Yes, right here. :)
What are they?
The WC! awards system is designed to reward members for positive contribution and participation within the community. While the awards are not "redeemable" for anything, they are a fun indicator of a person's level of participation within the site.
By participation in various subject or medium specific forums (and a few outside of those areas), members can earn "participation badges". For instance, a member might be awarded a participation badge for the "oil painting forum".
Members also 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):
Moderator Tab - 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.
Guide 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.
Mentor 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.
Author Tab - Issued to members who have contributed significantly by writing articles for that forum/channel.
Merit Tab - 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.
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:
Certain awards are contigent upon the recipient earning a sufficient amount of "award points" from other members.
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 tab).
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 tab.
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. If the member doing the spending also has a merit or mentor tab for that same forum, then their point is weighed heavier.
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 first.
5) Members cannot "retract" their award points - once you spend them, they are gone, and you can't change your mind later.
6) IMPORTANT: award points should be awarded based on merit or mentorship. Anyone caught awarding points to "friends", or people who are otherwise undeserving of them, will have their accounts revoked. In addition, any posts of "hey, vote for me", or "hey, spend your award points on me", are prohibited, and may also lead to account removal.
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, you simply click on the +MERIT or +MENTOR icons that appear in each post (provided there is a badge associated with the forum you are browsing, otherwise, they won't show up).
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 intelligent enough now to not count the "gee that looks great!" posts (or other such things). Quality is important too, not just quantity. :) This 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 taken into account.
3) Tenure/length of their membership (there is a minimum).
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 ...
If you have further questions, feel free to post in the Site Discussions forum, or the Welcome/New-User forum.