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I think the concept of reputation should be made more multidimensional. It is useful to have a frame of reference for how trustworthy a user is on this site, but it is also nice to have a frame of reference for how knowledgeable a person is in physics.

For example, if I post a question and receive an answer, I'd like to know the educational/technical background of the person so I have a fair idea of how authoritative their answer might be. An answer shouldn't bubble up to the top simply by virtue of how popular it is. It promotes a false sense of security in the answer. Some balance is crucial here, I think.

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Every user is able to provide whatever details they would like in the "about me" section of his/her profile. The full text can be viewed by visiting the user's profile. If the user has earned enough Rep, we will show a summary of their profile when their usercard is hovered over as part of a user. With this, we highlight more about a user.

Stack Exchange, and its voting system is designed such that the "right" answer floats to the top. We focus on the content. We don't really care about the background of a user, simply the content of their post. Vote based on that, and the best answers will continue to float to the top.

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To add to Rebecca's comments, the systems can be used to a very high degree by completely anonymous users. This is by design and has been true since the Beta of Stack Overflow (the model site which gave rise to the whole Stack Exchange network).

By design this is not a social network; it's not about the users it's about the content.

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Usually we (OK, me atleast) don't up/down vote an answer based on the person behind it; we do so based on whether or not it seems correct. Anyways, most of the users have their background in their usercard.

Check out users ranked by all-time reputation. Extremely few of them on the first page have a usercard without any details on their background. Mine clearly states that I'm an engineering student so you shouldn't trust anything I say.

Remember that answers are seen by quite a few people, of which a large percentage are physicists (or physics students). If they see something wrong or incomplete, they'll downvote, comment, and/or make an edit. I've had all three happen to me. OK, the third one wasn't corrected by a physicist, but I hope you get the point.

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There is multidimensionality on PhysicsSE insofar as one can look up what types of questions a person has answered. One can look at the tags section of the user page, click on a tag that is relevant to you (for a particular question, perhaps), and look, for example, at both the first page and last page of the answer list associated with that tag. If today you look at my page, you'll find that I've answered lots of questions on QM, with 15, 10, 7 upvotes at the head of the list, and with three -1's. In other words, I can sometimes be unconventional, but on elementary questions about technical matters I can usually answer a question on QM well enough. For someone else for a specific tag, you may find that their answers never have an aggregate number of downvotes.

If someone is a newbie, there's nothing for it but to assess their answer for yourself and/or wait to see whether they get up-votes or down-votes and/or comments from other people.

The tooltips on the tags page for a user gives numbers of questions and answers and the total reputation gathered, which gives faster but slightly less detailed clues.

This may not be a social network site, but one certainly gets to know and respect the strengths and weaknesses and views of some of the main questioners/answerers after a while, although user pages may be more or less completed. I think of this as a social endeavor site.

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First, I've removed a down-vote by adding a +1 to the question. It is a bit silly to down-vote a question in this section.

Next, I would not be comfortable in revealing anything about myself on the internet. If the OP's proposal becomes a requirement, I will leave and never come back.

Finally, dmckee's last statement exactly echo's my feelings. Let me also add that just having a PhD is meaningless. I've seen plenty of PhD's who are nothing more than glorified calculators.

My advice to the OP would be to judge the answer on its own merit. Taking everything written here as the absolute truth is not the way to go. Use the answer as a guideline and do your own research/study. Don't believe anything without checking it for yourself.

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    $\begingroup$ Downvotes in meta indicate "I don't agree with this statement," while upvotes indicate agreement. There is no reputation being lost or gained. $\endgroup$
    – wsc
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't agree, then perhaps stating why would be nice? Drive-by downvotes say nothing. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '12 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Point taken. I suppose having user details be optional is the best of both worlds. I'm just a little leery of truly anonymous voting on answers. But then, this is more art than science. $\endgroup$
    – Joebevo
    Mar 9 '12 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ Its easier to downvote-disagree than write-ten-paragraphs-disagree. Especially if your post will just be a paraphrasing of the others. Thats why you downvote the qn if you disagree, and upvote the answers which echo your thoughts. Here, u/d votes are free. They only give an indication of what the community feels. If we had to decipher 6 answers just to figure out the community mood, it would be annoying. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '12 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ Just a line explaining why should suffice. In this very thread, the OP would have realized that most people disagree with him, but would have no inkling why? He may post a similar question later that will also be downvoted and he will never know why? Kinda runs counter to SE's philosophy. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '12 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ The downvotes may have come after the answers were posted. Iirc there was one downvote when I first saw it, and at that time rchern and dmckee's answers were there. So the OP already knows why; the downvotes tell him lots more people disagree. Its no big deal on meta. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '12 at 14:55

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