Compare 2 profiles:

  • superstar Jon Skeet who works at google and who finds the time in between compiles to answer some questions and with the 4th question already hits the repcap with all the upvotes
  • Joe average without a current job, who out of complete boredom answers 234 questions per day and by the sheer numbers, also hits the repcap by the end of the day.

they both might end up after a few months of using this site as people with a high reputation.

The reputation doesn't say much about the quality of the answers, since sheer quantity achieves nearly the same result (I think mostly though the repcap).

A possible solution:

Don't display the accumulated repcap, but display the average number of upvotes/downvotes for all answers/questions given in the the last X months.

This solves multiple issues:

  • It is possible (although still very tricky) to get anywhere near Jon Skeet by answering with premium answers.
  • The reputation actually says something about the answers this person gives and the knowledge they have.
  • It makes it fun for others to try and get a higher reputation, because it really reflects their knowledge and not if they have been using this site since the closed beta
  • and some more points
  • and even more good points

Deleted questions/answers should still be counted. Otherwise people might delete perfectly valid answers just to get a higher rep which is not what we want to encourage.

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    And what's wrong with people like me that try to answer a lot of questions though usually only get 1 or 2 upvotes per answer? It's usually that I'm not fast enough to be the first answer.. – Earlz Mar 6 '10 at 19:34
  • earlz: nothing... all I'm saying is that if you hit the rep count everyday, and Jon does it by answering a few questions and getting +8 for them, you both end up with similar reps. But as I'm reading here, this is intended. So it might be nice to have this qualifier listed somewhere too (even though it is hard to implement) – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:37
  • Yea, I get what your saying.. sorta like how the "xx% acceptance rate" thing shows up in questions, well we could have something like 2.34 vote rate in answered questions.. It'd be an interesting metric, but it should definitely not replace reputation. – Earlz Mar 6 '10 at 19:40
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    Maybe you should make a new question tagged feature-request and explain how this metric would be displayed and work and everything – Earlz Mar 6 '10 at 19:42

Could you give an example of Joe average, because I can't find hi-rep user with no knowledge?

Reputation doesn't mean knowledge. For me it shows level of contribution. It explains why you get more reputation for answering easy question. More people upvote it, because more people understand it, but in effect, you contributed to more people gaining knowledge. Higher reputation means that more people learn from your questions and answers.

If average Joe answers 234 questions a day, he helps a lot of people. And even when some of the answer aren't the best ones, he should be respected. That is why his reputation goes up.

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    +1 for the "contribution" view. I've never thought of it in that way, but it does make some sense. – balpha Mar 6 '10 at 19:09
  • @lukled: that does indeed make sense. It might still be valuable than to see next to someones rep, a knowledge indicator. But I agree (reading the other answers) , this is hard to measure – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:20

The idea is interesting, but it wouldn't help what (if anything) is the real issue at hand: You can "earn" 10 upvotes with a correct answer to a question like "What was that string concatenation function in xyz called again?" while a brilliant, deeply researched and double-checked answer to a complex problem nets one or two upvotes simply because much fewer people understand the issue.

Now I'm not saying that any of SO's high-rep users gained their score by answering only string concatenation questions - I can't see anyone there who doesn't deserve theír "status", and isn't a knowledgeable professional. (Actually, this is pretty surprising and a sign that the system works somehow, even if in theory it doesn't.)

The dynamic is that the majority of people will often not value "deep" contributions, and go for those they can understand - and express an opinion on - quickly. This is not to put down the users of SO - it's human nature, and everyone is subject to it. When I see a question where three people ponder a specific aspect of, say, movement detection in high-res infra-red images at moonlight, I leave them damn well alone because I don't know the first thing about the issue. I sure won't cast a vote because I have no idea whether what anybody says is correct. But I will happily upvote the first answer recommending to parse HTML with a DOM parser, instead of a regular expression.

This has been discussed previously, and I don't feel it's a problem per se. But if anything were to be changed about the voting system, that's what I would address first.

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  • @pekka: hard to disagree with you – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:20

Reputation is not intended as a proxy for knowledge. It is a proxy for good you've done for the SOFU communities and the trust the system therefore bestows upon you.

The metric you suggest might be is interesting and I would like to see it somewhere, but it wouldn't do as a substitute for the "system trust" measure currently in place.

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    still that doesn't make much sense... Just by putting lots of stuff in the system, doesn't make me trustworthy – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:01
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    It means that you have invested your own energy in the community and other users found the results helpful. That is about as good a automatic system can be. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 6 '10 at 19:08
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    @reinier if you put completely worthless stuff into the system, you won't get upvotes. – Pekka Mar 6 '10 at 19:08
  • @pekka: true. The worthless was an overqualification which should have been left out of my comment – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:18

reputation doesn’t say anything about ones knowledge

Maybe that's why it's called Reputation and not Knowledge? What makes you think that it reflects knowledge?

The definition is:

the state of being held in high esteem and honor

This means that someone spending 24 hours a day answering question is, well, reputable.

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  • still people are seen this way. If someone with a high rep count answers something and so does a total newbie. The high rep user is typically voted up earlier and higher than the other user... even if they have similar answers – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:00
  • @reinier Since when? I very commonly see people say to 1 rep users "Good first answer" or "I accepted it because I like to help the little guys." When I'm reading answers I usually don't look at the Reputation anyway, it's all about the answer to me. – Earlz Mar 6 '10 at 19:36
  • @earlz: I've seen it where Jon Skeet answers, and someone else too. And although their answers are similar, Jon will win. I've seen it happen with other high ranking individuals as well. How can anyone with a rep of 70K+ be wrong? – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:40
  • @reinier: Your point of view seems self-contradictory. If you believe Jon hits the cap with a couple answers with +8 votes/answer and you also believe people upvote users with high rep more, then why don't you attribute the votes that are cast towards Jon merely to his high rep? :) – xmm0 Mar 6 '10 at 19:44

Joe average without a current job, who out of complete boredom answers 234 questions per day and by the sheer numbers, also hits the repcap by the end of the day.

Sounds like me. And I'm one of the top 20 SO users, judged on rep. So your point is ....

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    @neil: I'm sorry neil. I tried so hard to protect you by changing the name to joe average – Toad Mar 6 '10 at 19:28

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