A blog that needs work

Reputation Systems are Awesome

I am a bit of a geek; that's an understatement. I'm so much of a geek, if I could, I'd quantify it; I'd try to make a science behind it, figuring out and measuing the relevant stats that make up 'geekiness'. Heck, in high school I had a silly thing on my website called the Otakudex, where I wanted to quantify all the different types of anime fans. Really.

It should come as no suprise then that I really like things like StackExchange. Not only is t a great place to find questions and answers, but it's also a way I can attempt to quantify that geekiness, sort of. I'll explain why it's only a rough measure, but for now, you can take a look at my reputation graph. You can see how my reputation had changed over time in different topics that I have answered questions in, and see how many badges I've accumulated on the different sites.

Reputation isn't geekiness, but its a pretty decent approximator, considering circumstances. That's why I love reputation systems.

Ok, terrible segues aside, let's talk a bit about reputation systems and why reputation systems are awesome.

Reputations systems are systems employed on sites like hacker news, reddit, or slashdot. How these example sites implement the system, but the idea behind them is the same. Users have a reputation, and reputation is what is used to measure some 'good' quality of the user, or their contribution.

Reputation systems appeal to me a bit because of my love of tabletop gaming (e.g. rules, numbers, stats), but also because they simplify things for me greatly. These systems make it really easy for casual users (or even experienced ones) to quickly understand which contributions are valuable. The exact value may vary (e.g. correctness, humour), but in the case of a site like StackExchange, a high reputation lets you know that someone is knowledgeable, either because they answer a lot of questions, answer questions really well, or ask important questions. In a comm enting system, reputation might allow you to sort experts from douchebags.

Reputation systems also have the benefit that people tend to feel good when they gain reputation, even if reputation is just some abstract token. I don't think that losing reputation necessarily makes people feel badly, but bad behaviour is an entirely different problem.

Because reputation systems are so great, I'm kind of surprised that they aren't employed in a lot of other cirsumstances. These systems make it easy for good conttibutors to be recognized; why not integrate them with, say, the job application process? It could be valuable to know which candidates have the best reputation, or the best relative reputations as opposed to the crapshoot of wading through resumes. For people who aren't selected, their reputation could be a sort of yardstick to know why they weren't accepted. That's the first application that I think of offhand, but I'm sure there could be other great uses.

The systems aren't perfect though. Whenever I look at sites like, say, reddit, I wonder if the content that 'rises to the top' is really the best. More specifically, I often find that there are certain sites (like hacker news) that more reliably find good content for me. Another drawback is that on a site like StackExchange that uses some sort of 'absolute reputation', it's hard to say what exactly a reputation value means. Is a score of 10 good? 100? 1000? Reddit succeeds in this regard because you only are really concerned with the relative goodness of a story. And of course, there's the issue of who should determine reputation, and censorship (if reputation is moderated by a very small community).

Anyway, reputation systems are awesome, and I just wanted to rant about them a bit.

Nicholas Terwoord

A self-titled software developer, "code archaeologist" (whatever that means), and professional geek. Spends too much of his time coming up with new projects, and not enough time working on them. Likes video games, board games, anime, manga, and Pathfinder / Dungeons and Dragons (GOTO: Line #1 - Geek).