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Old 2012-12-20, 00:50   Link #326
Join Date: Dec 2003
Age: 36
Originally Posted by yononaka View Post
Now, quite abruptly (at least it feels this way to me), the rep system is presented to us as the source of fairly fundamental festering problems on the board and something that had to be eliminated for the greater good, with no additional input solicited from members before making this decision. The description of the abuses that have been taking place certainly seems to make for a compelling argument for such a decision. What strikes me as odd, however, is the abruptness of this change in direction. Most of the abuses enumerated in this thread were (I thought) fairly obvious for a long time even to non-mods, so if the board could live with them before, what changed? Please don't misunderstand, I don't have a problem with disabling the rep, I'd simply like to better understand what caused the sudden phase shift between the two opinions. Because the thing is, as much as the mod opinions presented here feel like deeply held convictions, so did the earlier opinions in rep complaint threads.
I appreciate your comment, and your puzzlement over the apparent contradiction. I'll do my best to answer from my point of view, even though I guess the truth is that the decision-making process is often long and complex.

First, I guess I should re-emphasize a point that was raised earlier that we did listen to everyone's feedback over the years, including all those many repetitive threads about not liking "unfair" negative rep (and yes, they seemed to come up fairly frequently, and I was usually the one to respond to them with the same sort of answer time and again). We also of course received a lot of feedback from members privately, both to report rep they received and also to express their frustration.

Even to this day I think that the whole concept of "unfair negative rep" is a bit silly because people weren't using positive rep fairly either. It's not like I don't understand the emotional reaction (I felt the same way when I received "unfair" neg rep), but if you think about it logically, there's really no cause for complaint. The system was already heavily biased towards positive rep anyway, and we did deal with any offensive comments... so usually it was much ado about nothing in the grand scheme of things. As was pointed out repeatedly in this thread, even some people who tend to be seen as "troublemakers" by some typically end up in the green. So this is why my message about this was basically what you described: it's just a game, don't take it seriously, you get way more positive rep than negative anyway... and so on.

But the truth is that we've known about a lot of these other problems we're now discussing about rep for some time (years, even). And on the staff, various ideas had been floated about a system or systems to replace rep. But these would have involved extensive customizations, and because of issues related to the vBulletin upgrade, this plan seemed to be always getting further and further out on the horizon (which is just as much my fault as anyone else's -- finding the motivation to upgrade and test vBulletin modifications in your spare time is hard when the benefit seems way out there).

Over the last year or so, the "rep inflation" problem has become that much more pronounced, which makes sense given that it's exponential. While nobody guessed the exact formula yet, you can surmise from some of the earlier comments here that rep power was tied pretty heavily to your rep points. The discrepancy between the top ~50 rep holders and the whole rest of the forum was rather extreme. And we also noticed that, with this increasing discrepancy, there were more visible instances of "silencing" happening in the threads: where people would start making these not-so-veiled comments about why they were leaving certain threads and discussions, and these were often tied to "power rep".

So, basically: years of internal acknowledgement and accumulated frustration with the weaknesses of the rep system + no clear timeline for vBulletin upgrades that would facility a new system to replace rep + rep inflation that was causing an ever-increasing mess = time to retire the current "round" of rep. It was felt (partly by me) that the end of the year would be a good time to retire it so we can start the new year fresh. And it was decided that we could use this opportunity to figure out just what benefits we would miss without rep there at all, to help inform any future decisions about new feedback systems that may be desired or beneficial.

I think I already said this before, but the reason we didn't do a public consultation before retiring rep is because it was pretty clear to the staff that the current system wasn't sustainable anyway due to the inflation. Plus, knowing that the rep system was in flux could have caused runs on rep as people try to manipulate the system for various reasons. (It'd be hard to discuss some of the problems of rep without also revealing some of the "secret sauce" behind how rep points are distributed...) So, the decision was made.

I should also say that, even back when rep was turned on back in the day, not everyone on the staff at the time was so sure if it was a good idea or not. It was basically allowed to be left on as an "experiment". As I alluded to above, I think most people on the staff would have agreed that the rep system the way it was implemented wasn't a "fully-successful experiment" even before, but it wasn't necessarily a complete failure either, at least in terms of some of what it allowed. This is why we were investigating alternate ideas even back in the day that would carry over the benefits while removing some of the drawbacks... and I think that process will continue now, but in a slightly different way.

Okay, those are a lot of words... I said it was long and complex... But I guess the main point is that, given all the many years of discussion we have had about this among the staff, to us this seems anything but sudden. It's more like "we're finally doing something about this". But that's the nature of a volunteer group... you think about things, discuss things, get distracted, wait for other things... and then at some point there's enough of a push that something happens.
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