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Badges are achievements. Reputation is a measure of their ability to help others in one expertise.

It seems that it might be useful to make the two more distinct by treating one's badges commonly across all stack exchange sites. This won't make badges and reputation orthogonal to each other, but will bring them out in relief against each other, and would provide a more interesting measure of one's expertise - both specific to a subject, and general to many subjects.

I don't think the same effect would be achieved by having this information appear, for instance, on or some other profile aggregator. Having my SO account show both my SO rep, and my stackexchange badges would be a stronger driving force for me to work on badges as much as - or perhaps more than - any individual site's reputation.

The combined stack flair approaches this to some degree, but this type of change would be a fundamental shift in how badges are accrued, counted, and displayed, and honestly I'm not sure that it would be a good change, but initial thoughts suggest that it's worth considering and discussing.

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Some of the badges, like Elecorate or Legendary or Generalist, are very much tied to participation in a single site. They represent your voting devotion, your performance, and your range of expertise. They don't really translate well in being applicable to every site, especially if for example you don't vote on one site nearly as much as you do others, or post as many high quality answers. – Grace Note Jan 17 '11 at 19:23
@Grace They are earned from participation on a given site, and there's a high correlation between expertise in a given subject and those badges being earned on that site. That doesn't preclude them from being advertised on other sites, though. We've got one measure of expertise already - reputation. Do we really need two? Are the people who primarily focus on badges going to be any less devoted to the game if we make them cross-site? It's also important to consider on of the primary reasons behind having rep and badges in the first place - to encourage participation. (and addiction) – Adam Davis Jan 17 '11 at 19:29
I'm having difficulty imagining this. Would it simply mean fusing all badge stats? How would tag-specific badges be dealt with in this scenario? – Pëkka Jan 17 '11 at 19:30
And would it mean that the (fictional) corpse-eating badge from gaming.SE would finally show up on cooking.SE as well? :) – Pëkka Jan 17 '11 at 19:31
@Pekka - Fusing just the numbers is my initial thought. It wouldn't involve changing how they are earned, and in fact when you go to the profile page on a given site it would really only list those badges they've earned on that site. However the badges listed next to, for instance, my avatar on questions and answers would say 16 148 456 rather than the 3 46 112 you see above. You'd be able to see at a glance my expertise on this site (rep) as well as my participation on stack exchange sites in general (badges). – Adam Davis Jan 17 '11 at 19:35
Keep in mind that badges, while having a high correlation to expertise, are primarily earned due to participation. They were intentionally originally designed to be different than reputation in that regard. Individual site badges might be interesting, but I think that they may become more useful as an aggregate measure of participation across the entire network of sites. – Adam Davis Jan 17 '11 at 19:37
@Pollyanna I see. This way, a distinguished member on site X would carry some weight on any other SE site, which is a good thing because the distinguished member is likely to understand the SE system very well (but without enjoying any specific, undeserved perks on a site they don't have reputation on). Something like this makes sense – Pëkka Jan 17 '11 at 19:38

One issue I see is that "Not every badge is created equal". By that I mean :

  1. Some badges are much easier to earn on one site versus the another. Programmers seems to have a higher percentage of generic questions that many users are interested in. Therefore Good Answer is easier to get on Programmers.
  2. There are several really easy badges that don't require much time. Someone could ask questions and vote up one 20 sites and have 40 to 60 bronze badges.
  3. There is in my mind a threshold for some of the super easy badges. There are about 10 or so bronze badges that can be earned very quickly on one site. After that the going gets tougher. So someone who has 15 bronze badges is far more than double as impressive to me than someone who has 10.

Therefore I would not like to see badges across sites totaled up on each site. Now I would be fine if when you hovered your mouse over a profile, maybe it showing the total, but if I quickly looking at questions or answers I would like to see badges (and rep for that matter) that applied just to the current site.

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