# Should we rate limit answerers?

I was reading this post where Jyrki writes:

I have come to think that answers that clearly required less than ten minutes of processing from the part of the answerer should be just left unposted. There are a few hit-and-run-operators that make me want to introduce rate limitations for answerers as well. 6 per day, 50 per month is generous enough. Focus on quality, not quantity. The answerers are not sitting in some exam here. After you reached 10k by answering calculus, leave that arena to the noobs, please (unless you can add a genuinely different point of view to that rare question where a new pearl can be found).

I think this is an excellent idea. It would stop answering machines who answer any and all garbage questions and it would stop general rep farming.

Do you think we should rate limit answerers? Is this even a possibility of the software?

• This would certainly be nice. The most egregious rep-seekers that I see are posting hundreds of answers per month, and routinely more than a dozen a day. The vast majority of these answers are just routine computations in calculus or limits, containing zero insight and little-to-no explanation. In short, I don't think anything would be lost by rate-limiting these answers, except perhaps for the warm feelings of our overlord the green box. – user296602 May 6 '18 at 15:10
• I also think that a related issue is the massive number of duplicates. Expanding on my previous comment, the spam-answerers are frequently just using the same technique to answer the same (up to isomorphism) questions over and over again when they should really know these are duplicates. – user296602 May 6 '18 at 15:13
• Extreme elements of this cohort actually induce extra work for the Community, because the Review Queues are swollen with their detritus. – hardmath May 6 '18 at 15:15
• Can't help but infer how helpful such a rate limitation in answering would be wrt stemming the incoming tide of "do-my-work-for-me" questions. – amWhy May 6 '18 at 16:38
• This (rather old) discussion is about the same idea you mention - that high rep users might sometimes leave easy questions to others: Letting less-reputable people answer questions. – Martin Sleziak May 6 '18 at 19:47
• As others above suggest, MSE site and reputation addiction seem to be a real thing, where people join out of genuine interest but then start getting high off rep increases, stop actually learning new things, spend unhealthy amounts of time on the site, and become offended if offered the slightest bit of criticism. A limit might help to put a stop to that kind of unfortunate behavior. – shalop May 7 '18 at 0:18
• Fully agree with the suggestion here. I have been guilty myself on a few occasions of answering such questions instead of marking duplicate (thanks to my limited searching skills). Then later I switched to giving hints / partial solutions in comments. Apart from the suggestion mentioned here, it is best not to upvote such repeat answers (regular users would be able to identify repeat answers/answerers). – Paramanand Singh May 7 '18 at 9:47
• Rate me at least. I'd love to know how I'm doing, and from what we know reputation is an insufficient (read : incorrect) statistic. Oh, have I got the wrong meaning of rate? – Teresa Lisbon May 7 '18 at 10:20
• This is related to the formulation of the post rather than to the content - but here is a link to a discussion on Meta Stack Exchange: It’s time to retire the term “rep-whore” A related discussion on ELU: What's a less offensive substitute for “rep-whores”? – Martin Sleziak May 7 '18 at 11:43
• “Should we rate-limit answers?” is the way I would pose this question. To rate-limit answerers is to the limit the number of people who can answer, and to rate limit answerers is to evaluate the people who respond to questions with the “limits” tag. – user210229 May 7 '18 at 12:25
• I think it was previously discussed the term "rep-whoring" is pejoritave and may not comply with the site's be-nice policy. Alternatives were suggested if I remember. – samerivertwice May 7 '18 at 14:40
• Because we're all getting paid so much money for doing this. – Robert Soupe May 11 '18 at 2:21
• When I hit my vote limit for the day, I realize it's time for bed. I don't like the generality of the comment you cited. If something is easy for someone to answer, it may be still hard for others. That's no reason for not posting. However I agree that people answering originals AND their duplicates are showing a bad behavior. Maybe limit answers per day one you've hit 10k? – SK19 May 11 '18 at 15:26
• @SK19 all are 10k-ers answering bad questions that they need to be limited to answering once per day? The idea is to reduce bad answerers, not to limit high rep users answering. – Andrew T. May 14 '18 at 2:33
• @T.Bongers: I, for one, welcome our green box overlords. ¶ That being said, I'm not keen on pure back-of-the-book answers for routine PSQ, without even an attempt to clarify whatever confusion led to the routine PSQ. – Brian Tung May 15 '18 at 16:26

Actually I do not agree with the suggestion.

I assume the goal is to stop rep-farmers from providing low quality answers. However, if you look at the first page of users (ordered by reputataion this year) here, you identity several users you encountered when reviewing low quality queue, but there are also quite a lot of users who provide great answers. These users easily provide more than 200 answers every months.

I just don't see why writing more answers will in general decrease the quality of the answers (If you write 10 answers today, it doesn't mean some of those 10 answers are of lower quality. It doesn't even mean that you are answering low quality questions).

Instead of targeting users who give lots of answers, we should target those who give lots of low quality answers. IMO they can be identified easily, we all have a list in mind. Just downvote and delete their low quality answers.

• $6$ normal answers per day, it will be very hard for me to reach $200$ daily reputation, unless one of them is for a question that would become popular later. So I don't think this suggestion is a good idea. – user061703 May 7 '18 at 4:18
• I suggest that you do not set your goal to reach 200 rep daily, @TrầnThúcMinhTrí, but instead concentrating on writing good answers. – user99914 May 7 '18 at 4:53
• @JohnMa For elementary/medium level questions, where I'm mainly involved, I think that the big problem is the poor quality of many OP more than the low quality of answers and I think we should find a common route to work on it. Like you, I’m not sure that limitation in answers would be a good way to solve that issue but I also don't agree with you that targeting downvoting against some high rep users would be a nice way to obtain good results in eliminating poorly posed questions and related answers (otherwise it could be really counterproductive). – user May 7 '18 at 9:07
• @JohnMa Of course, often low quality OP are answered in a poorly way but, for my short experience here, I’ve noticed that the downvoting/deleting system for bad quality answer works in an very effective way independently by the user who answered. Meanwhile, I'm trying by myself to avoid giving complete answer to poorly posed question, trying to involve the asker by hints and suggestions by comments in order to improve the OP. But I have to admit that I’ve obtained satisfactory results in a limited number of cases. – user May 7 '18 at 9:08
• "Instead of targeting users who give lots of answers, we should target those who give lots of low quality answers. IMO they can be identified easily, we all have a list in mind. Just downvote and delete their low quality answers." This has not worked, and at times has backfired. This strategy has been encouraged for years now on MSE, along with pushback from users objecting to the deletion of their answers along with the deletion of lowquality questions. (Need a remind you of the mod who was so insulted by the deletion of their answer, given the low quality of the question they answered?) – amWhy May 7 '18 at 15:52
• If your statement/alternative was viable and working, we wouldn't have seen this post in the first place, John Ma. – amWhy May 7 '18 at 15:53
• I don't think that the strategy of downvoting low quality answers from rep-farmers works. They've already figured out that four downvotes and an upvote still leads to an overall gain. Moreover, it requires work from numerous other users to delete an answer or a question and it just leads to more garbage-collection and the resentment that accompanies it. – user296602 May 7 '18 at 16:06
• @amwhy if downvoting/deleting low quality answers don't get enough support, how would you expect setting answers limit, which stop valuable users from providing good answers, to get more support? – user99914 May 7 '18 at 16:21
• @JohnMa My point was just that the workload is very disproportionate. In the time that it takes three 10k+ users to coordinate their deletion votes (after getting at least two others to go along with closure...), the rep-farmer has posted ten more answers. – user296602 May 7 '18 at 16:25
• See T.Bongers answer, @JohnMa. Zach's proposal would force prolific answereres, of high or low quality questions (and my experience is that there is no such thing as a user who only posts high quality answers to high quality questions. Even the most qualified of answerers (some highest rep users) still answer PsQ's. That they may need to reconsider which questions they plan to answer, instead of answering them all. – amWhy May 7 '18 at 16:48
• @JohnMa So is your suggestion actually to explicitly target specific "rep-farmers"? That is, take those "lists" out of people's minds and combine them somewhere? – Derek Elkins left SE May 8 '18 at 6:39
• There is already a great tension regarding deletion of low quality questions/PSQs so it is a good idea to try other approaches like rate limiting as suggested. – Paramanand Singh May 9 '18 at 4:49
• Indeed the more I look into the list, the more I am convinced that the suggestion to rate limit answers is doing more harm than good. IMO those users who provide low quality answers are quite localized. – user99914 May 10 '18 at 4:10
• @ZacharySelk Actually I agree with you and my answer did not discuss that (and I am surprised no one point that out until now). But I will still hold the same objection: those users who answer lots of questions are not those who answer lots of bad questions (I have enough experience in close vote review so I am pretty sure about that) – user99914 May 10 '18 at 17:26

I posted 55 answers in April 2018.

Some of them were quick to write, but I should hope none of them are fit to be handed in as homework by the asker. Only two of them were on questions tagged .

I would be interested in knowing which of them you or Jyrki think should not have been posted.

• I'm not going to go through your answers, but from knowing you probably every single one of those answers improved the site. – user223391 May 18 '18 at 18:45
• Henning, you do realize that my meta post being quoted here was written as a substitute to rage quitting by running amok and deleting all the homework from selected tags. Wading waist-deep in the sewer of droppings from sock puppeteers, rep farmers, crackpots, dupe answerers, and such for a few years does that to some. At least to me. IOW, the purpose of that post was to be therapeutical. Yes, I have developed several peeves over the years, but... Nevermind... I'm sure you can figure out what kind of post(er)s I had in mind. – Jyrki Lahtonen May 18 '18 at 20:41
• To give you some perspective. We have a user who has posted close to 4000 answers in 5 months, all at freshman level or below. Most of them copy/pastable. That. Gets. To my nerves. There are others with a similar approach. – Jyrki Lahtonen May 18 '18 at 20:55
• Henning, that is a rate of less than two answers per day on average. I don't think that is the sort of rate limitation. If you were posting 55 answers per day for the month of April, then we'd have a whole other conversation. – Asaf Karagila May 18 '18 at 21:12
• @AsafKaragila: The proposal was, if I understood it correctly, to have a 6-per-day limit and a 50-per-month limit. – hmakholm left over Monica May 18 '18 at 21:25
• @JyrkiLahtonen: I can see that. However, since this question seemed to have elevated "50 per month is generous enough" from carthatic grumbling to a serious proposal, I felt it would be relevant to offer some numeric evidence against that being a good threshold. – hmakholm left over Monica May 18 '18 at 21:30
• And right, 4000 answers in 5 months sounds really high. Even the German Doctor has taken over 3 years to reach a similar count. – hmakholm left over Monica May 18 '18 at 21:33
• Your point is acknowledged. I'd been meaning to intervene in this thread, and your post gave me the impetus. Anyway, it is heartwarming in a sense to realize that others also think this problem has become very serious, and we need to do something about it. Judging from the vote tally on this question! – Jyrki Lahtonen May 18 '18 at 21:50
• @HenningMakholm I've seen three thousand (and a little more) in five months. Someone who has commented somewhere on this page has that count, in fact. – Teresa Lisbon May 19 '18 at 5:31
• Pretty close to the 50 answer limit that is being suggested. – amWhy May 24 '18 at 21:46
• @астонвіллаолофмэллбэрг three thousand rep points in five months, or three thousand answers posted in 5 months? – amWhy Jun 10 '18 at 2:00
• @amwhy Three thousand ANSWERS and counting. The other achievement may come about if about fifty good answers are posted, say, which is clearly possible in three, let alone five months. I myself have posted only 1200 odd answers in two years, and I thought I was overboard, so I found this astonishing myself. – Teresa Lisbon Jun 10 '18 at 5:08
• @астонвіллаолофмэллбэрг That's what I thought, and I know who you are referring to. – amWhy Jun 10 '18 at 13:12
• @amwhy what these people need to do is put quality over quantity, at least eventually. One does not see the German doctor do that, for example. Having said that, posting three thousand answers in such a short time is a more important issue for the person than for the community : it could be an addiction that he/she is unable to overcome, and we know how addictions to anything can be problematic. – Teresa Lisbon Jun 10 '18 at 13:38
• I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, @астонвіллаолофмэллбэрг. Rate-limiting answers is a great idea, as far as I am concerned. – amWhy Jun 10 '18 at 13:40

I find the idea that an answer that takes less than ten minutes is not worth posting bizarre.For instance, one of the most recent questions as of me writing this answer is

Can diagonal matrix $D \in M_n$ be permuted ($P$) to render a scaled identity matrix, i.e., $\alpha I_n = P D P^*$?

Which has this answer, written in less than ten minutes. Is it not worth post? This answer that I'm writing right now took less than ten minutes, and that's including looking at the most recent questions and seeing whether they have answers. Is it not worth posting?

• I would agree with that. And often a good answer is as simple as "your calculations are correct, good job". My point was more about forcing people to be judicious in which questions they answer. But yes, I do strongly disagree that short answers are bad. I have given many short answers. – user223391 May 16 '18 at 14:33
• There are many circumstances where it is appropriate and useful to post an answer even if it took you less than 10 minutes to come up with it. For example, if the post is technical and most other users are unlikely to know how to solve it, or if you see a post that has gone unanswered for a long time. – Cheerful Parsnip May 19 '18 at 4:18

Firstly, there are many questions that I can answer well in much less than 10 minutes. In fact, I very rarely spend that long on an answer.

Secondly, this notion that we all care about our rep score is completely misplaced. Some of us think the whole reputation system is completely childish. In fact I've come to the conclusion it reflects the US-centric culture of this site; the idea that you can motivate people by giving them useless points as a reward is a singularly American idea. So please don't assume that the only reason we are answering questions is because we value the brownie points.

• Looking at your profile, "I very rarely spend that long on an answer" seems to be trivially true, because I only see one answer. Have you had a lot of answers deleted, do you use multiple accounts, or are you basing this on answers on other stacks? – Peter Taylor May 16 '18 at 13:51
• I hadn't actually noticed I was in math.meta. Comes of spending less than 10 minutes working on my answer. – Michael Kay May 16 '18 at 15:36