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I would say that reputation is closest to being a measure of how much the site as a whole feels that you have helped them.

People who are competent have an advantage, of course. Being able to tell people useful things is helpful. Being willing to be involved is also good. But a relatively new Perl programmer who is willing to try may gain in reputation more quickly. Indeed I know that several of the saints feel that way about themselves.

So it would be wrong to assume* that just because I have a higher reputation than Dominus, I am better than him. This is even true when you see that he has been here for longer and I have several times the reputation! It would be accurate to assume that people think I have contributed more overall value to the site. Which is not surprising when I have several times as many posts as he does.

So what is the difference between competence and what is measured in reputation? Well here are some items:

  1. Cumulative time spent. That is obvious.
  2. Amount of effort put into the site. If you post a lot it will add up.
  3. Early useful answers. If they are early, then you catch a lot of people who only visit the thread once. This often works even if the answer is obvious to an experienced programmer. This effect is so strong that I try not to take advantage of it. I would like to let people with less experience take advantage of these.
  4. Discussions that people like. People are social, they vote up things that they like. This is another aspect that I don't like, but I have to live with. For instance The nature of work makes people laugh, The path to mastery makes them think. Guess which has the higher reputation?
And so on. Things that will not factor in:
  1. Nodes that appear after the discussion moves on.
  2. Nodes that people do not understand - no matter how good the technical material may be.
  3. Nodes whose tone puts people off - again no matter how good the technical material may be.

So no, reputation doesn't measure competence. Not by a long shot.

Nor should it.

* It would be accurate to assume from the way that I said that that I consider him more competent than me...

In reply to Re (tilly) 1: The fickleness of Reputation by tilly
in thread The fickleness of Reputation by ton

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