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It’s always funny to see economic predictions of days past. There’s a reason why some sciences make fun of economics: they make beautiful theories, they just don’t match up with reality.

I am, of course, being unfair. Economics as a whole is very much non-trivial, and hindsight is always 20/20. Anything that I say here today can easily be dismissed in 20 years time, because by then everything I say and do will be clear and unimpeded by the fog of the future.

So, what’s “wrong” in this case?

  1. The total number of users in E2 keeps growing, but the number of active users is not (or at least, not to the point described before), and even though the number of total available votes is now certainly higher than in 2000, most of those belong to inactive noders. Any XP inflation/deflation theory must include active votes and not just total votes.
  2. Voting no longer gives XP to the voter (and I understand it hasn’t for quite a while). Voting now only gives XP to the author of a particular writeup. So the incentive to use all votes in a single day is more aligned with GP and not XP. Statistically speaking, using all 50 votes in a day will yield 16–17 GP, which is not enough for a single Easter Egg. Therefore, voting is now less an incentive for leveling up and more to either reward other authors or—as mentioned not too long ago in the catbox—as a simple bookmark to signal that a particular writeup has been read before.
  3. New Writeups with a reputation of 25 were indeed not exceptional, but now are again. According to the node tracker, my most voted writeup has 39 votes, I have published a total of 262 writeups and received 3862 votes, for an average of 14.74 votes per writeup. Once again, it’s hard to break up more than 20 votes, and in recent years such high reputation does seem to correspond with quality writeups.1
  4. Even though I cannot see Everything’s Best Writeups, it seems unlikely that the growth predicted could have happened at all. Average reputation going from 10 to 20 requires «merely» a doubling of users, but going from 10 to 100 is more than that, and not just numerically. Generally speaking, things going up by a single order of magnitude is way more difficult than growing within the same order of magnitude. I don’t have godly powers, but I’m willing to bet that even among the most voted writeups there’s very few if any that have 1000 reputation, even at the height of E2 activity.2 And if they do, I’m also willing to bet they don’t go anywhere near 10,000.
  5. Even if there were enough active users in E2, I’m willing to bet that after some point we’d start seeing Zipf-like distributions of votes. Right now, E2’s numbers are spread across only three orders of magnitude3 so we can’t see these effects clearly. But large user populations on popularity-based «things» seem to always behave similarly: a few «things» getting lots of attention and most «things» getting next to none. YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Tweets, all follow this pattern. I’m willing to bet that even if we had millions of active users right now, XP-and-reputation inflation wouldn’t happen everywhere at the same rate: some writeups would get tons of votes and some would get scraps. Even with our «small» population4 there’s still traces and memory of such effects taking place. I’m told that there existed «popular» groups whose writeups tended to receive more votes and higher reputation than others, which might be a small-scale example of what I’m describing.5

So, what’s the future for E2? Is there an economist anywhere in the room?

I hesitate to predict anything about XP distribution in the future. Not because I want to avoid making a fool of myself—that’s what the catbox archive is for—but because I have no good idea. I’d love to see more users around here, and I’d love to see new, strange directions for E2. I want to be here for a long, long time because I’ve found a good community here, I’ve found friends and I’ve found personal growth here. I wish to continue that, and I believe E2 still has much to offer.

But XP inflation? Seems unlikely now. I’d love to be proven wrong.


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  1. Even some execrable daylogs published this month didn’t even break 20 votes total.

  2. moJoe’s «I will REMOVE the fucking toilet seat if you don’t shut up» has less than 1200 total votes at the time of writing and total rep of 767 (+979/-212)

  3. Based on my earlier supposition that no writeup has yet reached one thousand reputation, meaning that there’s only writeups with at most four-digit votes upon them.

  4. Compared against the large social networks, that is.

  5. Generally speaking, Zipf-like distributions are much more “visible” in things that span several orders of magnitude, which I don’t believe is the case for reputation and/or votes in E2.