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Right now, all badges are awarded automatically when people reach certain statistics. Badges work and are motivating, but I think they would be more meaningful if members of the community were able to nominate users for custom badges. These badges could be generic (e.g. "Community Member of the Month") or specific (e.g. a reference to a site-specific joke), but the important point is that Community Members would vote to decide who will receive the badge.

To elaborate, here is a mockup of how the system could work:

  1. Each site is given a certain number of silver badges to award monthly and gold badges to award yearly, depending on the activity levels of that site.
  2. The Moderators of the site will choose what to name each badge. For example, a site with two silver badges a month could have a "Community Member of the Month" badge and a "Meta Participator of the Month" badge.
  3. Each month, users with the required reputation will vote on who should receive each badge.
  4. The badges will be awarded at the end of the month, based on which user has the most votes.
  5. Gold badges will work the same way, but they will be awarded yearly.

Another option would be to give moderators the ability to create custom badges, which would then be awarded when x number of community members nominate a specific user for that badge.

Stack Exchange currently has upvotes and bounties to acknowledge content posted by users, but as of now there is no built in way to acknowledge a user's general contributions to the community. I think user nominated badges would be a great way to reward users whose contributions can't be statistically measured, and would bring site-communities closer together.

(This is not designed to replace the current badge system but to supplement it.)

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    To what end? What behaviour are you trying to encourage that is not happening currently? I.e what problem is this solving? – Robert Longson May 28 '15 at 15:58
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    It sounds like you want us to focus more on users than on posts. If so previous suggestions along such lines have not been well received. – Robert Longson May 28 '15 at 18:02
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The community does nominate posts that should earn their author some badges, they do this through voting on questions and answers, or just finding questions naturally through searching.

That said, I'd love to pin a medal on a few users in the C tag that always go way above and beyond in the manner that they teach people new things on the site. But what I've got is more gratitude than I know what to do with, it's not indicative of any particular problem that needs to be solved. My apprehension with this idea is .. what are we really doing that we're not otherwise currently doing, when it comes to the end-game of the idea? People get badges and know those badges mean folks were grateful for their contributions.

The mechanism really doesn't change that. The idea is also prone to fraud, which would create a lot of unnecessary consternation within the community.

Now, before someone implies that I love crashing parties

I'd love to find a way to better showcase users that cause unusual patterns to happen. An answer that gets 15 up-votes in less than 5 minutes would be a good example. I'd like to find a way to draw attention to them, and the contribution that triggered it on the front page of the site in some way, and / or the front page of Stackexchange.com. That, in and of itself will (in most cases) guarantee a badge or two, and make an awesome moment even more awesome.

If you've got ideas on that, I'd love to hear them.

Your idea isn't bad, and your thinking is definitely aligned with the premise that we can never do enough for people that give us amazing things - and you're right. This just has a few too many moving pieces, and deviates a bit too much from how we've historically (and philosophically) extended extrinsic motivation.

Don't get discouraged, though :)

  • (I would thank you for responding, but I upvoted and accepted the answer [joking].) In all seriousness, I think the problem with just going with upvotes on answers is that reputation doesn't always tell the whole story (i.e. it doesn't take into account moderation, chat, or meta activity). In addition, reputation isn't always accurate (I have ~1K rep on sites because my questions there went viral -- should that get me recognition?). What would your thoughts on this feature be if there was a reputation requirement for voting and being nominated? – user160606 May 29 '15 at 20:50
  • One other thought: if the badges weren't awarded once a month (which would make some people feel left out) but when x other people nominated someone for a badge, would that make the idea more palatable? – user160606 May 29 '15 at 21:54
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    Not fond of the idea of giving smart-ass answers on WorkPlace, Parenting, LifeHacks, etc even more visibility than they get already. An answer that gets 15 upvotes in 5 minutes probably means that the question should be closed. – user259867 May 29 '15 at 22:11
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How about adding a button a user's profile that lets people who meet some qualification or another click it to say that user is "a hero." It could be because they close crappy questions or give great answers or provide solid edits or leave pleasant comments. Any reason at all. And the count of "hero clicks" you've received could be shown to you and possibly to everyone. You could then have badges associated with receiving various numbers of hero clicks (in a time frame, perhaps, though most other badges don't require that - Famous/Popular/Good/Great etc can take years to pile up the numbers that are needed.) You could even start to add cross-site hero badges for people who are earning those clicks on multiple sites.

The downsides of this are that it encourages us to think about who is posting material instead of the material itself. The site has always been opposed to that, yet at the same time it shows us who is posting material, and shows us things about that person like their rep and badge counts. This could pull the balance a little more towards the "person" side and away from the "content" side. In any event I do notice certain people, for better or worse, and it would be fun to give some of them a gold star.

Not sure what the qualifications would be. Maybe diamonds can give stars, and I can only give as many as I've received? That could start the ball rolling. Or I can give one star for every [something, maybe 1k] rep I have? This could get really hard to implement, but it could be fun in a hat kind of way.

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    We've been pretty steadfast that the way to say 'thanks' is to up-vote. But, up-voting requires a little bit of rep. I almost tossed out the 'kudo' idea a few times, we'd have to make it wide-open for it to be useful in most use cases that count, and that worries me for a variety of reasons. I'm going to think about it some more. – Tim Post May 29 '15 at 15:03
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    Do you have an official position on "what a great edit, I think I'll just wander over to your profile now and randomly upvote an answer." Because I think that's a no-no, certainly if you want to hand out 5 upvotes for the great edit. Not to say that some people don't do it, carefully, but it's unsupported, right? – Kate Gregory May 29 '15 at 15:04

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