Gamification… is ADDICTIVE! Are you sure you want to do this to yourself? Well you have been warned.


Get the basics down first

  1. Read the entire About page. It’s no joke. A lot of newbies think they understand the site, but they really don’t. They post inappropriate questions or answers, get downvoted, get emotional, and sometimes disappointed for life. If that’s not incentive enough, do it for the Informed badge! The help page about reputation is also very informative.

  2. Be patient. It takes time to build reputation. And persistence. If it was easy it would be meaningless.

  3. Be civil and professional. Don’t lash out on poor quality questions/answers/comments. Downvote if you don’t like something and move on. Don’t take anything personal. If a discussion gets heated and out of hand, disengage, walk away.

  4. Be a good sportsman. If somebody else posted a better answer than yours, admit defeat and move on. If somebody answered first something just as good as yours, upvote it and move on.

Finding questions to answer

  1. Look for questions in your favorite areas of expertise. There’s more to life than Take a look around the many other Stack Exchange sites. If you like to review code that’s working but maybe not well-written, check out Code Review. If you’re a programmer, check out Programmers should be interesting. If you’re more of a sysadmin, head over to Server Fault or Ask Ubuntu. If you’re a UNIX/Linux expert, you will enjoy Unix & Linux. There’s something for everyone.

  2. Be selective when you pick a question to answer. Figuring out what the heck a poorly written question is supposed to mean might not be worth your time and effort. And if you are not 100% sure you have a great answer immediately, then somebody else will probably beat you to it. It’s often better to just move on.

  3. When you’re deeply into some subject at work or in your private projects, check out the questions on relevant tags. Chances are you will see problems you already solved yourself, and you’ll be able to give good answers relatively quickly. Ka-tching, reputation starts rolling in. You might have questions of your own as well, which is another way to earn some rep.

  4. Devise question hunting strategies and combine them efficiently. Here are some examples:

  • Fast-read the newest tab (click on Questions if you don’t see it), fishing for easy questions and try to be the first to answer. New questions are very visible because they are on the front page. That also means you don’t have much time to research to give a good answer.

  • Search by tags to find questions in your strongest subjects. Sometimes there are easy questions that dropped off the front page of newest questions. This can be very lucrative, as you are looking at questions in your strong area, and you have more time to research and give a good answer.

  • Only open questions with 0 or 1 answer. Often the first answer is not that great, and it’s quite possible that you can do better. When there are 2 or more answers it becomes less and less likely that you can give a better answer.

  • If you are tired of one site, or while waiting for a new set of questions to accumulate, switch to another site.

  • Setup filters on and email notifications of new questions in your favorite areas. This is most useful for tags with only a few questions per day or less. This is not useful at all for highly active tags with many questions per hour.

Typically I quickly scan the new questions. Usually I find a few I might be able to answer, read them properly, and if enough time passed, then if I reload the page I see a completely new set of questions. If I don’t see anything suitable, then I check on my favorite tags for a few minutes, and switch back again to the first strategy. Or instead of checking on favorite tags, I can switch to another stack exchange site.

Drawing attention

Sometimes your otherwise great answer might not be getting the attention it deserves… Luckily there are quite a few things you can do to improve that.

  1. If you intend to answer or already answered a question, don’t upvote it immediately. After answering, give it a few days, and if there is no reaction on it, then come back to it and upvote it. Such activity will bring the question up to the front page again, becoming more visible again, especially to the poster who will receive a notification in his Inbox. And if your answer is accepted, then be a good citizen and upvote the question. (You should not answer questions you don’t like anyway.)

  2. Share your answer (or question) on your social networks. It’s very easy to use the share link right under the question/answer. Same with voting up the question, do this after a few days if the question is inactive.

  3. Improve your answers. From time to time review your answers with zero upvotes and see how they can be better. Perhaps they were not clear enough, or maybe you answered too quickly and misunderstood the question. If the answer is not something you can proudly show to your friends, then maybe it’s better to delete it.

Collecting badges

Badges are cool goodies, but they don’t get you any reputation. They sure look good in your profile though :-)

  1. civic-duty I don’t hunt badges. I think you can just let them come to you naturally. For example, you get the Civic Duty badge if you voted 300 times. That’s so cool, I didn’t even know it existed, and one day I just got this in my Inbox, yeay!

  2. electorate  Some badges reward you for using the site in a sort of “balanced” way. For example, you get the Electorate badge if you voted on 600 questions and 25% or more of total votes are on questions. The site also warns you if you vote mostly on answers only, saying that questions need loving too :)

Becoming a seasoned veteran

profile for janos on Stack Exchange, a network of free, community-driven Q&A sites

  1. Once you have built up some reputation, embed “a piece of valuable flair” on your website, for example:

  2. Check out the Stack Overflow “leagues”:

You can see the heaviest hitters by week/month/quarter/year/all-time on all Stack Exchange sites, as well as your own rank.

Another interesting thing on your profile page on (different from is the reputation tab shows a graph of your reputation score changes, for example:

By the way, on your Stack Overflow profile homepage (not Stack Exchange), in the Reputation section you can see a link to the leagues, in a format like “top 3% this quarter”. The value shown can be about the quarter, week, month or year, depending on whichever is highest for you, and it takes you right to your position in the leagues.


  1. See what privileges you can unlock by earning higher reputation: It’s really cool how more and more interesting features of the site start opening up gradually. In a way it’s like going deeper down in the rabbit hole. For example, after about 2000 you can start moderating various types of posts (new users, low quality, etc), which reward you with new badges.

  2. It seems that if you are active on a Stack Exchange site, sooner or later you get invited to It’s a very cool site where you can list your competencies much better than on LinkedIn, for example. Not only you can showcase selected high-scoring questions and answers from Stack Exchange, you can also highlight your most interesting open-source projects on GitHub or other code hosting sites. (You can check out mine here for example:


At the end of the day, I’m not sure how much effort is worth investing in reputation building, so I leave that up to you :) Answering questions is probably similar to teaching: you always learn something even while you teach, so if nothing else, at least you have that!

See also this related post by @DuncanLock: The Smart Guide to Stack Overflow: Zero to Hero

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