This may have been discussed before, but I didn't find anything relevant with the search function. I'll be happy to delete if someone directs me elsewhere.

There's a limit to how much can be earned in a day, so what about also putting an absolute limit on how much can be earned for a single word request?

The payoff for the work put into answering a single-word request can be exponential and it's usually extremely disproportionate when compared to the payoff for the effort invested in more complicated interesting questions. My suggestion would be to cap it at say 200 or so per SWR.


3 Answers 3


It depends on exactly what you mean, which is 95% clear, but not 100% clear. I'm going to assume you mean capping at 200 rep points for each single word answer, in which case, thinking out loud here, I agree, especially since simple answers tend to rapidly accumulate all the rep points they are going to get, and thus naturally cap out at 200 or maybe 400.

However, on second thought, there is always the major exception, the prime example of which is the answer of @Dan Bron to what word begins with a y and looks like an axe. IMO, this is one of the greatest answers on ELU, and fully deserves whatever number of rep points Dan got from it, which of course is far less than [10 x 830 upvotes], which, if there were no daily 200 rep point cap from all questions and answers, would be 8,300 rep points.

So, after thinking about it, I disagree, partly because of the example I just cited, but mainly because I don't see your proposal as a disincentive to asking or answering SWRs. There is clearly no disincentive to asking, if only because many of the askers, being inexperienced on SE will not know or care about any rep ceiling. There is very little disincentive to answering because, ditto, and because for the more savvy answerers, 200 rep points is nothing to sneeze at.

Furthermore, there are many types of questions which amass answers of more than 200 rep points -- sorry, don't have an example to point to. We maybe could ban SWRs from the Hot Network List, but I'm in favor of keeping things simple rather than introducing exceptions and prohibitions.

Addendum in Response to a Comment from the OP: I've also never needed more than a few seconds to think of the answer to a SWR that I have answered, but writing a good answer with convincing back-up that isn't just block-quoting has always taken me at least more than a few minutes. I think a better approach is to briefly "answer" a trivial Q (not all SWRs are trivial) in a comment and then VTC

  • Yes you assumed right, that's what I meant -- the 95% in your answer. I wasn't thinking so much of a disincentive to the askers as of an incentive to answerers to try out more tricky questions. As a case in point I recently earned over 500 points in 3 days for something thought up in a couple of seconds. It's very nice indeed to accumulte all those points and the accompanying privileges, but if I were out for the reputation alone it wouldn't be much of an incentive to turn towards more complex questions.
    – S Conroy
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:12
  • I've also never needed more than a few seconds to think of the answer to a SWR that I have answered, but writing a good answer with convincing back-up that isn't just block-quoting has always taken me at least more than a few minutes. I think the approach to take is to briefly "answer" a trivial Q (not all SWRs are trivial) in a comment and then VTC.
    – ab2
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:21
  • For me that's actually another issue. I wouldn't vote to close a question or automatically think it trivial just because I or someone else could easily answer it. "What's another word for" is trivial, in the sense that you can find it in any thesaurus. But "what do you call an X that Ys under circumstance Z" isn't so easy to google. Often someone gives the answer to a SWR (I've received such an answer before) where I feel 'that's exactly it!' but wouldn't have come up with it myself.
    – S Conroy
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:32
  • 1
    Then it isn't trivial! If the answer requires specialized knowledge or a really large vocabulary, it isn't trivial. (My favorite example is my answer of "pleached allee". Another (not mine) is the answer "There is some as call it long pig"). OK, these are phrases, siblings to SWRs. But the problem with such questions is those that have many possible answers that go "click" with various voters, the best of which is almost purely opinion based.
    – ab2
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:42
  • No it's not trivial. I don't think so anyway. My thing is more about whether or not the reputation should reflect the thought that goes into an answer. But if it's based on how specialist one needs to be or even the biographical serendipity that means a certain person knows the right answer then that's different criteria -- equally valid I suppose. Perhaps there are actually 2 different questions which aren't necessarily 'compatible' (wrong word I know, I feel a SWR coming on...) 1. how much one 'deserves' the reputation points 2. what actually mostly happens with the current rules.
    – S Conroy
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:50
  • At some point, Big Brother will tell us to go to chat, so this will be my last comment. (1) The Law of Unintended Consequences will overtake most attempts at perfection. (2) People will reach their asymptote -- I will never, for example, get up to Mari-Lou A or Sven Yargs, or some of the other super-users. I don't know enough. But I don't feel guilty about being very well read (pleached allee) or having a very large vocabulary, any more than I feel that Sven has an unfair advantage in his research savvy. As Dan Bron says, there should be an i (imaginary) after the reps.
    – ab2
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 19:02
  • 1
    Sure, but (I promise... my last comment at least on this post) imo the unintended consequences are slightly out of control and it wouldn't hurt to reign them in a bit.
    – S Conroy
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 19:16

I don't strongly disagree with what you're saying, but this would be a fairly extreme change to how the Stack Exchange reputation system works. So I don't think it's feasible in practice.

The topic of restricting rep gain from single answers has been discussed before on Meta Stack Exchange, the meta site for the whole network:

It seems to be a generally unpopular idea. These questions don't bring up the option of having a per-answer rep cap only for questions with certain tags, but I don't think that changes the dynamics of the mechanic too much.

  • "Not feasible in practice" sounds like the answer. I'll have to resign myself to getting privileges I haven't worked for. :-)
    – S Conroy
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:44

There is a pretty substantial risk that it would have the opposite of the intended effect if this solution was to be implemented. People who are motivated by easy reputation gain will not stop posting low effort answers until the reward is so low that they do not even think it is even worth writing a low effort answer. If we make the prospective reward so low that it isn't worth writing a low effort answer, then it stands to reason that it would not be an incentive to high effort posts either.

Moreover, those high effort posts may stop being worth the effort well, before the low effort ones do, so instead of just getting fewer answers overall, we would get a higher proportion of low effort posts to high effort posts if the limit is too high to stop the low quality posts.

Moreover, once you reach the limit the system would stop you from earning reputation at later dates, which discourages writing answers of lasting value in favor of answers which help you reach the limit immediately. That would probably still be the easy low effort posts.

To demonstrate the problem, suppose we have two posts submitted on the same day. One mediocre answer manages to get 25 votes during the question's prime, and another much answer is a little late because spending the effort took a little more time, so it only manages to get 20. At that point the net effect would favor the user who spent more effort slightly, by making the early user's score less inflated by means of comparison.

However, now we have to consider that the network aims to be a long term archive of questions and answers: Ideally we hope for everybody to visit that question to find its answers in perpetuity, and continue to vote upon the questions therein with the hope that ultimately, the best answer will rise to the top. It's all in the tour

Now we also have to consider how we reward a person over time for writing an answer that will beat worse answers to the top. Both answers have already exhausted their reputation limit, so if the better answer was to get 10 extra votes later on and the mediocre answer was left to stand where it is, now the better answer would suffer greater disadvantage (-100 vs. -50), and both posts would still be rewarded equally for the amount of effort put into each.

Now the difference with the daily cap is that it isn't it is relatively difficult to reach and rather than being post-bound it's time-bound and resets itself, so even if by some freak occurrence you do get 200 reputation on a single post, you still stand to get however many points there may be the next day.

Granted, perhaps some people do not care so much about the reputation system but those people will not change their habits irrespective of how it is balanced or what kind fof answer they prefer to write, so it is almost as if they may as well not exist for the purposes of balancing the reputation system, unless it can be demonstrated that they exist in unequal proportion to those who are motivated by it.


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