In case you missed the news, upvotes on questions now grant +10 reputation instead of +5, and the change has been implemented retroactively (most if not all users have already had their reputation recalculated). This change was welcomed mostly neutrally or positively (who doesn't like free rep?) but I did hear some concerns from other users about where this may take us (mostly those who I know personally, but this meta question is very likely motivated by a similar concern (edit: that question is now deleted; it asked about the impact of the change on the number of questions posted)).

I am aware that while MathOverflow is part of Stack Exchange, there is a unique agreement between MO and SE (as described and linked here). I admit I have not read the entirety of the agreement so I don't know exactly what it allows in regards to MO following different rules than other SE sites.

My questions are then this:

Would it be possible, if the community and/or the moderation team on MO decide so, to revert this reputation change on this site?

If there is such a possibility, should we take it?

Opinion ahead: I am personally not a fan of the change. While I understand where the SE are coming from introducing it, arguing that asking a good question is an art in itself, I feel like it is not as true on this website as it is elsewhere. While there are of course some great questions there (like this one), I do still believe that writing a good question is generally not as much of a demanding task as coming up with a good answer, the latter often requiring more insight and sheer work, and they should be rewarded accordingly. There are of course people who disagree with me on this stand (this was the most upvoted feature request), but I know people who agree, and I would like to put this to a discussion.

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    $\begingroup$ Since MO originated from SE1.0 software, it used to be 10 points for questions (and also -1 for downvoting questions). When MO joined SE2.0 it was changed back. So if anything, we're not changing as much as going back. And if you read the announcement, that is also how SE views this change. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 15 '19 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ If I remember right, lots of people wanted MO to opt out of the switch to +5 in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Nov 16 '19 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion, questions and answers are basically of equal importance: There will be no answers without questions and without a prospect for an answer or helpful information, there would be no questions. I welcome the switch back to 10 points for questions. $\endgroup$ – tj_ Nov 16 '19 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ Adding the tag feature-request, because we need input from the SE team to answer the first part of this question, and (as far as I understand) they actively track only meta questions tagged feature-request or bug, not those tagged discussion. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Nov 17 '19 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @FedericoPoloni For what is worth (and I do realize this is not an authoritative answer) the possibility of reverting this change are essentially zero (and in my personal opinion I consider it a good thing: the reverse change was essentially a failed policy and there's no reason to keep legacy conventions forever just because people got used to them). $\endgroup$ – Denis Nardin Nov 19 '19 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ I actually don't think it makes much difference either way. $\endgroup$ – Jim Conant Nov 28 '19 at 22:39

Let me answer from the perspective of someone who is not a mathematician but follows this community for certain topics of interest.

This is a community of professional mathematicians where, indeed, questions are usually very well researched and posed, and there's virtually no risk of rewarding homework dump. So, if there's a community in which questions' upvotes really deserve the same value of answers' upvotes is this one.


I received a huge reputation boost from this change, but I still think that answering a question still takes much more effort than writing well-posed questions. Coming up with a good mathematical question is rather easy, one usually is in a specific situation, wants to draw a certain conclusion, so one adds a couple of assumptions that make obvious counterexamples disappear, and if one does not find a proof within a couple of hours, it might be a good question.

Answering a question still takes much more effort and should be rewarded higher in my opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this might vary between people. I got a little boost, but nothing to write home about, and indeed for me answering questions is much, much easier than asking them. $\endgroup$ – Denis Nardin Nov 19 '19 at 18:58

I don't have a strong opinion on this subject, but insofar as I have one, it is this: Changing the rules is more trouble than it's worth. I lost points back when +10 was downgraded to +5, and I gained points when the +5 was upgraded to +10, and in both cases I was mostly annoyed that the rules had been changed for (what I perceived as) no good reason. So I would oppose yet another change.

Although I agree with Noah Snyder's warning not to treat MO like a game, there is one analogy that I would like to draw. Inexperienced game designers often think that a well-established game can be "improved" by tinkering with the rules. They usually underestimate the value of having a stable rule-set, and overestimate the beneficial impact that the rule change will have. A good example of this IMO is chess. Changing the rule that capturing the king wins the game, to the rule that checkmate wins the game (and moving into check is illegal) accomplished nothing other than to make the game harder to teach, and make the stalemate rule seem bizarre. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Neither +5 nor +10 for questions is "broken" IMO, so I'm not in favor of fixing it.


I am not against the change, but I am strongly against the change being implemented retroactively. I felt the same way when question upvotes were changed from 10 points to 5 points retroactively, and many users lost a significant amount of points. I personally consider reputation points as glorified video game points, but I agree with Timothy Chow that part of the appeal of a video game is that it has a stable rule set.

Of course, video game rules are arbitrary, but we all agree to play by the same rules. The rules may be changed, but there should be a good reason for the change, and the community should be consulted. Can the MO moderators at least confirm that they were notified of the potential change? Now, even if the community agrees to a rule change, it is absurd to implement that rule change retroactively. That would be like the National Basketball Association retroactively awarding 3 points for every 3-point basket before the 3-point line was introduced.


Full disclosure: I benefited a lot from this change, as I ask a lot of questions.

Overall I think it is fair to have upvotes for both questions and answers count the same, although it will - even for a well-posed reseach-level question - require more effort in average to answer it, than to ask it.

Here's another approach: Why don't we give more reputation for the poster of an answer that gets accepted by the one who asked the question, than we do today? (I.e., instead of putting more weight to answer upvoted, put more emphasis to acceptance.)

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    $\begingroup$ It is not clear to me whether you are advocating more points for the poster who accepts an answer, or for the poster whose answer is accepted (or both?). $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 23 '19 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ Right, sorry for the ambiguous post. I argue for more points for the poster who wrote the accepted answer. Tried to make it more clear with an edit. $\endgroup$ – Dominic van der Zypen Nov 24 '19 at 20:22

Good questions are valuable but at the same time, I've always felt Stack Overflow's gamification features are among its least appealing features and I'd rather that MO just get rid of all those scores altogether.

For a long time I posted with no account at all and still do sometimes, but finally broke down and enrolled one because I wanted to use the comments feature, which requires a certain score. That requirement is also dumb imho. Good questions, answers, and comments are able to stand on their own.

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    $\begingroup$ Meta Stack Exchange: Why do I need 50 reputation to comment? What can I do instead? (Even the spam in posts is removed on MO slower than on sites with larger userbase. New comments are more difficult to spot, so removing the limit to comment would very likely lead to more spam.) I will add a reminder about the way to deal with spam in posts: What should I do when I see a spam post on MO? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 28 '19 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ New comments being more difficult to spot could be fixed with a software patch, allowing viewing the most recent comments. $\endgroup$ – none Nov 28 '19 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ I highly doubt that it would help that much. Here is example from today - a spam post for which it took more than 30 minutes on the site before it got removed. If the MO users are inactive in dealing with spam in posts (either they don't care or they simply do not know how to deal with spam posts), it's overly optimistic to think that they will actively be checking also comments for spam. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 28 '19 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ BTW it seems that various users have created some ways of getting to recent comments (probably from the API). For example, you can get the most recent comments for a particular site here: charcoal-se.org/blaze (Which I found from an answer here: Is it possible to view all recent comments?) And it seems that there are also various chatbots that collect comments as they appear on a site, like this one. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 28 '19 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ If a spam post stays around for 30 minutes that doesn't seem so terrible. It probably was gone too quickly to even get crawled by search engines. Staying around for days would be bad. I will defer to you about this stuff though. I'm not a real MO'er, just kind of a hanger-on. $\endgroup$ – none Nov 28 '19 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ I cannot consider myself to be "real MO'er" for whatever reasonable interpretation of the word. Anyway, I still try to help, for example by removing spam posts when I see them. And the post in the first comment explains some experience with this on other sites in the network. In any case, if we want to continue this discussion in some way, let's do so in chat. (We have digressed from the original topic anyway.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 28 '19 at 11:26

I would like to suggest to look at the following link which title, subtitles and perhaps its body is related to the suject of conversations of this Meta Mo post. Maybe one can conclude from some subtitles of this link that we should not consider an absolut and rigid border between (importance and value of ) questions and answers.

In the title of this link it is included that every answer is an introduction to a new question.
We can imagine a converse situation: A question can implicitly contains a potential answer to another problem.


PS: I just remember that a physics professor told me his following experience: "one semester I experienced the following teaching method: every season, instead of direct teaching, I got examination whose problems and questions were actually teaching students the new materials. By thinking to my questions they spontaneously discover the materials of new courses"

This physicist is a well known translator of Philosophical and Physical books.

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say a question contains an answer, so much as it points to or indicates one or more answers. I think a good question promotes understanding as well if not better than a good answer. Gerhard "One Reason Why I'm Here" Paseman, 2019.12.01. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Dec 1 '19 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Good questions can be important and useful. I still maintain that the act of asking interesting questions is cheaper than the work of providing decent answers and indeed there are questions asked on MO which do not actually display sufficient thought or depth $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi Dec 1 '19 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @GerhardPaseman thank you very much for your comment. I agree to some extent with your modification. $\endgroup$ – Ali Taghavi Dec 2 '19 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerhardpaseman yes I should be more careful so I edit it by adding the word "potential" answer. Thanks again for your interesting comment. $\endgroup$ – Ali Taghavi Dec 2 '19 at 23:40

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