I see a lot of people ^ rep just because someone drops a link that they like. I've seen people get ridiculous rep for doing as much as being the first one to mention something everyone likes.

I think there should be separate votes for quality/reputation and votes for what should be displayed first. I.e, 'I like vim' comment doesn't make a person a great contributor, just a popular one.

  • 4
    Reputation points are more an indication of level of activity on the community than real reputation as we know it IRL. However the illusion is so powerful that it's the main motivator that drive the community up.
    – user2567
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:49
  • 2
    Also P.SE is very particular as we give our opinions, experiences, etc. It's very subjective. Reputation is less relevant than on stackoverflow.com for example.
    – user2567
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:55
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    Mustn't... post... one line... answer... Jan 21, 2011 at 17:03
  • +1 Because I am a hypocrite.
    – zhenka
    Jan 21, 2011 at 17:23

5 Answers 5


I see that you've found one of the main sources of major arguments on the whole SE network. People upvote funny/witty/silly/trivial/popular things even though they don't add any value to the site or question. (ie. "oh, hey, someone mentioned a tool I like/use" = upvote). Then when the question gets closed because it's just noise, everyone yells "but look how much the community wanted it... look at all those answers, look at all those votes".

It becomes a major source of friction between moderators and some parts of the community. Popular questions/answers do not necessarily equal good questions/answers. The bottom line is all those votes for popular questions/answers will eventually get smaller and smaller as the site matures into the vision that the powers above are pushing towards.

In the meantime, yes, there are a bunch of us (me included) who earned a ton of rep on things that were/are popular. Welcome to the growing pains of Programmers.SE.

  • 2
    Don't disagree with your answer, but a bit put off by characterizing the argument as between those who are right and those who are wrong ("moderators and those who don't fully understand"...).
    – Nicole
    Jan 21, 2011 at 18:36
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    @Renesis - that's a valid point. I was a bit rushed when I was writing it and perhaps didn't phrase it as well as I could have. When I get an extra spare minute I'll revise my answer. Thanks.
    – Walter
    Jan 21, 2011 at 18:45

The stupid / silly / meaningless / no-content one line answer is symptomatic of problem questions.

If you're seeing just one of them, it could be an isolated incident with a new user or a clueless user, but if you see many of these on a question, it means the question is bad and should be closed!


Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences, not just post a mindless one-liner or cartoon in hopes of being rewarded with upvotes for being merely “first.” Sharing an experience takes at least one paragraph; ideally several paragraphs. If I’m asking about how to bake cookies, don’t give me a list of grocery items: milk. butter. vanilla. eggs. There is virtually nothing I can learn from a short, static list of grocery items that make up a recipe. Instead, tell me what happened the last time you made cookies from that recipe! Share your detailed experiences, so that we all might learn from them.


Yes, there are up votes for short/pithy answers, and one-liners / one-link answers. And yes, this does improve that person's reputation. However, most of the people with really high reputations (1000s and up) have provided numerous, well-thought-out answers. In the long haul, I don't think the one-line posters are going to get into the very high reputation ranks. So I don't think this is really a problem. Quality wins out in the long run.

As far as the display order of the answers, this too usually sorts itself out in time (pun intended). While the witty/popular answer may get a lot of upvotes when the question is first posted, over time, when people see a "good", lengthy answer lower-down, they upvote it. It gradually floats toward the top. That's the beauty of this entire community model -- it actually gets better with age.

Having two voting controls, one for "popularity" and the other for "sorting" would be very confusing. Do I upvote this answer on the left because I "like" it, but downvote it on the right because I don't think it should be displayed first?

  • Good points sir.
    – zhenka
    Jan 21, 2011 at 21:09

Another Thing I've Noticed

  • Is that fancy-formatting your answer.
  • Whether or not it's a quality answer.
  • Seems to get higher votes than plain text.
  • 1
    That's no bad thing though as sometimes it does make it easier to read. Jan 24, 2011 at 14:09
  • 2
    I agree with @Jon, it's due to readability. I scan or entirely skip long answers with large unbroken blocks of text. Answers with headlines and bullet points allow the user to quickly spot interesting parts which in turn motivate them to read the full answer.
    – Nicole
    Jan 25, 2011 at 18:10
  • Agree also... I know I have a couple of posts that really need a tidy up... but the ones that really need it are the scary ones. Jan 26, 2011 at 14:26

As someone with a serious case of textual diarrhea (go on check my posts :) I appreciate you raising the issue. Maybe answers & questions that are still being upvoted after 6, 12, 18 months... would get a greater weight of reps. The mods probably have access to do a little stat analysis to see what that might really mean with voting history on a question/answer, or indeed all of them (if not, code it in now!)

Or maybe people could occasionally bonus vote something... though that could be easily abused unless a good mechanism to guard against that could be worked out. Or, and this is controversial and would probably cause more grief than benefit, older reputation decays over time - you are only as good as your last round in the ring after all. [edit: here's another thought - questions that still get posts after already having an accepted answer, deserve a little something extra.]

Not going to defend any of those ideas to the death, just brainstorming and indulging in that thing I mentioned earlier. Ultimately I don't think it's a big deal... it's a number on a computer screen after all. Though after being a long time browser, and only joining recently (on P.SE first!, because I couldn't be arsed when it was just SO) I must admit to being a little obsessed atm. But I'll grow out of that.

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