A complaint we often hear from new users on SE (I just heard it again half an hour ago off-network) is that the barriers to participation deter them. They can’t comment so they use the answer space, but since what they wrote isn’t an answer they get downvoted and the post gets deleted so they go away. Or they come across an answer that they know, because they’re experts, is correct, and they want to reward it with an upvote, but they instead see the “can’t vote yet” message and feel chased off. (Both of these happened to the person I was talking with, who decided not to try a third time.) While experienced users like to say “so just answer a question or make a few edits and you’re in”, to the new person that can feel like a turn-off.
But we want to have some gatekeeping, if nothing else to place a small stumbling-block in front of spammers and trolls.
An idea that occurred to me tonight: what if one of the privileges you can earn (criteria TBD) is “endorse”? An established user could say “I say such-and-such new user is ok”, and the new user would bypass the lowest level of participation barriers. To mitigate, we could limit the number of endorsements you can make (at all, or active at a time a la Area 51 commitments), and if someone you endorse turns out to be a bad apple, it would reflect on you. Maybe endorsements are public, and maybe enough bad endorsements cost you the privilege.
This sounds complicated but I’m not sure it has to be. Right now this is just an idea, but I can develop it into a feature proposal. I’m not tagging it MVP, though we will need some way to bootstrap our new communities and maybe this will end up being a path there.