In my last post about Trust and Reputation, I outlined what I believed were the key elements of reputation building in an online community:

  1. Activity Based
  2. Community Rewarded
  3. Visible
  4. Linked to Additional Privileges
  5. Obvious on How Reputation is Determined
  6. Reputation Takes Time

Since then, I've had a chance to sit down with Jana Carter (blog), the product manager for the Microsoft Forums, discuss my vision for a reputation system on the forums.  I see the reputation as having three "phases" of implementation--one that happens in the next few months, the second an ideal view for a year from now, and the third, a final, far-reaching view of what reputation could look like in Microsoft communities in a few years.

Today I'll describe "Phase 1" of the reputation system...the framework which the "cool" and "fun" stuff can be built on in the future.

Most of the first phase of the forums reputation system is focused around "incenting and rewarding top answerers"--encouraging those key members of our forum community to contribute as much as possible.  Without further ado--Phase 1:

  1. Special User Glyphs--If you have a special role with Microsoft or on the forums, you should have a glyph next to your name in a thread.  These glyphs would identify Microsoft Employees, MVPs (Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals), and Forum Moderators.
  2. Number of Answers Displayed--In the "thread profile" area, we currently display the number of posts you've made.  Who cares?  If we are about answering questions on the forums, this number should be changed to the number of answers.
    1. Special "Top 50 Answerers" Glyph--If you are one of the top 50 answerers in the past month on the forums site, you should get special recognition.  How about a glyph next to your name?
  3. Top Answerer Lists--Up at the top of the page, easy to find, and scoped to whatever context you are currently viewing the forums in.  Are you looking at the entire MSDN site?  Great!  The top answerers list is the top answerers for the entire MSDN site.  Just looking at the Visual Basic Express Edition forum?  No problem--we've got your list of top answerers for that forum right at the top of the page.
    1. Hall of Fame Page--We've got a member list right now in the forums...but how interesting is a list of 60,000 user names?  The Hall of Fame page will allow users to view the list of users--sorted by number of questions answered.  If you're number one all time, you get to sit on the top of that list.
  4. Automatic Moderation Rights--This one's a bit more sensitive that the rest.  One of the big problems we've had on the forums has been getting more community people to moderate and mark replies as answers.  Of course, there is going to be some human-based "checking up" to make sure the system isn't gamed, but here's the plan.  If, over one year, you have:
    1. 5 Answers--You get the ability to mark other people's replies as answers.
    2. 10 Answers--You can mark your own replies as answers as well.
    3. 25 Answers--You get the ability to move off-topic threads around on the forums.
    4. 50 Answers--You can edit a post.
    5. 100+ Answers--Congratulations--you're a community moderator!

Those are the main pillars for the first phase of a reputation system on the forums.  Notice that instead of "post rating", which many communities use, I'm choosing to just use the answer marking, which is already part of the culture on the forums.

Any comments or suggestions?  Let me know...