I think that the Generalist badge (Provide non-wiki answers of 15 total score in 20 of top 40 tags) is too difficult to get, compared to other silver badges; it should be gold instead.

Edit: it's been almost a year now. Some people expressed concern that so few people have gotten it simply because it's new.

But let's look at the numbers: we went from 130 in May 2009 to 166 now. That's 4 people a month getting the badge, not the whooping increase implied in some of the comments and answers below.

Let's compare it to the other badges:

  • The average amount of people who get a silver badge is currently 5,552 (the total amount of rewarded silver badges divided by the number of existing different badges). That's 35.5 times more than the number of people who have generalist.
  • The only two silver badges that are more difficult to obtain are Epic and Pundit. The former has a gold version (but should probably have its requirements lowered), the latter should probably be gold too.
  • The most difficult silver badge that is less difficult than Generalist is Strunk & White, which nevertheless was obtained by 716 people.
  • The average amount of people who get a gold badge is 478 (the total amount of rewarded gold badges divided by the number of existing different badges). That's still 2.7 times the amount of people who got Generalist, and this means that even if it becomes gold it's still going to be one of the more difficult gold badges.

I think dividing the badges in "bronze", "silver" and "gold" is much less cool if there are going to be too easy or too difficult badges for their category.

Note: When I say that a badge is more difficult than another, it's just a not verbose way to say that less people got it. It may not necessarily be more difficult, even though usually it's the case.

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    If Generalist is gold, what will the souped-up Polymath be? – Charles Stewart May 23 '10 at 18:46
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    Roentgenium? —— – kennytm May 23 '10 at 18:50
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    What about a "gold version" with a more strict upvote/tag ratio ? – Christian C. Salvadó May 23 '10 at 18:58
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    Wow, how did you do the small text? – Otaku Jul 25 '10 at 22:08
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    @Otaku - Use the HTML tag: <sup>small text here</sup>, more appropriately used like <p>And we conclude that devising a corbomite <sup>footnote</sup> device is essential for deep space exploration</p>. (well, you asked ...) – Tim Post Jul 26 '10 at 1:39
  • @Tim Post: That rocks, thank you! – Otaku Jul 26 '10 at 3:35
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/127689/162102 - the requirement for 200 questions in each of 40 tags before any badges are awarded is onerous on most sites. – Monica Cellio Oct 23 '14 at 17:29
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    So... why is this not a gold yet? :) – chx Oct 5 '15 at 5:28
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    @chx: shog9 added status-declined on Feb 21 '13 at 18:37. To be quite honest, I don't follow his rationale, and it seems like lots of other people don't, either, but then, he's shog9, and we aren't. – Stephan Kolassa Oct 7 '15 at 8:16
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    @StephanKolassa high time to revisit the issue. – chx Oct 7 '15 at 9:53
  • @chx: did so. Let's see where this leads. – Stephan Kolassa Oct 7 '15 at 11:09
  • Pundit should'nt be gold, since it's so easy to get, once you get close vote priviledge. On every close vote, if 5 other people agree, your "I'm voting to close ..." comment get's 5 upvotes. You'll get the badge in no time. – Unitato says Reinstate Monica Jul 12 '17 at 7:53
  • For those who don't know, what is the generalist badge? – Stevoisiak Jul 14 '17 at 20:45
  • @Stevoisiak added to the question. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Dec 4 '19 at 12:26

11 Answers 11


Adding my two cents since more time has passed. There are now only 166 people with a Generalist badge, which makes it rarer than most gold badges. The revised question mentions Pundit, which currently has 867 winners and is thus more attainable. I think silver is much too optimistic for Generalist, whose awardees list is a who's who of SO anyway.

The Generalist badge should be gold.

Update since a year has passed: There are now 256 users with a Generalist badge, meaning only 90 people got it in 12 months, for an average of 7.5 per month.

Eight years since the last update: We have a grand total of 1027 users, for an average of 8 per month since my last check-in. So there hasn't been much of a speed-up in getting this award.

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    I think this is one I agree with, and I think time has borne out the expectations of most - that it really is hard to achieve. It's my opinion that it is at least as hard as a majority of the Gold badges to get. Not a biggie, but still.. – Andrew Barber Dec 19 '11 at 1:34
  • 493 people have it now. – RyPeck Nov 15 '13 at 22:33
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    I wrote a script that queried the API and there have been only 1499 Generalist badges issued on the entire Stack Exchange network. – Paused until further notice. Jun 5 '14 at 16:35
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    Wow @chrisaycock. I am very impressed at your holding on to this for the long game. I'll bring it up with the team for consideration. – Yaakov Ellis Dec 4 '19 at 6:32
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    @Yaakov, thank you for this. I wish I could read comments like yours more often. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 4 '19 at 8:55
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    @YaakovEllis One possibility is to set the current requirements for Generalist at gold, and then create a similar silver-level badge with easier requirements. This would be analogous to Mortarboard -> Epic -> Legendary. (The name Polymath has been suggested, albeit for an even harder badge.) – chrisaycock Dec 4 '19 at 15:57

Treating this question as as other answers have.

We're still at the same story today, a year and a half later. We've got 255 people with the badge, and they're still SO elite. Not a single one under 10k, and very few who don't already have another gold badge.

I think, rather than focusing on just the number of people who got the badge, I'll also mention that the badge being gold could work to enhance the concept this badge might be designed to promote: Encouraging people not just to go for quick answers in topics they can slam dunk and FGITW, but also to branch out into other popular topics.

I'm getting the badge because I know it is a silver only because it is bashful, and because I know that this has encouraged me to branch out and refresh my Python and JavaScript skills, as well as flat out forcing me to learn jQuery (mostly for the extra JS experience), jQuery UI, and PHP.

Also, is this badge easier to earn on non-SO sites, where you don't have to be quite as fast on the trigger and slam dunk answers quite as much? Any statistics?

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    As of March 2012, 31 people have it on SuperUser, 31 on ServerFault, 33 on Programmers, and 31 on TeX. A lot of sites don't have the badge enabled, including Gaming, because the top 40 tags have to have at least 200 questions each before anyone can earn it. The difficulty also seems to vary depending on how broad of a scope the site has. – Troyen Mar 7 '12 at 22:16
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    @wythagoras this edit was totally pointless, MSE is not a per-meta site. The [tag:...] mechanism works as if it's a main site. (and you should see in the preview there's no change) - if you did it to test, we have a sandbox in MSE, no need to mess with actual contents – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask May 15 '16 at 10:55
  • @ShadowWizard Yes, but somehow that discussion tag lead me to the SO discussion tag, most likely because this answer is from the era this was MSO. – wythagoras May 15 '16 at 10:57
  • @ShadowWizard You can see one of the last remaining posts with this bug here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/89627/… The discussion tag here links to the SO tag, even though the MSE tag is meant. – wythagoras May 15 '16 at 11:00
  • @wythagoras oh my... yeah that's a kind of bug, but any change in the post (even just adding a blank space) will "fix" it - when doing so, better leave some explanation e.g. "fixing old tag redirection" so that people won't wonder what happened. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask May 15 '16 at 11:03

Over 100,000 people on SO have a gold badge for a famous question (having a question viewed 10,000 times) - barely 500 have a silver generalist badge.

The generalist badge appears to be awarded appropriately for a gold badge and the famous question badge appears to be awarded appropriately for a bronze badge. I think that the badge system needs an overhaul.

I think a three tier system (bronze-silver-gold) for generalist could easily be introduced:

  • Bronze: 1 upvote in 5 tags
  • Silver: 10 upvotes in 10 tags
  • Gold: 20 upvotes in 20 tags
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Judging from the votes on the question and the answers, the consensus appears to be as clear as it will ever be on SO: the Generalist badge should be gold.

Currently, there are 614 Generalists. Only (614-256)/58 = 6.2 badges were awarded per month since December 2010.

Below is what the current badge distribution looks like on SO. Note the logarithmic x axes! Only two silver badges are rarer than Generalist. I'd agree that Research Assistant does not play in the same league as Generalist, and I'd argue that Epic should really also be gold (or have its criteria loosened) - especially since Legendary is also the third-rarest gold badge.

Conversely, Generalist is rarer than 2/3 of the gold badges. It's rarer than Stellar Question and the Gold Tag Badge.

Shog9 added to this question on Feb 21 '13 at 18:37. I find this rather unfortunate. Judging from the votes across all answers here and from the discussion below his rationale, extremely few people share his point of view. Yes, he is Shog9, and we aren't... but I'd very much appreciate it if he reconsidered his position.

(Full disclosure: I recently got Generalist on CrossValidated.)


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Actually seems fairly easy to me. 15 upvotes in 20 tags and there's quite a bit of crossover between tags. I was surprised to see (using the query from When am I going to get the Generalist badge?) that I'm already only a few upvotes away in my less-used tags.

If you're reasonably fluent in database design, software architecture, and at least two programming languages, you should be able to get the badge. I suspect that describes a lot of people (but maybe not?).

I certainly wouldn't mind it being a gold badge but it's nowhere near as difficult as most of the other gold badges, like Great Answer or Reversal.

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    Great Answer is all luck, I wouldn't call it "difficult" or "easy". You just need the right question and the right time; in fact if you search all 100+ answers you'll see that the vast majority of them are "easy answers" (ie, answer that most programmers know) but that happen to be posted in a popular question when it was still young. Same for Reversal; even more so. (PS and I got all the "luck" badges except Reversal already so I'm not speaking out of jealousy) – Thomas Bonini May 23 '10 at 16:24
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    The hard part is that only the top 40 tags count. – Lance Roberts May 23 '10 at 16:24
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    Also, I almost forgot: as @Lance pointed out you don't have to be fluent in any "two programming languages", that would be easy, yes. You have to be fluent in all the specific programming languages that happen to be in the top40 tags (currently 15) – Thomas Bonini May 23 '10 at 16:28
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    @Lance: Only the top 40 tags count, yes, but almost every question posted has at least one of them and several have two or three. I even managed to get votes in the php and mysql tags just due to all the generic database questions that come up. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 16:31
  • @Kop: Yes, but since the top 40 tags are the most popular, those are the ones that any programmer is most likely to be fluent in. It's not as though the tags were chosen arbitrarily. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 16:32
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    Think of it this way, you two: Gold tag badges (arguably the most difficult to get) require 1000 upvotes. Silver tag badges require 400 upvotes. Generalist requires only 300. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are able to fill tag gaps by just googling answers to questions or explaining general programming concepts. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 16:37
  • Isn't it at most 300 upvotes? If multiple top 40 tags are on a question, doesn't it count multiple times? @Aar – Gnome May 23 '10 at 16:53
  • @The Cat: Yes, that's my understanding. Although obviously having more than 15 upvotes on a single tag doesn't count. So I'd say it's "about" 300 upvotes required, maybe more, maybe less, depending on which questions you answer. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 16:58
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    @Aarobot, I'll be working for it no matter what, but I sure wish that they'd not just restricted it to the top 40 tags. My niche will never be top 40. – Lance Roberts May 24 '10 at 0:59
  • @Lance: Looks to me like you do have approximately the right "spread" for the badge, you just need to answer more questions (less focus on subjective ones :p). – Aarobot May 24 '10 at 1:41

I can provide some statistics for tex.stackexchange: Our first 26 "Generalist" badges were handed nine days ago (December 1st, 2011), and since then a 27th user has earned the badge. At the moment we have 23 users over 10k, so there are actually more Generalist badges than 10k users. (22 of the 23 10k users and 5 other users have earned the badge; the lowest-rep "Generalist" has about 6,500 reputation.)

I'm not familiar with SO, but looking at your user and badge pages, you have 1,863 users over 10k and only 256 Generalist badges. So yes, it seems that the badge is easier to earn at tex.stackexchange.

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    I think that the "top 40 tags on TeX.SE" are more similar to each other, and thus it is more likely to be active in many of them. Like if we would have a Java-only programming site. – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 11 '11 at 22:09
  • On the other hand, you have also quite few tag badges (there is only one gold one - on the most popular tag -, and 11 silver ones). Maybe TeX.SE simply has too few really broad tags (where there are lots of questions). – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 11 '11 at 22:16

Generalist does encourage new learnings by making us step out of our comfort zones.

It is fairly straightforward to earn it by systematically targetting one tag a time(that you have a reasonable shot at), and finding posts which combine both this tag and a known technology (e.g. I could get to [php] via my [sql] skills, and to [java] via general OO knowledge, despite being on the Microsoft stack, etc).

However, I certainly would like to see a gold version of generalist.

One behaviour that Generalist (and the other tag badges) does encourage is to give more energy in answering questions which have multiple tags on it - I'm not sure this is desirable?

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    It encourages new learning on sites that have 40 tags with at least 200 questions each, but all the learning in the world won't help someone on a smaller site. (Exhibit A) – Monica Cellio Oct 23 '14 at 17:27

I can think of the following reasons (somewhat subjective) against Gold generalist:

  1. It may encourage people answer stuff that they don't know much about.

  2. People get it without doing anything in particular over a period of time as tags change (due to edits) or related tags accumulate automatically. E.g. Most of people who have got various arrays badges never really worked dedicatedly towards it. It just comes with languages. So the effort of working towards is not really there (Although this could change if there was a GOLD badge).

  3. People who are close getting a Gold Generalist may actively edit tags (It's GOLD!). I have already seen this behaviour for normal tag-based badges.

As such it's not quite easy to get as it is yet introducing GOLD may encourage undesirable behaviours. So a Silver seems reasonably apt ;-)

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    I do not necessarily see that "people answer stuff that they don't know much about" as a bad thing: I do it more often than I care to admit. If the answer is bad, it wouldn't get upvotes; if the answer has enough quality to earn an upvote, it's good for everybody. – Sergey Kalinichenko Oct 4 '13 at 11:22

I don't know myself. When I check the list of people with the generalist badge, it's a pretty big list but with people of pretty high rep.

Though since the definition of this badge was just released, I think more and more people will get it pretty easily.

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    500 awards for a silver badge after this many years suggests that it should be a gold badge. – amelvin Jan 9 '14 at 11:04
  • @amelvin It might also mean people just don't care that much hunting that particular badge. I received it as a newbie after 6 weeks of activity, so it should not be gold. – dfhwze Dec 4 '19 at 9:54

There is already 130 people who got generalist badge. I think gold badge should be more strict, IMO.

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    About half of the gold badges have ~1000 people who got them each. In fact, only 2 gold badges were obtained by less people than Generalist (but I fully understand this will change now that it's implemented, but I really doubt it will more than double) – Thomas Bonini May 23 '10 at 16:20

Some badges are harder than others. The difficulty of obtaining Generalist depends heavily on the site and... Well, how dedicated you are to participating in multiple areas.

That said... I just earned the badge on Stack Overflow. Therefore, it can't be all that hard. Let's save gold for a more lofty target.

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    Really? Are there loftier targets? It just seems odd we wouldn't want to encourage Generalist. Publicist (spam spam spam), Reversal (why is the question not deleted or edited?), Legendary...ok Legendary is lofty. – user7116 Feb 21 '13 at 18:47
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    Actually, @six, yes: I would say the Specialist badges are considerably loftier. Compare the criteria for silver and gold tag-badges to that for Generalist... – Shog9 Feb 21 '13 at 19:09
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    Badge rates vary a great deal between sites. Some silvers can be rare, some golds next to impossible, because the numbers are set for SO-levels of popularity or publicity. For examples, as of 2013-02-04, the % of each site’s gold badges which are Famous Question badges: 85% gaming (1798/2103) 80% superuser (3121/3886) 69% serverfault (1279/1843) 62% so (46220/74085) 42% english (174/417) 38% unix (80/209) 33% photo (45/135) 29% tex (130/443) 26% wordpress (33/129) 23% scifi (52/229) 14% programmers (176/1244) 12% physics (12/102) 5% math (31/646) — just to show how much it varies by site. – tchrist Feb 21 '13 at 19:14
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    @Shog9: considering I already have a specialist tag by doing nothing more than answering what I already do...it isn't terribly impressive. Spending the time to review the top 40 tags is far more impressive. – user7116 Feb 21 '13 at 19:17
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    That's my point, @six - I didn't do anything to earn the badge other than answer questions. (...and then... wait like two years) The only interesting difference between Generalist and a silver tag badge is whether or not your answers are spread out between multiple tags. – Shog9 Feb 21 '13 at 19:21
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    How is it not harder to accumulate +15's across the top 40 tags than it is to sit on your duff in any given tag? Shouldn't we encourage cross-pollination? (not a real problem, even a gold generalist won't encourage me to spend time elsewhere...but perhaps it would encourage the other 80%) – user7116 Feb 21 '13 at 19:24
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    No, I don't think we should encourage a generalist vs specialist rift @six. I think folks should participate in areas that interest them, in which they have or hope to gain knowledge. The badges should - and do - recognize this. That said, there could easily be a gold version of the Generalist badge - there'd be 50-60 people on SO who'd qualify for it if the only criteria were an increase in the number of votes per tag. – Shog9 Feb 21 '13 at 19:30
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    Here are comparative stats for Generalists compared with all Silvers across several SE sites, sorted according to percentage, with Math.SE having 15× the rate that SO itself has. As of 2013-02-21, the percentage of silver badges that are Generalist badges.... On math, 0.727% (81 / 11135). On english, 0.549% (96 / 17494). On tex 0.446% (46 / 10311). On serverfault 0.169% (44 / 26024). On superuser 0.114% (45 / 39411). On so 0.049% (402 / 824198). – tchrist Feb 21 '13 at 19:35
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    Any chance of revisiting this based on more recent data? – Victor Stafusa Jan 22 '17 at 1:15
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    "it can't be all that hard" says the guy who earned 40k rep in the past 3 years despite not asking or answering a single question. Whose top 4 answers (worth almost 40k) are all on questions would all be closed today. I'm not begrudging your rep or your status in the community, and I know you were in a different place when you wrote this answer, but as a mod you know that it's a very different community today. – miken32 Apr 22 '19 at 2:26

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