Contentious issue, but with the nulling of everyone's post count and the accusations of spamming just to get avatars flying around, I thought a discussion about post counts would be good so everyone can get things off their chest and talk about their ideas.
Firstly, some people seem far too concerned with their post count and how it compares with other peoples. It's mostly light-hearted, but a few people are getting annoyed at being accused of spamming. Why does it bother some people if others have a much larger postcount than them? Why is everyone so concerned? Post counts are a poor reflection on how much time and effort people put into posting. Someone posting single sentence replies or getting into the Word/Film game or cliquey off-topic discussions in threads can rack up an extremely large post count very quickly, whereas those who take time to answer people's queries and questions and write many hundreds of words per post will find it takes them a lot longer to increase their post count.
At the moment we have a system where users can change their avatar after 500 posts (ignoring the reduced count for the next month or so), which promotes the posting of lots of small messages. The only reward exceptionally helpful board members who don't like posting in the more banal threads get is either MotM status or in very rare cases an invitation to the moderating team. It takes just as long, if not longer to write a well-researched and thought-out 500-word post than it does to post ten 50-word posts.
The norm on other forums is to have a ranking system based on one's postcount. As described above, this does not always reflect the most respected or useful members of the forums. A few forums hide the post-count completely from public view and have no ranks, which means everyone is equal. However that does not reward the members who stay on the forums and someone who has posted hundreds of useful threads would appear the same as someone who had just registered.
Now I personally felt that the 500 posts for a custom avatar then no extra ranking above that that we previously had was better than a graded system. However it may rather dissuade new posters for whom 500 posts seems an awful lot. I'd like to propose some options and see what people think of each.
1) We could leave things as they are - custom avatar at 500 posts, still display post counts.
This is what we had before. Forum members putting time into the forums will be rewarded with a custom avatar, and this promotes people posting. However 500 is a rather large number for newer posters to reach, and leads to a rather "us" and "them" situation. Some people seem obsessed with how large their post count is and how it compares to others. The post count is not a fair reflection on the value of each forum member.
2) Custom Avatar at 500 but hide post counts.
Similar to what we had and has similar pros and cons to option 1 above. However with post counts hidden it will be difficult to see the difference between a member with 499 posts but whose posts may have been exceptionally useful and a complete newbie. On the plus side, all members with post counts above 500 will appear equal. People will then post in threads because they want to and have something to add, rather than just trying to up their post count. Hopefully this should reduce some of the more obvious spam from the more senior members of the board, but newer members would still be encouraged to post many threads rather than concentrate on the quality of each thread.
3) Ranking on post counts, say at 50, 100, 250 and then 500 posts.
You'd get a new title after each milestone and maybe a new avatar. This makes the progression up the ladder a bit more gentle and posters feel they're getting places towards a custom avatar at 500 posts? Again though this promotes fast and short posts as opposed to longer less-frequent posts. We could either have post counts shown or hidden, again with consequences as described above, but the ranks should make it more obvious the standing of each poster.
4) Not increasing post counts in General Discussion threads.
This would promote the other more serious areas of the forum but may end up with spamming taking place outside of GD and a dearth of posts in GD. However we'd get people posting in GD because they want to post about or reply to something rather than use it as an opportunity to increase their post count.
5) Rating posts
Maybe a difficult one to implement, but it would be good to be able to reward useful or long threads and for one-liners or LOL type posts to be ignored. Ideally other members could rate posts and those ratings could go towards extra bonus points on one's post count or towards an increased rank. If post counts were not shown and we had a ranking system similar to in option 3, moderators or senior members could reward frequently useful posters with a promotion in rank.
Personally, I'd like to have something like option 5 where post counts would not be displayed, but there would be a ranking system based on 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000 points say. Each post
gets a point, but moderators could 'boost' those giving long or useful posts by however much they feel the post is worth. This would result in quite a bit more work for each moderator though, and one would have to have some sort of transparency to ensure people thought the system fair.
Or we could leave it as it is as this is getting too complicated, it's only a forum, not many people really care about post counts, avatars, ranks and the like and those who browse the forum regularly know which members are the helpful ones, which ones solely spam and which members enjoy a bit of banter in GD and may be labelled Spam Kings but are actually much valued and very useful posters in threads elsewhere and on the forums as a whole.