Overnight we made a few changes to the system.
- starting a conversation is not required to become an active member
- blog comments (and not only forum posts) count towards becoming an active member

So the "member" level is now more of a true newcomer level.

The other change (per queenie's suggestion) is that *only the recipients* of appreciation points will see them in the forum posts. This lifts the pressure from the conversation starter because they can now reward the most impactful posts without making others feel bad. Kind of like the way you would give someone a special word of thanks in private, rather than making everyone self conscious by announcing it at the dinner table.

As several people have pointed out, the other way to achieve this would be to allow everyone to award appreciation points to every post. This is harder to do (technically more difficult, but I'll spare you the details), so it won't happen soon. But we are interested to know how you feel about this option. Given the discussion about cliques yesterday, my one concern about it is that it might reinforce this aspect of the forum. That is, people would tend to gravitate *even more* to the threads by popular posters because that is where the readers (and points) are.

With respect to the "starter awards points only" approach, I liked the idea that conversation starters had a kind of ownership over their threads. When we initially conceived of the forum, one of the ways we designed it differently to some other forums is that the first post on a thread has prominence. It looks a lot like one of Angie's blog entries. We viewed it as the mini blog of the person who started the conversation.

So the options:
- conversation starter awards points AND only recipient sees them
- everyone awards points everywhere AND everyone sees them

What do you think?