Today I had a call with Jussi from the Ubuntu IRC Council. We spent some time discussing a range of different topics, but then Jussi raised an important question which I think could benefit from some community discussion.

Today we have many methods of providing free support for our users – the Ubuntu Forums, Launchpad Answers, Ubuntu StackExchange and of course IRC. With each of the web resources there is a method of identifying those who are providing a significant and sustained contribution when providing support by checking their account profiles.

Unfortunately we don’t have this today for IRC. The simple reality is that there are many community members who use IRC every day and provide fantastically valuable support for our community, but there is no way of sufficiently articulating their contributions in a way that could, for example, be assessed for Ubuntu Membership.

The outcome I would like to achieve here is that someone in the IRC community who provides support could apply for Ubuntu Membership and the Ubuntu Membership Board could take a look at a profile that accurately and concisely summarizes their contributions, thus identifying that such contributions are significant and sustained, and therefore suitable for membership.

One option I was thinking could be something that I am thinking of as a ‘thankbot’. Imagine this context

<jono> hey, how do I do X, Y, and Z on Ubuntu?
<erica> hi jono, all you do is click on the frizometer and select babang.
<jono> ahh, that is it, thanks so much!
<erica> jono, it would be
<jono> thankbot erica
<thankbot> erica got thanked by jono - erica has been thanked: 28 times

We could then provide a means for others to check how many times a given person has been thanked, and it could be even cooler to have IRC client plug-ins that shows the number of thanks next to the persons nick.

Of course, the bot would want to be armed with the ability to not be gamed (such as limiting the number of thanks from the same person, to avoid spamming the bot), but these would all be details.

Could this work, and if not, is there a better idea out there to solve the problem of providing better visibility on our contributors who provide great support?

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