Discourse points and badges

The points and badges on discourse annoyed me enough that I have been making a new account every year for a little while to reset everything.

That’s silly, I understand.

How do you feel about “gamified” conversation? Roughly 10 years ago when this software was new it was an interesting idea maybe. We now see this idea has been really useful to make some game companies lots of money too.

Some folks from Stack Overflow thought they could use these ideas to make conversation better.

Have you seen any positive effects from the “game” aspects of this site?

Have you seen any negative effects?

How do you feel about this possibly hard to discuss topic since it’s such a common feature of this website?



I find it pleasing without being too intrusive on this particular website. It’s nice to get a kind of feedback on older posts that have particularly resonated with people. I also found it useful when I was first learning this software as a tool.


I don’t like to be negative but I would like to participate in a forum like this without all the points and badges. In fact I have done this many times because all forums were like that before discourse – with the exception of age tracking maybe, where seniority would be displayed next to your username in some cases.

So, things I don’t like:

  • Any special functionality at all enabled by doing something the right way for the right amount of time
  • Secret rooms and features etc enabled by doing something the right way for the right amount of time
  • Likes – in any form. Before this existed I think the “20 chars” rule would have seemed silly. Before likes, you said something if you wanted to…

Anyway I’ll stop there – I realize any changes would require a fork or patch of discourse itself, but I just wanted to broach the subject!

Cool – are you talking about likes on posts specifically or a badge you got or something else?

Likes are fine, and I do get some notifications about likes - thought it seems to be pretty tasteful and avoids notifying us of every like. I’m referring to the “Nice Reply” badge, which is like-based, but only happens at intervals and is ranked. I’m certainly not interested in it as some kind of competitive element. The badges are an inoffensive passive metric that I mildly enjoy, not as a goal, but as a point of reflection.


I liked your post!

OK, I understand that. The likes aren’t a competition, but still can serve as feedback of some kind.

Totally agree & understand. So what if we remove all likes?

We’re left with just… posts, yeah?

So in a situation where you can only post, you might get less interactions. What exactly is an interaction that is a boolean though? If you have 15 booleans and 15 comments, which would you discard first?

likes are useful in allowing for participation without necessitating extra words. MW for example has a lot of people saying a bunch of nothing on nearly every thread I think at least in part because of this. 20 characters rule would be even more useful without likes i think, but they both serve to encourage written posts to be meaningful contributions and not “i agree!”


Cool, so to restate for my own understanding basically one argument for likes could be that they help reduce noise.

Likes could help by allowing someone who might otherwise respond “me too!” or etc to just click the like and not pollute the thread.

Is having a post from someone saying “me too!” so much worse than having their boolean registered?

1 Like

Yes, because “Yes, I agree, and 20 characters.” posts take space that makes reading threads more difficult. I, and many others, often try to read entire threads on this site – I frequently get hits on old posts that people have found useful. Making the space more readable and fostering readable discourse makes it a better space to share given how we relate here.


I think we’re starting to form a decent argument for keeping “likes” around in this context.

I secretly feel that every “like” has a hidden feeling or opinion that I’m missing out on because the person has decided to reduce their feeling to a binary “like” or a tacit “dislike”…

So my theory here would be OK maybe we’d lose some casual feedback, but we could stand to increase meaningful feedback.


I don’t care much about badges and points and all that. But I guess I’ve gotten very good at just ignoring these things, so I can’t say they do annoy me. If there was a way to disable them, I’d vote to do so.

Likes are a different thing. I’m totally against the idea of social-media style likes, but in the context of this forum they are useful and reduce noise (as has been previously pointed out). I think the trick is to do some good old “functionality appropriation” here. Who cares if likes come from social media, and what facebook as gotten us used to? Let’s just take this functionality and make it our own. let’s do what we want with it.
The most useful application is really to replace all the “Well said”, “I fully agree” and “I’m totally with you on this one” comments with something that will take up less space in the discusstion.

I guess likes are there for the times where the feedback is just that, a non-specific sign of approval. I would encourage everybody who has more rationale, background or specifics to share about their approval or positive sentiment, to do so in words of course. To me the two things can be complementary.
Sometimes there isn’t all that much to say except clicking that little heart.


Discourse is saturated with these badges and points and etc. I think we agree: they aren’t interesting, if they could be disabled I’d disable them immediately.

Likes on posts and threads when decoupled from badges etc still seem useful? It feels that way to me.

I’d love to see a discourse that as a start only has likes… but maybe someone out there sees the value in the badges?

1 Like

I believe that the ‘summarize thread’ feature is mostly (entirely?) based on likes. for some of the bigger threads we have, that summarize tool is indispensable.


I didn’t realize this exists. OK as pro-like as I have been this disturbs me a bit. Microsoft Word auto-summarize is fun as a black box, but if you gave an essay to 30 friends and then only read the sentences that more than 15 of those friends had “liked” would you have actually read the essay?

Edit: you can get the summary of something. Who is giving you the summary? Do you really think that a like-voting policy is getting you closer to the truth?

Fwiw I see likes here as more of a +1, so being in support or agreement of a post, rather than a social media style thing…


I like the system, it’s kind of a gentle social engineering for the most part.


These attributes of the system help me to remember my paths through the vast sea of information here, and increase my sense of connection to ideas and emotions and the people with whom I share them.


What you have left is an effective community driven summary of what was deemed a little more central / pivotal to a given discussion / topic by the members of this community. If you either don’t trust this community or feel inclined to check for yourself if the entire forum has more to give, you can bypass that feature entirely (you already did ; by not knowing it was there to begin with, which goes to show it’s not central or detrimental and the community is not actively PUSHING an agenda, more proposing an alternate constrained vision of its general input.)

It’s not comparable to an essay, forums are online discussions, and, it’s actually been stated many times before here, as such, can create an incredible amount of noise that makes it difficult to turn the common knowledge created into a practical and useful database, which I think is something we should work on.

For badges, I too don’t care much for it, although I will also say old forums did have more than age centric badges, such as number of posts centric badges to quickly identify the most active members of a community. You might think it exclude the others but I think it also allows you to have a quicker view of what kind of individuals are the driving force behind it, as, be it something to like or not, most communities are driven in content (another word we can choose to steal from big business and reinterpret btw) by a tiny fraction of their userbase. I find it useful to know who they are and what they stand for.

Ultimately sure it can lead to over-hierarchisation of individuals but then it’s down to the community to find the right guidelines, attitudes and structures to avoid it being that.

I find in this community I’ve seen as little of that as possible in any internet community I’ve been part of.

Do note how the word community comes up a lot more in my descriptions than forum.


I agree some of the badges are pretty pointless.
However, you recreating your account each year actually exacerbates this, as it’s new accounts that get most of theses.

As above likes are important to help keep topics a bit cleaner - thankfully we don’t have the other emoji like counters.

As for badges, with discourse, admins can disable any they dislike. But in my mod experience few users have any strong feelings for/against them.

Most ‘complained’ about feature of discourse I’ve seen - is the way it will try to re-engage you via email. ( if you don’t turn off notifications).


Likes are like a friendly nod in a conversation. Listening is important, and in the context of a forum, a like becomes a way for me to show, that I am listening, paying attention, perhaps offering a gentle encouragement.