Naser Mirzaei

Why Stack Overflow reputation is bullshit! and why it’s not!

When you start to work with some services like Stack Overflow or all other Stack Exchange products you find that there is a mechanism for users to get access to different abilities and features in the service, and it is the reputation service. You can upvote or downvote others if you earned an amount of votes, and maybe some other restrictions.

This is an excellent mechanism to control spam. But the problem is when some companies or people evaluate and score you based on your Stack Overflow reputation. Just compare the number of PHP developers with Rustaceans (Rust developers) in the world! So when somebody asks/answers a question in Stackoverflow about PHP, more people will upvote (sometimes downvote) their post. But could you say they are more wise or professional than a person who has activities about Rust in Stackoverflow, because they have many more reputations than the latter person?

Maybe you say, you should not compare two people in different communities or technologies with each other. Of course Yes! But still we have two more problems: First one is, nobody checks your reputation related to which technology that you use. The second one (the more critical one) is that if you ask or answer a question that is more advanced than common problems, you will earn less reputation than asking or answering a common problem. Because there are fewer people that face that problem.

We have this problem in other services like GitHub for stars. Most times if you write a JS library it would earn more stars than a Golang library, because JS has more developers and also JS developers are more addicted to use libraries for trivial works. :D

Also some services like HackerRank have scoring mechanisms for developers based on the code in their repositories, and it leads to this problem if you use them for reviewing a developer’s abilities. Of course, I know most times these are gamification tricks to tempt them to make their profiles more complete or be more active on their services.

It would be good to mention “Goodhart’s Law” which is somehow related to this article. When these metrics become measurements, developers try to focus on improving their rank in these services.

There are some services like that you can buy GitHub Stars!!!

It’s always hard to measure a developer’s abilities until you work with them on a project. So we should be careful when deciding based on these funny parameters.

StackOverflow Reputation GitHub Goodhart Law