I've been a member of SO for a couple of months, though only really active for the past few weeks.

It has only recently dawned on me (as a newer user) that "reputation" has nothing to do with the user's reputation as a question answerer or asker, but is indeed just a system measurement to determine what access/editing rights you have on SO.

And that realization only came through reading a number of postings here on MSO.

I don't think I'm more than averagely stupid as a website user (grin) so it must be confusing a lot of other new users too.

So why not call "reputation" something else instead that doesn't have an implication of human trust attached?

EDIT: I guess I'm thinking from the point of view of the forthcoming StackExchange when applied to non-technical users. I can envisage some confusion when a user with a "high reputation" provides an answer to a question and someone believes that answer to carry more weight as a result.

Yes, those sorts of inaccurate answers should be voted down but that implies there are enough users with enough knowledge to know the answer is inaccurate. On a newish StackExchange site, that might not be the case for quite a while.

3 Answers 3


I think reputation is a reasonably accurate name. It shouldn't be mistaken for technical expertise as getting reputation is simply an exercise in persistence rather than expertise. But reputation is a rough indicator of your investment in SO.

Elsewhere it's called "karma" and other things. Joel refers to it as "points" in talks he gives. "Points" or "score" probably has too many game-related connotations. Reputation really is the best of the bunch (imho).


Mainly because I, for one, don't really agree with or share your realization. I'm of the opinion that reputation score is, in fact, to some degree correlated with social reputation.

I consider this to be the case because many users of the site perceive it to be the case, and this is a textbook example of a situation where the perception creates the reality.

  • Your implication then is that the often-quoted-as-an-example Shore (stackoverflow.com/users/104015/shore) deserves that score as a reputation of "trust"? Not sure I agree.
    – Joe Schmoe
    Jul 13, 2009 at 22:53
  • Shore is a pathological case where the correlation breaks down, certainly. But we aren't doing deductive proofs here; one counterexample doesn't disprove the tendency.
    – chaos
    Jul 13, 2009 at 22:55

I'm sure there is trust attached on many cases. There where suggestions about replacing the actual number with some simple titles (novice .. god) and hide the reputation value entirely from the answers (if you want to find out, see the user's page; just extrapolate the case of the comments not having the rep value but the name only). One obvious example is the existence of the Populist badge itself.

More logical option would be to show the reputation of the answerer regarding to the tags at hand: You might have 20k+ rep from C# answers and 100 rep from Java answers. Would you (blindly) trust a person with that property if you see 20.1k or 100 beside his name?

One thing I never understood is why the badge counts are listed along the rep value. You need to see the users page to find out which badges are there, but does it help you at all? Not for me: knowing he's been there for 100 days continuously makes you trust him more? Nope, it seems to be just for fame.

So bottom line, the more reputation (and experience with the site) you gain the more you can assess others' reputation value when you meet on a question.

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