My thoughts about ‘reputation’ or ‘karma’

As @jomaxro mentioned the core thing about Discourse that it was built around topics and ideas. But no one can deny that there are actually two global things in each forum: topic and a person. And one thing cannot exist without another. When user creates a new topic in 70% of cases he expects the feedback on his thoughts, and he expects that this topic is important for peoples around him. The essential measure of human’s gratitude is a ‘karma’ or ‘reputation’. If I like person’s topic I press on ‘like’ or ‘thumb up’ button. And this immediately is being reflected in person’s karma. And, you may not believe, but sometimes karma is the main reason why people come back to the site day after day and continue to share and discuss different thoughts.

Better let’s get to an example. I think David is a great man in real life with a good impact on a community, but let’s take a look on his profile step by step. When I open topic’s page, I see following picture:

For now it’s not clear for me who have bigger impact Mitchell or David. But I am ok with this, I am pressing on avatar image to check for details, and following pop-up appears:

Now I am looking at some additional info about David, I see where is he from which is good, and I know for now that he has some badges. But still at this stage my mind wants some numerical characteristic of this person. So, I give it a chance one more time and click on ‘profile’ link to explore full user’s statistics and I see following:

I expect to find few (actually one-three) numbers which would describe David’s impact but I find instead tons of numbers and I am losing my focus after first line of David’s achievements… then I go to ‘badges page’ and it finally blows my mind, I am reading first two lines with badges descriptions and deciding to get back to the topic and not to visit any user’s profile anymore.
Why? Maybe it sounds paradoxically but I didn’t get what impact is David having on this forum, because his profile contains too much statistics information about him. And when it gets to compare David with someone from the same forum – I even don’t want to think about it, because to compare all these numbers - is like a nightmare. So for now I am continue to read my topic and starting to divide all peoples on two categories: 1) newbies, they have nothing in a profile 2) all others, they have many stat numbers and badges…

Now, let’s take a look on some other examples:

Stackoverflow. So, I can look on a person and it’s clear from first sight what impact is he have here and I can compare his impact with impact of any other member.

If we are talking about any of social networks like facebook, twitter, vk and so on, they all have strict and relatively measurable impact index – it’s a number of friends/followers. If we take a look on any forum-like sites, for example reddit or gamespot they all have karma or reputation. Reddit example below:

IMHO, karma feature (or plugin) could be very important for Discourse. Karma calculations can include likes(+1 to karma), posts(if post got 5 or more likes this means additionally +2 to karma), created topics(if they are popular - also +somenumber to karma) and so on and so on.

I wouldn’t write so much text to tell you that Discourse’s stats is bad. I love this forum and I see how much you guys are doing to keep it so cool. Honestly, I think Discourse now is the best free forum software in the world, and the reason why I am writing this post is because I believe this forum software can be even better!

FYI: I’ve read these branches. The idea in first one(by @AdamCapriola) seems good, but not finished as I understand:


I’m confused.


Beyond their trust level, why should I care about “David’s” rep or anyone else’s for that matter?

Why would anyone’s “rep” bring me back to a forum?

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I think you may be misunderstanding the OPs point. I believe they are saying that a karma system leverages gamification principles to bring people back – i.e. they want to increase their own karma scores as much as possible.


With regard to the actual topic, I think there are two separate things here which don’t have to be directly connected. There’s the “karma” which keeps people coming back to the forum, and there’s the idea of “reputation” which help gauge how “authoritative” a user is.

I think Karma is covered pretty well with the like button.

For reputation, I would tend to look at a user’s “trust level”, rather than looking into statistics. Trust levels in Discourse are designed to take into account a range of factors about a user’s contributions to the community, rather than using a single metric for “reputation”. Trust levels are visible on the user card (as a badge), and also on the profile page. Some communities also surface trust levels with an avatar flair.

I think the arguments against a fine-grained reputation system are well described in the other topics you linked, so I won’t repeat them here.


Have you read this blog post? It goes into some of the design of Discourse.


It occurs to me that it would be possible to provide the user more ongoing “benefit” that he could see about himself (eg number of hearts received) but without making that number any more visible to others.

Hacker News is an example of that. You see your own “reputation” in the top right, which is sort of fun, but it’s not emphasized in the UI in general, and more than that you don’t see anybody’s reputation without clicking through to their profile.

In other words, reputation can be gamified a bit more for the individual user without making it any more obvious in the eyes of other people.

I’d have to think more about it, but I suspect that it would not lead to the negatives that have led the reputation system to generally be rejected in Discourse.

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I think this all depends on environment.

In a close competitive environment, people might fight to improve “reputation”.

We had an independent Stack Exchange instance at work as a generic IT support system & knowledge base and it didn’t escape staff that having a high rep whilst on the one hand demonstrated how ‘valuable’ you were as an expert, but also how much time you had on your hands (and perhaps you should be working harder on your core role!). The system was extremely useful and probably saved a lot of staff a lot of time, but there were concerns it became too much of a distraction to key employees.

However, and this is why I perhaps missed the OP’s point, if you care too much about the fine grain of your “reputation” score on a random third party forum that provides no wider or economic benefit … well you could just get out more :wink:

Trust Level seems good enough for me …


People sometimes need to visualize the results. We did not enter additional points/rating, but focused on what is.

In location Discourse is already a lot of elements, but perhaps some of them are not shown to the participants. For example, a person passes a bot and he is given a certificate, plus an award that is lost in the General list of awards. But why not highlight this point?

We have added a display in the profile, if the participant has been trained.

And after transition, created additional page (which we will develop further) and look on it some the most important moments (for example, reward for year).

IMHO, ie is perhaps more visually/graphically first, to present what is already there. And only then go further?

Just a thought…


So you are saying, make the Trust Rating and associated stats more prominent & more visible?

If I read the design approach in the right way, isn’t it done this way to de-emphasise the information and therefore to not encourage gaming?

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People like it when something is in sight. We try to create in our opinion the best conditions for displaying what is already in the core (for example, the best writers/readers for the year). Select a separate place (page), link it to the profile. And only then, perhaps, add what is not yet.

I don’t understand. I am not talking about anything more than already exists in core. Trust level is no more visible than the number of “hearts” given. I had to click on your pic to find out what trust level you are. On the same screen was displayed the number of hearts you’ve received. And showing a user how many “hearts” he has more prominently (as opposed to showing other people how many he has more prominently) is all I was talking about. Not sure it makes sense to do. I just wanted to point out that it’s possible to emphasize things more to the user than to others.

In fact Discourse already does this sort of thing. When I get a badge for something, I get notified about it, but nobody else sees that, so far as I know.


If you don’t want people to game at all, then don’t be handing out rewards like badges and tracking things like hearts.

On the other hand, if you want to game toward the things you find are actually valuable to the community then it makes sense to emphasize those rewards.


I’m sure the Discourse team debated this way back.

Gaming is gaming and hard to prevent.

I don’t buy this personally. The badge system is a really pleasant encouragement for users, but the Trust system is surely more geared towards ‘monitoring’ to identify candidates for higher trust roles in the community and to loosen controls on individuals when they’ve proven themselves to reduce the risk and impact of negative behaviours. I guess pushing users more firmly in that direction is harmless, but not necessary.


I think we’re using different meanings of “gaming.” I did not mean it in the negative “gaming the system” sort of way, but in the positive “gamification” sense.

To be clear, I like the way Discourse works right now. I suspect there is the possibility to give people some more ongoing private reward/incentive without promoting bad behavior. But I’m not pushing for anything. I just thought it was worth mentioning the private vs public reward and that the impact each of those has on behavior is quite different in my mind.

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I have “trust level: basic user” as far as I am still new user here. Actually, I have found out that there is a trust level only when @merefield has mentioned this fact in the comments. I swear, I would notice trust level feature only by the end of the month spent on forum. In addition, I would like to know what more levels exists, and I am clicking on “Trust Level” label in my profile and it shows nothing. What kind of trust levels exists? How can I grow with trust level? To find an answers user need to google/search it. However, most likely any user will just move on without paying much attention to this title.

Also, trust level has 5 stages, I am already on the second stage and pretty soon will get 3rd stage, so in 15 days I will cover 3 of 5 stages. So I don’t feel like I deserve to get these 3 stages, it is too easy, and that’s why I do not take seriously the remaining 2 levels… The same story with badges – I was in shadow-mode, only reading the topics, without registering and 5 days ago I decided to create an account. Currently there was only 4 posts created by me and 1 ‘like’ received. You may ask: “Ok, and how many badges do you have?” The answer is - 7 badges. Seven! More than one badge per day. And they are so huge(visually) in my profile, so I got a feeling that I really should be proud of them. When it is easy to win – no one is going to play the game, more than this - it spoils the whole feeling of a game.

I think you may be misunderstanding the OPs point. I believe they are saying that a karma system leverages gamification principles to bring people back – i.e. they want to increase their own karma scores as much as possible.

Yes, you are right @HAWK. Actually, all our life is a big game. And no result without cause.

Thanks for @riking I’ve read the article created by @codinghorror.
Article is really worthy and interesting, but it is also very controversial in many areas (including experiments), and comments to the article prove this point. Forum is not only about reading, it is also about sharing and about user’s interaction. There will no readers if there are no writers. And there are no writers if they don’t get reader’s feedback. Discourse has mechanisms to encourage readers as well as writers, but, IMHO, these mechanisms can be better.


Well you are clearly a considerate person that likes to analyse & understand things, so I’d say the algorithm is working. You are not a thoughtless spammer with an ulterior motive :slight_smile:

Like I said, the Trust system is in part a site guardian, you are already proving yourself to be a positive not negative influence. Mission accomplished?

I don’t think the Trust system is in itself designed to create a ‘hook’.

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Exactly. Which is why I don’t understand it being brought up in the context of gamification. It’s not about incentivizing anything. It’s for keeping out trolls and helping the community police itself. “Trust” is the right word for it.

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On the other hand, if you don’t make the first points really easy to win, people won’t know there is any reward system

Yeah, the first few are maybe a bit cheesy/too easy, but they ramp up in difficulty quickly.

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You could argue that clicking a box that says ‘I’m not a robot’ is also pretty cheesy/too easy but it apparently suffices :wink:

Hmmm, I noticed just now that there is no link from my badge page to see what other badges are possible for me to get. Seems like an oversight.