We often have high-rep users providing answers to questions when they should, in fact, be voting to close those questions, because the questions are duplicates, or because the questions are too poorly worded to answer, or the questions are obviously general reference. These users get rep points, the asker gets an answer, despite this being the kind of question we want to discourage.

Therefore, I propose that reputation not be awarded in cases where a question is closed for being a duplicate, or for being general-reference, unless the answer has a certain number of votes, or the answer is merged to the original question (in the case of a dupe). This would avoid rewarding lazy users who should be doing more to take care of the site.

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    I know I've sometimes failed to find a duplicate, either because search failed me or because I wasn't here when the first question was asked. So while I agree with the sentiment for questions that on their own merits should be closed, I don't know if I'd lump duplicates in there. Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:07
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    @MonicaCellio: Sure, maybe you didn't find the dupe. But if you answer it, you are still benefiting from it while a more-conscientious/better-searching/lucky-question-finding user would not. Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:13
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    Ok, I can see that. And we're not talking about penalizing, only declining to award. Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:20
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    And I'm in favour of awarding points for truly good answers or answers that get merged. What I want to do is essentially de-incentivize laziness on the part of high-rep users who can vote to close. Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:46
  • Would this put users in a perpetual state of punishment?
    – Mallow
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 22:57
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    @Mallow: Not really. It doesn't punish so much as de-incentivize answering bad questions. Right now the best way to get rep is to post lots of answers with little value everywhere. With enough answers getting a vote here and there you will gain lots of rep. But if the question is closed because it should not have been answered, why do you still get the rep you did not deserve? Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 13:12
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    It's not so much about the rep I'm worried about, It's more that well, maybe it isn't always so clear cut as to what question should be closed or not. From experience it seems I have a hard time asking 'SE legal' questions. But I'll keep trying till I get it right
    – Mallow
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 18:38
  • @Mallow: well, questions are already "punished" by closing. My problem is more with high-rep users who gain easy rep answering questions they should know not to answer. Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 20:00
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    Related question people-answering-off-topic-questions-what-should-we-do Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 7:26

5 Answers 5


This almost already exists...

See, the idea is that a question that gets closed will eventually be deleted (or re-opened). It's a sort of "limbo", where questions sit until the community decides on their fate. But there's almost no value in having hundreds of closed questions littering up the site, with the very notable exception of duplicates...

Once a question is deleted, any reputation points gained by the folks answering it is forfeit - they won't lose it immediately, but the next time that user, a moderator, or a developer triggers a reputation recalc, it's gone.

So the real lesson here is the story isn't over just because a question gets closed: sooner or later, someone needs to step up and finish the job:

  • Moderators can delete anything. So feel free to ask them to delete a question that's sitting around stinking up the place.

  • 10K users can vote to delete closed questions after they've been closed for two days. So if you have at least 10K reputation points on the site, feel free to go through the list of closed questions and vote to delete stuff.

  • 20K users can also vote to delete, but don't have to wait two days. So if you've managed to rack up 20K reputation points, go nuts.

But don't delete duplicates

Seriously, don't. Unless they're literally word-for-word duplicates, just leave them be - folks tend to find all sorts of different ways of asking the same questions, and the more variations we have pointing to the same canonical answer, the better. Of course, you should

Merge duplicates with good answers

As Mitch notes, it's easy to answer a duplicate without realizing that it is a duplicate. As the site grows, this gets easier and easier. An honorable person might, upon realizing their answer adds nothing to what's already provided elsewhere, delete their own answer... But it's also common for duplicates to get better answers than the original - in these cases, asking a moderator to step in and merge the two ensures the answers get collected under the original question.

  • I didn't know about the merge option. Yes, totally, don't delete or even close, merge instead
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:20
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    The system requires a question to be closed before it can be merged, but once there just flag and ask a moderator (being sure to reference the original question in the flag text).
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:27
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    The problem is worse with duplicates than with bad questions. Duplicate questions are legitimate, I agree. But duplicate answers are not. And I've seen people post answers to dupes even after the first close votes are cast. So my idea accounts for the scenario where a dupe has such a good answer that it's worth rep regardless, but penalizes people who don't bother to learn that we don't like dupe answers on this site. And as I also mentioned, I'm in favour of merging dupes, which would be another way that rep would be restored. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 3:53

Ummm ... why? In my humble opinion, lots of questions get closed for frivolous reasons. Is the purpose of this site to help people with problems with the language? If so, what is gained from closing debateable questions? Sure, if someone asks a question that is clearly completely irrelevant, like "When was the National Football League founded?" or "How do I bake a cherry pie?", then it should be closed and deleted. And I understand trying to keep questions off that could be answered by a simple reference, like, "What is the definition of the word ___?" But besides that ... You're saying that you want to not only punish the person who asked a question that, in your opinion, is poorly worded, but you also want to punish anyone who disagreed with your opinion?

I think that an important use of a site like this is for people who are struggling with their English, like someone just learning the language, to have a place to get help. By definition such people are going to have difficulty expressing themselves. To say that we refuse to answer questions about good English unless they are expressed in good English is a little like saying that you are too sick to go to the doctor.

If you think a question is unclear or poorly worded, then fine, don't answer it. But we don't need to turn this into a crusade against the poster and everyone who condescended to try to help the struggling person.

On the other hand, why does anyone care what their score is? Last I checked there was no cash prize for high score.

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    ... how to begin? Your answer suggests that you don't understand, or completely reject, the rationale behind having reputation at all on the stack sites. But in essence, reputation is awarded for good behaviour in the community, and is the mechanism by which the community self-regulates. Anyway, my proposal was not targeting badly-worded questions, but rather questions that should not be asked in the first place. Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 17:01
  • @Shiny: Could be either (a) or (b). Well, I see it to an extent, like saying that certain privileges are given only to those who reach a certain score allows some degree of community management while guarding against a vandal just jumping in and trashing the site. He'd first have to post a bunch of answers and build up a score, which seems an unlikely thing for a vandal to do. Besides that ... do you really work hard to increase your score? Celebrate when you pass certain milestones? Brag about your high score to your friends? No, I just don't get it.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 21:13
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    This answer misses the point. If we find a rule stupid, which it in fact very well might be, then let us work on changing it. But as long as it's in place, it must be followed, period. Otherwise there's no point in having rules in the first place. Changing the rules is fine. Breaking them isn't. Democracy ≠ anarchy.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 23:03
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    Oh, and re: your comment, yes, people really work hard to increase their scores; yes, people do celebrate when they pass certain milestones; yes, people do brag about their high scores to their friends; and hell yes, vandals absolutely do build up scores all the time. Here on this site, on all other sites of the network, and all over the Internet.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 23:09
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    @ЯegDwight: Breaking the rules is a big part of how progress is made.
    – Robusto
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 17:51
  • With respect to duplicate questions, I have a number of disagreements:
    • The answerer has -no- idea that the question is a duplicate. Why would you penalize someone for their lack of knowledge?
    • an additional answer (via a duplicate) may be better than any existing one and may benefit from not being biased by the existing one.

So, I don't think that rep should be modified because of closing status due to duplicates.

  • With respect to closing because of poor quality (the other close reasons):
    • I think the entire voting mechanism and plurality of opinion handles this. You don't know that you're right...you may think it is bad, but it could be that you're wrong. That's why it takes more than one vote to close. Who are you to judge that because of your one vote, somebody else is totally wrong and should incur some reduction of rep (or lack of increase). If some group of people upvote an answer, but others -downvote- the question, or even close the question, I don't think they should be related. There are lots of 'meh' questions that turn out to have fascinating answers that make the question somehow good.
    • even if one could justify not giving rep for closed questions, the rules for when that rep is or is not allowed are too specific, each exception and the strength of each exception could be argued.

Not to be perverse, but I do share with you that it annoys me when I think a question is crap but a number of people 'who should know better' answer it, giving it (in my opinion) unwarranted legitimacy. But then, on reflection, I bet I have committed the same in others eyes. I think the voting and rep system as is records what people think, and pulling back in some small cases is too manipulative.

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    The point is that a high-rep answerer should have an idea of whether the question is a duplicate, because he should check. Now, obviously, he may miss a duplicate (the search function is known to be defective), which is not the end of the world, but he should at least make an effort.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:10
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    Also, yes, you might answer a question which you think is fine but the community ends up closing. I don't see this as a problem - you (the high-rep user) could perhaps use the experience as a lesson about what questions are welcome. The converse, where you don't answer a question which you think is questionable but which remains open: again, such is life. If you feel strongly about the lack of quality in the question, take it to chat, and it might end up being closed.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:16
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    As Martha pointed out, I think high-rep users have a responsibility to learn how the site works and how to find and weed-out dupes. We award site-maintenance privileges based on rep, so with that power comes responsibility, yadda yadda. Also, I agree that dupes sometimes get good answers. My suggestion handles that in two ways, by awarding rep for OUTSTANDING dupe answers, and by awarding rep for merged answers. Maybe, a better moderator UI for finding merge candidates and performing merges is needed? I'm not a mod so I don't know. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 3:55

Wiser heads than I have dealt with the question of duplicates: but why do you want to prevent people gaining rep for answering bad questions? The Reversal badge is for a good answer to a low-rep question, so it's clearly behaviour that should be encouraged, if anything.

If I vote up an answer, it's because I think that answer is helpful to the community; whether it's helpful to the OP I don't presume to judge. If the question shouldn't be here, then the answer has a higher hurdle to clear, but it's not impossible. And not allowing rep for answering poorly worded questions would turn us into a bunch of snobs, answering each others' questions but not allowing outsiders in.

(FWIW, I would approve of disallowing rep for acceptance on closed questions;but I doubt whether that would make enough difference to be worth the change.)

  • +1. agree with you.
    – karthik
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 16:18

Well, consider this: Not everyone always agrees on whether a question is off-topic or general reference. Should you really be penalized for answering a question that you felt was valuable, even if nobody else did?

Also, do we really want to penalize the responders when the OP failed to realize the question was a duplicate. Obviously if you recognize the question is a dup, you should vote to close it, but are we really expecting everyone to check for duplicates before answering a question? That seems like a lot of wasted cycles throughout the community.

Seems easier just to avoid upvoting answers from users who "ought to know better".

  • Yes, I do expect people who have enough rep to cast close votes to check for dupes. Otherwise, you are saying that nobody should check for dupes, and instead just answer everything, and get easy reputation points for doing the wrong thing. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 13:45
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    I wasn't saying that nobody should check for dupes, I was saying that it was the responsibility of the OP not the responders. But perhaps I'm just a Lazy Bad User.
    – Lynn
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 18:14

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