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What about capping reputation to 20k total. I mean rep is just about hooking new users and enabling privileges gradually. It's just about dopamine. You would think after some time contributors would be engaged and would value the mission of the network and appreciate contributing for the sake of it, while still enjoying having lots of upvotes when they make an interesting contribution. Maybe that would level the playing field while not overstating a contributor's importance to the network?

Why do you think this would or wouldn't be a good idea?

This is not about the daily rep cap.

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    How is it a problem that some users have over 20k reputation? What does "level the playing field" mean? What "playing field" are you talking about? Wouldn't capping rep understate a contributor's importance to the network? How did you choose 20k? Why not cap rep at 15k, 1k, 500k, or get rid of rep entirely? I don't think downvotes here need an explanation; this post makes a bunch of unfounded assertions and implies that the rep system is unfair, with no clear benefits or motivation provided for the changes or assertions.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 21:29
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    @ggorlen Not really. Extreme rep gives so much importance to such users that people hesitate challenging their content or downvoting them. Plus lots of that rep can simply be achieved with inertia, mass contribution and the passage of time. I believe an established user should just be that, an established user, not some network God. This is a Q&A site, not a downvote site, so yes, explanations are required. If you're too lazy to provide one yourself, hopefully others can provide one in your stead, you can just walk away. If I ask something, an answer can be provided. Jul 9, 2023 at 21:34
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    Actually, 25k rep unlocks site analytics.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 9, 2023 at 21:46
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    Lets not forget the swag (a mug and a t-shirt, I think?) that happens at 100k. Jul 9, 2023 at 21:47
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    Reputation roughly measures how much you have contributed to the site, so capping it would downplay the contributions of many, such as Jon Skeet on SO. Besides, considering the sheer amount of time that it takes to amass thousands or millions of reputation, I doubt that many high-rep users are here simply for reputation.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 9, 2023 at 21:51
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t You're making a radical proposal that totally changes the way rep has worked for 15 years, so the burden of proof that your change is for the better is on you, not on the downvoters. The question is, why is this proposal so helpful? All I'm getting is that you feel it's unfair that some people have more rep due to inertia, luck, etc. You could simply disregard the extra rep. I do. These people are human, and many poor answers are written by people with high rep. It's a heuristic for level of engagement, nothing more.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:00
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t I don't see that you have accounts with 20k rep yet, but in my experience, reaching that level has delivered one important benefit for the site: once I hit around that amount, I stopped caring about rep and felt enabled to spend the rep on downvotes, which I believe have improved quality in tags I follow. When I had less rep, I saw garbage answers and spam, but didn't want to pay the -1 cost of the downvote. Hitting a fairly high rep also allowed me to focus more on curating my tags of interest, rather than answering every question just to get points. Silly, but true.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:05
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    As a related note, last year Math Overflow allowed everyone to opt in or out of seeing reputation and badges for reasons similar to those you've articulated. That site does have a sort of independence unlike any other on the network, but it's relevant all the same.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:06
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t Another consideration: the network isn't doing enough to incentivize high-rep users to stick around, so capping rep is just another reason for them to leave. Sure, while high rep isn't a magical guarantee of quality, there is some correlation. We should be punishing the users we don't want on the site (say, low rep GPT spammers) rather than punishing the subject matter experts and heavily-engaged power users that volunteer their time to curate a high-quality resource.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:08
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    I mean, high rep users also get downvoted too (an example, not anything about the particular user in-question).
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:14
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t Let's say you work hard to earn money, but suddenly a new law is passed that your total assets are capped at $20k. This seems pretty clearly like a disincentive at best, punishment at worst. Sure, some folks will be doctors or lawyers or other high-earning, high-difficulty fields just because they care, but most people won't bother. It's not a perfect metaphor since rep != money, but there's some truth to the comparison. It sounds like you'd just assume get rid of rep altogether.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:50
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t It's interesting that you seem to care about "leveling the playing field", implying that there are winners/losers or some sort of competition at hand, yet you're dismissive of rep as a motivator to you personally. You can't have it both ways--either rep matters or it doesn't. If you don't care about rep, then the easiest solution is to ignore it. If you do care about rep enough to want to limit other people from getting more than a certain amount of it, then it must be a motivator of some sort that changes people's behavior.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 22:54
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t Your argument is too philosophical, presumptuous and impractical. Who cares why others users are here? How do you know that high-rep users have unfulfilling lives? What does pollution have to do with anything? The only goal I care about is whether the site is set up to facilitate high-quality content, and up until the moderation strike, it's the best large-scale model I've seen on the internet. I see many users here who care deeply about curating high-quality content. So tossing out a key component of the winning formula without a coherent, proven rationale seems misguided.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 23:15
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t What does "Doing away with ethics and every thing that is not immediately practical has led us astray in recent history and is imprudent imho" have anything to do with rep? I fail to see how rep is unethical in any way. It's just internet points. I think you're putting way too much weight on rep. If the model fails, it'll be for totally different reasons than users having high rep. A strong contender is the company preferring to let quality be degraded by GPT spam and ignore its power users and moderators who steward the site, for example.
    – ggorlen
    Jul 9, 2023 at 23:35
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    What about capping the money you can earn working to 1k usd a week. You would think after some time workers would be engaged and would value the mission of the company they work for and appreciate contributing for the sake of it.
    – Gio
    Jul 10, 2023 at 15:37

5 Answers 5

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What about capping reputation to 20k total.

No.

I mean rep is just about hooking new users and enabling privileges gradually. It's just about dopamine.

"It's just about A and B. It's just about ~A".

You would think after some time contributors would be engaged and would value the mission of the network and appreciate contributing for the sake of it,

That's not true. For example, there are high rep users who answer duplicates when they probably know they are duplicates. I suppose that could actually be an argument in the favour of what you are proposing, but really what you are proposing is not the best solution to that problem. Earning rep does not directly and necessarily incentivize a person to be more invested in the health of the ecosystem. Perhaps badges do the incentivization for that.

while still enjoying having lots of upvotes when they make an interesting contribution.

So you want people to keep getting notified about upvotes but not gain rep? What real difference does that make and what problem does it solve?

Maybe that would level the playing field while not overstating a contributor's importance to the network?

After a certain point, more rep does not give you any more privileges. At that point, the playing field is already levelled. If this is the only "problem" you think needs solving, your argument is dead because it was never a problem in the first place.

Why do you think this would or wouldn't be a good idea?

Why do you think it would be a good idea?

Rep is a measure of the received usefulness of a user's contributions over time. I don't see any reason in what you've written to go uprooting that.

The problem it solves is godly aura and assuming some content is valid because it comes from a high rep user and upvoting because of this instead of voting for content first.

The user card is shown under/after the content. The content is shown first.

No, I disagree, the field is not level between a 25k user and a 1M rep user, not even close. Privileges don't even the field. A cap does. My question is poorly researched, granted, but some of your statements can be easily be set aside irrespective imho.

Just to name a few.

The problem I'm trying to solve is indirectly high rep user associated with content clashes with the prerogatives of the licence i.e. share & remix.. Wikipedia doesn't have this.

Unclear to me what you're saying here.

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  • Thank you but your answer makes things seem obvious to preserve the status quo. The difference between a vote and the rep attached to it is that votes are about content and community voting, whereas rep is something that increases a score for a user. The problem it solves is godly aura and assuming some content is valid because it comes from a high rep user and upvoting because of this instead of voting for content first. Admittedly seeing an answer highly upvoted might encourage a similar behaviour but at least it's grounded in content value, not prestige. Rep is spurious bling imho. Jul 10, 2023 at 8:26
  • No, I disagree, the field is not level between a 25k user and a 1M rep user, not even close. Privileges don't even the field. A cap does. My question is poorly researched, granted, but some of your statements can be easily be set aside irrespective imho. The problem I'm trying to solve is indirectly high rep user associated with content clashes with the prerogatives of the licence i.e. share & remix.. Wikipedia doesn't have this. Jul 10, 2023 at 8:32
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t edited.
    – starball
    Jul 10, 2023 at 16:38
  • Food for thought, when I get a chance. Jul 10, 2023 at 21:51
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I thought rep was supposed to tell you how much you contributed. If you just cap the rep at 20K, then any users who continue contributing beyond that will receive no recognition. If you post 2000 answers scoring 1, which would give you 20K, or if you posted 20000 answers scoring 1, which would give you 200K, one user will have contributed 10x as much but will have the same rep. This is fallacious given that rep is supposed to tell you how much you contributed.

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  • But who cares about the metric of what people have contributed really. On Wikipedia, do we see any of that with each paragraph?? The goal of the site was to build content, like a Q&A encyclopedia, not to flatter users. Otherwise this might as well be Twitter or what not. Imho what should be recognized is content. Jul 10, 2023 at 0:35
  • @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t I'm pretty sure Wikipedia displays the number of edits a user has contributed.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 10, 2023 at 0:39
  • @bobeyt6isstricken On the network, the number of questions asked, answers contributed and edits made to posts are accessible. Rep is not related to any of it. So no. Jul 10, 2023 at 1:00
  • @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t Since edits are the only metric availabe on wikipedia, I would take them as a sort of reputation system. They also grant priveleges as well.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 10, 2023 at 1:02
  • @bobeyt6isstricken I hear you. What about changing rep on the network to the raw number of posts edited and content contributed then. These tell about the actual contributions, not boosting, inertia, aura and the like. Jul 10, 2023 at 1:03
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    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t that's an interesting idea, but I'd say a user with a couple of focused high-quality answers contributed more than a user with a lot of 0/-1 score rambling posts. On wikipedia its different since rating edits is kind of awkward.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 10, 2023 at 1:08
  • @bobeyt6isstricken Or rating content is just as awkward here but the site has greatly shifted from the vision of a "Wikipedia of Q&As". Jul 10, 2023 at 1:13
  • @bobeyt6isstricken I would argue someone who contributed 2 highly upvoted answers has contributed less, but better. True that idea doesn't account for this. Jul 10, 2023 at 8:48
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Summarizing my comments, here are some reasons I can think of to keep the rep system as is and not place a limit on it:

  • It's the way we've done things for 15 years, since the beginning of Stack Overflow. The change you're asking for is about as radical as they come, so there'd need to be overwhelming, clear-cut, concrete evidence of its benefits for the proposal to be taken seriously. Vague or unprovable philosophical arguments won't cut it.

  • Even if a rep cap could be feasibly implemented, it'd consume a huge amount of the community's energy, almost certainly leading to widespread disagreement and gnashing of teeth at a time when the community is already being torn apart by GPT disagreements (among other things).

  • The network has far more pressing issues to deal with, such as the reasons for the ongoing moderation strike. Not only are the issues at stake in the strike bigger, but the solutions to address the issues would be far easier and less controversial to implement, like simply allowing moderators to ban GPT spammers as they did back in May and committing to release the data dumps as the site did until this year.

  • Limits are rather arbitrary. It used to be that 1 million rep was a big deal at Stack Overflow, but now enough users have it that it's been proposed to stop congratulating them on SO meta. Rep isn't a zero-sum game and grows more or less monotonically, so the number of users above 20k rises over time. Why 20k specifically? Why not remove all rep?

  • 20k is a different threshold at each SE site. On some network sites, the #1 user only has a few thousand rep, and based on the number of questions a day, such sites may never even reach a user with 20k. It's unclear whether the proposal is only for SO, or if it's for network sites, what the cutoff would be per site.

  • Considering the 1% rule, one could visualize SO's value as largely driven by a small set of power users who author the majority of the content. Offering a rep system as a measure of their participation helps encourage these users to stick around. As it is, it's hard to keep power users and subject matter experts on the network, so taking their fake internet points away from them would precipitate even less engagement from the people we most want engaged. Currently, around 12k users on SO have more than 20k rep, many of whom are inactive, so the proposal only affects a very small number of users anyway, for all the fuss it'd cause.

  • It'd be unfair to anyone who's already spent (in many cases) a good number of years earning rep past 20k. Most of these users are acting in good faith and provide helpful content, while enjoying the buzz and friendly bragging rights of rep. As the leagues page states (emphasis mine):

    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 you
    • 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.

  • With a cap, the useful signal difference between a user with 1 million rep and 20k rep is lost. Like money, rep is an approximation of value, and as you shouldn't assume all expensive products are good, or all wealthy people are valuable contributors to society, you shouldn't assume that everyone with 20k rep is knowledgeable or positively contributing. If one trusts all answers from high-rep users and winds up getting burned, that's a problem with blind trust of a metric that isn't intended to be perfect, not the metric itself. Always consider the content foremost, not the user who posted it. Nonetheless, it's still useful to consider rep as a small but important factor when analyzing the value of a particular contribution.

  • Rep isn't perfect, but it seems to be a fairly accurate measure of value in my 7 years on the network as a daily visitor. I haven't seen too many other examples of sites using reputation to measure and encourage quality as effectively as SE.

  • It's unclear how the current system of rep-based privileges would be affected.

  • It's unclear how anyone actually benefits from the rule, other than maybe lower rep users being able to trick themselves into thinking they've contributed more than they actually have, or something like that.

  • Some other flawed metric will probably wind up taking rep's place as a stand-in or proxy.

  • There could be all sorts of unintended and unforeseeable consequences.

On the other side of the coin, here are a few points I can think of in favor of capping rep:

  • Many power users on SO feel that some of those reaching the 1 million club (or other high reputation users) fail to curate and are simply rep-hungry. Capping rep might incentivize them to curate more and answer duplicates less (or abandon the site entirely).
  • It seems you want a "purer" contribution motivator akin to Wikipedia. I don't know how Wikipedia works, but this seems reasonable, if idealistic. I like to think of SE sites as more like Wikipedia than anything else (say, a help desk or free coding service, as some users seem to believe).
  • Capping rep at a very low value might limit GPT spam that's inundating the network. Ostensibly, GPT spam-answering is an attempt to farm reputation. In general, without points, unsavory users might not bother trying to game the rep system, leading to less time spent moderating misbehavior like sock puppet voting and so forth.

Although the idealistic purity of a rewards-free site is enticing, it's too much of a departure from the history of SO. If rep really bothers you, you can install or create a user script to hide it.

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    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 11, 2023 at 0:33
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Capping rep at 20k (or any arbitrary high value) may be helpful in the way you suggest, but more likely it's not going to do anything. Personally seeing an answer or a suggestion came from a high rep user has been helpful for me. When I was working on something obscure and looking for any idea on how to proceed, when I saw a suggestion about what to try next came from a high rep user, it gave me more confidence it's likely the right thing to do and worth investing time on. So reputation is also an indication for other users of the site, rather than just a dopamine rush for the rep earner.

But how much rep is enough? Can just looking at the rep amount be distracting for some users? Does it overstate some contributors importance to the site? I would say this is subjective. Sure there may be some irrationally rep obsessed users who think having a high rep makes them a better member of the site, but the majority most likely aren't this way. If looking at high reps, or interacting with annoying users who think they are better for having high reps is distracting, then I think training oneself to ignore such distractions and only taking those features of the site that are actually useful to oneself, is also a part of learning to use the site, or the Internet in general.

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  • Thank you! But why was it rep and not upvotes on the content that gave you confidence in it I wonder. I'm more concerned with the subjective reaction to high rep than high rep user's behaviour. I cannot shut my brain to such realities, yet this is good advice. I have lots of respect for many top users, not because of their rep, but because of their contributions and their generosity and intellect. Jul 10, 2023 at 8:39
  • @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t The user commented on my question and provided a solution, or rather, some idea on what to do next. I looked at the rep score and saw it was very high, which made me think he knew what he was talking about, or at least, what he suggested was something worth looking into
    – user13267
    Jul 10, 2023 at 8:55
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I think I'll toss in my 2 cents as well.

Some general comments:

  • As others have pointed out, Stack Exchange has operated like this for its entire history, albeit with some minor tweaks. There haven't been any major issues in the past with users having tons of reputation, so it seems like the system is working reasonably well. As I've said before, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • About your concern with new users being intimidated by high-rep veterans: 20k is still a big number, so new users would be intimidated regardless. Also, it would devalue the contributions of many users, regardless of whether those contributions were made solely to gain rep. You have previously suggested using a different(and probably less 'accurate') metric to measure contribution, but imo 50k posts is equally if not more intimidating than 50k reputation.
  • High-rep users usually get it right, so there is little to worry about in terms of them giving wrong information. Even if they do get it wrong, there are still many other experienced users that can point out their mistake so a new user is not mislead.
  • You speak of 'leveling the playing field', why do we need to do that? Stack Exchange isn't a zero-sum game.
  • Wikipedia is fundamentally different from the SE model, so their way of doing things is not relevant to us.

Specific to your OP:

I mean rep is just about hooking new users and enabling privileges gradually. It's just about dopamine.

Reputation measures how much you have contributed to the site, so it is more than 'hooking new users'. And even so, if it encourages users to contribute, that's a good thing!

You would think after some time contributors would be engaged and would value the mission of the network and appreciate contributing for the sake of it, while still enjoying having lots of upvotes when they make an interesting contribution.

I think most high-rep users are just contributing for the sake of it. You don't get any new priveleges after 25k rep, so there is not much difference between 25k or 100k or 1m from an individual standpoint. Besides, if a user really spend a decade of their lives contributing for internet points, does that take away from their contributions? Should we measure the quality of a post by the intent of its OP? I think not.

Maybe that would level the playing field while not overstating a contributor's importance to the network?

Wouldn't a rep cap be understating a user's contributions?

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