There is an intrinsic problem of inflation the way these sites are designed.
- If you let users to gain reputation, by performing activities in the site, you create a possible (stack) overflow.
- Also, there is an awkward possibility that all users can become mods, can see all posts, gain all privileges. (If not all, a great and monotonic increasing number).
- To solve these some workarounds are being created that just makes the site full of rules, and also people get angry with other people (mods are still people) because they lost reps for some reason. No one likes to lose. Yes, some tools to punish are welcome, but not to be used to face the inflation problem.
I was thinking in the inflation problem for a while, because I'm into game strategies and like this kind of relation between the actions of people, the points, and the environment response (the site). I would like to present an analogy to help web designers to clarify the problem.
Suppose we are in a car race. Then, reputation would be the number of kilometers your car passed by. That is good for somethings, but not for others. For example, if the race is not over, you can tell who is in first by the kilometers. But not if the race is over and all cars have passed the milestone of "end".
Well, see this: in one hand, SE sites have no end. So you may think the kilometers are good. By the other hand, there are fixed milestones (the privileges) that tells us who is winning, the last one being the 20k trusted user. The problem is that everyone can, and eventually will, pass all this milestones, unless some continuous workarounds happens, mods (10k) and trusted users find ways to still reps from users, and users get upset.
To solve this mess, we need to measure velocity, not distance.
- The velocity of a given privilege can be lowers than the average of the velocity of users, that case we still have the same problem.
- It can be the same velocity of the average: that case, people who runs above the average will become mods and trusted users, the others will keep their positions, and the slow ones will lose privileges with time.
Now the irony is: do I like my own solution? The answer is no. I don't agree that I should work so hard get privileges. Some days I can't log, and then what? I would (not lose rep, but) be behind the other "cars" I already passed by.
But do I agree the way it is now? No. I think the problem needs to be addressed in some non-disturbing way, to keep people happy and the site working.
What I believe is that being mod is not a question of an automatic selection based on points. Being a mod should be something that happens to invited people. It is a great responsibility to promote someone only by a quantity measure, not a quality subjective one.
This way, the inflation problem would be dissolved as just a numeric problem. It would not put in risk the orientation of the site itself by allowing not-good-for-the-job people to simple get there.