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As I'm sure you have discovered, every website that allows for discussion (blogs, forums, social networking websites) inevitably lead to the lowest for of discussion. Insults get thrown about and the discussion inevitably falls to mindless drivel.
We believe that this problem can be solved by creating a website that runs on a reputation and relationship management system. This will create a meritocratic website (in which the best contributors are displayed more prominently), as opposed to the usual democratic website (where everyone has equal weight).
The reputation system should track a user's reputation within the community. If a user frequently cites their sources of information or if a user brings some useful insight to the discussion, their reputation should improve. Users with the highest reputation should have their articles relegated to the front page, while users with lesser reputations should be pushed back. It is key that this reputation figure be public. Further, there will be a number of different fields in which one can have a reputation. While a user may have a very high reputation among technology issues, they may have a very low reputation concerning political issues. It is prominent that there is a graphical representation of these reputation figures available for other users to see.
The relationship system should allow users to track both friends and enemies. Users should be able to rate other users on a scale of -3 to +3, as to their friendship or respect for other users. Users that are friends in real life or who belong to the same groups would have a higher relationship score. Articles from friends should also be relegated to a user's front page more often than articles from people they are neutral towards or their enemies. Of course, this would have no effect on the front page for guests.
As far as these concepts go, Newsvine (newsvine.com) is the closest thing available. We are looking to go a few steps further, by implementing the reputation and relationship systems. As far as the design goes, we would like to see something similar to the New York Times page (nyt.com).
Users should have their own pages with their personal information and the graphical representation of their reputations. They should have the ability to publish their own articles and make comments on all other articles. When publishing articles or comments, there should always be the option to include sources. Further, users should be able to affect the reputation and relationship status with other users on all pages.
With luck, this should allow for a more reasoned discussion on the Internet.