My thoughts about ‘reputation’ or ‘karma’

Your problem is that you’re conflating Q&A systems with discussion systems. They are radically different things. Furthermore, Reddit is not a discussion platform (it’s brutally awful for discussion), but a re-sorting, voting platform.

There are some talks about this here

The one you want specifically is the first HeavyBit talk.


Ok. I’ve read all articles and watched a video… thank you for sharing.
But, even after reading and watching these materials, question is still opened for me: if Discourse already has ‘badges’ (as a source of encourage) and ‘likes’ (as well as a source of encourage) then why user’s karma is a bad idea?

I don’t actually want to make ‘holywar’ here and I won’t ask questions in this topic anymore because I prefer mostly clean and pithy discussions (as all we are, I guess).


it’s not a ‘bad’ idea … I think what Jeff & The Gang have done is de-emphasise individuals to re-focus on the group discussion? It’s relative more than black&white.

In a Q&A system, reputation is more important … in discussion I think things are more fluid, less precise …?


Sorry, wall o text. :grimacing:


Reputation systems have value outside of just Q&A sites.

They can add a lot of meaning to discussions, as they change how readers perceive the relative worth of discussion participants. This can provide additional context to exchanges between users, context that might be inherently understood by existing members but not by new members and guests.

Longer Version

I’ve been using Discourse for awhile and love it, but it’s extremely awkward with how it rewards participation. Specifically because badges are used instead of a much simpler reputation metric.

Speaking just for myself, I just created my account here and within the first several minutes I’ve already received 2 badges; one for reaching level 1 and one for liking a post the first time. At the risk of sounding rude, these feel utterly meaningless.

It’s like when you play an online game and get a trophy for killing your first enemy of thousands more to come. It feels more like checking a box than any sort of reflection of social capital. Getting these early badges didn’t encourage me to interact with this sytem, they gave me the perception that badges have little worth and therefore are of little interest to me. “Oh, I got another badge. K.”

I understand the hesitance to encourage the gaming of discussion, but I wonder why bother with the badges at all, then? I myself have about 30 in the main forum I run and couldn’t you what they are without looking. I honestly don’t care about them, nor do many of my users.

On the other hand, something like reputation allows readers the ability gauge a user’s value to the community relative to other users within a single thread. This not only gives a conversation more depth, it also rewards users more visibly. I don’t know about the rest of you all but I rarely actually click a username to see their badges. I read their post and move on. Perhaps that’s by design, but there’s a missed opportunity to represent nuance in a conversation via a simple metric attached to its participants.

It’s an apt metaphor for conversations in real life. When you’re in a group conversation, you can often infer subtle but significant things about people independent of the words they actually use. Things like confidence and social standing within the group. Literal reputation. This gives a conversation a life of its own outside of its transcript.

The benefit to this isn’t limited to Q&A or reddit type sites. There’s a valid use for this within discussion software as well. I want to quickly know the relative value of users’ words against each other. Badges do not provide this. Trust levels do not provide this. Reputation does provide this.

@codinghorror said something here that caught my eye:

I don’t think “proving an opinion” is the goal. Rather, the goal is gauging a user’s value to the community quickly and within a single thread and against other users. It’s not just for vanity either; this has an impact on readers’ perception of an author’s message within the context of the community’s larger focus. This is valuable information that is deliberately ignored right now.

Something else caught my eye here from @Stephen:

Discourse’s badges are indeed flexible, but they are also overwhelming and noisy. Upvotes (and reputation) are indeed crude, but they are also simple and intuitive.

That said, I understand Discourse’s direction and am still thankful for it (and its plugin system!). I hope though that people might come to understand why reputation is more than just meaningless internet points, and that it has value outside of the Q&A format.

Edit: immediately after I posted this:


And reputation is the feature of dubious value? :roll_eyes: I still love Discourse, but I don’t understand the prevailing perspective on this matter. :man_shrugging:


The purpose of those early badges is to make you aware of the reward system which exists. It’s much easier to hand out starting achievements to pique interest, than rely on your users reading about it at a later date.

From the past four or five years working with Discourse I’ve seen them work time and time again. Some communities get so into it that the members suggest badges for specific behaviors, which in turn are associated with titles to denote status.

Discourse does track reputation, just in a different way. Badges for likes received across posts, plus truly useful metrics such as time spent reading. Surely either is a more useful metric of presence and contribution than a raw figure like karma? You mentioned Reddit, so let’s use it as an example, some of the highest recipients of karma are reposters, how would that number be more helpful?


I mention reddit as an example of other types of site (like Q&A sites), not a discussion site like Discourse. Indeed, reddit’s implementation is flawed, as is Imgurs. I wouldn’t use either of those as a good example of how reputation should work.

I suppose that depends on how you define “useful”, but for me, no. I want a consolidated figure; a unified representation of a member’s value. Discourse has lots of awesome stats that I never look at. Perhaps I’m a minority there, but I don’t read a conversation and wonder how much time its participants have spent reading the website. It’s just not relevant.

Relevance is a good word, actually. Discourse’s user stats are overwhelming and although useful as an admin, aren’t particularly relevant to individual conversations as a reader. When I’m reading my own forum I have zero desire to look at user stats, largely because they incur so much cognitive overhead. All these stats might be great factors for a single metric, but as disparate measures they are of little value to me outside of occasional curiosity and novelty.

A singular indication of a member’s worth to the community would be far more relevant and intuitive, at least to me the reader, not me the admin.

If you don’t read, you aren’t listening, and if you aren’t listening, that’s not much of a conversation… is it?

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I think there’s a misunderstanding there. I do read, but I don’t also wonder about the various user stats while reading.

I’m listening plenty, but I’m not hearing as much meaning as is possible.

I suggest cough reading


You cough assume that I haven’t already. :slight_smile:

My previous posts here were by no means advocating post-count as a metric. And while I do appreciate the value of reading-time, it alone isn’t sufficient to represent a member’s overall value to the community. In my humble opinion anyway.

So what is being suggested is a popularity metric?

I myself will not use karma. The Q&A system has both pluses and minuses. I like another function, for example, as in Quora - follow the participants. But this is only my personal opinion. And about karma: you can also make a plugin for those who want to have a ballroom system on the site. Evaluation is easy. Much more work on the history of fees. It must be transparent. And this change, which will have huge consequences.

I have a Q & A site based on WeCenter. He uses the ball system. Until I started using it, I had no idea how it would be otherwise. Many attempts at deception, scandals, etc. And at the moment, can there be more rewards based on reading? Hmm …

Medals, awards - discrete. Karma, scores (maybe this is the reason) is an ongoing process. Reading is analogous to a continuous process (it is there). Can try to take advantage of this better?

I am having trouble figuring out what you are advocating though? :thinking: a metric that somehow captures how useful a member is and keeps on going up? I can’t even think of how we would synthesise something here that would not lead to many problems.

Let’s try

Reputation = Number of Likes Given * X + Number of Posts made * Y + Time read * Z

Where do you even go plugging in numbers there? How do you not lead to problems where users just post randomly to increase the “reputation” or fake “read” to add more reputation?

I do not believe this can be done though… and I don’t see any concrete proposal here except for “it would be awesome if”.


Agree, I do that on reddit

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I’ve thought a little about how I might go about creating a “valuable member” metric by consolidating various other numbers. eg. read time, number of visits, post count, number of Likes received etc. into a single number. But when it came to weighting I struggled to think of how an algorithm might look. multiply, add, divide, and by what numbers?

It feels like it would not be a one size-fits-all thing. What I might consider to be indicative of value and how much value I think various factors have is very unlikely to be the same as everyone. Too many possible ways to combine them and too dependent on what context.

That said, I see no reason why a community should not create a custom badge query based on what they think is important to their community.

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The thread here isn’t regarding concrete proposals, it’s regarding “thoughts” about reputation and karma. I posted my thoughts.

I admit I don’t have a specific proposal that is better than what has already been suggested, but I also don’t agree with the prevailing consensus that “reputation systems are bad”, that kills this idea before it can get any legs. In this thread in particular, @codinghorror’s response that its advocates are conflating Discourse’s usage with Q&A systems doesn’t seem like a fair assessment to me, hence my TL;DR.

I agree there are problems, but there are also problems with the badge system. Any system of gamification will be a target of gaming; it’s inevitable. What I can’t understand is why reputation is so adamantly shot down while Discourse’s badges are presented as an example of gamification done correctly, as if badges don’t also have “many problems”.

My suggestion here isn’t for a specific implementation, it’s simply for a reevaluation of the idea’s merit. After all, any suggested implementation is going to be shot down so long as reputation systems’ benefits are so widely ignored because of the problems.

Just an attempt, an experiment, more visually show. Maybe it can be useful for thinking.

We will change it still 100 times.

  1. trust_level (there is a repetition with a level of trust. It already exists on the page.)

  2. badge_id; ( Licensed)

  3. recent_time_read;

I do not like what I did. Because I want to show more progress than the final result (badges).

I agree, so that time reading is an important indicator. But I think we can not use (time_read) only (recent_time_read), because new users will never catch up with the old timers on the forum.

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I stand by what I’ve said about this in prior discussions:

I’ve yet to see a large scale reputation system, on the internet or elsewhere, that successfully incentivises healthy community dynamics – which is probably why they always face ridicule in pop entertainment.

And the very real-life applications of such systems are downright terrifying.

More often than not such systems only help to amplify innate human flaws, such as us/them thinking.

The fact that our badge system could still use some improvements is not a good reason to implement a new system with a very bad track record. I tend to agree with you when it comes to our “First X” badges. I’ve always been of the opinion that Discourse should focus much more on human-awarded badges rather than algorithmic ones.


Yep. Totally agree.

A simple illustration is someone who seeks to win the support of a large population of users by expressing a known popular belief. That’s a pretty awful dynamic and tends to polarise the debate. It happens in political discussion all the time and it simply doesn’t move the argument on and any feature that encourages too much should be deprecated. A ‘like’ button is enough! :slight_smile:

Perhaps this kind of thing works better in a ‘fact based’ universe where there are generally more definitive ‘right/wrong’ answers, but in a space where things are more grey and there are lots of unknowns, less obvious ‘right answers’, you can see it being less helpful and possibly detrimental.

I think in summary what I’m trying to say is:

If we are trying to get to some ‘truth’, we should be promoting all points of view, not just encouraging the popular ones. In many cases it turns out the truth is not the popular opinion (flat/round earth?) - and in any case people will learn more by being exposed to a variety of different arguments. Rewarding popularity is too simplistic.

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I fully agree with this.

And we use the karma, we do not want. And if more clearly to represent progress?

  location = data.user.location;
  bio_excerpt = data.user.bio_excerpt;
  signature_url = data.user.custom_fields.signature_url;
  date_of_birth = data.user.date_of_birth;
  if (location) {  my_loc = '25';...
  if (bio_excerpt) { my_bio = '25';...
  if (signature_url) { my_sig = '25';...
  if (date_of_birth) { my_bir = '25';...

<div class="progress-bar"><span class="progress-bar-fill" style="width:'+ progress +'%"></span></div>

  1. Filled profile.
  2. Reaching reputation.

But this has the final result. The profile will be filled. The level of trust will be obtained. What else can we use in the Discourse for progress throughout the work. Visual progress.

Maybe many just want it. Offering karma, but in fact, want to see more visual progress in visiting the forum?