With the advent of XenForo some discussion was generated on Twitter between myself, Matt Mecham of Invision Power Services, and Alan of IPB Tutorials regarding the distinction between the Reputation and Likes features in Forum Software.
I should note, before going into this, that a lot of what I’m posting is my opinion, and the way I personally view the two systems. Whether or not my opinion was the original intent of the two systems is beside the point. This is also saying you don’t change the way the systems are phrased. Also, this is from me as a person, so don’t take it as me saying “we’ll be implementing one or the other in ImperialBB” because we’re not. Not in the 1.0.x branch anyway.
Now, I’ve been thinking about this topic on and off for a few days now. Comparing the differences between the two, and various other things. Personally, I’m more of a fan of Reputation Systems rather than Like Systems. Like systems are, in general, not as personable as Reputation and do not show how people generally in regards to a member of your board. A Reputation rating says “Yeah, this is a great, well thought out post. And I commend you for your contribution, regardless of whether I agree or not.” Or, it says “You should not be posting crap like this. Even if I agree, you need to rethink the way you convey your thoughts in a less demeaning manner.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “But Ryan, no one gives positive reputation for a post they disagree with. And they certainly don’t give negative reputation for a post they agree with.”
Yes, I know. I believe the Reputation feature is used for all the wrong reasons. Reputation is supposed to be used as a kind of Member Rating system that Staff can use to see which members activity needs to be evaluated. Members with high positive ratings may be great candidates for future staff, and members with low negatives may need to have their participation privileges on the forum revoked either temporarily or permenantly for trolling, spamming, etc.
This is actually what makes me really enjoy the IPB Reputation System. Aside from the technical specification of the system (cross content Reputation is awesome), members can actually control which posts they see via the Reputation System. By allowing the userbase to vote up or down specific users posts, you’re effectively allowing “community moderation” of members. Members can filter out posts with low ratings so they never have to look at them, and have no need to ever add someone to their ignore list.
Likes systems are different, however. They are simply that. “I like this post.” Nothing more, nothing less. They are too simple for my tastes and they can’t really be used to rate members, considering most systems will not allow you to Dislike content. In addition to that, there’s always the possibility of what I said before. I may not Like a particular post, but I can certainly vote it Up for the way it’s conveyed by the author. The Like system would make my overall stance on the content misleading, simply because it says I “Like” something, when I actually don’t.
Having said all of that, I believe the features can actually coexist together. Take, for example, my site Final Fantasy Crystal Cosmo. We make full use of the vBulletin Reputation System, however we also have the “Thanks” modification installed.
We actually use the Thanks system as more of a “Like” system similar to XenForo (we actually have plans to modify it to be a Like system). We use full reputation, however, to truly convey to the author how we feel about their post, even if we disagree with that post.
So, there you go. My stance on Reputation vs Like systems. Hope it made sense.