The longer a Stack Exchange site has existed, the more questions have been asked, and had good answers given, the harder it is to find questions which are not duplicates of questions that have already been asked. I haven't been on stack exchange a terribly long time, but I've already seen a lot of questions marked as 'duplicates' because they are too similar to questions already asked. Presumably the people who asked those questions gained no reputation points, since their questions had already been asked.

I've been hitting various stack exchange sites for about 6 months or so getting all sorts of handy answers to questions that other people had asked before me, and it's been super helpful, but because so many questions have already been asked on most sites it has also meant that I haven't had much reason to stick around and participate. A lot of times I've found the answer to the question I want, done what I needed to do, and then closed the browser window. In many respects, that has been fantastic!

However, I can also imagine that from the point of view of someone wanting to participate in the community, this is something which could make getting enough reputation points to participate in various respects seem quite difficult. For example, because in many cases I just find the answer I need and then close the browser window, I quite often cannot vote up a really good answer that has helped me. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing (maybe we want high barriers to participation to prevent people who don't want to put in the effort from joining), but I am curious to hear from people who have been here for a long time about whether they've noticed that this is a sort of a stack exchange trend/issue? Does it become a little cliquey over time?

Perhaps this is less of an issue for tech-oriented stack exchange sites, where new questions are always coming up because of the rate at which tech changes, but philosophy isn't such a fast moving thing...

  • 3
    The "base level" of voting here is pretty low in general, but some of that is just we're a relatively low-traffic site -- interest in academic philosophy is fairly rare among the general population, if that's clarifying at all?
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Jun 8, 2017 at 13:19
  • @Joseph See my analysis of the statistics on low voting in this question philosophy.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3446/22791. 5 out of the the seven sites I tested with the same broad traffic as Philosophy.SE had a fairly normal distribution of votes, only Philosophy and one other had a spike of particularly low votes, so whatever the reason for the low voting, the relationship with traffic is not statistically significant over the sites I've tested.
    – user22791
    Jun 10, 2017 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


Generally speaking , it could be true, but not for the reasons you cite. If you look at the reputation tables for each year, the number of reputation points gained by the top ten users for that year has steadily increased over time from about 17,000 points in 2012 to 50,000 in 2016. Similarly, the number of users increasing their reputation by 1000 points or more in the year has steadily gone up from 12 to 21 in the same time period.

This means that questions on which one can gain a relatively good reputation increase are probably still turning up (there are, of course other ways to gain reputation, like editing a lot, but they are much less significant).

As to your subsequent question about whether it can become a little "cliquey" over time, then certainly the reputation leagues show; of the top ten users by reputation in 2016, 9 are also in the top ten users by reputation in 2015, 5 are still in the top ten in 2014, so yes, the top users do not have a high turnover, year on year (presuming that at least certain quantity of the change is simply going to come from users just outside the top ten one year and just inside it another rather than wholly from new users rising up the ranks).

So what's happening is sufficient new questions are being asked to gain reputation, but the group of high reputation users to which that reputation is being awarded does not change much year on year.

Given that moderation benefits are awarded to high reputation users these users will mould the site to what they think is in its best interests, the shape of the site now will be influenced to a greater degree by the intentions of past users than those of current ones, simply because influence is disproportionately held by users who have been here longer (which is an entirely reasonable way to run a community). What this means is that when a subjective judgement has to be made about the direction of the site, that judgement will be broadly made by a small group of people, none of whom will be new members. Of course that does make things seem a little "cliquey" if you get involved in any of these subjective judgements (like having questions or answers removed/edited/put on hold etc), but there is not really any workable alternative, we simply rely on the good intentions of high reputation users to bear in mind the wishes of the current community when making subjective decisions.

  • 1
    Just in passing -- while you definitely get various privileges around the site for gaining reputation, diamond moderators are elected by popular vote.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Jun 10, 2017 at 12:01
  • Yes that could in theory open up possibilities for new members to change the tone of a site should they wish, but in practice you'd have to have either a very large number of candidates offering a range of approaches, or one person with a preternatural ability to judge the tone of the community to come forward, otherwise there's nothing to say that large sections of the community might not still be underrepresented simply because no one has come forward to provide that option at election time. Perennial problem with democracy, you can only pick from the choices on offer.
    – user22791
    Jun 10, 2017 at 13:06
  • 2
    One hypothesis is that many high-ish rep users have a background in academic philosophy, while many of the questions are asked by people who are relatively new to it or have their own spin. This is the impression I get from the large numbers of questions that show little research effort. There's also a mismatch between academic philosophy and conceptions of philosophy from outside of academia. It's seems the situation is like what would be the case if the chemistry stack had a large number of questions from new users asking about alchemy. Certainly connected, but not rooted in modern chem.
    – Dennis
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:49
  • The problem with your alchemy/amateur philosopher analogy is that the people writing in with "aren't we all just dreaming?" type questions are actually doing philosophy. It might not be very original, or good, but it is no less real than that of Kant or Aristotle. Anyone actually doing alchemy would indeed be welcome on Chem.SE, in fact they'd fall over themselves to be the site that hosted the question "I've just turned lead into gold, what's going on here?".
    – user22791
    Jul 12, 2017 at 16:24
  • Academic philosophers not giving the time of day to people who don't use the right terminology or haven't read the "right" books is pretty much the definition of cliquey. I'm not saying that attitude is prevalent here, I think on the whole the community is pretty tolerant of the less well-informed, but with reference to the original question, any demonstration of such an approach would certainly match the OP's concern.
    – user22791
    Jul 12, 2017 at 16:31
  • @Isaacson I'm sure there's some of that, but it's also in part that philosophy (qua academic discipline) is about learning to make clear distinctions that cut things at the joints (for realists) or at least help us to be able to communicate about these topics (for all). Stumbling in wording and thinking is the opposite of that and sometimes is the very problem that someone is facing which generates their question... / this is not to say that academic philosophers couldn't be more gracious in interacting with others (myself included).
    – virmaior
    Jul 18, 2017 at 3:00
  • @virmaior Absolutely true of analytical philosophy (although I personally think it fails to achieve this, but the effort is there), but continental and post modern philosophy is not about clear distinctions, it's about the cult of personality, and any attempt to involve oneself in the study of such a group is going to lead inevitably to cliquishness. I'm not sure there's any way round this (although, as I said, the community here by and large does it's best), I just think it helps new members, such as the OP in this case, if were just up front and honest about it.
    – user22791
    Jul 18, 2017 at 6:50
  • I don't mean to sound derisory about continental philosophy, it's just that here one is very much studying what Satre meant by 'mauvaise foi', or Heidegger by 'Dasein' whereas in analytical philosophy one might be trying to approaching what such term actually means in objective reality (for those that hold to such a thing). This problem, I think leads to a lot of the closed and unclear questions here where people try to treat continental terms with analytical methods, we almost need a Continental and Analytical SE, but as that's not going to happen, patient guidance will have to suffice.
    – user22791
    Jul 18, 2017 at 7:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .