A high-rep user normally invests a significant amount of time at SO, and normally contributes with awesome questions & answers. I frequently see extremely good content and I think the effort put into that could also be rewarded in the form of donations. Correct, money donations.

The original idea is not to monetize the site. The donation would go straight to the respective author. Besides Jon Skeet, nobody would get rich from these donations, but I think it would be a great form of recompense. Integrating a payment service into the current system shouldn't be toilsome. Take PayPal as an example - all you need is a visible link for each answer whose author informed a PayPal account.

Well, I won't elaborate any further because at this point you might think I'm insane. What are your thoughts?

NOTE: Found an interesting question regarding donations, but the goal is different than what I'm proposing here - Add a paypal link to accept donations?

UPDATE: Donation is optional, and donor and receiver must not be published. You could donate to whoever you wish, whenever you wish, for any reason you wish. IMO people are unlikely to fight over donations if they don't know who is donating to whom, and when. Moreover, the only difference in having a link for donation in your profile versus in each of your answers, is the visibility.

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    Downvoters, care to explain? Am I infringing any FAQ rule or do you think it's just a dumb question? – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 18:49
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    Votes on Meta mean either agreement or disagreement by the community. – BinaryMisfit Feb 7 '11 at 18:51
  • @Diago: oh, thank you. Didn't know that :) – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 18:51
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    Read here and here and this is probably interesting, too. – Ladybug Killer Feb 7 '11 at 18:56
  • @jweyrich It is exactly as Diago explains, I have down-voted too and try to explained my reasons with an answer. – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 18:57
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    Down voting a question cause you disagree with it is really confusing. Its a good question, I don't agree with it, hence I upvote the Q and upvote the answer nearest to my own stance. – Quibblesome Feb 7 '11 at 19:15
  • @Quibblesome I did not understand your premise care to expand? thank you! – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 20:44
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    @Upvoters care to explain? :) – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 20:46
  • "Votes on Meta mean either agreement or disagreement" - This makes no sense at all? This is a valid and well formatted question? If somebody doesn't agree with it then post an answer to that affect. Im very confused. – bic Feb 7 '11 at 22:11
  • I, for one, welcome our new donating overlords. – Pollyanna Feb 7 '11 at 22:11
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    @bic the intent is for popular suggestions to be more highly ranked in terms of voting, and for unpopular suggestions to float to the bottom. While this is not normal for a Q&A site, keep in mind that this is a support and suggestion site, not a question and answer site. – Pollyanna Feb 7 '11 at 22:13
  • @Pollyanna - ok I get that. Im more used to SO where the validity and soundness of a question are voted on and not the proposition itself. Thanks for the clarification. – bic Feb 7 '11 at 22:16
  • I wasn't sure everybody got the correct idea, so I updated the question to clarify. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 23:01

I think it is a VERY VERY VERY bad idea.


  • It will attract many people for the wrong reasons
  • It can make the competition between users much more aggressive/violent
  • It will decrease the quality of the answers as it will encourage constant quick, answer all you can attitude
  • The philosophy of this site is similar to a game not a job

I think your intentions are good, great I might add.

But the top users, they are a lot, they know what they signed up for, and thanking them with up-votes, accepted answers and comments should / has to be enough because this is what this site is all about, and the system is working great so far if you ask me.

When you put money in between people things get ugly, quick and bad! That is a fact.

As a final note I might add that if you think about it, Wikipedia (on which SO is "based" on), has never abandoned the the principle of free community impulsed collaboration and with this seemingly unlikely successful business model has become one of the most reliable and successful encyclopedias on the planet.

Sometimes you just have to let go and trust the community.


Please read this answer, too. Promotion in the profile is allowed; I think this is a whole different subject and agree with this possibility. My argument still stands since this is very different than doing it by design.

  • Loved your arguments against it! +1 – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 18:58
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    @jweyrich which again proves that your intentions are good! – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 19:02
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    Also, if users wanted to "opt in" for donations, all they'd have to do is put a paypal email address in their profile – Earlz Feb 7 '11 at 19:05
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    +1 they know what they signed up for – Dr. belisarius Feb 7 '11 at 19:42
  • This is a great answer. – Pekka Feb 7 '11 at 22:08
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    @Pekka you know it's good when it has a list, that much bold, and that many links! – Earlz Feb 8 '11 at 23:00

I would rather not, mostly based on how sick I am of seeing that dude's ugly mug perving at me on Wikipedia all the damned time. :[

It was annoying enough when they had the big "CAN PLZ SENDS MONEYS PLZ WE NEEDS IT" banners, but now its sort of going the way of "PLZ BE PAYING US OR THIS DUDE WILL KEEP LOOKING AT YOU" thing, and I don't really want to see Jon Skeet, or Jeoff Atwoods ugly mug staring me down 5 years from now in a 300px wide banner on each and every page.

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    On a complete side note: Is there anyone not annoyed by that begging for money on Wikipedia?? – sbi Feb 7 '11 at 18:58
  • Well, I donated to Wikipedia because I use it on a daily-basis. And I must say my donation was quite insignificant compared to the price of any good book. In my head, the idea I described isn't about adding banners nor begging-for-money links. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 19:02
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    @sbi I'm annoyed at seeing Jimmy Wales' face there!! How can the wiki people not notice it's not about him!! (Though all my respects and admiration!!) they should really consider some stock photo of children learning from a screen or something!! – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 19:05
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    @sbi: I'm not. He only does it for about a month out of the year. I love Wikipedia, and it is otherwise completely devoid of advertisements. I would hate to see it go away. – Benjamin Lindley Feb 7 '11 at 19:05
  • @PigBen: Oh, I didn't know it was only a month! <checks_site> You're right, it's gone now. Phew. Anyway, if that's indeed true, you are right, one month isn't all that bad. – sbi Feb 7 '11 at 19:49
  • @PigBen , @sbi : but that one month has scarred me so bad I've been avoiding wikipedia completely because of it. – Kent Fredric Feb 7 '11 at 20:08
  • @sbi @Kent: check Scopophobia. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 20:32
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    @jweyrich Perhaps you should direct Kent here instead. – Benjamin Lindley Feb 7 '11 at 20:35
  • @PigBen : Lol, that one has a) Glasses and B) an advert with 2 photos looking at me =P – Kent Fredric Feb 7 '11 at 20:38
  • @PigBen: oh, right! hahah. Sorry Kent! – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 20:39
  • @jweyrich: Nope, it isn't being stared at what I don't like, it's the frankly begging which I resent. :) – sbi Feb 7 '11 at 20:43
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    I've always said Wikipedia should simply shut down their servers for two days as a donation campaign. Likely to be much more effective than Jimmy Wales any time.... – Pekka Feb 7 '11 at 21:52
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    @Pekka: That is actually the scariest horror story that I have heard for some time. – Piskvor left the building Feb 7 '11 at 23:22

I don't want money for participating on SO. Stack Overflow pays me very well with personal esteem and satisfaction. Money would be a bit of a downgrade.

That being said, I see absolutely nothing wrong with users listing a charity in their profile. Something similar to this, perhaps:

If you have found my answers helpful and want to give something, please donate to [charity here], I really believe in what they're doing!

That's win-win, because it lets people who are interested to say 'thanks' beyond simple up votes, and conforms to the 'spirit' in which the information being rewarded was provided.

  • Profoundly agree! I guess I didn't spend enough time pondering the pros & cons after the idea came up to mind. +1 – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 19:08

There is an excellent RSA animated talk by Daniel Pink, who wrote the book Drive - The surprising truth about what motivates us. Watch the talk, and read the book, and you'll understand why this is not only a bad idea, but an extremely harmful change that could so utterly destroy StackOverflow that there'd be no way of ever coming back from it.

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    Donations are not like rewards you can pursue. They don't depend exclusively on you, so I don't think it explains why this is a bad idea (although I'm convinced it is, thanks to Trufa's answer). But it's an excellent talk indeed! – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 21:43
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    @jweyrich In the book Pink talks a lot about how children that are offered monetary compensation for performing house-hold tasks will quickly stop performing said tasks unless there are rewards bound to them. Binding a performance that can be motivated by 'doing the right thing' to money is likely to reduce the willingness to perform it for free. That is, once you've gotten a donation for an answer, you are likely to feel less motivated to write more answers, unless you are garanteed to get paid. If you like the talk - read the book. It really is a nice little read! :) – Mia Clarke Feb 7 '11 at 21:50
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    oh, I'll certainly read it! TYVM for the reference. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 22:01
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    +100; was about to post the same thing. :) – Jonik Feb 8 '11 at 23:09
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    Also see ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html – Trufa Feb 10 '11 at 2:30

There's nothing stopping someone from using their profile for self-promotion. For example, one could put "Please, buy me a book" in there.

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    Pekka for example has such a link. However, last time I asked, he didn't receive any. – BalusC Feb 7 '11 at 18:53
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    Exactly. Every profile can link to a personal site. If someone is determined to say thanks with money or gifts, it shouldn't be too difficult. – Tim Post Feb 7 '11 at 18:55
  • @BalusC I had always wondered whether he had! – Trufa Feb 7 '11 at 18:59
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    @BalusC @Trufa the score has changed! I received two books in the past few months. One here, one here – Pekka Feb 7 '11 at 21:55
  • @Pekka: Cool, that must have been a very delighting surprise. – BalusC Feb 7 '11 at 22:57
  • @BalusC yeah, definitely! – Pekka Feb 7 '11 at 22:58


To be a bit more verbose: you are suggesting a complete upheaval of the site's basic structure and purpose: programmers answering other programmers' questions because they want to help them (and through a feedback loop via infinitesimally better code netwide, themselves). What you are suggesting would (not might, not could - note the difference) within a few days devolve into a pure spam hell, where third-world wage-slaves bang on their keyboards all day long, regardless of quality and content, instead striving for quantity to make a few cents per hour. You can see this in action at the "recycled news" sites which produce very few scraps of original content, copying and pasting off anything just to appear to be relevant. Oh, and where would the money come from? Advertising? Paid subscriptions?

In other words: congratulations, you have re-invented the Other Q&A Site That Shall Not Be Named, The Crawling Horror, Messenger Of The Elder Gods - the embodiment of everything SO is trying not to be. (Don't worry about it, people reinvent wheels all the time; this wheel you've stumbled on just happens to be particularly Evil.)

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    But who donates to low quality content? I certainly would not. Wikipedia gets various donations because it has really good content. I think it wouldn't get donations otherwise, even with their famous begging campaign. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 22:04
  • @jweyrich: People who don't know any better - and that's a large demographic.Since the S/N ratio would drop to zero (signal drowned out in the spam),I wouldn't want to answer on such site, or even moderate it (people can get all self-righteous, angry and butthurt for two downvotes, do you think this would get any better if real money were involved?). I suspect that would be the majority reaction - and the real problem: you'd get a site where the answers are provided by bottom feeders, to people who don't know any better, with nobody interested to moderate it. In other words, That Site. – Piskvor left the building Feb 7 '11 at 22:14
  • Donor and receiver must not be published. You could donate to whoever you wish. How would people fight over donations if they don't know who is donating to whom (and when)? Moreover, the only difference in having a link to your PayPal account in your profile versus in each of your answers, is the visibility. – jweyrich Feb 7 '11 at 22:17
  • (also - publicity stunts like "improve a page considerably, win a laptop" aside - W raises money for its operations, not for giving out to editors - at least I don't recall anyone paying me for making edits, which is the closest analogy to SO's asking and answering) – Piskvor left the building Feb 7 '11 at 22:17
  • @jweyrich: eeeegzaktly! That's actually a crucial difference in the message conveyed - "If you wish, you could buy me a beer" vs. "GIMME $$$$$$ NAO!!!". Yes, technically it's the exact same link to PP - but much of any message intended for humans lies in its context, and shoving such link into every nook and corner of the site is outright obnoxious (even when Wikipedia does it). Also, search Meta for "tactical/spite/drive-by downvoting" - I don't know why people fight over that, either; throw money into the mix and it gets several orders of magnitude worse. – Piskvor left the building Feb 7 '11 at 22:28

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