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Update

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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  • 18
    Possibly related: Help us identify new roles for community members (some of them are also related to reputation/privilege) Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 15:23
  • 131
    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. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 15:31
  • 123
    Don't try to fix something that is not broken. You will just break it, without any shred of doubt. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 15:35
  • 44
    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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 15:37
  • 235
    "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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:14
  • 14
    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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:32
  • 114
    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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:32
  • 37
    @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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:53
  • 13
    @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. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:00
  • 38
    @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. Commented Mar 9, 2023 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. Commented Mar 9, 2023 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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 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. Commented Mar 9, 2023 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
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:44
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    @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
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 10:30

71 Answers 71

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-1

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.

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  • 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
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 18:36
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    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
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 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
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 23:22
-2

This is a Stack Overflow-centric answer:

SO wants more user participation, especially new users. The ability to gain reputation encourages participation.

New users are frustrated with both the inability to gain rep and the ability to get questions answered. Old users are frustrated with trivial, duplicate, and too-specific questions.

Let's provide a way to gain rep by ensuring questions are answered, not destroyed. What if there was an Stack Overflow Overflow (SOO) site where vote-to-close questions got routed?

That site would allow more conversational interactions geared at ensuring that the question was answered. Answers could provide tips on refining and generalizing the question, explain why a duplicate applies, even help with debugging. Useful tips gain upvotes, as do well formed questions. If a question reaches an upvote threshold, it can get migrated back to the main site, and the SOO contributors to it would gain rep on SO in proportion to their contribution.

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    There is work ongoing to make Staging Ground. This will be something like you describe. Questions will be vetted before being publicly posted.
    – Dharman
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 12:07
  • (The site name should be chosen so it is possible to separate the two when using a search engine.) Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 19:00
  • 2
    "SO wants more user participation, especially new users." - no, no it definitely does not. SO would be better off if it had 2m unclosed questions rather than 23m. (Compare that to ~7m articles on Wikipedia, where the scope is "literally anything" rather than "writing computer programs".) What SO wants is positive engagement with new users - which entails new users taking the time to understand how the site works, learning from their mistakes, and ultimately making more contributions per user. Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 21:06
  • "The ability to gain reputation encourages participation." - in point of fact, only about a quarter of Stack Overflow accounts have any asked questions at all, and about half of those have only one. It seems like tons of people are happy to sign up for an account just to bypass the splash page and have a "watched tags" list. Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 21:08
-5

I don't find the reputation system to be broken, in need of repair, or a hindrance to the function of the site or community.

I don't see sufficient evidence that the reputation system is in any way associated with barriers to entry, or even that barriers exist outside of the requirement for knowledge or experience.

If I had to make one suggestion, it would be privilege related. In order to keep users involved in the site, and up to date with the current outlook on tooling such as moderation tools, it probably makes sense to associate privileges not with long term totals, but near term totals.

In other words, tie site privileges to a time frame, for example, 2 years. This means, if in the past two years, you haven't earned 10k rep, you don't get access to deleted posts. This will be a strong incentive for users to remain relevant with their activity levels.

After all, these systems are designed in part to encourage participation by rewarding it. Positive reinforcement is important.

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    Not that it's likely to happen to me personally, but if I came back after a long hiatus to find I'd lost half of what I'd worked for, I'd be far less inclined to want to work for it all over again, I'd be more likely to consider I'd managed without it thus far, bye again.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 10:47
  • 2
    @Tetsujin - The reputation would remain, just the access to privilege would cycle. Honestly, do we want people who took a multi year, or 5 year break, coming back and immediately making changes? It makes more sense to ease back in. Moreover, the system was never designed in a way that people could take 10 years to unlock features. It was designed to allow users who were considered to be trusted to have access to community moderation features and other higher end features. Reputation inflation is easily countered by this sliding window.
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:00
  • 1
    I cannot agree, on many levels. My best site, where I'm >100k & 3rd top scorer of all time, I only made 1700 rep so far this year [5th]. At that rate, few others would keep their privileges year on year. At the opposite end, a quiet site i'm a frequent participator, the traffic is too low for me to ever realistically hit 10k. I already find it irritating enough that there are many things on that stack I can't see or do, as I'm so used to the privilege on many other stacks. I honestly have no real interest in an actual score to wave at people.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:12
  • @Tetsujin - To your point on lower activity exchanges, I completely agree. The sliding window would mostly be useful in areas where actual inflation over time existed, and the smaller exchanges don't really suffer from that. My vast experience here comes from using Stack Overflow, and that is what I am mostly speaking to here.
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:23
  • I'm afraid SO is the one bit of SE that's zero use to me. May as well be written in Martian ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:30
  • 1
    this doesn't seem to work as an incentive tbh. How many people go "hoo boy! I get to see deleted posts! This is so exciting!"? Not that many, I'd wager. How many people put in extra effort to post answers so they can see deleted posts? Probably even less. If anything, some of the moderation responsibilities (like dupe-hammer) are like a small burden. However, may I offer a variation... the number displayed next to someone's name should be a near-term number... Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 23:45
  • @user253751 - The deleted post point was just an example of one of the higher end privileges. For example, if you hadn't earned any reputation in 2 years, it may be possible you need to earn 50 again to comment. This reduces things like trolling while at the same time encouraging participation for relevance. Closures, for example, would also be limited to those who were actively participating, and considering the amount of changes the system has gone through over the years, it makes sense to try to have users of that system aware of recent guidance and configuration. I could go on...
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 17:56
  • The reputation leagues offer near term reputation numbers. However, reputation is generally reflective of total votes on posts, and unless you intend to simply remove votes from posts, I am not sure how it would make sense to remove reputation displays. To be honest, that is rather tangential to this discussion, and in my opinion going in the wrong direction.
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 17:57
-8

Comments from the peanut gallery:

I recently came to the conclusion that "in order to participate in Stack Exchange, you need 3000 reputation". Your input before 3000 reputation really doesn't count, and it's because only at 3k do you get a say in close votes.

I think close votes are the least friendly, most contentious thing Stack Exchange does. I actually think that high rep people are more inclined to vote to close than to downvote. Downvote lumps their opinion in with the riff-raff but VTC elevates their voice to a level most users can't match. It's basically a "super-downvote". I have had high rep users berate me by saying they have more rep than me and therefore their opinions matter more, which to me says they are unlikely to ever downvote and indeed I don't think they do -- questions will have 0 votes but be closed, meaning 5 high rep people voted to close it but did not bother to downvote.

To be sure, "community moderation" is dangerous no matter how you slice it. Relying entirely on up/down votes could wreck the focus of a site, as something that's clearly off-topic (but, perhaps, funny) gets upvoted when it should be closed. But on the other hand, allowing 5 people to close something because they didn't like it, leads to absurdity too. It's a good question, it has 5 good answers, it's popular, it has 30 upvotes, and it's closed because 5 people said so. Then you have to vote to reopen and it just gets more absurd from there.

So this creates "reputation pressure". Get to 3k or your opinion doesn't matter.

I'm not totally sure what the solution is. Moderation-through-reputation is risky, and it's more risky when it allows a very small group of people to ignore the wider community. Upvotes and downvotes should have stronger influence on close/reopen than they currently do (which is "no influence at all").

I just think we need to look for a balance between "community input" and "the close cabal".

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    "Upvotes and downvotes should have stronger influence on close/reopen than they currently do (which is "no influence at all")." They have some influence. Downvoted and negatively scoring content gets automatically deleted after some time and that is quite a significant chunk while upvoted content has a much higher chance of not getting closed. For that reason I often upvote and reopen vote in those cases I think it's rewarded. I understand what you're saying in this answer but it doesn't convince me that everyone being able to close vote would lead to a better outcome. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 22:06
  • 7
    "allowing 5 people to close something because they didn't like it," this should not be a thing. "I don't like this" is not a valid close reason. It can be a downvote reason.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 23:48
  • 1
    ""in order to participate in Stack Exchange, you need 3000 reputation". Your input before 3000 reputation really doesn't count, and it's because only at 3k do you get a say in close votes." flagging is one of the earliest privileges.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 23:48
  • 2
    @starball Moderators don't need to be hassled with hundreds of flags. We have the up/down votes for a reason. But at 3k rep, the up/down votes no longer matter. You just vote to close anything you think needs a downvote. And you need 3k rep to have any voice in that game. And yes, VTC for not liking it should not be a thing, but I have seen it many, many times on Worldbuilding. The rules are loose, the interpretation is looser, and some catch-all VTC reasons have gotten rather out of control. Again, it only need 5 votes, out of thousands of viewers, to close a question.
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 4:51
  • 2
    @nij Close votes are, unfortunately, also prime for trolling. I love that you are optimistic enough to believe that 3k rep is enough to filter out the trolls, but I'm here to tell you that this is not so. Perhaps more sadly, they really do think they are "helping". I have seen high rep people beat askers to death with the rulebook -- or their personal interpretation of it -- and close votes are way more power than they deserve or have earned.
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 4:55
  • 1
    @Trilarion For sure I don't think everyone should be able to vote to close! Perhaps closer to the opposite. Or perhaps the numbers of votes required to close a question should vary based on upvotes and answers. On worldbuilding in particular, I have seen 5 people vote to close a question that was even answered by a moderator. The disconnect between the community and the, as I call them, "close cabal" is very visible, and in my opinion shows exactly how the reputation system has gone off the rails.
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 4:59
  • @nij I would like to see more people participate in metas, as a general thing, and think that could fix a lot. But I don't know how to promote that, myself. As it stands, the people effectively trolling the system with close votes also tend to be over-represented in the meta. The rank and file simply do not participate (if they even know meta exists). Stack Exchange basically is the free-for-all of reddit, except worse: the people in charge of closing content have nominated themselves for the job. I rarely have issues with moderators, but frequently have issues with the "vote-to-close cabal".
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 5:02
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    the answer to actual incorrect close-vote trolling is... mod flagging.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 6:31
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    "Moderators don't need to be hassled with hundreds of flags" close-reason flags go to close-vote queues (which are visible to people with the close vote privilege, which shouldn't be a problem if the system isn't overrun with trolls)- not to diamond mods. And even if the system is overrun with trolls, the answer is mod flagging (and then suspensions where appropriate).
    – starball
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 6:32
  • @starball That's good to know, actually, but also highlights what I perceive to be the problem: anyone can flag, but only 3k rep people can do anything with it. Worse, there is no "reopen" flag, so we're better at shutting off content than we are at opening it back up. You also can't participate in the "looks good, keep open" game until 3k rep. 3k rep is basically where your opinion starts to matter. (I'm not pushing to raise or lower this bounds,. I think the whole concept needs rethinking.)
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 16:53
  • 1
    As a high-rep user (on my 'home' site) I prefer to vote to close instead of downvoting, because I actually think voting to close is friendlier than downvoting. Closing doesn't cost reputation for the asker, it provides actionable feedback (which downvotes don't do) or actually answers the question in case of duplicates, and it is reversible by myself or others if the question improves. And, most importantly, it helps (a bit) to keep the remaining questions focused, clear and on-topic, which benefits the asker too when they continue to use the site.
    – Marijn
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 9:28
  • 2
    Regarding "high rep users berate me by saying they have more rep than me and therefore their opinions matter more": it is usually not the argument that "high rep opinions matter more", but that high-rep users know better how the site (and Q&A in general) works, and therefore it is often simply the case that they are (objectively) right and a low-rep/new user is wrong when it comes to on-topicness, clarity, and what efforts are expected from questioners and answerers. It is still an argument from authority and therefore better avoided, but that does not make it any less true in many cases.
    – Marijn
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 9:34
  • @Marijn That is indeed the basis of the "argument from authority" fallacy -- even if the high rep user is right, "high rep" is not the actual reason why they are right. The reason may be that the question is off-topic or violates some other rule. There are times, though, where high-reps clash with the rest of the community, firmly believing that their rep elevates their rule interpretations over other people's (and we do have a few really subjective rules). In those cases, we have simply reopened questions but reopening is harder than closing, due to reduced visibility in closed topics.
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 13:27
  • @Marijn As for VTC vs downvote, I'd reconsider. People are used to downvotes, as a common phenonea on other sites. It should mean "I dislike this or it's not well worded". VTC should be "this is a flagrant violation of the rules or is an unneeded duplicate". Taking the time to write content and then have it deleted or closed is far more discouraging to users than a downvote.
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 13:31
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    This is true and a problem that needs to be addressed (in my opinion, it doesn't deserve all these downvotes). Close votes shouldn't even exist in the first place. If you think a post should be closed, flag it. High-rep users aren't necessarily fairer then low-rep ones. Moderators should be the ones closing posts via responding to flags. They are elected and chosen by the community, they know all the rules, and almost all of them of them aren't trolls. I can't say the same about high-rep users knowing all the rules sometimes. To get a question closed, flag it and let a mod close it. Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 14:12
-8

What definitely is not working is that the only way for new users to get enough reputation to comment is through either posting or answering a question. I'm now in the ridiculous position of trying to find a question I can answer on Stack Overflow or make up a fictitious problem and post it, in order to be able to reply to a solution someone else posted to someone else's question, a question that is the same issue that I am actually having.

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    If you don't understand an answer, ask a new question seeking an explanation of it, specifying exactly what and why you don't understand. No need to comment and you start earning rep if you do it well. On the other hand, complaining that we can't have nice things because we can't trust everybody all the time will get you nowhere.
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 9:13
  • 2
    @Nij the number of times I've seen a new user post "I can't comment on X, but I have a similar question" and get absolutely ripped to shreds (for not commenting, despite not being able to or for asking a duplicate) is too damn high. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 10:18
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    @Nij No StackExchange moderator policy is to not ask duplicate questions. They get swiftly removed. Instead you get asked to comment on the original question. Which it's not possilbe to do for a noob. Also I finally found a question I could answer and tried to post but was told only 1 post allowed in the last 30 min. Absolutely no clue what my other post was because I hadn't posted any other questions recently but just accepting the fact it's an authoritarian regime you can't argue with.
    – Badrul
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 10:25
  • 1
    Depending on why you need to comment under an answer, there are a few solutions: 1. Another person who does have the commenting privilege could be having the same issue 2. Your confusion is enough to prompt you to ask a new question that links the other answer and asks for an explanation/clarification of it- make sure that it is still interesting, relevant, and on-topic, for it may be closed as too basic. Make it clear that it isn't a duplicate. 3. Finally, edit! It may seem like a long road to 50 rep with just edits, but there are tons of questions and answers that need improvement.
    – CDR
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 13:55
  • 1
    @heartspring 1&2: No asking a question that has already been asked incurs the wrath of StackExchange admins, I actually have a high reputation on my personal account so it's not like I'm not an experienced user. Asking similar sounding questions has resulted in mods making me feel like a petty criminal. Anyway the point of the OPs post was to ask for feedback so I was just giving it. If the authorities in charge don't agree then that's up to them,
    – Badrul
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 18:15
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    Further update. I tried to find a question I could answer. I found one but the user did not provide enough detail to identify the root cause so instead I wrote a helpful post about how they might want to try and debug it. Immediately - within a few mins, a mode posted "These are suggestions, and not a definitive answer to OP's issue. This discourse should be done in comments and chat until a solid solution is derived from the conversation". (which clearly I can't do without reputation). One tries to be helpful and one is made to feel like a petty criminal.
    – Badrul
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 20:44
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    Oh and to add insult to injury they decided to vote down my answer so now my reputation level is back at 1.
    – Badrul
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 20:48
  • 1
    "StackExchange moderator policy is to not ask duplicate questions. They get swiftly removed." - no; they get closed and linked back to the original, and then you can (regardless of reputation) comment on your own question,and usually the person who closes the question will be happy to add some clarification. I have even in these cases gone and added my own answer to the duplicate, offered a bounty for a new answer, or edited existing answers for clarity. By the way, the people you are talking about are not moderators. I am not a moderator. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 21:50
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    "Because I'm trying to build up my work account so that I'm not having to constantly swap profiles" - there is no sense of urgency here. My best advice is to make a note and comment when you get home. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 21:55
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    Aside from all of that: if you need a clarification of an existing answer, there are multiple possibilities: 1) it is fundamentally unclear, and someone else will comment or edit eventually. 2) The misunderstanding is personal, and it has to do with some tangential aspect of the answer - e.g., it's showing how to solve a problem, and the example code uses some idiom on one line, and you don't understand the idiom. Then you don't actually have a duplicate question, you have a question about that other aspect - although it is likely a duplicate of a different existing question. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 22:00
  • 1
    (con't.) 3) the misunderstanding is personal, but it's still fundamentally about the overall problem and the approach described in the answer. We probably can't help with that, because there's no good way for us to understand why you don't understand an answer that other readers do understand. If we were to pretend your question weren't a duplicate, and try to answer it normally, we'd just give the same answer (or a substantially similar answer) and you'd be no better off than before. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 22:00
  • 1
    I used to think that "just throw multiple rephrasings at the wall and see what sticks" is a valid strategy for communicating with programming students who aren't understanding the first explanation of some concept. But after years of talking about and teaching programming, I've come to disagree with that. The problem is generally either caused by some prior misconception or knowledge gap, or else can only be solved by the student's own initiative. Posting multiple explanations is just a hack to make the student read the explanation multiple times and think more about the problem. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 22:03
  • 1
    I may have to delete this entire post too - everytime someone downvotes me it harms my reputation. Therefore this is not a space for me to mention these matters.
    – Badrul
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 20:30
  • 2
    That is not the case; Meta sites are specifically exempt from those reputation penalties for that exact reason. Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 23:45
-8

What's working?

While not great, it is a basic way to separate newbies from experienced people. It also separates spammers from good posters. It is also a way to allow more experienced and good posters to have more privileges. This allows the community (albeit only a subset of it) to run the site for the most part.

What's not?

How long do you have?

First, rep is supposed to be about trust. Posting something with 1 upvote and 4 downvotes gains rep, but certainly loses trust.

Second, moderation should not be tied to rep (something gained from good questions/answers). They have little correlation.

Third, the idea that a high-rep user's opinion is worth more than a lower-rep user's. While we don't want this, it is in some ways true (low-rep users can't VTC and some can't downvote).

Finally, there are bounties. While definitely a good idea, I don't think they should really contribute to rep. After all, earning a 500 bounty means that the bounty giver liked your answer. Is that really the same as 50 upvotes? I don't think so.

What should be fixed?

First, like I said, a separate moderation rep. Accepted flags would be worth 1. Declined flags are worth -1. At 10 mod rep you could use the queues. Voting correctly in them gains 1 mod rep, incorrectly takes 1 mod rep. At 25 mod rep you get access to mod tools. Correctly deleting gets 1 mod rep, incorrectly takes 1 mod rep. Trusted user is at 50 mod rep. Finally, finding correct dupes gives 2 mod rep and incorrect takes 1 mod rep.

Second, upvotes and downvotes being equal. Each should require 125 reputation to do and each should gain/lose 10 rep. Otherwise a user can post nonsense. One person who has no idea what they are doing upvotes it. 4 others downvote it. That user gained rep, but I don't think that they gained any trust, they lost trust.

Third, lower thresholds for privileges. Do you really need 1,000 rep to see vote counts? No, probably not. I think that 200 is good for that, if not making it a 1 rep feature. Or 2,000 rep to edit without queues. No wonder there is always a backlog. How about after 10 edits or 1000 rep. 1,500 to create tags. I think the beta site requirement of 150 rep is far more reasonable. I could go on, but you get the point. These requirements are too high and too discouraging. This makes it so that low-rep users opinions are less heard.

Finally, lower how much bounties are worth. I have seen users whose nearly entire rep comes from one large bounty and yet have a bunch of privileges.

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    I think this is too focused on a specific design for one of the problems, and too lacking on details - I would be interested in seeing how you view the next couple layers of the proverbial iceberg, since I wrote an answer that seems to be in much the same spirit but with a lot more specific objections. I don't really get the downvotes, though - I think in broad strokes you have the right idea. Maybe people object to the notion that "newbies" ought to be "separated" along with the "spammers"? Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 21:25
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    "How long do you have...this is just the tip of the iceberg." We have all day, show us the whole iceberg, and explain some stuff in more detail :)
    – CDR
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 23:40
  • I have @Heartspring-CDR Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 10:27
-9

I think there are already a lot of other good answers, but I did want to contribute one idea that might be a good augmentation on them (and I don't think I saw as I skimmed through them). Overall, we see a lot of issues that seem to stem from fastest to answer gets the most points. We see issues where folks are answering questions that should have been closed.

I would recommend a simple solution, which is that any answers posted within the first 24 hours of a question being posted are held in queue until after 24 hours has past. At that time, everything in queue will get posted simultaneously. While a question is in queue, the respondent can edit all they want as well but those edits won't be tracked.

If the question is closed, all queued answers are not posted. If the question is re-opened, the respondents will need to manually approve the posting of their answers because they might've assumed something that's now erroneous in the revised question.

This timing restriction wouldn't apply to any answers on old questions, so if you find something from a year ago that you can meaningfully contribute to, your answer will post immediately.

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    won't that mean that new simple questions will suddenly get lots of identical answers after 24 hours. That's not useful surely. Now an answerer can see that someone's answered the question with something pretty much the same as they were going to write and therefore avoid simply writing the same thing again. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:08
  • @RobertLongson I'm not sure how the answers might be presented when initially posted, perhaps randomly. But if that's the case, then you'd see a lot of answers coming to the same conclusion, which means that it's probably the right conclusion. Given it's a simple answer, the vote distribution may be spread out across those randomly posted answers thereby minimizing excessive rep gain by fast answers on easy questions. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:12
  • you want to make every Stack Exchange question asker in the world wait a minimum of 1 hour to receive any answers?
    – starball
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:16
  • 2
    If someone's going to write an identical answer to one that's already been written that's a waste of their time, we'd be better off if they looked at a different unanswered question and answered that instead. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:20
  • 2
    This doesn't really have a lot to do with reputation, earning reputation or losing reputation, does it? This is just about asking and answering questions. (There is more to say about adding yet another queue for this kind of activity but both are orthogonal anyway.)
    – Makoto
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:24
  • @starball "you want to make every Stack Exchange question asker in the world wait a minimum of 1 hour to receive any answers?" There is not supposed to be any sense of urgency, and it very often takes at least that long to get a not-quite-up-to-standards question into proper shape - even with an engaged, willing and understanding OP. Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 21:24
  • @KarlKnechtel yes. agreed. But the question should be in shape before answering the question anyway. Some people actually write questions that are answerable and of fair quality from the get go. I don't see why make them wait an hour to see any answer. And people already have to wait to accept answers. Not that I don't see some merit in this. But I also wonder things like- if the problem is FGITW answers, why not just make people wait to vote instead of wait to see answers, but allow close-voting? Why this specific idea?
    – starball
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 21:39
  • @starball Hmm, those also seem like interesting approaches worth consideration. Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 22:24
-10

This is a small, specific suggestion, but it may be totally unfeasible given I know nothing of how the Stack Exchange backend is designed, or problematic in other ways.

As a long-time user (I have viewed sooooo many questions in so many disciplines), but first-time poster on this site, I feel I have a good sense of what good questions and answers are, but I don't have the reputation to vote on them, which is frustrating. It would be cool to receive reputation by viewing questions, in which case by this point I would have a lot.

This has obvious problems such as allowing people/bots to game the system easily, and the smallest denomination of (1 reputation) seems too high for viewing a single post, but I thought it would be worthwhile to bring up anyway, in case anyone gets some better ideas by reading this.

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    while I can kind of see the point that by reading a lot of Q&A, you will learn things and may learn to know what you're talking about, you haven't "talked" (posted anything). You haven't helped anyone by writing something useful to them, nor have you proven to anyone that you know what you're talking about. If you've been here for a long time and want voting privileges, I'm really surprised you don't have them yet. Once you have the site association bonus, it only takes 13 edits to gain downvote privileges.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 23:42
  • 4
    Add to that the fact that you only created this network account of your this week. So none of your previous views of posts can even be attributed to it.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 23:46
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    "This has obvious problems such as allowing people/bots to game the system easily" this is trivially gamable. It's not even funny how easily gamable this suggestion is. Even if you rate limit requests, it's still easily gamable over time.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 0:00
  • 3
    "a long-time user (I have viewed sooooo many questions in so many disciplines), but first-time poster on this site" - any particular site? "I feel I have a good sense of what good questions and answers are" - what, in a way that doesn't depend on which SE site it is? Certain things are transferrable, but a lot of domain-specific knowledge is going to be needed to judge that at all accurately for most sites. Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 10:17
-11

I think the first and probably the only thing that should be looked at is to remove the reputation requirement for posting comments. Yes, this could lead to more "useless" comments or answers posted as comment, but it will likely also lower the amount of new users receiving downvotes for posting comments as answers (because they can't post comments), and thus remove (or at least reduce) most of the friction that new users experience with the site.

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    This ought to address comments consisting of pure spam. Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 12:25
  • 1
    @This_is_NOT_a_forum As opposed to answers or questions that are spam? In any case, maybe asking questions, answering and commenting should all be disabled by default and only enabled if a user took the tour. Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 12:34
  • 2
    Down votes on such answers will quickly be nullified once the answer is deleted so this is not a problem that needs fixing.
    – Dharman
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 17:18
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    Other than lots more of useless comments, I don't get what else would this proposal accomplish.
    – Dharman
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 17:19
  • 2
    @Dharman As far as I'm aware downvotes on an answer will contribute to the answer-ban, even when the answer is deleted. In addition, getting your answer downvoted in itself is taken as a negative signal by new users, so allowing new users to comment removes (or reduces the chance of) the action a lot of new users perform incorrectly. Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:04
  • 8
    How about this instead - let's not treat this like some kind of forum where commenting is seen as this vital, essential thing?
    – Makoto
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:04
  • 2
    If downvoting is perceived in a bad light, then the site needs to change this perception. We can't make users feel warm and cosy at the cost of reduced quality. While downvotes on deleted answers count towards the ban, it is extremely difficult to get answer ban and even easier to get out of this ban.
    – Dharman
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 18:06
  • You should see Cody's comments here under another answer
    – starball
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 4:03
  • 3
    @starball Cody approaches from the other end, he is of the opinion that people don't need to comment. I'm approaching it from what I observe when reviewing low quality answers, that new users are very prone to misuse answers to post comments because they can't comment yet. They get downvoted and told off for abusing answers, this all contributes to a negative experience. I think having more "bad" or unnecessary comments is better than having such "answers", and the negative experience associated with them for new users. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 8:32
  • @Dharman If you're new, and you're not yet familiar with Stack Overflow yet, I'm not surprised people take downvotes as negative and personal. It takes some experience with the site to get used to things. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 8:35
  • 2
    I agree that allowing new users to comment would [nearly] solve our NAA answer epidemic. On the other hand, NAA answers and flags are extremely easy to deal with. A bunch of noisy comments are nearly impossible to moderate, for a variety of reasons. This is why I approach the problem from the other way, just as you said, Mark. I don't want to trade a manageable content-moderation problem for a completely unmanageable content-moderation problem. (Perhaps you approach it this way b/c you're one of our most prolific & effective reviewers on the front lines dealing with the NAA epidemic? :-)) Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 11:36
  • 3
    There is a negative experience for users who want to comment but can't and therefore post answers which get removed, but that's much less of an issue (meaning: both happens at a much smaller scale, and is a much lesser contributor to frustration and bad experiences) than users whose questions get rejected. A major contributor to the problem is that many/most new users who come to the site asking a question are unable to even distinguish between answers and comments. I didn't believe this for the longest time, and I still find it hard to understand why not, but it's a real thing, I promise. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 11:38
  • 2
    If anything, maybe commenting should cost reputation, like a downvote. (Maybe you get some of that back if people upvote your comment.) Make people ponder if their comment is really worth spending a little reputation on it or not. Maybe we just need more reputation sinks in general....
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 20:53
  • @CodyGray Thanks. I understand where you coming from. Maybe there is middle option of automatic expiring comments for low-reputation users (i.e. they're deleted after a few hours). Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 11:03
  • 3
    @Makoto "How about this instead - let's not treat this like some kind of forum where commenting is seen as this vital, essential thing?" The problem is that even though this is not a forum, commenting is essential because we have no other way to communicate specifics to OPs about improving the question - and in a huge percentage of cases, that feedback is vital. OPs can't clarify a question if they don't see why others find it confusing or ambiguous. They can't provide missing information if they don't know what's missing. They can't focus a question if they don't realize the issue. Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 0:14
-11

More Detailed Downvotes

Problem

Having experienced this myself, it is the worst thing ever when you ask a question and it is closed, with the message "off-topic" or "opinion-based" and you don't even get a good explanation on why. I now have no idea why they are off-topic or opinion-based. This makes it difficult for beginners who just want their questions answered.

Note: Yes, I did check the about section in the sites.

Another thing is downvotes. Another thing that is really frustrating is when your post is being downvoted and you have no idea why. Then it is eventually closed and you are really discouraged to ask another question. Worst, you still don't have an answer.

Solution

When you go to close a question, require at least 25 characters. This will help a lot. Also, make a requirement that when you close a question you help give them a better place to ask it or how to improve the question.

For solving the downvote problem, simply require the person to add a reason why they're downvoting the post or answer. Make sure to as a 25 character requirement as well. Like before, add a requirement where the person must say how to improve the post or where else you should ask the question. What you could do is make all of the comments from the downvote anonymous so that way everyone can see them. Then, just add a button saying "Reason Already Mentioned" that can be pressed to prevent duplicate reasons. Yes, I know voting is a content rating system, but if we give the author feedback then they will be able to provide better content.

Note: Yes, I know people could just type gibberish, but there will still be the people who actually type something useful who will help out the poster.

Conclusion

Though it may be difficult to do, we need to add a feature where you have to add a private comment whenever you downvote. Right now this post is being downvoted and while one person explained why, the other didn't. If I knew why both people downvoted I could have improved this post even more.

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  • 2
    What can we do to encourage downvoting?
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:05
  • @VLAZ I changed the post a bit to fix some of the problems those posts bring up. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:19
  • -1 because of asdkkytrdcfvbnmhbfnlwrbvfwknsdfjhv Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:24
  • @samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz I also added a note into my post about that. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:27
  • 5
    "If I knew why both people downvoted I could have improved this post even more." here is a HUGE issue with ALL proposals like this: multiple people can vote based on the same reason. Do you really think it's viable to get, say, 25 downvotes and 25 comments saying the same thing? Do you think that would be better? Because I very strongly suspect the huge influx of comments would be highly annoying. Based on the real world observation where people have also often complained about comments. Yet it's not considered for the almost weekly "downvotes should come with comments".
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:27
  • 5
    Also a huge problem with the assumption is that the downvotes are for the author. No, they aren't. Not any more than a review on Amazon is about the seller or the delivery service. Votes are content rating mechanism. Similar to how reviews in Amazon should reflect the product. Votes are signal for anybody who looks at the content. Not just the author. Because the SE network aims to provide content. Large portion of the traffic is users landing from web searches. The goal is to give them the most relevant information.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:35
  • 1
    And the constant "solutions" that need to be added are a strong signal that this proposal wasn't thought through in the first place if each piece of feedback prompts requires an update with a "solution".
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:36
  • 6
    Let me also throw a curve ball - why should downvotes come with explanation? In what way are upvotes different?
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:37
  • 1
    "Upvotes can also have a explaination," interesting comments-for-downvote proposals throw in something half hearted like this when confronted with why it should comments not apply to upvotes. Usually the response is that yes maybe who knows probably an upvote might also have a comment, perhaps. And otherwise offer a response that upvotes might be equal but express uncertainty which so clashes with their certainty downvotes require a comment. As if they didn't consider it before. Did you consider upvotes before I asked? Did you consider what the voting system is and how it is used?
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 14:14
  • 1
    Because you seem overly focused on how the author responds to a system that is aimed at the wide public where the author is but one amongst potentially thousands of users who would see the rating.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 14:15
  • 3
    "This shows that downvotes have a bigger effect than upvotes" yet upvotes are cast dramatically more than downvotes. And content which is not useful or even plain wrong often gets upvotes despite its flaws. There are dangerously wrong answers out there with high double or even triple digit score. Which makes them essentially immune to any amount of downvotes, in addition to less downvotes being cast, less users cast downvotes. As a result, countering 50 or 100 upvotes on content which should not be recommended is so hard to be basically impossible in most cases. This is where
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 16:56
  • 1
    content rating fails. This runs directly counter to the purpose of the network where bad content should sink, good content should float. Check my answer here - what you need to read is between "Let me be the bearer of bad news." and "Which is another reason why it is dangerous to leave wrong content." to see an IRL example of dangerously wrong content from SO which was integrated into production. Yet, here you are trying to push for changes to reduce the casting of downvotes by focusing on the wrong side of them.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 16:56
  • 3
    1) I genuinely don't understand how it's possible to not understand why a question is opinion based. I've seen so many people try to raise this about specific questions, and in every single instance, it's plain as day. 2) Re explaining downvotes, this has been rejected countless times on meta.SO. Please read meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/357436. It's also covered on meta.SE: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135. 3) This current discussion is supposed to be about reputation, not closing questions or voting. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 21:45
  • 4
    As for "This makes it difficult for beginners who just want their questions answered." - that is not the purpose of the site. We answer questions that belong on the site, because we are building a library. We don't answer "the question that OP asked", because a) it might not be appropriate for the site and b) we aren't offering a discussion forum or help desk. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 21:46
-21

Stop the dopamine crack. Information should be shared on the intrinsic motivation for the love of knowledge. To engineer a situation for extrinsic rewards is manipulative and ought to be criminal.

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    voting on posts is a general indicator of usefulness. on questions, it's also an indication of being well-researched and descriptive. reputation is a measure of trust. lots of people don't do things for the rep. but like it or not, this "gamification" is deeply part of the Stack Exchange system.
    – starball
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 22:23
  • 7
    There are, however, sites that have reputation counters hidden from user cards, like MathOverflow. Related: Is there a path for other SE sites to have rep hidden by default like MathOverflow?, and you can write or use an existing userscript to hide them from your local view. Related: Options to hide reputation information on Stack Overflow?
    – starball
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 22:25
  • 13
    I love sharing knowledge, but I value my time.
    – Makoto
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 22:50
  • 3
    I would be open to this idea (I take it you only want to get rid of reputation not of voting or tying privileges to experience). Maybe there could be an experiment where users can opt in to not see their reputation and the reputation of others. And then after some time the user group that opted in to that is compared to a comparable user group that didn't it to his this group did before. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 21:49
  • 2
    Some problems with the rep system:This post gained you rep even with a score of -19 @Seeking answers Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 11:11
  • lol. I think that’s a feature, not a bug. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 13:10
  • 2
    I know, but it is still dumb @Seekinganswers Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:33
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