I lost about 2000 rep on Area51 (see link for full explanation) because that rep came from proposals that had been deleted.

In the discussion that followed (see link again) we decided to post this question to see what the community thinks is best.

Should reputation on a failed proposal be retained? Or is it just gone?

(My opinion can be found via the second link.)

Acceptance: I've chosen to accept Shog9's answer. This is not because I am convinced of the argument he makes (I'm not) but because it gets many more votes than the opposing argument.

  • 2
    Isn't that just 2K?
    – Kobi
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 10:57
  • @Kobi - yes, you're right. 2 million rep would be quite an achievement... =:-) Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 11:11
  • Because score indicates the likelihood of consideration for feature requests, many users on Meta will downvote a post to indicate disagreement with it. For some users, this carries over to how they vote on all Meta questions, including discussions and support questions - they vote as if the author is trying to advocate the specific viewpoint that sees the most focus in the question body. For this particular one, even from a neutral standpoint the question is still "Should rep be retained?", and so as upvotes would indicate favor, downvotes may indicate disfavor.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 18:40
  • @Grace - thanks. I thought it was (and intended it to be) neutral but I see your point. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 18:48
  • It's not as neutral as you think it is
    – random
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 1:54
  • @random - it would help if you explained why. Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 8:04

2 Answers 2



Why should it? There's no payoff, the proposal is gone, the real investment in time and effort composing questions and trying attract support evaporated. Reputation is a pretty poor consolation prize at best, and an incentive to participate in proposals you don't actually care about at worst.

You and Kop seem to be working from the perspective of reputation-as-currency (or wages): something you earn from the work you put in, to store up for later use... That'd be an interesting system (on A51 at least), but that's not how it works - you don't spend it on anything. There's no rep cost to start a proposal, or post a question, or commit, or anything else...

Reputation on Area51, like reputation on the rest of the SE sites, is simply an indicator of participation. Ask a question, given an answer, propose a site and if others find it useful then this is counted. It's an easy to comprehend proxy for something far more complex. So when that participation no longer exists in a meaningful way, then continuing to credit you for it is... Not terribly honest.

Consider this (admittedly extreme) scenario:

  • You propose a "peanut butter" site, along with several example questions on the delicious spread.
  • Four other peanut butter fans follow your site and vote on your questions.
  • Since there are only five people who care enough to participate, the proposal stagnates, and is eventually deleted.
  • You propose it again, the same four people sign on, with the same eventual outcome.
  • This goes on for some time...

Eventually, you've accumulated a significant amount of reputation... From doggedly pursuing an idea that will never, ever blossom into a real, useful, SE site. If you managed to scour the 'Net for other PB enthusiasts and push it through to the finish, that'd be one thing... But insanity must be its own reward.

Now consider a more likely scenario:

  • You hang around Area51 every day, jumping on every new proposal and posting a few questions on each.
  • They're decent enough questions, so you get a few votes each time.
  • The proposals suck. There's just no great interest in most of them. So over time, they all die.
  • You accumulate a ton of reputation, but no one actually benefits from your work.

In the latter scenario, you're putting in a lot of time and effort, you're playing a good game... but it's poorly-directed. The purpose of A51 is to identify sites with enough interest to actually graduate and become self-sustaining, and though you may have the best of intentions, you're not helping.

When a proposal makes it through all the stages and goes live with a healthy level of participation from many users, everyone wins - the users, the readers, the company running all this... When it chokes and dies on the vine, no one wins.

And, ultimately, reputation reflects this.

  • 5
    @Shog9 - why should it not? Rep is per person, not per proposal. So if a proposal dies, why should the person lose reptuation? Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 8:54
  • If a proposal dies, you've invested your stocks in a loser. You can't hold stocks in a dead fish and expect them to make your meal. @wik
    – random
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 15:42
  • 2
    You destroyed my dreams of a thriving Peanut Butter community. I hope you can sleep at night.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 17:14
  • 1
    @Pekka: I sleep soundly, dreaming of Nutella...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 17:18
  • Well, I might agree to a more generic Spreads.SE. If the PB, Nutella and Marmite camps manage to coexist on the same site
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 17:22
  • 5
    Share a site with the Marmite madmen? I'll choke to death on Vegemite first. @Pekka
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 17:24
  • @Shog9 - we may have to agree to differ - I'm not convinced. Your peanut butter example, while it is theoretically possible, will never happen. The moderators will spot this and put a stop to it. And I completely disagree with the statement "you're not helping". By flagging duplicates, proposing merges and supporting various proposals I'm doing work for love of the concept - I earn no rep for that. By proposing on topic and off topic questions I earn rep to help proposals - but I don't know in advance if they will succeed. The characture you describe, "jumping on every new proposal", is wrong. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 18:20
  • @Wiki: I'm not trying to target you specifically - these are hypothetical examples. I'm trying to illustrate how the change you suggest could motivate undesirable behavior. And setting the system up to encourage unhelpful behavior and then expecting moderators to keep it in check is counter-productive and a waste of moderator time. So on A51, like on the rest of the SE sites, you get participation points for growing the site.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 18:26
  • @Shog9 - thank you for your first sentence especially and your continuing contribution to this discussion. Your last sentence backs up my argument - you get points for growing the site - you can't know in advance if it is going to work. I am not at all convinced by your argument. But you are getting (almost) all the votes! Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 19:14
  • @Wiki: I understand where you're coming from, and sympathize... Not that it particularly matters in my case, but I'd lose almost half my rep on A51 if I were to recalculate now.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 19:23
  • @Shog9 - thanks again. I'm waiting to see if the staff will weigh in - otherwise it looks like they / the community will go with the votes, which I will have to accept. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 19:33
  • @Shog9 - I've accepted your answer - see above for why. Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 18:03

So if I'm hired by a company and work for them but said company fails, am I expected to give my salary back since there is no payoff?

This is an elaborated analogy...

  • Company = Proposal
  • Working for them = Proposing questions
  • Company fails = Proposal deleted
  • Salary = Reputation
  • 6
    Don't expect anything for your stock options though ... Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 10:47

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