As some have noticed, the steward gold badge is now awarded repeatedly for every 1000 additional reviews in each queue.
- The first mention of (possible) upcoming changes to the badges came with the "Dark Mode announcement" - 30/3/2020.
- Next a proposal was made "Improving Review Queues - Design overview II: Changing review bans and other new features" - 23/4/2020.
- Finally, today the change becoming effective was announced "Visual design changes to the review queues" - 28/1/2020
However, between the announcement and the change, the community focused its discussion entirely on the review queue redesign, while this specific change to the badge system - and its broader implications - went entirely unmentioned...
You make a good point about parity with other badges for curation actions and I'd love to have a discussion of other badges that may benefit from being repeatable rather than one-time. I invite you to start a separate discussion or feature request here on Meta Stack Exchange to consider where else we can further recognize these valuable efforts by our community. No promises but I'd love to see the discussion.
I trust the community won't resist the invitation.
Status quo of badge gamification
As the state of the badge system has been stable for a long time, modifying the steward badge criteria is an impactful "game changer". The prior balance is significantly shifted by altering distribution and rarity of the gold badges while changing their proportion to silver and bronze badges.
Rarity of gold badges
Taking Stack Overflow as an example, this query gives some notable values:
|Users per||number of gold badges|
Shown in the following chart (top 200 users not featured):
Parity of gold badges
One possible imparity:
- Reviewers of a suggested edits would continue earning gold badges, while copy-editors arguably incurring in more work would be limited to earning one badge.
Some possible disparities:
Tag badges are certainly very hard to gain and only awarded once, while a steward badge can be gained linearly in 25 days - with comparably less work, depending on the queue.
Unlike before, it can become commonplace to see users having more gold badges than silver and bronze badges.
Role of the badge system
Below is a quote from the help center defining the two main roles of the badge system. Nevertheless one unmentioned practical role of the gold badges - as we know them - is indicating (together with reputation) at a glance of the user cards both the amount and kind of user participation. Removing the cap from the steward badges will render the user cards less informative, because they show some of their implicit information.
Quoting from the help center - What are badges?,
The badge system exists for two reasons:
- to teach new users how Stack Exchange works
- to encourage activities that are positive to the community
An additional definition may be added:
Stack Exchange badges fall into three broad categories:
Gold badges. Gold badges are for the most committed users. They reward the most difficult feats; you’ll have to not only participate in the community but be skilled, knowledgeable, and dedicated to earn these.
Time to earn gold badges
The number of daily reviews in any queue is limited to 40. This equates to the possibility of earning one steward badge every 25 days per queue, times 8 queues. Meaning, in the above SO example it would take an "ideally diligent reviewer" exactly 100 days of reviewing to reach the top-2000 users in number of gold badges (by comparison with former rules it took some of those users 6 to 8 years to reach their number of gold badges). In 200 days the hypothetical reviewer could reach the top-500, etc...
By comparison a single tag gold badge can be nearly impossible to gain in years.
Avenues for abusing the gold badge awards
Arguably, the defined role of the gold badges "They reward the most difficult feats" could loose its meaning; The simplest example would be doing FP reviews only upvoting comments.
This post is not meant to be exhaustive. Quite the contrary, its intention is focusing any discussion and ideas the community may want to contribute on the matter.