Forums Reputation Phase 3 – Profiles

I used to think that rich profiles were dumb—that they were really only something that were only used by teenagers hell-bent on getting the latest and greatest AIM virus.  Then I saw the Forums.  Wow.  Now those were great profiles.  Why?  The profiles mattered.  It was more than just a bunch of stuff somebody else typed—profiles were the home base of reputation.  There are two very powerful elements that make these profiles so interesting:

1.)    Recent Activity – In Xbox Live land, this is really more about your recent game activity.  Little glyphs are next to my profile showing the past games I’ve played (Hexic HD, Marble Blast Ultra, and Bankshot Billards 2, if you must know.)  Clicking on those glyphs leads you to a richer view that actually shows a user’s achievements in that individual game.  Expand this to Microsoft communities—a community profile has glyphs indicating the past few communities you’ve participated in.  Click on any one of the glyphs and it automatically brings up a page with your personal reputation and roles in that community, along with your recent activity (posts, bug submissions, wiki changes, etc.)

2.)    Community Score – In every way, shape, and form, the community score is visible in both the mini-profile that shows up next to somebody’s post, and their richer full-page profile view.  Whenever you read a post, you know a user’s gamer score (how many achievements they’ve made in games), community forum ranking (how “good” they are on the forums), and gamer “reputation” (how well other people liked playing with them.)  Not only does this let other people know quite a bit about who they are talking to on the forums, but it also gives more for a user to care about all of those numbers.  For example, if reputation exists for other community channels at Microsoft (say, product bug submission websites, wikis, chat, and blog), there could be a rolled up “Microsoft Community Score” displayed, alongside their MSDN Forums reputation.

3.)    Comparison – It’s great to know that you have 1,200 points on the forums, but what does that mean if you don’t know where you stand against others on the forums?  Clicking on another user’s profile should bring up a page that shows a side-by-side comparison of your reputation with theirs.  In addition, you should be able to quickly see your ranking on the forums, along with a list of the people who are above and below you.  For example, you want a “Top 100” icon next to your name, and find out that you’re currently in 103rd place…but if you answer just 14 more questions this week, you could move into 98th place.  It’s probably enough incentive to answer those extra questions!

4.)    Avatars – I know.  Avatars can be very…well…lame.  In fact, the avatars are my least favorite part of the Xbox profile system, but mainly because I think the pictures are fairly lame and I’m not going to pay any extra money to change the little picture next to my name.  Of course, if those avatars actually helped you find experts in a technology area, they’d probably make more sense, right?  You know those questions you answer when you register a new product—the ones that ask what technologies you are interested in and what year you were born in?  Why not tie the results of those questions into a custom avatar on the forums?  Enjoy C#?  You get a C# icon next to your name.  Feel like you’re an expert on the Visual Studio IDE?  You get the cool little Visual Studio infinity icon.  You get the picture.

5.)    Make it and Take it – People spend quite a bit of time in the community trying to build this reputation, but it really only is visible when you’re on the forums site itself.  Why not take it with you?  The “mini profile” displayed next to your posts should be available as a web part that you can plug into your personal or professional webpage.  What better way of showing potential customers that you are passionate about technology than displaying your contributions to the Microsoft community?

Comments (6)

  1. Dasher says:

    Hi Joe,

    What’s the scope of reputation?

    If somebody has skills in a particular area or forum (or set of forums) – how should this be represented? Such would help show potenital customers and employers skills in a zone.  Somebody who provides great help and therefore has a good reputation in the xbox world – might not be great at providing people with C++, C#, VB or coding help.

    How about using something like micro-formats as a way of ‘make it and take it’?  This would help promote a general interchange format between online communities.  If implemented using SOA approach to obtain the structure of the micro-format, revision information, etc – add in the ability to retrieved a hashed/signed version which would allow verification by a third party independantly of the carrier or person it was issued to.  This would apply tamper resistence and integrity to the information.

    What about InfoCard? Doesn’t this technology fit the purposes you are trying to pursue?  It would be a way for MS to show that the InfoCard system works in a real world situation and that its design principles are correct.

    Just some thoughts..



  2. MSDN Archive says:

    The way I’ve thought about it, the scope of reputation should be by technology and community platform.  For example, I have a particular reputation on the MSDN Forums that really shouldn’t affect my permissions on the Xbox forums–but it’d be nice if Xbox forums users could see that I was a top person on the MSDN site.  Along the same line of thinking, my reputation in the MSDN forums shouldn’t directly affect my reputation in the MSDN Product Feedback Center–but it should still be visible.

    For the technical "glue" keeping this all together, InfoCard is certainly an option…but designing the community platforms with this type of integration in mind could really help speed and ease integration in the future.

  3. Dasher says:

    What’s the user type of the people on the forums?

    Are they mainly techies (ie thier job is mainly around IT) or users?

    If the population of users are mainly technical – should the reputation relate to technical roles?

    The profile of an ‘Architect’ would be able to help across technology fields – whereas a developer would have a different profile.

    If we think of people using the reputation they generate outside of the forums (or even as a mechanism for MS to pick up MVP’s, recruiters to target outstanding people, etc) then would it make sense to allow the reputation to fit these profiles?

    Each community site could define profiles that represent their user base – with a reputation that is appropriate.

    This would help allow a better comparison with others – and would also grow and change and the person grows and changes.

    It adds a context to the reputation and scoring system in a transparent way that might help people strive to grow their skills.