Whenever you show a person's reputation, it would be nice if the hover over action on the reputation would show the amount of rep gained from asking vs. answering questions. Mostly I'm just curious (like knowing why a high rep user would be asking a relatively basic question, seeing a breakdown of 6000 rep on 500 asked, 40 rep on 60 answered, would explain a lot). Much like the hover over on accepted answer rate, this would help in developing context without having to refer to the person's profile.


I kinda like the idea but not for your reasons. Say Jon Skeet (master of all C#) but does not know anything about perl (which I know would be nearly impossible :) ). How would you knowing the fact he has maxed out rep for answering questions help you answer his?

  • 3
    I would know that I'm not talking to a ignorant person or one without significant background knowledge, but rather one who has demonstrated the ability to quickly pick up and apply knowledge and reason to the issue. It would help me to know what concepts I can assume he has familiarity with and which might need more explanation. – tvanfosson Mar 10 '10 at 12:44
  • You get rep for knowing your stuff, true, but also for being able to explain it well. I've not read many of Jon Skeet's answers (not currently being a C# guy), but they strike me as being generally good, understandable, and well thought out. Presumably if he were to learn enough COBOL to field the questions, he'd provide useful COBOL answers. – David Thornley Mar 10 '10 at 15:00
  • 2
    @tvan "It would help me to know what concepts I can assume he has familiarity with..." Wait, what? You should be writing your posts assuming a broad audience that is matched to the question - the posts are there for the entire internet, not just the OP. If it's a basic question, answer in basic terms. If its an advanced question that a basic user would have, answer in basic terms. If it's an advanced question only an advanced user would have, answer in complex terms. The answer should not be written based on the user who posted the question - it should be based on the question itself. – Pollyanna Mar 10 '10 at 16:54
  • 1
    Further, "I would know that I'm not talking to a ignorant person" Please post the algorithm you can use, and its success rate, for determining from the Q/A rep breakdown whether a person is ignorant or not. Consider running this against the SO data dump and sharing your results so we can verify that one can indeed determine such information from those four numbers. – Pollyanna Mar 10 '10 at 16:58
  • @Pollyanna -- that depends on the exact nature of the question. If the question is in regard to a specific situation, I think you should tailor the answer to the level of the OP -- i.e., the question exists primarily to solve the OP's particular problem. If the question is more general in nature, then an answer for a more general audience is appropriate. – tvanfosson Mar 10 '10 at 17:42
  • 1
    @tvanfosson - but I still don't see how these four numbers can possibly guide you to understand (with some accuracy) your op's background, even if it was reasonable to tailer the response to the OP and not to the question. – Pollyanna Mar 10 '10 at 20:39

this would help in developing context

Which, as far as I can tell, is only useful if you plan on basing your answering and voting on the person, and not the question.

Keep in mind that this site is meant to help others in the future. Even if the user in question is gaming the site, the question may prove useful to others later.

Why should SO make it easier for you to base your voting and answering on the person and their history, rather than the post itself?

  • 2
    Because, as I noted in my other comment, I think that for specific questions on a particular problem it's more important to answer in a way that addresses the OPs issue first at a level the OP can understand. This isn't wikipedia where we're developing a compendium of knowledge (though that is perhaps a side-effect). This is a Q/A site where people ask questions and get an answer to their problem. That others may benefit from it as well is a bonus. If a question is of a more general nature, then an answer for a more general audience would be more appropriate. – tvanfosson Mar 10 '10 at 17:45
  • 1
    @tvanfosson - I'd say it's more than a side effect - it's one of the site's stated goals: "With your help, we can build good answers to every imaginable programming question together." But I've responded more particularly to your other comment. (source: stackoverflow.com/about ) – Pollyanna Mar 10 '10 at 20:42

I thought about implementing this for myself via a user(greasemonkey)script. There is one user in particular that asks a lot of really poor (but technically "real") questions and has accrued a substantial amount (nearing 10,000) of reputation as a result.

  • Yeah, it really devalues rep when 99-askers (user who ask 99% of the time and answer 1%) can accumulate so much from questions. – Lawrence Dol Mar 10 '10 at 3:51
  • 1
    If their questions did not have merit would the community not rep them up? – Unfundednut Mar 10 '10 at 3:53
  • 1
    @MrStatic Technically they have value, but again, that doesn't mean they're not poor questions (relatively speaking). – Sampson Mar 10 '10 at 4:38
  • There's more then one of them, and they're coming right at us! – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 10 '10 at 5:34
  • 2
    @SoftwareMonkey: I'm not against people asking 99% of the time. Asking questions is great. It's the type of questions you ask (over, and over) that is of interest here. – Sampson Mar 10 '10 at 5:37
  • 4
    @MrStatic: There are several users (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) who ask endless questions and never show any evidence of having learned anything from all the effort that other have invested in them. Note that this group is quite distinct from the many beginners we have who ask a lot of questions in order to learn from them. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 10 '10 at 5:39
  • 1
    They do provide the questions where YOU can gain rep on ;-) – Ivo Flipse Mar 10 '10 at 6:55
  • 1
    @Ivo Sometimes. Sometimes they alter their OQ to include your answer ("I know that I could do x...but what else"). Sometimes they follow up your answer with 3 or 4 more questions in your comments driving you mad :) – Sampson Mar 10 '10 at 12:00
  • In response to the comments here, my request isn't about preventing users from gaining rep through asking questions. Due to the character of meta, for a long time, that was the only way to gain rep here. :-) I'm just looking for a way to help me know, for example, whether I need to explain what a design pattern is to a questioner who asks a basic question about code structure when they have a seemingly high reputation. – tvanfosson Mar 10 '10 at 12:50
  • And then comes the Electorate gold badge. – David Thornley Mar 10 '10 at 14:58

If you need context on the question-asker, there's no substitute for looking at their profile page.

Simply breaking down the rep like you suggest appears to give more information, but at the same time, it could give information just as misleading as the overall rep number itself. There is far more information needed to give a good context than could be packed into a tooltip.

In my experience on SO so far, I can usually tell the experience level/context of a question by how well the question is phrased, without looking at the rep number. As MrStatic mentioned, if Jon Skeet were to ask a question about how to get started with COBOL, I wouldn't expect to see a question title like "i want how learn cobol ?"

  • We keep trotting out Jon Skeet as the example, but with 100+K rep he's hardly representative. I'm talking more about the guy with 5-10K rep. Since SO has been live, it's possible to garner this much rep just by asking a ton of questions and still be relatively clueless. – tvanfosson Mar 10 '10 at 16:49
  • @tv: True, but still at 5K, that's in the top 2% of users; and of those, a small fraction are clueless. – Jon Seigel Mar 10 '10 at 19:50
  • @tv: Here's a question that just popped up that demonstrates my point: stackoverflow.com/questions/2420040 – Jon Seigel Mar 10 '10 at 19:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .