I've been thinking on a "reputation" system for quite some time - different than points for doing stuff, or vg$ for doing other stuff, etc. There are many, many, MANY ways to skin this type of cat in ways that are fair while also preventing users from intentionally bumping up others who might not necessarily deserve it. For instance:
- Your reputation must be at xx before you can rate anybody else - if your reputation takes a downturn and you suddenly find yourself below the threshold, then it will encourage you to start engaging in better conversations in hopes that your reputation will build back up again
- Moderations can affect your reputation negatively (long stretches WITHOUT moderations can affect you positively)
- You have to give reputation ratings to xx number of unique users, before you can bump the same person again (prevents people from repeatedly hammering one particular user - good or bad)
- You are limited to xx number of ratings in a 24hr period
I know there are many additional rules that can be wrapped around this concept (these are just some of the easy ones that have been floating around in my mind) - but the obvious goal is to encourage good behavior (while allowing the community as a whole to identify persistent trolls). This could also then be expanded to include whether you can (or cannot) post in certain off-topic boards (such as politics) and thereby hopefully cut down on some of the incessant chatter.
Anyway - I'm certainly not saying this is the solution, nor am I suggesting this is something we should rush to implement without a fair amount of feedback from staff and community. Just some random thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind for awhile...
On paper it sounds like a good idea, but my worries would be how it could be exploited. For instance, I could imagine a scenario where someone posts a really unpopular opinion in a thread and the rest of the thread goes after his reputation with a slew of downvotes, when he didn't say anything trollish, just unpopular. This would especially be true in the politics section. People would get enough reputation to post, post something in the politics board, and immediately lose access to the board when the strongest partisan group mass downvoted them. Sure, they can each only vote once, but have you ever been to Reddit? Because whenever even one unpopular comment is posted in a subreddit it isn't welcome in, that single comment can get bombarded to hell, even though each downvote was from a unique user. And that's with the ability to separate broad topics like politics into partisan groups. What you're describing would be like pushing The_Donald and SandersForPresident together. There would be blood. People are too tribal in their thinking nowadays, including on these forums, and not just politically, but in gaming too with the big three console makers. Just look at the up and down votes in the front page linked articles' comment sections. Someone says something unpopular, but not uncivil, and they get their comment hidden from tons of downvotes. I get that your idea wouldn't be a per comment rating, but rather a per user rating, and that therefore it's not like 5 users could give a person 25 downvotes by each downvoting 5 of his comments. However, if that person is the sort of user that doesn't comment often and slowly works his way up in reputation, then a few unpopular comments, delivered on separate days so that the 24 hour limit didn't apply and the downvoters had time to vote on other people, could wipe him out. In that sense, it would really hurt shyer users that don't comment often if they make one or two unpopular comments and get dogpiled. I guess what I'm getting at is that there's no way this reputation system would get used based on civility only, it would be exploited to be used for opinion bashing in our tribally minded world, and that would hurt people, perhaps even those it was meant to protect.
A few other things to consider:
1. What's to stop someone with a vendetta against a specific user from bashing them once a day? They could bash the user, wait a day, during which they'd upvote like-minded people to reset the unique user limit. They wouldn't need new reasons to do so, they could just keep doing it, and could do so completely undetected.
2. What's to stop a group of users from organizing through private messages or off-site entirely through a discord server or something to manipulate the system? Let's say your unique user limit is 15. So you can't rate a user again until you've rated 14 others. So then someone could invite 13 people to a private message group, pick targets that they want to silence from Politics or whatever other board they want them gone from, and just upvote each other once a day to keep their reputation up and downvote the target. Even less people would be needed for the group if they picked multiple downvote targets, or picked people that they liked hearing from but didn't trust to have in the group to upvote. A conspiracy like this would be very easy to organize if the unique user limit is too low, and also if the reputation votes are not viewable by the moderators in a way that would connect individual votes to individual users.
3. What's to stop people from going after mods? Or are mods immune? They'd have to be in order to prevent a mod from being banned from posting in certain boards, but if they weren't it might sow dissent for certain mods if that mod is known for posting opinions that border on unacceptable, or even just unpopular. It might be better if mods were immune but couldn't participate in off-topic threads except to moderate them. Honestly, that might not be a bad idea even without the reputation system at least for the Politics thread to prevent users from harboring feelings of partisan tribalism against a politically vocal mod.
4. What's to stop permabanned people from creating alts that go undetected long enough to get the necessary reputation to vote, then stop posting so as to avoid detection while using the account to go after whoever they blame for their permaban?
5. For that matter, what's to stop people from creating alts that avoid detection, growing them up to voting status, then stopping posting so as to avoid detection or loss of voting status, and just growing a bunch of such alts that they use to get multiple votes? I know you guys have tools to detect alts, but the tools aren't perfect and sometimes an alt slips by for a good while. As I said before, the mods would NEED to be able to link individual votes to individual users so as to detect suspicious voting patterns.
6. One final note on alts, what's to stop someone from creating an alt account, but never posting, resulting in your "long period without moderation=positive reputation bonus" rule automatically giving them the necessary positive reputation to vote? Anyone could just create enough alts to meet the unique user limit, and before those alts are even vote viable, the original account could just upvote them all to reset his unique user counter, and farm those alts for votes to get his original account able to do whatever he wants with minimal consequence. Another reason to have reputation votes be viewable by at least the mods.
7. If vote manipulation is suspected by a user, who thinks his reputation is falling too fast and someone has a vendetta against him, how does he report it, and how is it investigated, if at all?
8. If mods can detect suspicious voting patterns, you have to consider how far to take moderation on those voting patterns. Do you just use it as an additional way to detect alts? If people seemed to vote in groups against specific targets, do you try to punish that or is that okay (I mean it would be hard to definitively prove without direct evidence of deliberate coordination so you might just have to let it slide)? Do you punish people that seem to downvote a user right after or before responding to them in a way that disagrees with them? That could provide evidence that someone is likely using the voting system to bash opinions instead of punish uncivil behavior, but is that even wrong?
9. If it is wrong to bash other's opinions with the reputation voting system, and it really is just for policing incivility, why can't mods do that? If you want to stop misuse of the system, you could make the reputation system only usable by mods, as a way of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior in cases where a full moderation isn't quite called for. This would solve a lot of the issues I mentioned, but would make each person's reputation much less transparent to them unless they got notifications of which mods up or down voted them and why, and whether they did or didn't get such notifications, they'd likely start to resent that much moderation action if it didn't go their way or if it was usually a particular mod or they suspected that it was usually a particular mod that downvoted them.
10. If it isn't wrong to use the voting system to downvote opinions you don't like and upvote opinions you do, then why not just expand the "agree" system below each post to have a disagree button and make it like Reddit's karma system? But is that really what we want for this community? I personally would rather only mods could use the reputation system so we could trust it was being used for its intended purpose rather than have any amount of exploitability that lets users use the system to target people they disagree with, but that's just me.
Just a final thought to add to my first paragraph: if you base the use of a reputation system on the honor system that people will only use it for downvoting persistent trolls and not to troll each other, I fear you have too much faith in us. If it's possible to go after people for their opinions, that's what people are going to do, I guarantee it. And if they do, the tribal thinking on these forums will only get worse. Politics will become an echo chamber of the site's biggest political side. Outside of Politics, fans of the most unpopular of the big 3 companies at the time would suffer the most. They'd either learn to silence their positive opinions of the unpopular company and their dissent of the popular ones or they'd learn to live with negative reputation scores. Honestly, I'd be willing to bet that more negative votes would be given out than positive ones, and you might end up with no one being able to post in Politics. Hell, you might end up with no one with a positive score. Anger motivates more than love, unfortunately, and we see it in clickbaity news headlines every day. The last thing this community needs is a mechanical way to use anger against other users to reduce their ability to participate in the forums.
My apologies that this was long, I just really got to thinking about your reputation idea and once I started I just found I had a lot of thoughts about it.