SPUF is what one would call a forum or a bulletin board. Steam Community User Discussions (SCUD) is less of a bulletin board, more of a discussion board – it is a very trimmed down version of your standard forum software. Reddit is, well, um, something else. A strange, messy thing that has really taken off. Then you have a combination of the two, a bit like the League of Legends ‘boards’.
Many forums just have basic features. You can make a thread. You can reply to threads. If you’re lucky there’s a personal message system. Some allow you to post images or make polls. SPUF isn’t one of those forums.
The thing about forums is that they are incredibly customizable. It’s not that SPUF doesn’t allow images, it’s just that images are turned off in some, if not most forums. The same thing with polls, avatars and signatures – they’re disabled globally rather than per forum. Signatures and avatars are enabled per user group – Valve employees, admins and moderators are all allowed little text signatures that everyone can either ignore or be jealous of.
A feature that often appears on forums, whether it’s Reddit, SPUF or elsewhere, is the addition of reputation. On SPUF, reputation is found between the Is This Person Online button and the report button.
Now, SPUF’s reputation is unusual. The amount of reputation you receive depends on how long you’ve been a member and how many posts you have. Two people with the same number of posts but different join dates give more or less reputation. Your current reputation also used to be included in the amount of rep you gave, but people just circle-repped each other (a bit like circle-jerking but less messy) and ended up with horrific amounts of reputation. Combined with the fact that this happened most in sub-forums where your post count will never increase, this leads to abominations with 1000 posts and 100,000 reputation.
The reputation system is good. People with high amount of rep worked to get there, or more likely stuck around long enough to accumulate high numbers. But it’s nigh impossible to circle-jerk and increase your own rep by using alternate accounts.
Reputation is also anonymous. You can’t see how much rep someone got from a post, and it doesn’t affect the status of the thread or the post. It’s literally just a number.
These days though, all the kids go to Reddit.
Reddit uses the upvote downvote system. It probably has a proper name but I don’t know what it is. Basically, you can vote on threads, whether you like them or not. This appears both on the thread and on the thread index as a number, publicly visible to everyone. Like reputation, you can come in and upvote or downvote as you please, with no requirement to actually post. Get enough upvotes and you shoot to the top of the board, visible for at least a few days. Get even just a couple of downvotes and your thread will be ignored forever. Get too many downvotes and your post has to be un-minimized to be seen.
In my opinion, this public voting system stifles debates. Why? Because people shy away from downvoted threads, and threads with a lot of upvotes are pushed to the top of the board, hiding other, not-quite-as-popular-yet threads from view. People are incredibly lazy and incredibly sheep-y, we will, by instinct, do what other people do.
You could write up an incredibly well-written and explanatory piece on how the Darwin Danger Shield is overpowered, something that a lot of people agree on. But if you don’t get upvotes quickly, few people will see your piece. It’s even worse if the first people to see it are people who disagree, since it only takes two votes to put you into negative numbers. Few people will look at a negatively voted thread, because they see that others have already deemed it unworthy.
The upvote system also makes it easier to ‘borrow’ someone else’s work. Many a time someone has posted something they’ve done or made, only for someone else to post it again and get far more upvotes. Even if the original poster is given recognition, by then it’s often too late.
At least on SPUF, you actually need to read the thread before you can post your disapproval.