culture or the site culture. The reputation system does not serve this category well." That's a very astute observation..! This sounds a lot like the staging ground though, but with fewer steps. Mar 10 at 21:43
  • 1
    Completely agree that a question with -1 next to it usually turns into a pinata. And new users obviously don't always have a feel for what's a good stack question, so are more likely to get one downvote because of some (often trivial) mistake. Moreover a lot of the stack rules and incentives don't make much sense for non-technical sites.
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 12 at 12:06

What is really great about our reputation & privilege system? What do you think makes it great, and why is it worth keeping?

There are lots of things that are great about our reputation and privilege system.

The bar for participation is really low on Stack Exchange, and that is a good thing. We are (by design) primarily a question-and-answer site, and every user, no matter his or her reputation, can post questions and answers.

When other users find your question and answer posts useful, upvotes will cause your reputation to climb quickly. The system encourages upvotes and subtly discourages downvotes, and upvotes impact your reputation score more than downvotes. This is a systemic way to avoid penalizing new users too much while they are learning the intricacies of the site and culture, also a great thing.

The most useful privileges are triggered at very low reputations, which is a great thing. Participating in meta, voting, commenting, flagging posts, using the chat rooms, and more are all available to you, in steady increments, with fewer than 10 upvotes on any of your posts. And 20 upvotes on any one site gets you expanded access to all Stack Exchange sites. This is a wonderful feature as well, eliminating a lot of noise from spammers and trolls, yet opening up the doors quickly to new users who are actually contributing on even a minimal level.

Community moderation privileges are granted with higher reputation scores, and this is a great design as well. Increased participation is rewarded, and it makes sense to trust the users who have proven their dedication to the site to be the ones who help moderate the site.

What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?

In the Stack Overflow Blog post that is referenced in the Question, in the "What do you find most frustrating?" poll there are two items on the list that I want to discuss that might be considered related to this topic: "Unwelcoming community" (10.6%) and "Barrier to participation" (8.3%)

In my opinion, "Unwelcoming community" really has very little to do with the reputation system. Instead, new users are made to feel unwelcome by other actions that have little to do with the reputation and privilege system. Rude comments and questions that are downvoted and/or closed inappropriately or without adequate explanation in the comments are the biggest "unwelcoming" behaviors that I notice on the Stack Exchange sites I frequent. This would not be solved by revamping the reputation system. Instead, it needs to be solved by changing the culture of the site to be more inclusive and welcoming. Writing blog and meta posts to remind people to welcome new users and be more charitable in voting could be a solution, as well as moderators and high rep users modeling positive behavior.

"Barrier to participation" can be frustrating to some new users, but again, our bar for participation is already really low. We want to, first and foremost, encourage posting questions and answers, which all users can already do. And as I said earlier, after just a few upvotes, you have access to do all the important things on our sites.

In conclusion, I think the current reputation and privilege system works well as is, and does not need a massive overhaul.

  • One of essential limitations for new users is a restriction to comment. When they try to put their comment as an answer, they receive an unrelated advice “consider to answer other question” Mar 14 at 11:15
  • @MichaelFreidgeim I see users posting answers as comments more often than users posting comments as answers. Comments that are posted as answers can easily by converted to comments by mods, but the reverse is not possible.
    – Ben Miller
    Mar 14 at 11:23
  • My experience has been that the "unjustified closures" complaint comes overwhelmingly from people who have misconceptions about what the closure reasons are, and about the reasons for those reasons existing. Mar 14 at 23:18
  • @KarlKnechtel It’s certainly a matter of opinion, but you must admit that “misconceptions about what the closure reasons are” could just as easily lead to users voting to close questions that should not be closed.
    – Ben Miller
    Mar 15 at 4:28
  • It could in principle, yes. My experience is that generally speaking it doesn't. Mar 15 at 4:29
  • @KarlKnechtel My experience is very different than yours.
    – Ben Miller
    Mar 15 at 4:30

There is currently no consideration for reputation across sites when performing cross-network actions, specifically, in terms of migration. Here's a concrete example:

  • A user has lots of reputation on site X.
  • This user also visits site Y.
  • They often find questions on Y that needs to be posted on site X (it could be off-topic on Y, or just more on-topic on X).
  • Voting to close questions with a migration path to site Y is treated similarly to other closure votes, often ending in closure without migration.

If you have lots of reputation on site X, there's an understanding that you're well-informed of what types of questions belong on X.

This type of situation mainly occurs with Stack Overflow (SO = Y), which acts like a catch-all dumping ground for questions. Many questions that were on topic in (say) 2012 now have dedicated sites to answer that currently just muddy the waters on SO. It's closure review queue is constantly packed (like most other review queues). Using this SEDE query to count closures on SO, this chart displays the monthly closures over time:

enter image description here

As of the most recent months, between 12k-14k questions are closed every month (400-500 every day). Some of these may be legitimate closures aiming to migrate questions to a more suitable site (possibly from high-rep users on the target site).

There currently exists a migration path when closing to TeX.SE (X), but closure votes due to lack-of-information or debugging-details cause new-user questions to die on SO, when they would have received better feedback/responses on TeX.SE (despite the question quality).

Reference: What privilege should 30k users get?

  • 4
    The first rule of migration is "don't migrate crap". It doesn't matter that the other site would give better feedback - if the question would be closed on the target site for needing details, clarity, focus, topicality, objectivity, or some other reason, that question should just be closed where it is.
    – Nij
    Mar 25 at 20:43
  • 3

There are already some suggestions to handle voting differently depending on the number of votes. We should consider also handling it differently for new users. A current oddity revolves around the timing of downvotes for users hitting the 1-rep minimum. Here's an example:

  • User with (say) 1 rep asks a question.
  • They receive 4 downvotes ▼ and one ▲.
  • Depending on the timing of the votes cast on the question (+1/-4), they could end up with the following reputation:
    • 11 (▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▲ = +10)
    • 10 (▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▲ = +10, ▼ = -1)
    • 9 (▼ = 0, ▼ = 0, ▲ = +10, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1)
    • 8 (▼ = 0, ▲ = +10, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1)
    • 7 (▲ = +10, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1, ▼ = -1)

In all of these voting scenarios, the consensus seems to point to a poor question (1 upvote + 4 downvotes). In all scenarios, they end up with higher rep than they started, but it varies because downvotes at 1 rep has no impact.

I agree that the user should receive some reputation, but that it's variable, depending on when the votes are cast, seems out-of-place. In the above example, the order of counting should be upvotes first, then downvotes, leaving the OP with 7 rep, regardless of the vote order. In the above case, the new user could circumvent the new user restrictions at 10 reputation, even though it may be doubtful that this should be allowed.

  • pretty sure that's by design- or at least, it's a known and accepted behaviour. I'm too lazy to find a link explaining it right now. Also, isn't downvote impact -2?
    – starball
    Apr 1 at 4:36
  • 2
    @starball: Even if its accepted behaviour, it could be wrong. The question is about things that work or need improvement. It doesn't seem to work properly around that 1 rep boundary. Downvotes on a question are -1; downvotes on an answer is -2.
    – Werner
    Apr 1 at 4:48
  • I think would be addressed by Karl's table answer.
    – starball
    Apr 1 at 4:49
  • Why it wrong, though? I get that it makes calculations not work out with upvotes/downvotes but the end result in the vast majority of cases is a miniscule offset to what the "true" reputation would be. Generatlly, at least from my observations, it's a difference of somewhere between 2 and 6 rep. And I don't get why that should be so significant to change the rep calculations done for 1 rep users.
    – VLAZ
    Apr 1 at 8:57
  • 1
    @VLAZ: The threshold for privilege gains for new users is low. For example, at 10 rep new user restrictions are removed. If new users ask a poor question, they could circumvent the new user limitations in some cases. In the bigger picture, this affects specific users with single-digit rep, yes. It's small potatoes. The variability of the outcome is what is odd about it.
    – Werner
    Apr 1 at 16:17
  • 1
    And...is circumventing the new user restrictions happening often enough to be a problem we should be concerned about? Does it happen at all? Specifically, how many users who received a number of downvotes and then an upvote went and did something they would have been restricted from had the votes came in a different order?
    – VLAZ
    Apr 1 at 16:20
  • 1
    @VLAZ: It might be a problem on SO where far more poor-quality posts are received. But my statement here is about the logic behind it. I understand that investment in CPU cycles to calculate an accurate reputation might not be worth the time. Note though that historically there was a reputation recalc feature on SE that fixed oddities, so it seemed to be a consideration to make miniscule adjustments here-and-there.
    – Werner
    Apr 1 at 16:35
  • So, I can only gather that you have no reliable reason to call this a problem. But you want it fixed because... I guess you don't like it? Also, the CPU cycles argument is strange. It takes more time to calculate the rep based on the times of when votes came in. Otherwise the calculation is much simpler with number_of_votes * 10 - number_of_downvotes * 2 clamp to a minimum of 1.
    – VLAZ
    Apr 1 at 16:39
  • 1
    @VLAZ: I often wait to downvote new users who ask poor questions if they have 1 rep. It can stay at 1 rep without a downvote, but the community over on TeX - LaTeX have varied habits for upvoting; some consider it a "mark as read" flag and upvote it. To have any impact, I have to change my behaviour to time the voting. That's a reliable reason, since I don't spend my time on SE 24/7; adjusting my voting behaviour to achieve a desirable outcome when it can be programmed seems better to me. Simple isn't always better. Neither is more complicated... but for outcome to be timing-dependent is odd.
    – Werner
    Apr 1 at 23:21

My main interest in SO are expert level niche answers to rare edge cases.

What's going to happen if you remove the downvote penalty (following Dharman's proposal which I've discussed with him before) is that the irresponsible downvoters will immediately (in the short term) outnumber the experts who do know how to evaluate intricate solutions to rare problems (in the long term).

I think Dharman's perspective can make sense looking at the massive flow of low quality questions on the PHP tag, but I have to remind of Shog9's argument: "not destroying value". Dharman once asked me: "if you think that question is so good why don't you upvote it?" I'll repeat my answer here: "because understanding the question and running some tests takes a minimum of 2 hours, that's how hard it is to make a judgement on the upvote". (While downvoting something you don't have the slightest clue about at zero cost would take no effort at all.)

Now, if you couple Dharman's proposal of removing the downvote cost with Nij's proposal of increasing the downvote penalty for the poster, you've just empowered reckless irresponsible downvoting at the cost of leaving the niche Q&A posters (seeking to solve hard problems) outnumbered and outgunned. You won't be filtering for pearls any longer, nor promoting the production of those rarer pearls.

(It's happened too many times that I've seen downvotes and critiques in comments from experienced engineers who completely failed to understand the question or the answer they were recklessly voting on.)

  • 10
    The problem here is that you have a higher standard for an upvote than you do for a downvote. If you upvoted a post because it looked high-quality, then it would be equally reasonable for you (and others) to downvote a post because it's viscerally low quality. Instead, you only want to upvote a post after spending hours verifying it and making an informed judgment. That's useful feedback, but it's way too high of a bar for an upvote. Ironically, I think the main reason you have such a high bar for upvotes is that there's too much low-quality content, which happens because of not enough DVing. Mar 10 at 6:51
  • 5
    You've got a point here. However, upvoting also happens recklessly. Maybe you don't vote this way but many people do. Upvoting is meant for posts that look useful. It doesn't require you to validate it. Same for downvotes; it's for posts that don't look useful, regardless of whether you can answer them or not.
    – Dharman
    Mar 10 at 17:33
  • 3
    If it takes time to understand a question, that sounds to me like what ordinary people would call "unclear", which is supposed to count against question quality. Just because there is a good, interesting problem underlying a question doesn't mean the Q itself is good. Mar 15 at 1:05
  • I think this answer is basically getting to the point that people isn't symmetrical on the way they evaluate post. My standard for meh kinds of questions is higher. For example, if a question is clear and specific it's merely meh, because that's the minimum I expect of anyone asking questions. For me to be awarded an upvote, it has to be interesting/through provoking.
    – Braiam
    Mar 16 at 15:21

What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?

The Reputation point. The page literally says

Reputation is a rough measure of:

  • how much the community trusts you

  • your communication skills

  • the quality and relevancy of your questions and answers

However, I have seen some long-time users who just asked a single, yet basic question, then disappeared forever, still gained thousands of points. In this case, it is a correct measure of "the quality and relevancy of your questions and answers", but I think it partially measures (or not at all) trust and communication skills. Can we safely say that that guy, who asked one famous question, has better communication skills and trust than a new user who continuously posts questions and answers, but can never achieve that points?

My proposed solution is to consider implementing a decay system. Kaggle ranking system and H-index have done this, and it is working pretty well: you must be active in order to maintain a "high rank". This thing is not perfect, but it's better than nothing.

(High rep users might downvote this because it is not favoring them. This system is not targeting you, this one targets users who post one question and disappear forever.)

EDIT: add a related paper

  • 7
    My issue with this idea is not the inspiration, but the realities of implementation and the idea that trust somehow fades over time due to not posting answers. I do agree that users gaining rep in this way is problematic, particularly as something that may discourage new users from participating. I'm a high rep user, and I don't post answers anymore unless it's some novel thing that I feel I have a great answer to. however, I'm most certainly not inactive and not participating. Should the fact that I mostly just clean up low quality questions/answers result in me losing the ability to do so?
    – Kevin B
    Mar 9 at 16:50
  • Should the fact that I mostly just clean up low quality questions/answers result in me losing the ability to do so? We might have to define the definition of "inactive", for example, in your case when you clean up the site, maybe we need an edge case? But for those who asked a single question then disappeared, it is not. Mar 10 at 1:39
  • 6
    Could you give an example of this outside John Carmack? Also, if something is/was useful, why is it being upvoted being a bad thing? Not all answers lose relevance temporally Mar 10 at 1:42
  • 4
    @JourneymanGeek, I will give myself as a second example. I have 15k on SO, but for the past 5 to 8 years, I actually only visited SO when a Google search landed me there (or for reading the occasional HNQ). Why should I have more privileges than a user with 101 points? Mar 10 at 9:16
  • 1
    You were active then tho, right Mar 10 at 9:41
  • 1
    Another flaw, Meta is meant to be for all, yet controlled by few unless it's featured. This answer's sort of identical to mine yet look at the net votes; that's because only the frequentists bothered to read this far. It's why I don't post on Meta much, not even worth arguing as the true population won't see it. Mar 10 at 12:43
  • People downvote this because they’re afraid to lose their precious. But it is true. The culture and rules evolve. Someone who hasn’t logged in in 6 years will not know the rules, no matter how active they were back then. If not reputation, at least privileges should be attached to recency of the interactions with the site. Mar 10 at 14:46
  • 1
    @CrisLuengo agree. With respect, people who are active won't care much about this new system. People who are afraid of losing the reps do, so they care. Bart gave a very accurate example, thank you so much for raising your voice. Mar 10 at 15:10
  • 1
    @CrisLuengo: So...they can't like... re-learn the rules or something? Does 6 years of being away from something preclude one's ability to reacquaint yourself with it?
    – Makoto
    Mar 10 at 18:09
  • 3
    @CrisLuengo: There's a <s>thin</s> very thick line between being empowered to do something and actually doing it. Empowering someone is the first step, but that also comes with copious amounts of documentation on what to do and what not to do with those powers. That already exists and doesn't really change all that much. Any ambiguities can be sorted out over on Meta. Any error in application can be handled in a one-on-one capacity with a diamond mod who would set them right. I don't see the problem here.
    – Makoto
    Mar 10 at 18:14
  • 2
    @CrisLuengo: I mean, almost every single moderation decision that anyone can make - let alone diamond mods - is reversible. People can make mistakes and diamond mods are there specifically to catch those kinds of human errors. This isn't about downvoting specifically since, well, those are anonymous by design and you don't have to reveal your motive for downvoting something. But everything else - which is surprisingly just limited to edits and closure - can be reversed if it was done in error. This is not as big a deal as you're making it out to be.
    – Makoto
    Mar 10 at 18:22
  • 1
    Adding one example here: this user asked a highly upvoted question 11 years ago, last active 2 years ago, racking 13k reputation and is in "top 2% this quarter". Mar 11 at 9:54
  • 1
    Upvoting this because I have real-life experience with decay systems. SE is an absolute seniority system. Another such system are the "points" systems used by collaborative artist groups. These have the issue that nobody can ever pass the founders no matter how much they do. The solution we implemented for OPA was to create a decay system; every artist loses 10% of their points per year. This was surprisingly effective; within 3 years, founding members who were no longer active had dropped out of leadership positions.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 17 at 5:26
  • 1
    The decay happened whether you were a currently active member or not. It's just not a problem for active members because they constantly generate new points, which allowed them to maintain (or even increase) their point totals. Doing it by % also helped, because losing 200 points isn't a big deal if you have 2000, but it would be devastating if you have only 250.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 17 at 17:11
  • 1
    At the same time, a member who was very active could, in 2-4 years, "pass up" members who were old but less active.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 17 at 17:12

Remove reputation gain from accept votes.

Question askers are the least suitable people to determine the best answer. Yet, the accepted answer feels to a lot of users like it's the be-all and end-all. Answerers are begging and harassing users for accept votes. New users flag posts for moderator's attention asking to change the "correct answer" mark. Users viewing solutions consider the one with a green tick mark as the one and only true solution.

The first step to fixing this mess is to remove the reputation gained from accept votes. And I know I would lose a lot of gained reputation, but that's an acceptable sacrifice. Reputation should be gained from upvotes, not from the whimsical decision of the question asker. This alone would fix a lot of quality issues on our sites.

The end goal could be to completely remove accept votes, or just leave it as a placebo to the question asker and show it only to logged-in users.

  • 10
    The amount of votes is already very small to non-existent on many new posts. I really dislike the accepted answer system, but removing the rep gain here would likely seriously mess up the reputation system at the low end. Mar 9 at 18:48
  • 1
    @MadScientist Why is the amount of votes so small? What can we do to encourage users to vote?
    – Dharman
    Mar 9 at 18:52
  • 5
    I tend to agree, but also think this would be problematic at the bottom end of the reputation system. Without reputation from accepts, there's no source of rep that doesn't require users who already have rep to kick start it.
    – Kevin B
    Mar 9 at 18:53
  • The problems that this theoretically causes is way below the problems that this objectively solves. We need to be able to bootstrap sites with only two users. Removing the reputation gained from accepts will spell doom if any site gets unlucky enough to only have 1 active user answering question and no privileges.
    – Braiam
    Mar 14 at 15:11
  • 2
    Removing accept votes would be better. They're antithetical to the not-a-discussion-forum, library-of-answers model. @Braiam that could be fixed by tweaking any number of other constants. It's also why there's a commitment phase on Area51. Mar 15 at 1:45
  • I can see the appeal, but I am not sure I would go quite as far. An accept vote creates an incentive to write an answer that is understandable not just by experts, but by the original asker, who is not necessarily an expert yet. So while I don’t think it’s worth quite as much as an upvote from (presumably) expert users, it’s not exactly valueless either. Apr 3 at 12:03

What is great about the reputation system.

Over time, really common questions and trusted users start to stand out. This becomes valuable for new users or people who are just learning about a topic and want to know similar information.

What is broken about it, and why?

New users have a difficult time contributing new questions or information to the site. Users that posted a common question years ago and no longer contribute to the site are still gaining lots of reputation. There should be a balance that incentivizes people to add missing information to already existing pages other than answering a question from 10 years ago. If someone provides a better answer to a common question asked many years ago, does that answer really get recognized?

One way that new users can contribute is by answering their own questions, but I am not sure how this type of contribution would be received by current moderators. It may be more intuitive to format the forum as a guide that people can add new technical information to over time and the Q&A portion becomes more specific to different parts of the guide.

What other systems work really well?

I have been a casual user of Stack Overflow for only about a year and my experience using the site is not going to be deep enough to comment on the intricacies what the reputation system was originally designed for. However, I still want to post this answer in case others think it meaningful.

One thing that I have wanted to mention since I began using Stack is that I think questions and answers could be categorized in a way that acts more like tutorial pages or guides rather than an overwhelming thread of Q&A. This could play into the reputation system by providing users an incentive to build and modify guides or technical information and then additional incentive by answering questions posted to those guides. To me, this seems like a more intuitive interface to show users how a task could be conducted or how technical knowledge should be categorized and written (perhaps a more technical and gamified version of a wiki with a Q&A feature).

When I first joined Stack Overflow, it was overwhelming to try to avoid duplicate questions by searching for pre-existing questions that were similar to mine because there were so many questions and not enough tags to filter to what I really wanted to know. It was also frustrating to see answers be accepted that were kind of close but didn’t fit my specific use case. I was worried that if I posted a new question that wasn’t different enough from existing questions, someone would downvote or close the thread for being too similar to a question asked 5 or more years ago that I didn’t see. Which would be fair to downvote if it decreased quality of content.

I use Stack Overflow mostly to help with programming in R. I also mostly use the ggplot package of R in my typical workflow. I can use the tags to filter [r][ggplot][geom-point] to search for questions that have already been asked on the topic of the “geom_point” function, but what if Stack Overflow had an incentive for people to contribute to a guide on this topic rather than a list of questions? Instead of seeing a list of random questions about using the geom_point function in R (usually R studio), I would prefer to see a guide on this topic that has been contributed to by many users over the years. If the existing guide or guides do not answer my question or provide knowledge I am looking for. I can ask a question and post a bounty for someone to add this missing information to the guide. If I ask a question that has clearly already been answered through the guide or other questions on that guide, I could be downvoted and a moderator could remove that redundant question. On the other hand, if I am proactive, I could add to the guide with my own information and get upvoted for adding new and useful information. In a way, this would make Stack websites become community supported guides for technical information in addition to Q&A forums. Think something similar to how Steam community pages allow users to post guides on specific topics for videogames or how Genius.com allows users to comment on song lyrics to provide additional information and sources for what may have inspired those lyrics.

During my journey learning R programming for the past year, I have wanted to post what I have been learning to a website like Stack Overflow so that people going through a similar journey won’t have to spend as much time figuring out the same things I am. For people who want internet points for doing this, I think the reputation system on stack would be a decent incentive for them to start or modify a guide. There is already a prompt at the bottom of questions that tells users they can answer their own questions. I think the reputation system would work better if answering your own questions or creating guides became a main feature of Stack websites.

This would be very valuable to programmers because every new software and software feature could receive a new or updated guide. It would also be valuable to professional experts that want to publicly share their knowledge of old and new topics in their field (think of science, math, photography, design, fitness, and all other Stack websites attracting expert knowledge in this way).

I apologize for a redundant answer if this feature is already available. If it is available, I have not noticed it.

  • "One way that new users can contribute is by answering their own questions, but I am not sure how this type of contribution would be received by current moderators." see Can I answer my own questions, even if I knew the answer before asking? and Is there stigma associated with self-answers on certain network sites? Or different etiquette? If so, why? "It may be more intuitive to format the forum as a guide that[...]" this is not a discussion forum. Take the tour.
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 16:59
  • "This could play into the reputation system by providing users an incentive to build and modify guides or technical information and then additional incentive by answering questions posted to those guides." ... In what way are we not already doing this as the primary purpose of the site and reputation system? You can get rep for asking, answering, and editing.
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 17:01
  • 1
    "but what if Stack Overflow had an incentive for people to contribute to a guide on this topic rather than a list of questions?" R now has a collective, and people can write articles
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 17:03
  • In a way, Q&A are or can be guides. I don't see what is missing.
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 17:05
  • 1
    @starball - Your responses are valid criticism. A key component of my post is that the current way information is formatted and organized on Stack websites is not very welcoming to people that want to explore existing knowledge and answers. Yes, I can ask and answer my own questions, but I think guides are better than a collection of related Q's and A's. A Q&A forum CAN be a guide, but it will likely be a disorganized guide. A guide with a Q&A section seems better to me. Thanks, I didn't know the R collective and see it was created only a few weeks ago. Though, no articles are published yet
    – wayne r
    Mar 13 at 17:22
  • 2
    What you are describing seems to be fundamentally what Stack Exchange is not and was designed explicitly not to be from the very beginning. "Stack Overflow is not meant to be a library of reference manuals. It’s supposed to contain the same information as a library of reference manuals, in the form of millions of questions and answers."
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 17:26
  • 1
    (though things have changed a bit with collectives and articles. SE even tried documentation at one point. I wasn't there, but I heard it went quite poorly- especially with effects on the reputation system that were not though through well)
    – starball
    Mar 13 at 17:29
  • 1
    Wow, it is interesting to learn that my suggestion for SE was tried in the past but failed. I still think it would be a great idea, but perhaps poorly implemented in the past. SE has clearly tried to evolve into something more or different, and the latest attempt at evolution may be the collective articles. Let's face it, Stack has evolved into the documentation and technical assistance page for many software. It might as well happen in pseudo-official (and profitable) capacity and do the same for other professions. Thanks again for sharing additional information.
    – wayne r
    Mar 13 at 18:20
  • 2
    honestly i think the biggest issue SO docs had was the fact that reputation was made part of it. If it were curated by people who did so out of wanting to produce useful content rather than people wanting to pursue an endless source of reputation, the generated content may have been more useful.
    – Kevin B
    Mar 13 at 20:52
  • "Instead of seeing a list of random questions about using the geom_point function in R (usually R studio), I would prefer to see a guide on this topic that has been contributed to by many users over the years." Aside from collectives, articles, and the old documentation project - this sounds to me more like what the tag wiki is supposed to be. Unfortunately, barely anyone seems to know they exist. Mar 15 at 21:25

Reputation for tags (1500) vs. edits (2000)

As someone that's been around for a long time (since the private beta), I'm at the stage where reputation is just a target number for earning the privs to what I want to do.

I like answering questions (and asking them), but over time, helping with triage as been great. I had to do some work to make that happen.

Now I'm at about 1250, so access to tags is next. Frankly, I'm not interested that.

Helping with edits is far away (+800), and I see many questions and answers where I'd like to help with cleanup.

If my rep ever gets to 2001, I won't want to increase for the sake of the number, I'll just want to keep questioning, answering, triaging, and editing.

  • 4
    Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how that actually answers the question. This feels more like a user-experience-report, but there is no mention of the things asked in the question (What is really great about our reputation, What is broken about it, What other systems work really well)
    – Tomerikoo
    Mar 15 at 10:57
  • 1
    It very clearly answers the question. After all what is reputation for? What does it do? Why earn it? The answer is directly to the point.
    – rallg
    Mar 15 at 22:30
  • @Tomerikoo - I admit its kind of a logical fallacy to wave around my seniority (dunno where my beta badges went), but wanted to highlight that meta discussions often are tonally too meta, and have lost the history of the reputation score. To add more color: the reason I'm complaining about this, I got tired of bookmarking Q's to edit later, because the edit queue is full, and I can't help with it.
    – benc
    Mar 16 at 19:23
  • @Tomerikoo - looking at your rep, you got the 2K I'm working towards. How happy are you that you can create tags and work the edit queue? Which do you think is more useful? Do you think that, until you had gotten your last 200 and 700 rep, were you qualified for each priv?
    – benc
    Mar 16 at 19:25

Solution: consider network reputation for comment privileges

I am a very low-rep user who has used SE for a long time, mostly as a reader. The "problem" part of this answer has more-or-less already been posted, but since I have never posted on Meta before I cannot comment.

"Not working: minimum rep to add comments"


I understand that needing a minimum reputation to comment prevents some unwanted behaviours.

However, I think that maybe you could consider network reputation when deciding to allow comments. Specifically, if a user earns comment privileges on one sub-site, allow them to comment on all sub-sites, or at least a group of related sub-sites (e.g. computing). I believe that transferable comment privileges would probably increase quality. This is speaking from personal experience based on the number of times I would have left a helpful comment but just ended up closing the tab instead.

I would have been able to post this as a comment on the question I linked if you had considered my network reputation. But then, I wouldn't have needed to post this as a comment.


Per the comments, this solution is already implemented as the association bonus. It sounds fine to me.

If when I had tried to comment on the other answer the denial message had told me about the association bonus, I would not have written this answer.

Revised solution: advertise the association bonus when blocking actions where having the bonus would make a difference

For example, instead of "You must have 5 reputation to comment", Meta could tell me "You must have 5 reputation on Meta to comment, or 200 reputation on any other Stack Exchange site".

  • 10
    This exists, but you need to reach 200 rep on one site. The you earn the "association bonus" and are awarded 100 rep on every site.
    – Laurel
    Mar 18 at 15:44
  • 5
    Speaking of what Laurel said, you're very close to the association bonus privilege on Stack Overflow. A couple of answers/edits separate you and the ability to comment on every site, so don't get too discouraged!
    – Spevacus
    Mar 18 at 16:00
  • 1
    Oh! Thanks! I suppose it might be helpful to advertise this bonus to users when blocking actions.
    – cjfp
    Mar 18 at 16:01

I wonder how much you've looked into the question of culture and internationalisation? Because from my perspective, the whole points system feels very American. Here in the UK, small children were awarded gold stars and other such badges for effort and achievement, but we were expected to grow out of that, and as we became older, to value things such as knowledge sharing for their own sake. I still feel that when SO gives me points and badges, they are treating me like a child.

  • 3
    While I understand the sentiment, this doesn't seem constructive or actionable. Mar 14 at 21:51
  • 2
    @KarlKnechtel I guess the action would be to abolish reputation. What is missing is an alternative way of distributing privileges. Maybe Michael Key wants all users to be able to close vote? Because they are so mature, maybe. Mar 14 at 22:41
  • 1
    I agree. In my answer, I mentioned that I don't care about what my actual rep number is... I just want to earn the privs to contribute where I think I'm useful. Long ago, I think the idea was the number might be useful to an external audience, like in interviews and linked in (Joel or Jeff said that in a podcast once). But I'm earning rep for interviews, or for comparing myself to anyone else in the community.
    – benc
    Mar 15 at 6:48
  • @benc: Do you mean "...I'm not earning rep..."? (You can repost and flag this for deletion.) Mar 15 at 7:44
  • 1
    The actionable part would be to make a conscious effort to make the decision making less US-centric. Mar 16 at 12:13
  • 1
    Another actionable part would be to cut out the badges, which are probably the most childish part of the system, and to de-emphasise reputation points so they aren't displayed with every post. Mar 16 at 12:23
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum - thanks for catching my typo.... To clarify: I just want the privs, I have no interest in increasing myself score for any other reason.
    – benc
    Mar 16 at 19:45
  • I think the idea of making the reputation system less US-centric should be further developed to make it more visible. Still, I think a large part of the user base has a US-centric bias for different reasons (origin, education, etc.), so it won't be easy to get overwhelming support (many upvotes). On the other hand, one of the core principles is that the platform should be open to anyone. In some way, it should be able to handle people at different stages of human development. It's a big challenge to achieve a good balance between skills and merits.
    – Rubén
    Oct 6 at 17:25

What is really great about our reputation & privilege system? What do you think makes it great, and why is it worth keeping?

One thing is that users get the same amount of rep for each upvote, regardless of whether it is a question or an answer (+10). This encourages people to post more questions to contribute to both the Q&A database more quickly because the answers will not appear if there are no questions.

What is broken about it, and why? Are there any solutions to it?

Same as above. Making the same worth of each vote clears the difference between a good answerer and a good questioner. Before that, only looking at the user rep amount was the indicator of power of knowledge for this user on the site. But not anymore. Just look at me, for instance: I mostly ask questions, but rarely give answers. And this leads us to another problem...

... many answers that I posted here were actually not answers, but the posts posted on the answer sections since the OP (staff) asked to post in the answer section just for the case of not creating many other related questions on the newly announced feature on site. Here are examples:

and so on.

Despite the fact that the number of reputation gained per vote is the same for a question and for an answer, only answer votes contribute towards gold tag badges (that helps close/reopen questions without other user votes). I think that posting good questions should give users a similar ability.

The rest of the issues are related to Meta sites:

  • On MSE some questions (mostly tagged ) can be answered only by developers (staff), so the only restricted kind of users may actually answer. Mostly, but not always, since some bugs can be resolved in case of a workaround, or the answer may contain the possible solution that can be nevertheless only implemented by developers.

  • There is no ability to make a bounty on per-site metas, so there's no regular way to raise additional attention to a question rather than bumping it with meaningless edits. Here's a feature request for this issue, but on ruSO.meta: Конкурсный вопрос на Мете

What other systems work really well that we could learn from?

IDK, I mostly use only SE now. Unfortunately :)

  • 2
    "The same amount of reps for each vote independently is that an answer or a question." I may be an idiot, but what does that mean?
    – CDR
    Mar 9 at 17:00
  • 2
    @Heartspring-CDR initially there was +5 rep for upvote on Q, and +10 on A. Now this is the same +10 for any. Link added to the post. Mar 9 at 17:01
  • 4
    I don’t think Meta SE provides good evidence on what works and doesn’t work in terms of reputation on regular sites.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 11 at 10:56

One thing that I do not find that is working right is that there is any rep gained from making trivial, meaningless edits to posts. Like changing SQLServer to SqlServer or its to it's. It is a cheap way for some to get an extra 1K rep, because aside from me, how many others are really going to reject that edit?

If someone wants to spend their free time fixing contractions that are missing apostrophes or casing for products to match a brand name (which are things that a script or bot could fix), by all means let them waste their time, but dont reward them for the kind of activity that is supposed to be discouraged

  • 4
    Related discussions: 1, 2, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
    – starball
    Mar 10 at 21:51
  • 7
    Then, what we need is reputation loss for accepting bad edits.
    – user253751
    Mar 10 at 23:47
  • 1
    Or to programmatically eliminate the need for these trivial edits.
    – StingyJack
    Mar 11 at 14:56
  • 1
    The only real reason for discouraging trivial edits is the pressure they place on the review queue. The queue design is the problem here. Currently we get asked to reject edits even though they unambiguously make the site better than it was before. The bigger problem is that we don't reward people who make good edits unilaterally (i.e. above the 2k rep threshold). Mar 14 at 23:42
  • It would be good to look for new solutions for the trivial edit rules. Things I want to edit are often in bad shape because only a couple characters makes it pretty terrible content. So, I end up having to spend 50% of my time trying to layer in enough changes to justify the fix I'm trying to provide. So, I agree with the editor queue constraints (I'm hoping to earn that this year), but also, maybe have little events to clean up little junk, etc. so we get better content, but without making the rep. incentives worse.
    – benc
    Mar 15 at 6:46
  • @user253751 how would the system pick out specific edits as bad without human oversight? if could already do that, we wouldn't have the edit review system. Are you suggesting we have a review queue to review reviewers?
    – starball
    Mar 22 at 0:00
  • @KarlKnechtel I agree with the first part of what you said but not the second part. I just enjoy having full edit privileges, I don't particularly need or want rep for edits once I have full edit privileges.
    – starball
    Mar 22 at 0:02
  • @starball based on human reviewers, of course. Or flags.
    – user253751
    Mar 22 at 0:42
  • The only real reason for discouraging trivial edits is the pressure they place on the review queue. @KarlKnechtel I'm sure you know there are other reasons. After taking the time to craft a question or answer, often rewriting it to try and ensure the idea is being communicated the way I intended it to be, I find it infuriating to have someone swoop in to make trivial edits that do not improve the conveyance of that idea. Sometimes it gets uncomfortable when the same person does edits like that to several of my posts .
    – StingyJack
    Mar 23 at 2:16
  • I don't "know" this, because the situation you describe honestly sounds like a personal pet peeve and not something that would bother me. If the edits are truly "trivial", then I struggle to fathom how they can also be interfering with "communicat[ing the idea] the way I intended [to]". Mar 23 at 2:31
  • @KarlKnechtel I've seen edits that change the 'style' rather than content. e.g. can't -> cannot. They're trivial but can also make it feel like you've lost agency on your text Mar 23 at 15:28
  • 1
    @KarlKnechtel - I wouldn't have known the review queue pressure to be a reason for discouraging trivial edits, but I knew there were reasons other then the ones that immediately came to my mind. This is what I meant by you knowing that there were other reasons. Just because something may not bother you does not mean the same is true for others. The thing you are referring to as a pet peeve is what I would refer to as "Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Expression"
    – StingyJack
    Mar 23 at 16:07
  • Strange, I would have thought that editing is as much a question of freedom of speech as providing the original material is. It's not as if the people rephrasing your ideas are trying to censor you. The community looks down on that kind of thing, very strongly. They usually can't even get away with fixing things that are factually incorrect unless they look like typos. Mar 24 at 4:47
  • Changing someone else's words and/or message is the very nature of censorship. There are many laws that exist in both of our countries to protect original works (US BoR, CAN Charter, copyright, etc.). If the editor had built upon the OP's idea to present their own idea or point of view, that would be acceptable and is encouraged and an example of someone exercising FoS/FoE. Typographical corrections do not constitute novel FoS/FoE, and I do not consider them to be a valuable human activity when a program can do the same.
    – StingyJack
    Mar 25 at 15:13

What's broken 1: not everything is Stack Overflow / Mathematics. Privileges and voting rights are much harder to gain on some networks. I know many on DSP.SE who are qualified to close vote, but can't.

What's broken 2: 1-rep can't vote. Some users, especially experts, have nothing to ask or don't wish to participate in Q&A's - yet their votes remain valuable. "Non-participants shouldn't get to vote" - it takes 3 upvotes on a question to change this; good as nothing.

Two in one post because they're related, and emphasis on "not all is SO".

Solution 1: allow sites to decide their own privilege thresholds.

Solution 2: a verification system that addresses the abuse concerns of letting any new account vote. Phone + e-mail, mod review, are examples.

  • 8
    It may be a coincidence, but the amount of reputation required to upvote is just enough to prevent a lot of abuse, since it takes 2 upvotes to get, or one accept vote on an answer that doesn't later receive any downvotes. (This "it takes 3 upvotes on a question" is over three years out of date at this point.) Verification sounds like it won't work well (who does it, mods?). Adjusting the privilege thresholds has been talked about recently as an option, though I don't know of any sites that have done it except for small things like posting on meta.
    – Laurel
    Mar 10 at 13:28
  • "who does it, mods?" on some networks yes, it's feasible. Networks could elect whether to allow it at all. I agree it's not great, but think it's a net-improvement. If it's about spam accounts, maybe phone + e-mail solves it. @Laurel Mar 10 at 13:44
  • 4
    DSP.SE has a unique problem though. Regulars there just don’t vote on each other’s answers. I wrote about this a while back on the site’s meta: dsp.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1593/33605 Mar 10 at 14:36
  • @CrisLuengo It's more about sheer size though, SO is at least x100 bigger in active users and questions, makes no sense for DSP (or any other small network) to share its criteria. Mar 10 at 14:41
  • 2
    That is fair. But if people were to vote more, there’d be less of a problem with privileges. Mar 10 at 14:50
  • 5
    I feel like this is a under-simplification. If the experts want to participate on the site, then they should...wait for it...participate on the site. But their day-to-day job and expertise aren't married to this one network on the internet, and they do quite well for themselves without having to be here.
    – Makoto
    Mar 10 at 18:06
  • 4
    Sounds like DSP.SE should just go back to the privilege system originally designed/intended for beta sites... This isn't an issue with the reputation system. This is merely an issue with the levels. I agree that what levels make sense for SO are not the same levels that make sense for all sites, regardless of size. That much is obvious. On the other hand, allowing anyone who joins to upvote is just a complete non-starter. Way too much abuse. Even on a small site. This may not be obvious to anyone who has not held moderator privileges, but it's a huge issue. We need some barrier. Mar 11 at 11:42
  • @CodyGray +1 but, I'm not saying "just anyone". The current system is a verification system, with verification being votes - I'm just saying it could be something else that doesn't require making a post. It's fair to say "burdens mods too much", but maybe let's explore the options first. I've received strong positive feedback on some of my DSP.SE posts from those who couldn't vote, it's a shame to not have this reflected in votes - and from scientific POV, a barrier that skews evaluation of "subjective" topics toward the site's regulars. Mar 11 at 15:50
  • @Makoto Said experts, or whoever, could also just post once and never again, then come back 5 years later and vote on everything. Most such arguments against my proposal can also turn on the current system. Mar 11 at 15:53
  • 2
    @OverLordGoldDragon: I don't see how that's a problem? If someone who's earned privileged five years ago decides to exercise them now, what's the issue?
    – Makoto
    Mar 12 at 3:23
  • @Makoto I'm saying that one-time post is as good as nothing, on basis of merit. Asking "can rainbows be circles" doesn't qualify one to vote on string theory. It doesn't have to be a stupid example, point is there's plethora ways to get 2 votes with basically zero understanding of or interest in StackExchange. It is an effective effort barrier, that's all. Mar 12 at 12:39
  • 1
    @OverLordGoldDragon: You're desperately clutching for straws here. Being able to vote on a specific topic and having access to expanded voting/editing privileges are completely orthogonal to each other. Being an expert in a topic and wanting to participate on Stack Exchange are also likewise orthogonal. I'm just not sure what point you're trying to make here.
    – Makoto
    Mar 12 at 20:02
  • 2
    As a note about DSP's situation in particular, there are some relevant site settings that the CMs can customize if needed, e.g. to lower the close vote threshold or to lower the reputation requirement for individual privileges. If the mods of that site feel that this may be warranted, they can have a discussion about the problem with their community, then escalate a request to the CMs to make such a change if the community isn't able to solve the problem on their own (or they can reach out to us via chat/the Contact form if they're not sure which changes are possible or should be requested).
    – V2Blast
    Mar 13 at 14:41
  • @V2Blast Good to know, thanks! Mar 13 at 14:42
  • staaaaaaaaahhhhhp the push for more verification. That's a terrible trend. Mar 19 at 3:46

What is broken about it, and why?

Sometimes bounties are used to "buy" a working piece of code to copy and paste, which rewards answers that simply do the homework for the original poster and discourages users who do the effort to provide a well-explained solution.

Consider this question:

  • The OP is stuck on a set of issues, but is aware and directly asking about the major one (involving viewBox).
  • I wrote an answer explaining why the problem occurs, presenting the principles that the OP needs to understand, and including a code snippet that fixes the main issue. I also recommended some improvements to address the minor issues.
  • The day after, another user posted a a new answer expanding on my code snippet to fix the residual issues and received the bounty.

This is not the first time I have seen this attitude in bountied questions, and it is really frustrating for genuine users who consider Stack Overflow a place where developers should look for help to learn how to fix their code insted of just getting their homework done.

Are there any solutions to it?

It may be useful to engage the community in the decision about who should receive the bounty. This would help ensure that the bounty goes to the answer that provides the best explanation and solution to the problem, rather than the one that just provides a fix.

  • 3
    while I like the idea of getting askers to do their homework and read and learn underlying principles, Stack Exchange is... kind of here to "do peoples' homework", and I think it's by design- or at least shouldn't be surprising- that answers which do that get more upvotes. You could have given explanation of underlying principles and given them the final solution. Admittedly, I'd be irked too if what happened to you happened to me.
    – starball
    Mar 25 at 18:36
  • 1
    the bounty's rep is the bounty placer's rep- not the community's. I don't see why the decision of where that rep should go should be decided in a different way than it already is: the decision is the bounty placer's only unless they abstain, in which case the community vote can lead to rewarding half the bounty amount. /help/bounty
    – starball
    Mar 25 at 18:38
  • Admittedly my solution is not well thought. What I would like is a mean to discourage users being disrespectful of other people's time and willingness to provide quality answers. I understand this is quite tricky to achieve. Thanks for your attention anyways!
    – etuardu
    Mar 25 at 23:22

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