There was recently a question about why people lose abilities when paying a bounty. I'd like to ask a related question.

My Super User reputation score is 2,576 (as of this writing). I have answered 159 questions. My average score is 16.2. It can be said that on average I'm going to provide THE answer to any question I answer.

Imagine for a moment that I knew of a user with the same reputation as mine. Only, they had answered 318 questions instead.

I ask, who would you trust more for an answer? My average score of 16.2, or theirs of 8.1?

Now for the really hard question. A users average is 30.4, and their reputation is 1,288. Would you be more interested in their answers or mine?

My point? There is an easy way to make sure that someone that contributes to this site is not penalized for providing a bounty, and the community isn't penalized for them doing it.

Switch scales for acquired functions after a minimum score is achieved. What I mean is this. There is currently a scale that shows how many reputation points you have to have in order to earn the ability to do something. Once that ability is earned, your AVERAGE is what keeps the ability.

An example: I decide to provide a 100 point bounty. My score would drop to 2,476. Now I can't create tag synonyms anymore. This makes me less effective in the community, because I did something to reward someone in the community. My average score is still above 15 for every answer I've given. I'd still be expected to be able to provide THE answer for any question I answered.

By modifying the system slightly the penalty for providing an incentive for answering questions (doing research, causing conversation and interest) is minimized. Yes, reputation is the currency of this board, but it is SILLY to punish someone that incentivizes the community, and even sillier to take away an ability they have demonstrated they can be responsible with.

Saying that, "coming up with 100 more points isn't that big of a deal..." Well, then reputation on this board isn't really worth all that much, is it?


What I'm driving for in summary is that we need to have a quantitative component (we have it, the reputation score) AND a qualitative component. This can be from many things (badges (number, color), averages (mean or median), active time on a board). Just a linear scale doesn't really tell me much (and we all already agree on that, look at the badges we have).

  • Related.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 6:59
  • 3
    16.2 points per answer means 1.62 upvotes per answer, keep that in mind ;) Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 10:01

3 Answers 3


First of all, yes, there is some sort of value in looking at how much reputation per answer someone has received. However, your assumptions and premises are a little off. If your average reputation score per answer is much higher than others, that could have many reasons:

  • You chose to only answer questions that would then become very popular (e.g. through Twitter, HackerNews, …), or "bikeshed" questions that simply attract a huge number of votes.
  • You only post in highly frequented tags such as , , etc.
  • You were lucky to have a couple of highly upvoted answers that skew the average to something much more. Have you looked at the median reputation score yet?
  • You prefer to answer bountied questions (we have a famous example for this as well with a rep score of 26.4 per answer)
  • You indeed post superb content.

We cannot know for sure. I'm fairly certain there are people who post great content in very obscure tags and therefore simply won't receive more than 20 reputation per post ever. I definitely know of one such user.

So, you said:

It can be said that on average I'm going to provide THE answer to any question I answer

Is that really true? Please don't take this the wrong way, but concluding this from a mere 16 reputation per post seems a little presumptuous. Shouldn't you have to actually look at the fraction of accepted answers instead, because "accepted" is the real concept of THE answer (if there even is such a thing).

Then, there's this:

Yes, reputation is the currency of this board, but it is SILLY to punish someone that incentivizes the community, and even sillier to take away an ability they have demonstrated they can be responsible with.

I'm sure we've been over this. It's merely a problem of implementation, revamping the whole system, and transparency. Why would someone with less reputation than you have more privileges? Oh, because they placed a few bounties two years ago? Right, that figures.

I agree that reputation as an absolute value can sometimes be misleading and that using an average would be an interesting figure to base new privileges on, be aware of the fact that the average is even more skewed by the factors I mentioned above – mostly by the number of people who actually see your answer.

We could definitely take that measure into account to identify people who simply post an answer to every question they see and hope to get a few points that way, often spamming the site with low quality posts, but in my opinion it shouldn't be the new standard to base privileges on. The average as a statistical measure is just not stable enough.

  • Thanks for your time. I'll respond to several things: First, it sounds like you understand my point. I'm just saying that maybe there is some validity to mean (or median, since you mention it). "Please don't take this the wrong way, but concluding this from a mere 16 reputation per post seems a little presumptuous." Why? An accepted answer gives someone 15 points. If my average puts me above the accepted answer value, then the things that I say are equal to or greater than the value of an accepted answer. I've an answer elsewhere that got 11 upvotes. The accepted answer got 3 upvotes.
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:08
  • "Why would someone with less reputation than you have more privileges? Oh, because they placed a few bounties two years ago? Right, that figures." About as much as someone that has bettered the community with one of the privileges they've earned having it taken away because they provided a member of the community an opportunity with a bounty. "but in my opinion it shouldn't be the new standard to base privileges on. The average as a statistical measure is just not stable enough."
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:09
  • That's why I wasn't recommending that you base privileges on averages. Just maintaining the privilege. I'd even go so far as to say that once you have achieved "established user," there has to be cause for you to loose it. If you are found doing something damaging, that's one thing (anyone can loose an account at anytime for that...). But becoming an established user... That should maybe be something that takes more than 5 days to earn...
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:13
  • I'll add a few more things on "average." When looking to answer questions, I go to the last page in unanswered and work my way forward. This means several things: I'm not likely to get credit for many of my answers. The asker may never show up again with how long they've waited for an answer. Next, I'm not looking to fight for scores (I'm not answering answered questions). I'm looking for questions that need something posted as an answer.
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:40
  • So saying an average of 16 means I'm likely to post the accepted answer... 50 of my answers are accepted answers. 11 of my accepted answers have a 0 score, and 54 of my answers (total) have no score. In 48 of those 0 score questions, my answer is the only one given. Yes, I have the Tenacious badge...
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:41
  • 1
    You're mixing up two concepts here. Accepted answers and how many votes you had per answer – those are two entirely different things. You're definitely not "likely to post the accepted answer" simply because you have more than 15 rep on a post. There might be a correlation between the score of a post and whether it's accepted or not, but this doesn't imply causation.
    – slhck
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:48
  • 2
    Overall, this would be a really complicated system to maintain. You'd fear to lose privileges based on a very slowly moving average that is compared to an arbitrary threshold that depends on so many factors, with every new answer you post to a question that starts off with a zero score, of course. This is intransparent at best and confusing, even disturbing at worst.
    – slhck
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:49
  • To make a long, tumultuous history of changes in the reputation system short... @Everett makes good points about some of the deficiencies of the current system, but the changes proposed would add yet another level of complexity, and the reputation system is complicated enough as it is. That's not to say it's an invalid proposal, but I think that the benefit it would bring would not outweigh the complexity and confusion it would add.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:54
  • slhck, you're missing my point. All I'm saying is the VALUE of the answers I give equals or exceeds the VALUE of an accepted answer. And I do that with lots of 0 vote accepted answers. My point is VALUE.
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:56
  • nhinkle - I value your input on this. I'm trying to point out that there needs to be two qualifiers for any given... privilege? One can be quantitative, and one should be qualitative. We just need to find the qualitative component to add to the system.
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 7:58
  • @Everett - As has been pointed out, the average score can be affected (one could say 'corrupted') by many things that have little to do with the quality of answers (popularity .vs. quality for example). I'm not saying that's the case for you specifically, but generally. Perhaps what would address your point more directly, is: for the purpose of determining privileges (or perhaps some privileges), use a value for reputation points calculated from reputation + bounties paid (i.e. recalc of reputation before deducting all paid-out bounties)... actual reputation remains the same as now. Commented May 13, 2013 at 5:30

I really don't think moving to an average "value" system would work although I do believe that the bounty system is flawed in a couple of ways - but I think that is somewhat a separate issue rather than something that should be lumped into this.

Taking a look at the averaging idea, imagine for a moment you have 1000 rep for 10 answers so the current average is 100. If a lot of that was earned on just a couple of answers, working with averages means people would be inclined to delete lower scoring answers that may still help some users to improve their average. Deleting 6 answers totalling 200 rep would then leave 4 answers totalling 800 rep, resulting in an average of 200, effectively doubling their "value".

Likewise, it could also discourage people from posting answers for (for example) niche products as they are likely to not get a high number of votes, which may impact negatively on their averaged "value".


There is no such thing as a free lunch. In a very real sense, reputation is the currency of the SE system and what you're doing is attempting to match a need (an answer) with a want (more rep). As such I'm slicing off part of my arbitrary reputation, which incidentally gives me super cow powers.

I suppose value in this case is relative. The real value of Superuser (for me) is that it a great way to learn things. I've on occasion found an question that has intrigued me (or where the current answers annoyed me so much) and ended up learning something new (like what uname is!).

As for privileges itself - isn't the value of rep, which is otherwise (and I steal this phrase) arbitrary internet points, primarily the privileges you unlock? By decouping current rep from what you can do, it's entirely possible that someone who's 20K + could give away a chunk of that rep to bump up people he knows, who then passes it on to another person and so on - all of them would get the privilege bump that rep has, without an actual disincentive. Makes it easy for sockpuppetry one would think.

As for which answer to trust - I'd say the one that works. If someone comes in with 1 rep, and posts a spectacular, detailed insightful answer (maybe even with screenshots and red freehand circles), and say, a 20K+ user posts a one liner, which one would you use?

  • Journeyman, Thanks for the super cow powers analogy. I completely agree with paragraph 2. I understand the concern in paragraph 3. I was trying to avoid sockpuppetry by instituting a minimum average score (just one possible way to accomplish this). Paragraph 4 supports my assertion of questioning the value of reputation. To answer your question, I'd likely try the one liner first. Really, yes. Why? Because I've seen people give answers that are detailed, insightful, and supported... by mythology. Some times the simplest answer is correct ;)
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 15:36
  • One point that I disagree with is this. I don't do anything here for reputation. I do it for the privileges reputation gets me. Rep points mean nothing to me. What means something to me is the satisfaction of solving a tough problem. Giving an answer where no one else bothered. Learning something (like you said). Rep points are a side effect of my love of solving problems. With those solutions comes the ability to solve more problems. If I'm using that ability correctly, how can you rationalize penalizing me (and the community) by taking away the ability to solve some problems?
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 15:46
  • Reputation points are an indication of how much you are trusted by the community (that is why privileges are given based on the points). I have no problem with that. I just need to hear the reason that my providing someone an opportunity to show the community can trust them with an answer, makes me less trustworthy.
    – Everett
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 15:48

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