Thank you for putting together this very detailed ratings proposal. And thanks to everyone so far for the overall discussion. These are the threads I want to see about site issues like the ratings system. Reasoned discussion with new ideas as opposed to rants and complaints.
Because it's what I do best, I'm going to play devil's advocate here for a minute on the proposed points. Basically, whenever we look at a new system or a change to any system for user feedback, we have to look at it both from the warm fuzzy side, and from the potentially negative side.
1. Rate a skin, leave a comment...
There are a few problems I see here. One is the already addressed issue of either junk comments or very negative comments being left on a skin. I'll be honest here, I get a lot more complaints about mean comments on a skin than I do a low rating. A rating dropping by half a star is a lot less personal than someone coming on and saying "THIS SKIN IS GARBAGE!" Despite the complaints, I've seen more people talk about giving up skinning over negative comments than I have over a low score.
Next is the problem where you'll be able to tell exactly who dropped your score. Even if they leave a glowing comment, it won't take a rocket scientist to figure out overall who gave the skin a low score. This will create a great deal of conflict where none currently exists. Having ratings be essentially anonymous (admins can see who rated what how, but users can't) lets people express honest opinions of a skin without fear of retribution.
Rate a skin, pick a reason...
When rating a skin, you have to pick one pre-defined reason from a drop-down menu. Reasons could be things like "I love the skin!" "I don't like the colors" "It doesn't run on my PC" "It's not my style" "Very usable" etc. With options depending on what score you gave the skin (so you can't give a skin a 1 star rating and say you loved it).
2. Hide the Troll
Not all negative comments are trolling. If someone posts an absolutely terrible skin, people should be able to call it like they see it. Now, there are genuinely negative comments sometimes that serve no purpose and are just insulting, offensive and detract from the site. But we don't want to create a system where only glowing praise is allowed. There are users on DeviantArt, for example, who delete every single comment on their skin that is in any way not complete praise, including reports of skins not working.
Digg-Style Comment Ratings...
On Digg, every user can give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to any given comment on an article. Each user can only rate a comment once. Once a comment passes below a certain threshold score, it is collapsed to one line showing the date, time and username, and a button to expand said comment. It is never deleted, never hidden, and always accessible. This allows the community as a whole to determine if a comment is appropriate, and doesn't leave it up to the whim of an individual skinner who may not want any criticism of any kind.
3. Flaming Stars
I've got nothing against this idea. I love it. The mechanics behind it would probably need some tweaking (like make it a combination of downloads & ratings). We have "Hot topics" on the forums already to indicate popular/very active threads, I like this as a method to single out skins. I'll have to think more on this one to see how we'd possibly do it. It could be a nice way to automatically feature very popular community content.
4. Who Can Rate
It's going to stay at the current cutoff. Apprentices are generally skinners too, and as creators of content they have the authority to rate other skins. Subscribers are supporting the site and community by helping foot the bill, generally if they're going to sink the cash into the site, they're not the types to do meaningless drive-by ratings, they're very active skinning users who know what they like.