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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Each month, users with the required reputation will vote on who should receive each badge.
- The badges will be awarded at the end of the month, based on which user has the most votes.
- 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.)