What we desperately need is a reputation mechanism that sticks.
I'm not sure that we do, at least not necessarily one that sticks across different forums. A person can be a php guru on StackOverflow and produce lots of silliness on a political forum - one should not cancel out the other. (Should that person's rep be very high, very low, or about zero? None of the above makes sense to me.) And on a hardware review board that same person's opinion is no more relevant than any other.
Perhaps I'm short-sighted on this, but I can't quite see how rep points could usefully tranfer between different sites, different topics and different worldviews, too.
Question: What problem would we be trying to solve through a persistent, global repoutation system?
Not spam, because spammers/spambots do not have persistent identities, for one thing. Not "stuffing the ballot box" by corporate entities, either - for the same reason as above, and because up-votes can obviously be manipulated by whoever owns a site, etc.
We could very well have a public currency that gets burn out when you say stupid things and gets inflated when you say useful things.
But stupid and useful are relative. The same post that gets voted sky-high on a left-anarchist forum will be immediately deleted by moderators of a right-wing site (and not for containing profanity, mind.)
BTW, I think StackOverflow does pretty well with their reputation system. One thing I like, for example, is that downvoting an answer comes at a cost of 1 rep point to the voter. I think upvoting should also come at a price, otherwise up votes can eventually inflate. Perhaps each user could have a limited pool of up or down votes that replenishes fairly slowly (or proportionally to that user's reputation).
Coming back to my question though. It's pretty obvious what problem StackOverflow is solving through their rep system, but what would be achieved through "globalizing" it? Also, what other problems would arise, like counterfeit reputations?
I want to explain the flippant way I dealt in with Steve Pavlina upthread. It's because I'd rather be flippant than take him seriously when he says things like You have no special entitlement to be treated fairly by others
and builds his whole argument upon this gem. If I take him seriously, he scares the hell out of me - because this is exactly the kind of thinking that gave us the worst political and corporate abuses in history, and I mean very serious ones, not just unfairly moderating a post on The Internets.
It is one thing to realize a fault in human character (a lot of people won't behave fairly if they don't have to, but have something to gain). It is a completely different thing however to espouse and promote unfair behavior as the basis on which to build your life or your business.
In fact, it is just !@#$% sick. There, I had to say it. Reading Steve Pavlina gives me the worst creeps.
If "every man for himself" morphs from an admonition to a commandment, than the lack of fairness online is really the least of our problems. And at the same time it is obviously possible to build a perfectly fair and minimally moderated forum like DonationCoder.