Can anyone recommend some articles or papers about the psychology behind online reputation/karma? In addition to any external resources, I'd love to hear thoughts people here have. I'm interested in questions like: Why are we all chasing after rep points? What makes the implementation on SO or other sites successful? Are we trying to get recognized by our peers, or does this hijack the part of brain that wants money and real world items?


  • 2
    Admit it, you're just asking this question so you can get rep.
    – Alconja
    Jul 17, 2009 at 1:25
  • 1
    Hehe. I'm actually working on a site that might have a reputation system, so I'm trying to understand the fundamentals.
    – twk
    Jul 17, 2009 at 1:33

2 Answers 2


A video from Google Tech Talks: Putting the Fun in Functional: Applying Game Mechanics to Functional Software. I watched this a while ago and I don't remember the details. But it's basically about applying game-like mechanics to non-game software.

Anyway, one of the things the speaker talked about was "points" -- IIRC she claims that any time a user sees a number they're likely to think of it as a number of points. She would probably call SO's reputation system a points system, as well as the badges system.

  • That is a great video. Thanks!
    – twk
    Jul 17, 2009 at 14:12

"Why are we all chasing after rep points"

I've said this numerous times ever since I first joined StackOverflow months ago:

Never overestimate the altruism of your fellow man, and never underestimate what your fellow man will do to have a big number next to his name.

We go after rep for the same reason we all want the high score at the local Frogger machine. That number next to our name leads to more recognition and the ego boost that goes along with it.

The Reputation and Badge system act as the "carrot on a stick" which draws a larger audience who is willing to sit around and answer questions, a task that most would think of as boring at first glance.

You must log in to answer this question.

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