Popular belief holds that if the system is unfair, gaming it is tantamount to rendering a public service, while the opposite is also true: folks inclined to game a good system are dishonest sociopaths who should be flogged every Tuesday in the town square.

Still, gaming the system is an egregious practice. Isn't it? Gaming an unfair system should not be called that. It's more like a quixotic quest, is it not?

I noticed a while ago that the answers that get me impressive amounts of rep points are simple, mindless one-liners; while well-thought-out, well-researched, well-written, humorous, illustrated, cross-referenced posts (answers and questions) oftentimes result in a lot more downvotes than gratification.

To test this theory further, I once spent a few days posting a lot of one-liners. As it turned out, my suspicions were well-founded. Am I gaming the system?

JUST IN CASE: Some commenters here have already questioned my motives. Why would anyone need rep points at all, they unhypocritically demand? Why? There's no money in it. Or (gasping) is there?

I answer:

  1. Yes, there's money in it. Not an awful lot. Just some.
  2. I don't care about the money, actually. My goal is gaining the privilege of "Paying the EL&U Maoists in Kind."


Let me illustrate my point by drawing your attention to the questions that come up right now on EL&U when you press the "newest" questions button (the original grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, question marks, etc, etc - everything's preserved ... in its original ... fff ... form... ):

  1. what official english words to describe these activity

  2. Accomplish+a verb form?

  3. i want to persue masters in management which one is the best for me?? [on hold]

  4. Goal-driven vs. goal-oriented

  5. What do you call the action of alternatively walking and jogging to complete a Full Marathon?

  6. 3rd conditional + inversion

  7. Idiom for “dominate”

  8. Structure of this sentence is not clear to me

  9. In Figure X, … - with Comma?

  10. why “come into a place” sounds like /kʌməntsə/ /pleis/

  11. Tawkin'? Tawk? I don't get the joke. (This one is actually curious, and one wants to open it and see what it's about, and, wow, the post begins with a lengthy quote from a well-written novel ... oh, but I'm the one who posted it ... oops ... Guess what? One downvote, and counting)

  12. Who and Whom in a question

  13. What do the quoted sentences mean?

  14. Meaning of “blatant plug”

  15. Must the use of a comma plus “and” be followed by a complete sentence?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where we are right now.

  • 1
    More downvotes, please.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 1:09
  • 1
    I just recommended for deletion a one-line answer from a 5 digit rep user. The answer was right, but lazy, and I'm tired of seeing lazy one-liners as answers. And then I OKed an answer from a one-rep unregistered user who cited personal experience as his reference. But the answer had convincing content. Do I need a sabbatical?
    – ab2
    Jan 25, 2016 at 2:06
  • 4
    Comment on your experiment: Have you tried well referenced, etc posts, but without humor? :)
    – ab2
    Jan 25, 2016 at 2:09
  • 9
    You are assuming that your long posts are actually correct or accurate answers. Also, it is much easier to give the impression of wisdom with short one liner answers. The more sentences you write the more opportunities there are for critique. Jan 25, 2016 at 2:16
  • @michael_timofeev You are assuming that your long posts are actually correct or accurate answers I'm assuming no such thing. All my answers are correct.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 3:12
  • 2
    You're a curious user. I'm really mystified as to just why you are here. Not that you should not be, but really, for all of your complaints, why are you here? Jan 25, 2016 at 3:12
  • @medica: Because I'm unreasonable.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 3:15
  • @Ricky so what's the point of this post, Ricky? Is this post going to help ELU or anyone else? The only person you're gaming is yourself. The only thing people care about around here is the quality of your answers, not how many stars, stripes, or fruit cocktail you have on your shirt breast. If you're good at one liners, great, you're the Henny Youngman of SE and everyone will find you amusing. Personally, I don't want to be known as the one liner guy, unless I'm Mumon or LaoTzu. Jan 25, 2016 at 3:21
  • 3
    I nearly asked Ricky's question myself. I got 470 points for a mediocre answer that I wrote half asleep and without noticing that it had nearly circular reasoning. My better answers get 1/10 to 1/20 the points. BUT, the mediocre answer got in first. The early A gets a vote and is at the top of the queue, and many readers don't read beyond the first 2 or 3 answers, and positive feedback sets in. Plus, people like to be associated with a winner so they upvote upvoted As. I couldn't mention this when it worked against me, but now that I have become a beneficiary I can.
    – ab2
    Jan 25, 2016 at 3:39
  • @ab2: My honest opinion is elitist is bad, egalitarian worse, and the truth, or the golden ratio, if you will, is somewhere in the middle, with a strong leaning towards elitism. I don't see why people who have never posted a few dozen well-worded questions should be granted the right to vote at all. I don't see why a newcomer who more often than not has only a ... uh ... middling ... to put it mildly ... command of the .... uh ... language should be able to vote, or why his or her vote should have as much weight as mine.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 4:41
  • 6
    This is a recurring theme. From time to time new "generations" of users complain about the voting system and its supposed inefficiencies. From a longer and wider perspective I think it works and good answers/questions and serious users (with possible minor exceptions) are correctly rewarded in term of reps.
    – user66974
    Jan 25, 2016 at 8:39
  • 1
    Rep points are a measure of the effort and knowledge shown by users in ELU activities. There is no (constructive) point in criticizing rep points saying that they are not real money or in making other irrelevant comparisons. Rep points do matter, they are part of the system.
    – user66974
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:59
  • 1
    @Ricky I don't see that way. The more popular the question is, the higher chances of your getting more upvotes. Your high-quality answer with links and pictures might have answered a very unpopular question and you can never receive as many upvotes. And one-liner answers are usually for Single-Word-Request questions for which you don't need to write that long. Not all questions are viewed by the same number of users. If that's the problem, you can't fix it at all.
    – user140086
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:27
  • 1
    @Ricky Then, you can downvote the wrong answer and upvote the right answer. That's what happened to my answer to your question I linked in my answer below. A duplicate question should be closed.
    – user140086
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:48
  • 1
    Gaming is uncool, man. Wait...this sounds more like you're peeving.
    – Mitch
    Jan 25, 2016 at 14:36

3 Answers 3


It doesn't appear that you're "gaming the system", although you aren't doing it any favours.

You have previously mentioned that you don't give downvotes. If that's the case, you are helping to shore up the poor result that you decry. Downvotes are necessary to indicate poor-quality content. They actually help the system: a user with a record of poor questions or answers can be blocked. But the system can only work if it's given the data it needs.

Downvoting poor questions to below −3 will take them off the front page (and again, the system needs its data to do that). But fewer downvotes than that still sends a message about the sort of question the community feels is unwelcome. If you feel a post doesn't help the site, use your votes to say so.

By not downvoting in this way, you are forgoing the one really effective means you have of influencing content.

If you feel a question doesn't meet the requirements to be on-topic, or is explicitly off-topic, then use your close votes to say so. A user with too many closed questions is flagged, normally warned (which usually means that they don't return) and can be blocked by the system, if they are not banned manually. Close votes matter.

While you are not actually gaming the system — that has a particular meaning on Stack Exchange — you are helping to cause its demise by allowing the posts to persist. That may not actually be the effect you want.

Note that votes on a site Meta like this one are different from main sites and Meta.SE, and simply indicate agreement or disagreement with the sentiment or proposal expressed in a post. They don't count for rep, although they may be taken into account in elections and the like.

  • At the bottom of my post is a snapshot of what the first page looks like right now (or did 30 minutes ago). Neither downvotes nor close votes can fix that. The first page is the ... hmm ... face of EL&U, for lack of a better word. It'll continue to get worse unless posting a question becomes a privilege to be earned (say, 2000 rep points). It might reduce the traffic considerably, but right now most of the traffic is ignominious garbage anyway.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 12:58
  • 3
    But the SE philosophy is that anyone can post a question (or an answer). You can help maintain the site by using your votes; or you can continue to complain. Or maybe both. But if you're not downvoting crap, you are not part of the solution. You must vote, and vote often: vote down, vote to close and (when possible) vote to delete. You are part of the community; please help to maintain it.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:32
  • I'm not complaining. I'm making suggestions. In the dozen weeks of my sojourn here things on this site have taken a highly perceptible turn for the worse.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:39
  • 2
    And what are you doing to help that? This Meta post appears to be a rant with the subtext of exhorting others to do something; what do you intend to do?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:42
  • You tell me. As things stand, I very obviously cannot do much: my hands are tied by the current state of the rep point system, like everyone else's, yours included.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:44
  • 6
    OK: I'll make a suggestion. You must vote, and vote often: vote down, vote to close and (when possible) vote to delete. You are part of the community; please help to maintain it.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:45
  • I don't see how one person's voting could change anything. I mean, yes, high ideals, and yes, determination, and yes, principles. But there's such a thing as math.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:48
  • dreamemporium.com/starfish.html (Other versions of that story are available).
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:50
  • 1
    @Ricky When everyone says "what difference does my vote make?" it is the beginning of apathy and opens the door to exactly the kind of thing you despise, Ricky...Maoism. Jan 25, 2016 at 14:05
  • @Ricky So start playing ball with the other kids on the playground...that means close votes and down votes. Jan 25, 2016 at 14:07
  • @Ricky The moderator told you what to do to help the site. Also start writing longer answers and stick to what you know (whatever that is.). Come on bro...that's the program around here...it ain't so bad. Jan 25, 2016 at 14:10
  • 3
    @Ricky Also, when you talk about one liner answers, what kind of questions are these...yeah, I thought so, SWRs...they always score big...questions about grammar cannot be answered with one liners and usually don't get that sexy excitement that SWRs get...just the way it is around here. I have never gotten triple sevens with my grammar answers...but an answer about a milkshake...Christ, who would have thought I could retire on that? Jan 25, 2016 at 14:15
  • 3
    @Ricky - RE: I'm not complaining. I'm making suggestions. I might agree with the the first part of that comment, but not the second. Where is your suggestion here? (That said, I'd probably agree with the entire comment had you written: I'm not complaining. I'm making observations.)
    – J.R.
    Jan 25, 2016 at 14:48
  • 2
    @ab2 Downvotes on questions don't cost you any rep. We should all be able to find 30 questions to downvote each day. Jan 26, 2016 at 3:26
  • 3
    @Ricky If posting a question were a 2k-rep privilege, there would be very few questions posted (8 over the last two days). With so few questions it would be virtually impossible for anyone to get to the 2k threshold. For instance if that policy had been in place since you joined you would still be way below 2k yourself (I’ve checked it) because most of the questions you’ve answered would not have been posted.
    – Jacinto
    Jan 31, 2016 at 17:44

No, you are not gaming the system. You are often times lucky and sometimes unlucky depending on a day when you write a well-thought one-liners or simple, mind-less one-liners. You are just confirming one of the voting patterns happening on ELU.

I have noticed there are noticeable voting patterns on ELU. The followings don't cover them 100%, but if I may:

  1. Voting your conscience: Ideal, but not practical. Nobody can be a perfectionist nor idealist. Not everyone votes this way. I was not voting this way from the day I got 15 (minimum for upvote) and 125 rep points (minimum to downvote) for a few months. I am trying to vote this way now (at least from a few weeks ago).

  2. Voting based on length and research (links): Some users might give more weight to them even though the answer might not be 100% correct appreciating the time and efforts the OP spent to write those answers.

  3. Voting based on conciseness: Some users seem to prefer this as it is easier to understand (catch the point) and they don't need to read TL;DR answers. You can't blame nor change them and they will never change. As I raised in the linked question, Warning to a user who posts the “same (exact) answer” and answer “without any reference/research”, the one-liner received two upvotes when my answer received two or three upvotes. I think it would have received more upvotes than mine if Andrew Leach hadn't converted it to a comment to my answer.

  4. Voting against wrong answers: Coincident or not, one of your questions generated a lot (maybe too many) of upvotes as my answer was not considered the right one by many. What do you call a glade or path created artificially in order to to prevent wildfires?. My answer received 20 upvotes with 14 downvotes while the most upvoted one received 116 upvotes with just one downvote. If my answer had not been posted, I am sure the other one would not have received that many upvotes. Some might have downvoted mine and upvoted the other at the same time to prove that my answer is not right. I am not proud of this answer, but it shows one of the several important voting patterns on ELU.

  5. Downvoting answers to (blatantly) off-topic questions: If you read this answer to a question, "Question quality is dropping on Stack Overflow", some are encouraging downvoting on answers to bad questions saying Answers (even correct ones) are not useful if they contribute to the demise of the site. I guess those downvotes mentioned in my previous Meta question, Is downvoting every single post in a question without leaving any comment constructive? were cast for this reason.

And so on and so forth...

Conclusion: It is not a secret that the voting system here doesn't work as ideally as one would expect or hope as people are as subjective and independent in voting as in asking and answering questions. We can't control their behaviors.

I increased the number of downvotes dramatically over the past few weeks to discourage poor-quality answers and questions and I think it does work for some users. It might be a good idea for users to think about their voting patterns one more time using this opportunity and to figure out how their voting could improve or worsen the quality of this community. I feel more discouraged when witnessing any upvote to (blatantly) off-topic questions (answers) than seeing a one-liner get upvoted.

Why not join us in close-voting Low Quality Quesitons and downvoting Low Quality Answers and Questions?

  • You make some pretty compelling points. They inspired me to add something to my question: a snapshot of what the top page of the forum looks like right now. Feast your eyes.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:04
  • I do occasionally upvote something that's off-topic, or has nothing to do with the question - I'll upvote anything that evokes any emotion in me other than boredom and disgust. I never downvote because I have ... I don't know, thoughts? ... they're not principles, exactly. But I know more or less exactly who in this exclusive club of ours is fond of downvoting and I don't wish to be associated with that crowd. Not even when they're actually right, which is less than half the time. Also because I'd rather encourage people than insult them, and a downvote is always an insult. I'd much sooner ...
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:09
  • ... I'd much sooner write "f*** you, a***hole," in the comment line: one, it is far more in keeping with my character; two, it's far less insulting than a downvote. Such is my opinion.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:10
  • I also upvote questions and answers that have been downvoted for no good reason - to preserve the Great Universal Equilibrium, if you will. As for voting with my conscience, or my sense of fairness, or whatever: I rely more on my sense of aesthetics. In my less-than-humble opinion, EL&U should be a forum for those who are interested in nuances; it should be a happy blend of scholarly thought and humorous disposition. For everything else (and everyone else) there's ELL.
    – Ricky
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:18
  • 2
    @Ricky As I told you a month or so ago in the comment, you don't need to react to any downvotes. To upvote anything to balance it out doesn't seem to be a good idea, either. I used to think exactly like you and I changed my view. Some questions don't belong here and some questions are just cr**. I always enjoy your questions and answers. Just enjoy and try to understand how things work. Some questions about nuances are received well here. You need to cast your downvote to balance any upvote that was cast for a bad question and answer, too. Please don't take any downvote as an insult.
    – user140086
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:22

You can lead by example. I just looked at one of your experimental one-liners. (pressing problem) Have you no shame?

And you got 110 points for it! That's a free 110 points that you can use on 110 downvotes. You can use the downvotes on 4 and 5 rep users who post completely unsubstantiated answers; they should be able to take it without having a nervous breakdown.

How can anyone expect new users to learn how to write a good answer if 4- and 5-rep users post one-liners? And some new users do learn. They see a comment asking for a citation or an example, and they respond.

Others just vanish after being deleted, but there are several billion people out there and no barrier to posting a Q or an A.

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