This is probably a question I should answer myself empirically, using an API or a data-dump. It's a generic enough question that it may have been answered already.

My SO rep is a paltry 5k or so. Due to competing pressures, I've dropped off my engagement in the community in the last few months. I've probably asked very few questions in that time, and answered a similar number.

Despite almost never contributing in that time, my previous questions and answers have accrued several hundred reputation points, and several badges.

This passive increase must be an inevitability; it started me thinking about interest rates and inflation.

So here's the question:

  • on Stackoverflow, what is the interest rate? i.e. if you stopped posting last month, what would this month's increase in rep be, relative to your current rep be?
  • is this "interest rate" constant, or does it scale with number of rep/number of questions/number of answers?
  • for other Stack Exchange sites: what other factors govern this interest rate (e.g. size of community/total number of questions/age of community).

I'm in no hurry to find the answers, but I thought it interesting enough to ask you folks here.


3 Answers 3


I'd say that you can't really answer this with numbers alone: the quality of answers is certainly a factor here. As an anecdote, Mr.Skeet did say here on Meta that he would hit SO's 200 rep cap on most weekdays, only from this "interest rate" - but then, it was the quality of his answers have brought him his well-earned cca 300k rep. I'd guess that if you took 300 1k users, and merged their accounts, you would see significantly fewer upvotes on these posts. Also, the tags are crucial: there's much more traffic (and thus, people likely to upvote older posts) e.g. in [php] or [c#] than in [intercal].

So, IMNSHO which I don't have any hard data for (how would you measure it? "rep from older questions on which there's no activity"? my Stack-Data-Explorer-fu is weak...), the "interest rates" would not be evenly distributed amongst users, and their average would not be a meaningful value.

  • I don't think it's "within a few hours" (well, only occasionally) but I suspect if I didn't post anything in a day, I'd still hit the cap on most weekdays. Probably not on weekends. Of course, that would be relatively shortlived - votes would drop off significantly after a week or two, I suspect.
    – Jon Skeet
    Apr 5, 2011 at 9:23
  • 1
    @Jon Skeet: I wasn't entirely sure of where on Meta I've seen such comment, it is possible that I'm misremembering. Edited. (Although I'd say that the influx wouldn't drop much - I regularly find myself upvoting posts that are both good and old; also, I get my old posts upvoted pretty regularly) Apr 5, 2011 at 9:31
  • @Jon once wrote As it is, I suspect that if I only logged in every other day I may well still hit the rep cap each day (other than weekends) - but if I only logged in every third day it would be a lot more touch and go. That's just an educated guess though. (But: almost 2 years ago.)
    – Arjan
    Apr 5, 2011 at 10:09
  • @Arjan: Thank you. I was hoping that someone will dig that out, even if I don't remember what exactly it was. Very stackoverflowish. Apr 5, 2011 at 11:12
  • 2
    It's not quite old questions with no activity, but there's already this query for 15+ day rep for 60+ day-old questions: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/s/348/my-money-for-jam
    – Rup
    Apr 5, 2011 at 11:53

It seems I get more up votes on old answers shortly after I have posted a new answer, maybe from people looking at my profile.

So this is a very complex type of “interest” to understand!

  • Oh, interesting. People mousing around your profile, perhaps?
    – jamesh
    Jul 5, 2011 at 15:38

I'd say your interest rate is determined primarily by the tags in which you post. If you're throwing in great answers to questions about JavaScript, PHP, C#, etc, you can probably expect a much higher rate of return than you would if you were posting about Ada and VB6.

Having said that, there is a query in the data explorer allowing you to see how much "passive rep" you've earned. I'd love to see that generalized to average passive rep per person per tag—it'd be cool to see how C# compares to Java, asp.net to PHP, and so on.

You must log in to answer this question.

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