Hmmm...well this is kind of why I didn't think it was fair to just change all this so suddenly. I can't IRC from work...it's bad enough that I am posting :P
I can only really speak for myself, and for me, the XP were a way to challenge myself to not slack off from learning perl and to come to the site and read the posts regularly. A lot of times people have already answered questions by the time I get there, and sometimes I am just so tired or hurried that I don't have time to post...but I still tried to get here each day and try to keep up.
You're right, we don't get paid to vote in the real world, but those votes have an impact on what happens. If we were electing leaders, or voting on policies I would understand the analogy...but here we vote for posts (and sometimes people vote for or against the writer of the posts).