As many of you are no doubt aware, the award system that we had in the old system has been absent from the new one. For the past few weeks, we've been reworking the site awards system to include a number of significant enhancements. The new system is getting close to completion, and I wanted to give everyone a heads up on how it will work, and what the rationale was for changing it.
Problems with the old awards system
When we introduced the first site awards system last year, they were meant to be just a fun, silly little thing to reward people for posting in various forums, uploading reference images, writing articles, etc. They were never meant to represent any "significant achievement" in art. Trying to measure someone's progress or level of achievement programmatically is, of course, impossible!
As fun as it was, there were a number of problems associated with the old award system. The first, and most glaring, was the concept of the "merit badge", as applied to an experienced artist. It did, in retrospect, seem a bit silly to give an experienced artist a "merit badge" - it was if they were just learning their craft. Of course, the merit badges were really just a simple measure of how often someone posted in a given forum - perhaps it was more of a "naming" issue, more than anything else.
Another big complaint/problem was "award grabbing". As the criteria for a "merit badge" was basically the number of posts in a forum, some people made it their personal challenge to amass as many badges as they could. While technically there was no harm in it, it did diminish the significance of the badges for other people.
The new system is designed to alleviate these, and other problems.
The New Awards System
Many of the awards (especially the ribbons, trophies, and medals) will function the same as they did before. You can't really "cheat" or "fake" your way into winning most non-badge awards (i.e. uploading enough images into the reference image library to earn the medal (lol) - you either do it, or you don't). However, some big changes are in store for the merit badges, and of course, by proxy, the higher level awards that were based partially on how many merit badges a person had.
Our primary goal is to make the merit badges actually "mean something". In order to get a merit badge before, a member simply had to post enough in a forum, and once the system realized they reached a certain number of posts for a forum, it awarded them their merit badge for that forum. With the new system, there is an entire laundry list of criteria
which must be met in order to win a merit badge for a given channel.
First, there are no more "merit badges", per se. Now, there will be "participation badges". The visual images of the badges will stay the same as they were before, of course, this is just a name change.
Second, each member can earn "tabs", which appear underneath the participation badge. These "tabs" reflect a member's level of participation within that particular forum/channel.
The available tabs that members can earn are (in order of precedence, as they would appear if you had all 5 tabs, which would be a rarity):
- Issued to all current moderators of a given forum. If a moderator changes forums, or no longer desires to be a moderator, they lose their tab.
- Issued to all current guides of a given forum. If a guide changes forums, or no longer desires to be a guide, they lose their tab.
- Issued to all current mentors of a given forum. This is awarded to those people who consistently help people by answering questions, providing feedback to others, etc.
- Issued to members who have contributed significantly by writing articles for that forum/channel.
- Issued to all members who have "earned their merit tab", by using the site as a learning tool, showing demonstrable progress in their respective medium/media, etc.
Here is fictitious example of what might appear for someone in their shadowbox (with regard to the participation badges and tabs).
Most of the above is self explanatory, with the possible exception of the "mentor" and "merit" tabs, which deserve a bit more detail.
As with the old award system, I am not going to post too many specifics about how awards are calculated, but all members who wish to participate in the new system should be aware of the following at least.
With the new system, we will be introducing the concept of "award points". All members which meet certain criteria (in terms of length of membership, minimum post activity, etc), will be allowed one "award point" each day, to spend on other members. So, in your daily surfing at WC!, if you come across someone who you feel has used (or is using) the site for educational purposes (posting their work, asking questions, etc), then you can choose to spend your daily award point on them (helping them towards their goal to earn the merit
Likewise, if you come across someone who is consistently anwering questions, or providing quality feedback to people, you can choose to spend your award point on them, helping them towards their goal of earning a mentor
The accumulation of "award points" from one's peers will be one key criterium for winning a merit badge (but not the only one). There are a few rules/restrictions on the use of merit points:
1) Each member gets one (1) award point per day
to spend on someone. In the future, the number of award points a person gets may or may not change depending upon other factors. We'll need to run the system for a while and see how balanced or unbalanced it becomes, and make adjustments from there. For example, someone with a "mentor" tab, may get additional award points to spend in that forum. But that's all TBD. For now, you get 1 per day.
2) If you don't use the point that day, you lose it - in other words, they do not accumulate.
3) A member cannot spend their points on the same member within a 30 day period. In addition, members cannot spend their award points on themselves.
4) In order to be "eligible" to spend an award point on someone, a member has to also meet certain criteria, including, but not limited to: length of membership, # of quality
posts/threads they've made within that forum (or group of forums), etc. There are other criteria here as well, FWIW. The important thing to note is that you can't hop around to forums you've never been to, or participated in to any significant degree, and spend points on people there. You need to have context
5) Members cannot "retract" their award points - once you spend them, they are gone, and you can't change your mind later.
We will add a new option in MY WC! to allow you to view your past award point spends, so you can see specifically who you spent on, and for which threads/posts, etc.
Basically, in order to award someone an award point, there will be a small icon in all the posts that you will need to click on (actually two of them, one for merit, another for mentor).
As mentioned above, there are a number of other things that go into determining who will win the new merit/mentor tabs. And the mentor tabs have a separate set of criteria than the merit tabs.
1) Of course, the number of posts in a given forum (or group of forums, in certain cases). However, the system is now intelligent enough now to not count the "gee that looks great!" posts (or other such things). Quality is important now too, not just quantity.
This new system is rather adaptive in its thinking, and well, knows what sort of words and phrases to look for (heavily weighted), and basically which ones it can safely ignore (low weighted).
2) The number of new threads started by a person within the forum(s) is now taken into account.
3) Tenure/length of their membership (there is a minimum now).
4) Accumulation of award points from at least "x" number of unique people
(and no, I'm not revealing what "x" is, although I will say that the system dynamically adjusts that value for each forum, based on current traffic patterns). The important thing to note here, is that if Johnny wanted to help Susie cheat by spending all of his award points on her, he would be wasting his time. With the limitations above, he could only do it once per month, for a total of 12 a year. And 12 points will be nowhere near what Susie needs to earn the tab. You get the point.
There are other things (actually, a LOT of other things) involved in the new system as far as criteria goes, but these are some of the highlights, at least.
Each member will have the option to essentially "opt-out" of the awards system altogether. It doesn't mean that you won't "see people's awards", but you will not be eligible to receive them, and will be denoted as such. Members who opt out will not have the small icons next to their posts (for spending points on them). By default, members will be eligible and opt-in, so opting out is a manual thing you will need to do in MY WC!. I don't profess to understand the rationale, but for those who don't wish to participate, there you go ...
Finally, some of you may be asking yourself, "what happens to all of the awards we had before". Sadly, it will be necessary to wipe them, and begin anew. First, merit badges do not exist as they did before. That, coupled with the fact that we did not have merit/mentor points in the old system, makes it impossible to convert them over. Of course, all the ribbons, and most of the medals still use the same rules (or close to them), so when we run the initial awards check, those will be picked up and placed into your shadowboxes. Hope that makes sense.
Hopefully, the new award system will be a much better reflection of a member's level and areas of participation than was before. There will be a few new awards as well, for new forums we'll be adding soon, as well as some new medals for people who earn multiple merit or mentor tabs (although accomplishing this now will be a true feat, and a testament in and of itself).
The new system will most likely be rolled out within the next few days or weeks, depending ...
More to come ...