What are Trust Levels and why should I care?

You might have noticed getting notifications about “Basic”, “Member” or “Senior Member” Trust Level. And you might be wondering what that’s all about.

If you’ve been around College Confidential, you’ll remember ranks. We’ve mapped ranks onto trust levels like this:

Rank              => Trust Level
New Member        => New (0)
Junior Member     => Basic (1)
Member            => Member (2)
Senior Member     => Regular (3)

Why does this matter? Aren’t we all treated the same?

One reason for Trust Levels is so that we can relax restrictions a bit. For instance, we know it’s a bad idea to let brand new users send private messages to other people. So we limit private messages to Trust Level 1 and above. That way people can send private messages but only after we know that they aren’t fly-by-night spammers or whatnot.

Everyone has the ability to earn more trust from the system. All you need to do is spend time on the site and using it as intended:

The Trust system operates on a simple, but often-ignored principle: joining a group takes time and effort. Large and mature organizations observe rules, customs and rituals that make them distinct from other groups. It’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable at the start of a new relationship. All good things demand some effort to obtain and that’s certainly true of groups.

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why should I care?

The admins are getting slaphappy. I’d insert a smile if I could. :smiley:


Can new users (who cannot initiate private messages) reply to private messages like before?

What other differences are there between trust levels?

Yes they can.

We can configure settings on the back end, but we’ve mostly leaving the defaults described here: Understanding Discourse Trust Levels

One big thing we’ve changed is who can post images. (Just admins and mods for now.) CC users haven’t been able to do that in the past because of limitations in the forum software. But I think we can try it out for some trust levels. More details coming!

If inline images are allowed, it may be better if a low resolution thumbnail is shown, with the option of clicking it to see the full resolution, so that users on slow or metered connections will not be forced to use up a lot of data bandwidth because someone posted a huge high resolution image in the thread.

Would you consider it successful if the huge majority of users never got beyond Level 2 (Member) and in the case of students Level 0 or 1? Because that it what I see happening. The assignments to get to a higher trust level (or to even remain at Level 3 and above are rather tedious.

Is this what happens in other Discourse forums?

I just looked at this, and my guess is that very few if any members would be able to maintain Level 3. You have to average reading 200 posts in 5 different topics a day. That is all from posts and topics posted in the last 100 days, no repeats. Plus the stuff about giving and receiving likes, I don’t even know how that would work. I don’t use likes much, although I know some do.

Having said that, unless I misread something I don’t see any level 3 abilities that in the past have been granted to anyone not a moderator. So I guess I don’t care. In fact it makes sense for this to be a pretty exclusive group. Personally I would omit it altogether, but probably anyone who manages to be that active here wouldn’t abuse the power.

I do like that it is much easier to get to level 1 and 2. That makes sense, and will eliminate new users making dumb repetitive replies just to get their count up to 15 so they can send a PM.

What is lost is that since anyone who has been active for at least 15 days will have the same status as some of our long time posters with thousands of posts, the trust levels don’t give any useful info about he poster. I don’t think that matters. The bigger loss in this area is the ability to make profiles private. When that happens I can’t tell if your reply is your first post, or if you have been giving advice in this topic for the last 10 years. Something needs to be done to address the concerns people have about privacy (I think overblown, but to each his own) so that we can keep those public, or at least the topic/reply count.

I got PMs yesterday from a kid who joined the day before. Level: Basic. Seems to me, the gate is open.

“Trust” is the wrong word. This is nearly an entirely chatty forum (user opinions and experiences.) Being highly active does not mean you offer anything others can necessarily “trust.”

As for privacy, I do want to know posting history. Not everyone includes all details in a new thread, some contradict themselves, etc. And when they joined.


It is, but we can adjust the criteria as we go. Almost everything is configurable.

Yes. This is the big problem I had with the previous system. It was based on how active you are and not how helpful or interesting your posts are. The new system should avoid that problem.

I agree. The “trust” we are talking about in this case is whether or not the system trusts you with new responsibilities. But when normal people look at “trust” they think of things like whether or not that person’s advice is reliable. College Confidential is not like other Discourse sites. Fortunately there are many ways we can adjust the system to fit our needs as a community. I’m considering some changes to the trust system and how we present it to users that I think will work better. I’ll have more details once we’ve taken care of more pressing issues.

Agree that this is not near the top of the list.

Down the road finding a way to make a user’s post history easily searchable while hiding the other info that is causing some to make their profile private would be plenty imho. Because even if someone has 10,000 posts and is super helpful on most things, I still want to know if they are knowlegable about the particular subject. In some areas, like athletic recruits, prep school, MT, etc. the conventional wisdom may be 100% opposite of the right answer. I want to know they know the area.


Agree here. Perhaps actual post history and top categories posted in can be always public, but the other stuff can be user configurable to be private separately from that.

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perhaps in keeping with the forum’s theme have
adding an extra level to differentiate between no-longer Basic members and longtime posters with a high trust level/ Regulars who don’t match all the Regular criteria, and finally the last level that is very difficult to maintain?
(Also, when I see “Regular”, I immediately think “Honors, AP” :D)

I like the idea, but won’t that be confusing with students who are actually juniors?

How bout…




But really…what was the matter with what was used before??

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Nothing really. I’m investigating what we’d need to do to change the names and it looks doable.

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Hm, then we’d be back to the old system, with junior member and senior member, except that tongue-in-cheek you’d have freshman member and sophomore member, so the meaning wouldn’t quite be the same as before, with more levels before and one after.
(The Awesome Supersenior members: the mods! :stuck_out_tongue: )


It got too confusing to call Trust Level 3 “Regular”, so I’m changing it to “Senior Member” for now.

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I’m confused about how this works. Here’s a comparison of my stats compared to another user’s stats. And I’m asking only because I’d like the ability to include photos in messages.

My Stats
Joined: 2018
Views: 1362
Trust Level: Member
149 days visited
2d read time
2d recent read time
566 topics viewed
12.5k posts read
250 :hearts: given
12 topics created
403 posts created
554 :hearts: received

Versus another user:
Joined: 2020
Views: 471
Trust Level: Senior Member
56 days visited
3d read time
3d recent read time
672 topics viewed
20.9k posts read
229 :hearts: given
0 topics created
69 posts created
115 :hearts: received

It looks like the algorithm weighs read time and number of posts read, more heavily than it weighs replies, responses, posts created, when it assigns trust levels.

Is there an update re the option to attach photos to private messages?


Now I see this is an older thread (even if that’s only a month.) But I’ll keep this here.

^ Aside from GoldPenn wanting to post pics (but related to that,) I’m having trouble understanding why any of that is important to us.

I could buy that some admin wants to know some details (for reasons I don’t care to understand.) But it seems meaningless.

When the new format rolled out, from discussions, I got the impression some “features” were simply available and a choice was made to not only keep them, but make them visible to us.

I don’t think those details are what should qualify one to post pictures.

And I don’t pay attention to some system-generated rating. It doesn’t make me "trust"anyone more or less.

For reasons stated on another current thread, it’s good to know how long someone’s been around, recent log-ons, etc. But as a measure of, say, reliability, read time or numbers of likes are dubious, at best. Dare I say, bogus?