Back in the real old days, we had a real long discussion about reputation and privileges. (exhibit A, B, C and likely many other discussions in other threads)
What emerged from those discussions was mainly that:
- People want something to feel recognized for their contributions.
- People want to see, how helpful they are to the community.
- Some people like reputation because they know it.
- Reputation isn't good to decide, who's trustworthy to do moderation actions (editing, closing, deleting...), because it's focused on posts and expertize
- Reputation can produce negative behaviors
Based on that, we collectively concluded, that "classical reputation" has a lot of flaws. It combines aspects of recognition, feedback and privilege. And while it is an acceptable compromise of these three factors; we thought we might be able to do better by splitting them up.
So we did.
We started thinking of replacements of reputation for purposes of determining trust and privileges. At first, we looked at Discourse's trust level model. Instead of an unbound, continuous reputation, you would only have ca. 5 levels, which would indicate how much you could be trusted. They would be calculated based on all kind of things: number of posts, number of flags, number of edits, number of votes and their qualitiy.
However, that system was -- in our opinion -- still flawed: You only have one path of progression. You couldn't distinguish users who were good at editing to users who were good at detecting off-topic posts. We started thinking about providing multiple ways to get one trust level (AKA X edits or X successful flags), but things would just get more complicated and it'd still not solve the core problem:
We can only trust you to do things you show to be trustworthy at.
Finally, we developed the Abilities system. The core idea: dead simple. If you show that you are continuously making good edit suggestions to post, you'll eventually be trusted to make edits without supervision. Likewise for moderation.
But that leaves us with recognition and feedback. This is actually hard. Many people feel appreciated by different stuff.
Ultimately, we came to the conclusion, that we should show different statistical details about a user on their "user card", so that other users can see, whether they are experienced contributors or not. (One thing we also considered, but which hasn't been worked on so far and which hasn't experienced more thought recently, is to show something like a "tag expert" badge. When you're making helpful contributions to the Python tag, you'll eventually get a "Python expert" badge under your user card. I still like this idea, but it needs a lot more consideration.)
This is, what the recent update introduced. Reputation-only display was amended by more specific profile details, such as number of posts or received votes.
But, especially in this area, we've received a lot of criticism and objections. People just like having a small number going up when they make useful posts. Hence, we are not going to "remove reputation" for now. Instead, we are deprioritizing it and experiment with other options, such as the one introduced yesterday. Also, in our long tradition of empowering the communities, we wanted to make these details as customizable as possible. Therefore, communities are able to decide, which details to show. If a community wants rep and only rep, that's fine. If they desperately want to get rid of rep, now they finally can.
I'm seeing this change as an experiment. But I also think, that the current solution (possibly combined with the expert-badge) is a good one and could be, what we ultimately end up with. Only time will be able to tell.
This leaves us, last but not least, with feedback. Reputation is a nice feedback, because it goes up when you do nice things and it goes down when you do bad things. Reputation going up also has the advantage of making you feel nice.
I know that this has been removed right now without replacement. I know that this isn't optimal. I'm also a bit annoyed by it. But, we are going to add some feedback mechanism (whether something fancy or just a list of recent votes). It's high priority on our TODO list, but that still means, that it'll be a while, because we are all only volunteeres here. Maybe, I'll add the reputation number in the header again, at least for the time being.
So, don't worry, the feed will be back again soon. (:P)