For the record: the post below is not to defend the point where I am standing. That's why I feel I am entitled to bring this up.
Every now and then, reputation is brought up in discussions as an argument. Used wrongly in my opinion, for reasons pointed out below.

Not the only reason, but an important one was the question here http://meta.askubuntu.com/a/15662/72216, where the question at a certain point moved to a reputation/motivation discussion. The question wasn't reputation- motivated, but even if it were, it shouldn't (have) be(en) an argument at all.

As a general rule, when working in teams, to make sure the team is productive, we need to make sure each and every member of the team has his or her own personal interest in a good result of the team. This interest may and will vary.

The formula of the SE sites understands this extremely well. That's one of the reasons the reputation system exists, and why we have a personal reputation record on SE sites.

The site obviously stresses on the importance of the personal reputation; not only are privileges directly related to reputation, but together with the general information of moderator candidates for example, detailed information is displayed on the candidates' reputation, the average reputation per post and so on.

Of course, we may hope that the motivation to answer (or ask) questions is not purely reputation based, and to prevent misunderstandings, mine isn't. However, as long as we post quality Q's and A's, keep the site's rules, maintain general rules of decensy and good behaviour, our personal motivation is totally irrelevant to the site.

Nevertheless, on a regular base, in discussions, "chasing reputation" is implicitely or explicitely mentioned as a bad thing, a sign of bad behaviour, doing it for the wrong reasons. As mentioned, in itself, chasing reputation, even if it is the only motivation to create good content, is perfectly fine and needs no defense at all.

So, in a nutshell, please don't use chasing reputation as an argument to prove you're right or someone else is wrong. What counts is good content and constructive behaviour. The motivation under the hood is no one's business but the poster's.

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    I agree with you, but... I don't really understand what motivated you do post this?
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 8:32
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    Who uses reputation as an argument for right or wrong? I think what you're referring to is that many of us have little patience for the excessive amount of importance that some people attach to reputation. Posting rants on meta about having lost 10 reputation points or whatever, or yelling mod abuse because deleting a bad post lost the poster a few points is both petty and annoying. That won't change. However, AFAIK, nobody "uses chasing reputation as an argument to prove they're right or wrong", so I really don't understand what you're trying to do with this post.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 8:51
  • "but if someone's only answering to get the 15 reputation granted by the OP's accepting their answer, they are here for the wrong reasons." @terdon again, not my motivation, but even if it were totally nothing wrong with it. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 9:06
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    @JacobVlijm well, yes. I don't care why one is here, but complaining about people not accepting an answer or whining about downvotes is both pointless and tiring. The sentence you're quoting was about people who complain about not getting rep. If someone is only here for the rep but doesn't complain if they lose or fail to win some rep, nobody cares, of course. A user's motivations are only relevant if that user makes them known.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 10:41
  • @terdon again and again you keep saying that question is about not getting rep. Not sure how to make clear to you it isn't. No offense, but also a bit tiring after all the discussion we had on it. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 18:09
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    @JacobVlijm what? I said the sentence you quoted was about people complaining about getting rep. I wasn't referring to your question or, much less, to you. You quoted me, and I was clarifying what I was referring to.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 20:40
  • @terdon There is only one way I can read it, the quoted sentence refers directly to a section of the original question. In no way to complaining users. Look at how you phrased it in the answer. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 20:55
  • @JacobVlijm do we really need to go over this again? Yes, I was referring to that part of the question that stated that not accepting makes people not want to answer. Since the only difference accepting makes is rep, I assumed that was what you were talking about. You have since said, repeatedly, that it wasn't but that was what I was talking about. And yet, you still take it personally, despite not being one of the users I was referring to.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 21:01
  • @terdon I am afraid we're in a loop here. Obviously we are not speaking the same language. I am not taking this personally since long. I am just saying what you say is incorrect. You say my qoute from your answer was addressed to complaining users. It simply wasn't. Not sure why you are connecting it with our previous discussion on this. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 21:16
  • What on earth are you guys even talking about ? @JacobVlijm can you please add TL;DR to your post ? There's no clarity whatsoever Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


Sometimes, when I close my eyes in a daydream, I see a little green rectangle top left. The sign of joy!

I'm not a mind reader, but I think it's probably hypocritical for people to mutter disapprovingly about others "chasing reputation". Like my mother told me at school where I got bullied for always putting my hand up to give the answer "They're just jealous."

Problems might arise, I guess, when the overall glory of AU is damaged somehow by the way people behave, or needed effort (like reviewing and editing) is not made because it doesn't contribute to reputation.

In that case, I think people should be complaining about the problem, and not the motivation, since, as you say, what others are thinking is private and unknowable...

Moreover, we are not all the same, and it takes many different folks to make a glorious SE site, and many people do those non-rep-earning tasks, and as long as there are enough people doing them, then there isn't a problem...

In short I agree with you and am just rambling...

Better get back to writing quick answers to easy questions ploughing through the Close Votes Review Queue...

  • 4
    I though this "question" was unanswerable, but you did it. :P Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 9:57
  • hehe is that a good thing or not @StefanoPalazzo ? :)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 10:00
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    A very good thing, of course! It's that overall glory that's at question here, I think. Of course we're all happy about rep and all of us, or certainly I, anyway, have actively sought it out at one point or another. So, nothing wrong with chasing the rep. What should be avoided is getting obsessive about it.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 10:42
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    yes of course :) Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 10:51
  • 4
    Excellently worded. Thanks! Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:36
  • @JacobVlijm :) thank you :)
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:39
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    @Zanna Nice answer, gave me a laugh as well and that is always something to be treasured :)
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 3:36
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    Can we conclude in short 'Chase rep, if that motivate you, but don't complain' ?
    – Anwar
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 15:15
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    "ploughing through the Close Votes Review Queue..." Well, at least Zacharee1 will be happy :) Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 16:14

Reputation isn't just imaginary numbers on the screen. It's a number which says something important. It says that you helped people. So of course people like to "chase" it (or at least appreciate it when they get it). Why do people spend hours on AU helping people? It's not because they make money from it (mostly). It's not because there's (usually) some tangible, real life benefit to them immediately. It's mostly because they like the feeling of having helped someone. Of course! If you spend hours writing good answers and helping strangers with problems, and there's no feedback, then that's not a good feeling. So reputation is very important! It tells you that you helped people and that your work was useful. The feeling of having contributed to something useful can often be more valuable to us than even money.

Someone may say "your motive shouldn't just be reputation". But I think reputation really is a type of feedback showing you that you helped people. If someone said "Your motive shouldn't just be to know that you've helped people", then I would say, "Yes, it's an entirely decent motive to be on AU with the intention of trying to help people and wanting to have a solid affirmation that you actually did help people."

I think almost everyone here agrees with this, including the people you were having a discussion with in the post you linked to in OP (I was actually one of those people.)

I would suggest that it's hardly possible to be after only reputation. Reputation isn't "only" reputation. It's a symbol of something. Is anyone after just the number? I doubt it. The number itself would be totally meaningless if it didn't represent something. I believe what people are truly after is what the number represents. And I think that's a perfectly fine thing to be "after."

Otherwise it just seems meaningless. For example, let's say you spend lots of time and energy figuring out an excellent answer to a tough problem. OP abandons the post, and doesn't give any feedback to the answer. Very few other people notice the answer, and it just gets lost without any upvotes. Thankfully this doesn't happen very often. Because when we have worked hard at something, we need affirmation that it was actually helpful. And that is exactly what that little +100 or +200 symbol on the top tells you. That you helped people.

Finally, you can even spend your reputation to help others. Let's say a user has posted a really tough problem that you don't know the answer to. If you post a large bounty on it, it might just motivate people to put up the effort to find a solution to the tough problem. That's actually getting people to put in effort into something. That's something we pay lots of money for in the real world.

So, reputation is really important! I dare assert that without it, AU would be much, much weaker than it is today. And I don't blame anyone in the slightest, for chasing it. That would be like blaming a social worker for "chasing" the smiles on the faces of the people he/she was helping.

I often help my real life friends with their computers. I'll willingly admit that one of my motives is the feeling of having helped someone, and knowing that they are thankful. Reputation is the AU equivalent of that, and I think it's an entirely appropriate motive.

It's true that many of us might use reputation as food for our egos, etc, obsessing over it. Human nature can be like that. But unless a user is putting on a truly bizarre show, I think we should hesitate before suggesting that other users are in such a state. It's mostly quite hard to know what's actually going on in the mind of another person. So in this regard I believe we should mostly give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

  • Thank you for your nice post. There can be other reasons to chase rep however. Just the fact that it can be useful whenever people apply for a job for example. Being a high rep user here or on SO won't hurt so to speak. Even then, the only criterion, and thus the only thing to discuss, is the quality of someone's work and the overall behaviour. The fact that in the linked question rep was (successfully) used as an argument to suggest wrong reasons, no matter if it was addressed to me (which I am sure it wasn't) or in general, that's what I am having difficulties with, hence this question. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 6:52
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    @JacobVlijm True, reputation can actually help when applying for jobs. If I was wanting to hire an Ubuntu sysadmin, I would certainly be open to hiring many of the high-rep users from AU. Yes, I entirely agree that someone being "after reputation" should certainly not be used as an argument in a discussion. As I said in this answer, I believe being "after reputation" is an entirely natural thing.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 6:59
  • Very thoughtful answer so upvoted (how meta). I thought I'd point out that reputation isn't solely an indicator that a user has been of help to people (as I used to think). One user on unix.stackexchange.com has amassed over 10k by only asking questions. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:29
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    @AnthonyGeoghegan Yeah, people were discussing that on Meta SE. However, I think if you ask questions that get many upvotes, it would mean that you have been at least a bit helpful. If you ask questions, people who need the answers to those questions may find them. After all. without good questions there could be no AU or SE at all :). But yeah, bad questions also get upvoted sometimes :) And yeah, reputation itself is no solid metric of how helpful someone has been :)
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:30
  • 1
    Thanks for the link. I found it interesting that such a discussion was taking place in the early days of the Stack Exchange network. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 21:01
  • @AnthonyGeoghegan You're welcome :)
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 21:05

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