Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Stack Overflow!

Comparing cumulative reputation of users sorted by reputation vs. number of users.  Source:  StackOverflow Sept 2011 data dump file, users.xml

Did you know that the top 1% of users own just under 60% of all reputation?  While the rest of us answer questions but seemingly get no farther ahead, Jon Skeet and his ilk get farther and farther ahead.  This situation is intolerable!

My modest proposal:  the bottom 99% of users occupy the site by posting questions with the text “We are the 99%” and tagging them with OccupyStackOverflow or OSO.  If you see these questions upvote them, then answer it with anything, like “Me too”, and then upvote all the other answers.  Power to the people!

If you don’t realize yet, I’m kidding about Occupy Stack Overflow.  But I’d like to compare the “inequality” on Stack Overflow with the “inequality” in incomes that the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be concerned about, among other things. 

Stack Overflow’s design is such that almost every point of reputation is earned. There may be people who run around the site automatically voting up all of Jon Skeet or Mark Gravell’s answers, but for the most part the top 1%’s scores are a function of the long term consistent quality of their answers. We contributed to their scores because they answered our questions well and made our jobs easier. The top 1% hold 60% of the reputation but they’ve given us their knowledge in exchange.

Compare that to the top 1% of income earners in 2011.  Unless they’ve literally stolen money from others, or were given no-strings-attached money by the government to prevent their folly from impacting their own company, they owe us NOTHING. And I say still because they’ve already given us a lot. They’ve given us cheaper computers and smart phones and gasoline cheaper than beer every 10 blocks, access to our money almost everywhere, cars that go farther on less gas with less problems, and warmer/cooler/dryer houses. The Internet, entertainment, like TV shows, sports and video games.  Bicycles get better every year.  Drugs and technology that let us live longer lives with more healthy years.  Labour saving devices like dishwashers, frostless fridges, washing machines and dryers.  Clean drinking water.  Indoor toilets.  Ikea furniture.

Warren Buffet, LeBron James and Steve Jobs didn’t take their fortunes from anyone, and they weren’t handed it by the government.  They created wealth for others, entertained others and brought people incredible technological advances.  Their fortunes are not only the result of how good they are at their jobs, but also how many people can afford what they produce. 

Just like the top 1% of Stack Overflow’s users they translated their talents into rewards for themselves and a better life for many other people.  This is the invisible hand at its best.  To the 1% I say, keep up the good work!

P.S. I created a query on that lets you find the percent of reputation found by the top x% of users here:

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