TL;DR: Yaakov took this on as a project and worked with Aaron Bertrand to do some magic that would make it possible to remove specific badges from appearing in this list network-wide and on a per-site basis. This is complicated by the fact that badge IDs are not universal network-wide, so we had to look for badge names rather than IDs.
The explanation below was created somewhat prior to the work Yaakov did but I think it adds some context to the thinking of the Community Team and how we came to requesting this solution.
The CMs discussed this recently as a team and we came to the conclusion that we agree that these badges are distracting and problematic and, until such time as we might have better spam account creation prevention we should do something about it.
That was the easy part of the discussion. Identifying that you should do something is often easier than deciding what to do.
During the discussion we went over the solutions y'all mentioned and identified pros and cons for them:
- Preventing only the Autobiographer badge from appearing in the list.
- Pros - This seems to be the absolute best option because it focuses only on the specific issue caused by this badge. It doesn't hide bronze badges that may actually require some effort to earn.
- Cons - We don't have anything built to do this, so it would likely take longer and more developer work. It also may not be cheap from a performance side of things since we can't rely on the badge ID being the same network-wide... because they're not (and the names aren't the same due to our non-English sites). It's also slightly more confusing to only have one bronze badge be excluded but not horrendously so.
- Only showing badges earned by users with some minimal amount of reputation.
- Pros - Allows bronze badges (including Autobiographer) to show up for everyone who meets some minimal activity level while preventing all noisy badges from showing up (e.g. Informed).
- Cons - Possibly "expensive" to do since we don't load the reputation of the users in the list on the page so we'd have to pull the info from the DB and then filter it to get the list. Would likely be even more complicated to build and nothing already exists.
- Hiding all bronze badges from the list.
- Pros - Easy to do since we already have it built. It should be a simple site setting change. Captures other sometimes noisy badges. Highlights the harder-to-get silver and gold badges. Simple to explain.
- Cons - Could leave people who earn bronze badges feeling underappreciated - not all bronze badges are zero-effort like Autobiographer and Informed.
Considering all of this, the last option seems to us to be the easiest to do (since we just use a feature we already have) but maybe not the ideal solution - having a way to block specific badges. Our plan was to request the bronze badges be removed from the recently earned badges list network-wide but double check with the Public Platform Team first to make sure that removing specific badges was too difficult to do as a quick project.
The last time I'd checked in about this was when MathOverflow asked us to hide Autobiographer badges for them - at that time we opted to just block all bronze badges rather than try to only hide Autobiographer but we didn't discuss building a network-wide solution to this at the time. With this request, it seemed worth opening that discussion with the devs to get a sense of the effort required.
I asked Yaakov what he thought it would require and, rather than getting me an estimate, he went ahead and built a solution and then checked in with our SRE team to make sure his method was viable and to identify whether there were better ways to achieve this goal. Aaron Bertrand reviewed and made some suggestions and Yaakov made some adjustments and let me know it was ready to ship!
This is a big change because, while we're only blocking Autobiographer network-wide it's not hard coded to Autobiographer only. Here's what's possible now:
- We have a site setting that blocks specific badges from appearing in the list of recently awarded badges on both a network-wide and per-site basis.
- We can override that network-wide block on a per-site basis (e.g. a site specifically wants to keep Autobiographer in their list of recently awarded badges).
- We can still block all bronze badges on a per-site basis.
Thanks so much to Yaakov for taking this on quickly as a project and getting it built and doing the research! If you have any questions, please let me know.