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Despite some rights that are granted, when reaching a threshold, what is its real use? In my opinion the only real use is to start bounties, the higher the better. I have to admit that I'm more on the questioner site.

But what do people do with their reputation, that only answer questions, despite being proud of it?

Don't get me wrong: I'm very very thankful for these people being here.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't check this before. Sorry for putting a duplicate. $\endgroup$ – draks ... Feb 7 '12 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ Some of us are living in the hope that some day m.se reputation points, like airline frequent flyer points, will be convertible to tangible goods. 300 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, 1000 for an issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, that sort of thing. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Feb 8 '12 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, as in meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/2376/… ? $\endgroup$ – lhf Feb 8 '12 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ I may be putting my life in danger by revealing this, and the powers-that-be will deny it, but once you attain 100K the worm-hole portal opens, allowing time travel. At 1G reputation, one attains causal interaction with the Platonic universe, including the ability to modify the value of $\pi$, the truth value of the axiom of choice and the consistency of large cardinals. $\endgroup$ – JDH Feb 15 '12 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ $10000$ reputation points plus $10$ dollars will buy you a bottle of cheap wine. Until the price goes up. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Feb 16 '12 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ @JDH, what happens to those who don't believe in higher infinities? :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 20 '12 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JDH: "...the worm-hole portal opens" So that's where Arturo went! $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jan 8 '13 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong back then, I never thought that 100k users will happen... $\endgroup$ – draks ... Jan 8 '13 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ With 100K you can type answers by simply staring at your computer screen, via brain commands... $\endgroup$ – Matemáticos Chibchas Sep 3 '13 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ At $ \ 10^8 \ $ reputation, you get an autographed copy of The Book... $\endgroup$ – colormegone Apr 2 '16 at 21:26
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Here is the full list of privileges and moderating abilities that come with reputation.

Apart from that, there isn't much use. Reputation points tickle the reward center of the brain without providing any tangible benefit that is meaningful outside the context of the site. This is called gamification, which is an easy way for someone to motivate you to do what they want (in this case, use this site) without any cost to them.

Okay, that's a somewhat cynical interpretation. Here's a happier one. You know how when you help someone, you do it out of the goodness of your heart, but when they thank you sincerely, it makes you feel good and you are more likely to do it again? The site wants to thank you for posting good questions and good answers, but the site is a robot and can only communicate in the form of numbers.

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    $\begingroup$ The buddistic monk in me says "+1" for the second interpretation. $\endgroup$ – draks ... Feb 7 '12 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ @draks: You're welcome! ;) $\endgroup$ – Rahul Feb 7 '12 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @RahulNarain Your meta answers continue to amaze me. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Feb 22 '12 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter Wow! I'm Meta famous! (even narrower than Internet famous!) \o/ $\endgroup$ – Rahul Feb 23 '12 at 10:59
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At a certain point, reputation grants some moderating abilities, and these are very important to the continued functioning and health of the site. Ideally an SE site becomes self-moderating so that it takes care of itself.

After that point... bragging rights?

It isn't completely ridiculous to guess that reputation on sites like math.SE (but more generally, a user's body of questions and answers) might in the near future become important components of a résumé or CV (for example, my understanding is that this is already true of StackOverflow).

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    $\begingroup$ I would be very amused to read MO reputation figures in a CV! (A line saying that the person in question is an active participant of the site, on the other hand, I would appreciate... there is a subtle difference) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Feb 7 '12 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Mariano: (+1) Is it fair to assume you would be amused to the detriment of the candidate? $\endgroup$ – cardinal Feb 7 '12 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ @cardinal, not really. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Feb 7 '12 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Mariano: +1000. In some, though by no means all cases, I would actually find some users' participation/record likely to prejudice me against an application. (And the actual rep total is in itself meaningless, at least on MO) $\endgroup$ – user16299 Feb 7 '12 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ I don't mean the mere fact of participation; I mean what some people say, and how they react to hints $\endgroup$ – user16299 Feb 8 '12 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Yemon: that is, of course, not any different from behavioural samples gleaned from Facebook photos or just plain-o-googling of the name. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Feb 8 '12 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder, how long it will take till the first M.SE account will be for sale (rep 10k for 100 bucks?) as it happens for other "games". There are always black sheep :-(. Stay white! $\endgroup$ – draks ... Feb 9 '12 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @draks: How would that work as a business model? As a high estimate, a typical correct and informed answer that takes at least five minutes to locate, research and type up will bring in about 40 rep on average. That just might add up to (U.S.) minimum wage at the price you propose, but in order to make a living from it you'd need to answer questions faster than they come in, and juggle about 20 different accounts in order to keep the rep cap from eating your profits. And if you can do that consistently and convincingly, I daresay you can find a better-paying job doing something else. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Feb 10 '12 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ Dear @HenningMakholm, provided with a good book "Problem and Solutions in XXX", it is fairly easy to get $5n+2$ per question and $10n+5$ per answer by self-voting, if you juggle $n$ accounts. Do you think the DataExplorer could reveal such cliques? $\endgroup$ – draks ... Feb 13 '12 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ @draks: the software already automatically detects such voting irregularities even when $n = 2$ if the number of questions and answers is large enough. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 13 '12 at 16:48
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At one point there was suggestion (or was it a promise?) that you'd get gifts if you had high reputation (see Math Stack Exchange swag ideas) but I don't think this ever happened.

On a different direction, high reputation seems to lend some bias to votes: I've noticed that my answers tend to get more votes now that I have high reputation. My answers have probably improved with time and experience using this site but I don't think they have improved that much though... Perhaps other high-rep participants have a different experience.

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Here's one use of reputation: When applying for a stipend to defray some of the costs of attending a conference in a remote city, I found a question on the application form: In what web sites to which users contribute do you participate? I mentioned some of my Wikipedia statistics, and also my stackexchange reputation.

Is it inconceivable that when applying for some types of jobs, one might mention one's stackexchange reputation on one's CV? I'm not sure---I never thought of that until I saw this question here.

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    $\begingroup$ See Qiaochu's answer of 7 Feb elsewhere on this page. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Feb 15 '12 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ I can hear it now: "YOU'RE the CHAZ?!? You're hired!!" $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Feb 15 '12 at 2:52

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