Stack Overflow is a Q/A system based on reputation. Do you think that SO will work as now if reputation was suppressed?

5 Answers 5


The main problem is trying to combat spam. Reputation is a way to do that, where by you have to invest time and energy into the system before you can perform certain tasks like up-vote.

It also is a way to create moderators and delegate out higher community functions like cleaning up, moving and closing questions. Essentially the SO community is paying users to work on the site by issuing reputation points. This keeps the user community clean and helps prevent spam from entering the system.

Reputation isn't about making you feel good, it is "a component of identity as defined by others"

  • 1
    +1 for mentioning spam protection Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:36
  • Well, as someone with a lot of rep points (as opposed to reputation) on SO I have to say I completely disagree. And it's noticeable that many high-rep users DON'T help clean up the site - something I've complained about before. Personally, I'm only in it for the free clothing :-)
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:37
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    @Neil That is because reputation is easy to gain but hard to lose. High reputation doesn't mean you are a model citizen, but it does mean you probably aren't going to trash the place or set anything on fire. There are usually enough people that want to "have nice things" that they are willing to clean up after everyone else, but if the amount of work gets too much then they may start implementing new ways of getting reputation (clean up questions, etc). Even then you can't make someone do something they don't want to do.
    – Greg Bray
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:43
  • I think cleaning up questions/answers should be worth a bit of rep.. Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:51
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    @Greg Actually, you could encourage people to vote to close. Maybe lose 10% of your rep per month if you don't expend all your close votes. God knows there are enough cases needing them.
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:53
  • @George Problem is that it is hard to determine if the person was good or bad at cleaning up the question. You could implement a meta-moderation system like Slashdot, but that requires a lot more work by the users. I sort of like the idea of expiring or decaying reputation slowly over time using something like what Neil mentioned, but right now the system works well enough as is compared to other sites.
    – Greg Bray
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:00
  • @Neil: To be honest, I don't think that voting to close is nice. It's particularly bad when a well-worded question with good (and highly-voted) answers is closed in favor of an older, poorer question without any of the things which made the newer one better copied over. Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:01
  • @Neil The problem would be making the penalty too harsh so that people start editing or closing questions just to avoid loosing rep. It is usually better to use intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation goo.gl/ibgo
    – Greg Bray
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:05
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    @Donal It's only voting to close that stops SO being as worthless as Usenet - if you don't use the vote to close ability when you have it, well you may call it being "nice" - I call it being a parasite on those that do.
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:08
  • @Greg I'd agree - if either of those were working.
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:09
  • @Donal Many, many, questions need to be closed for reasons other than 'duplicate.' The front page would be completely full of pointless garbage if not for tireless exercise of the close links.
    – Rosinante
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 23:12
  • @greg managing rights could be done with a hidden reputation. Commented May 5, 2010 at 6:18
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    @Greg the problem with visible reputation is that people will use the system to get reputation instead of just asking/answering. visible rights would be more opaque and could work as well or better. Commented May 5, 2010 at 6:22
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    @Neil I rarely vote to close posts mainly because I don't see many posts that deserve to be closed. I know there are some and those get closed faster than I usually can can get to them. Commented May 5, 2010 at 13:43
  • @Neil: Oh, I do vote to close. But you seem to be encouraging the creation of crap questions just to give people something to vote to close so as to use up their votes! That's definitely an abuse. Or maybe we could just start the day by voting to close 12 random questions, hoping that nobody else picked the same 12 (unless those are genuinely bad questions, of course). No, I think that your suggestion is stupid, wrong-headed and plain idiotic. The consequences of it would be worse than what we've got now. Commented May 6, 2010 at 13:15


Reputation is a fundamental aspect of the site. Not something to get caught up in, but I highly doubt it would work as well as it does without it.

  • Greg's answer is better; explains why. Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:55

While some people might not like admitting it, people like to be rewarded for what they do. When other people up vote your questions and answers it makes you feel like you accomplished something. Up votes are a kind of social payment for doing good that reinforce that you are doing something helpful.

Also, voting brings about competition to answer first and answer best as it allows you feel like you have done better than your peers when you get more votes for you answers.

  • Obviously, you and I have completely different motivations.
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:08
  • @Neil I thought it was obvious when your answer didn't say the same thing ;)
    – Earlz
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:24
  • This inverse the behavior. People ask/answer questions to get votes. Not all of them, but a lot. When people is no more interested in getting votes, s/he has forgotten which was the main goal get answers to your questions, help other with their questions. If answering a accepted answer doesn't give you votes, people end by not answering them. Commented May 5, 2010 at 6:28
  • @Neil its ok that we have different motivation. I enjoy answering question and I do also like receiving credit for it. Does the vote system hurt your enjoyment of the Trilogy? If not then I think the argument is voting gets more people involved. Commented May 5, 2010 at 13:38

I think this is a great question. How about no rep for a week, and see what happens? But the big problem is not the rep but the side effects - the key feature of SO to me is not rep/badges but self moderation, and it's hard to see that can work without rep. Still, I'm in favour of the experiment!

  • O Noes my reps!! They be gone!
    – Earlz
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:03
  • +1. Excellent idea. One week without rep Wow! Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:14
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    +2 for the answer, but -1 for the no-rep-for-a-week. What if it worked!? Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:17
  • But think of the hordes of people that will come to meta! It'll be even worse than the great rep recalc and April Fool's put together!
    – Earlz
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:17
  • @Eartz Simple - close down meta for the same week. Not a great loss.
    – nb69307
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:18
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    @Neil then everyone would just spam the blog and the team@ would go crazy with all the emails and people would come to see Jeff at his house and ask him what is up with the rep in front of his kid and all. Think of the children!
    – Earlz
    Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:22
  • It would be a mess. Plus I would avoid SO that week :) Commented May 4, 2010 at 22:53

reputation is like a virtual pat on the head, which every puppy appreciates

so no, i don't think it would be nearly as popular without the virtual gratitute

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