So here's a question. Who came up with this system?
Thats a more complicated question than it appears at first glance. It involves a bit of history going back into the UBB forums. Basically, the first version of the UBB forum, you had a name, and a post count, and that post count would make stars appear over time as it increased. UBB version 2, added the ability to rate a person, but it was pretty brutal. you were able to rate anyone, but only once. Forever. Needless to say, the rating system led to some crankyness, and is probably one of the reasons the Asylum developed the way it did, because there was really an intimidation factor to it, because retaliation would be swift if anyone found out you were rating others down. Entire conspiracy theories, and time schedule checks against logins, etc sprouted up to try and "catch" the downraters (upraters were ok). i wasn't an admin at that time so I don't know how accurate most of the guesses were, but there was a decent amount of drama over it.
So, along comes the new comment system for everquest items. Predating the forums sytem, Allakhazam wanted a way for people to be able to tell which comments were good useful info, and which ones were crap, but he didn't want people who hadn't contributed to the site with at least some influence to be able to add weight to those comments. The origional concept was that the higher the karma of the person, the more weight their rating would add to a given comment. The highest rated comments for an item would tend to "float" to the top of the thread, the worst would self nuke eventually. Further complicating matters was the rate scale. it wasn't just an up or a down arrow back then, it was a 1-5 scale. Needless to say, the math part was fairly involved, and the guru weight calculation wasn't feasable at the time, so it was eventually simplified to the1-5 scale alone, and with a single self rate per post. At this same time, user=5, good old Anonymous was still able to post without logins. this quickly became a problem as the item threads were flooded with stupid comments. Spammers didn't really exist back then as such, it was mainly trolls and idiots.
So fast forward 2 years. the UBB forums are crapping out on a regular basis, Danalog is threatening to format the drive they reside on if he has to try and recover that flat file database one more time, and Illia decides to build a new forum system. I wasn't an admin at the time still, but I already had some input via back channels into some of what would later become the various sockpuppet and anti spammer tools, so I was asked to help put together the look and feel of the new initial forums, including aspects of the rating system since the need to self moderate the forums somewhat had become apperent by that time. This same time period is when the first spammers started showing up, the never to be sufficiently damned 0utwarz and kings0fchaos spammers, which quickly started flooding the UBB forums. so, the theory was that a pile of forum regulars could eliminate spammers immidiatly.
What quickly became apparent, was that your first 2 or 3 posts immidiatly determined your rating history for all time. Initially when we brought people into the new forum, there were very few people who even could rate. some who had previously played in the comment system could, but most people were at 3.00. so we initially set about bumping most of the initial users to scholar. Most of those initial users of course were Asylumites. Now at this same time, FFXI is huge. it's the largest forum on the site, Everquest is in decline, WoW and EQ2 are still rumors, so there are alot of FFXI people, and we're doing 1,600 unique users an hour on the FFXI main UBB forum. We eventually bring them in to the new forum, and it's like dropping a pile of baby chickens into a shark tank. The asylumites are the only ones with rate ability, but the FFXI people have the numbers, and at the same time, I'm trying to get enough people up to scholar quickly to somewhat stabilize the pool, because the whole thing doesn't work if only a few people can rate, so initially anyone with a pulse essentially ended up with at least scholar.
Shortly into the launch of the new forum, the 15 post no karma window and the double self rate on post was added, because otherwise any new poster, which everyone was at that point, would get nuked out of existance, or shot instantly to Guru. The insta gurus ended up the target of resentment from other people, and the whole thing spawned the first of the Ratebots. (the first one was an Asylumite incidentally if anyone was curious) Since then, there have been a number of changes to make it both more difficult to implode a newbie, and yet at the same time easier to self nuke a spammer. I've had quite a bit of input over many of the changes, though i got outvoted by people who aren't here anymore on the visibility of the karma numbers themselves. There are a few other tweaks still pending at this point, mainly aimed at new posters, but overall it does work most of the time. The admin ability to multi rate, and the reset Karma to 3.00 system compensate for the times it doesn't, though the admin multi rate can occasionally cause resentment as well so we use it sparingly.