PubHubs Trust Levels Design

We start by designing with five Trust Levels corresponding to those Discourse uses, as that system has been successful and as consistency with another platform may be helpful.

  • New (TL0) – most restricted
  • Basic (TL1)
  • Member (TL2) – similar to the existing PubHubs user role
  • Regular (TL3)
  • Leader (TL4) – similar to a "moderator" or "admin"

We considered trying to keep the design even simpler at first by having fewer levels. However, it is important that moving up (or down) the levels should be seen as a common and frequent part of normal proceedings, not as something very special. Therefore we must avoid big jumps between the levels.

When we refer to a "Responsible Person" (or a "Leader" without stating TL4), it means someone with sufficient trust level for some particular purpose, so it could be TL4 in any case or possibly TL3 or TL2 depending on the case. A precise definition is not included here.

Restrictions, Powers, Responsibilities

Here we show how restrictions and powers and responsibilities might be attached to different trust levels. These are just a few examples for illustration; the actual set of capabilities will be defined elsewhere.

Hub administrators will be able to adjust this configuration.

New visitor (TL0)

Examples of restrictions PubHubs could apply at TL0:

  • restricted list of rooms to join to simplify the choice (list curated by Leaders) (thanks, Lian)
  • can't see a full list of users (only those who already spoke to them?)
  • can't start a private conversation
  • change of user's avatar and nickname must be approved (by a Leader?)
  • can't flag (report) messages or users
  • low rate limits for joining rooms and posting messages

Extra things that happen when joining at TL0:

  • welcome message
  • automatically join some rooms (list curated by Leaders) (thanks, Lian)

Member (TL2)

Similar to the existing PubHubs user role.

Leader (TL4)

A Leader (TL4) can act as a moderator, steward, administrator of the community. They will also work with hub admins.

TL4 powers, in addition to those of TL2:

  • create/update/delete rooms
  • use moderator tools
  • post "official" messages
  • redact messages sent by others
  • curate lists of auto-join and may-join rooms
  • edit welcome messages and transition messages
  • approve change of user's avatar and nickname
  • view and respond to flags/reports

(These lists are a first draft, not exhaustive.)

Features by Trust Level

Here is a more complete example of how we might assign user features by trust level.

TL0 TL1 TL2 TL3 TL4 feature
new basic member regular leader
TL0 TL1 TL2 TL3 TL4 get welcome/transition messages (sign up, join a hub, join a room, change of TL)
TL3 TL4 can edit welcome/transition messages
TL4 can post "official" messages
TL0 TL1 automatically join some rooms (list curated by Leaders)
TL0 restricted list of rooms to join, to simplify the choice (list curated by Leaders)
TL2 TL3 TL4 can see a full list of users (vs. only those who already spoke)
TL2 TL3 TL4 can start a private conversation
TL1 TL2 TL3 TL4 can change own avatar and nickname without a Leader's approval
low ... medium ... high rate limits for joining rooms and posting messages (and links, images, redacting, etc.)
TL3 TL4 can create rooms (and update and delete)
TL4 can use moderator tools
TL4 can redact messages sent by others
TL3 TL4 can curate the lists of auto-join and may-join rooms
TL3 TL4 can approve change of user's avatar and nickname
TL1 TL2 TL3 TL4 can flag/report messages or users
TL2 TL3 TL4 flag/report a message or user automatically hides or marks it as suspect
TL3 TL4 can view and respond to flags/reports
TL0 tips TL1 tips TL2 tips TL3 tips TL4 tips tips in UI introduce important features of each TL

TL Transition Actions -- Messaging

When a user first joins, and on every change of trust level or privileges, they always get an automated direct message explaining it.

  • Sent by DM and email.
  • Each message includes a "standard" part set by hub admins, and a part that can be customised by any Responsible Person.


  • New Visitor Welcome Message (entering TL0)

    Contains a welcome message. Explains the community, expectations, trust levels, permissions and restrictions. Links to documentation of the specific TL0 permissions. Explains that restrictions are lifted easily and quickly as soon as you are seen to be engaging in good faith.

  • Member Welcome Message (entering TL2)

    Similar idea, with appropriate content.

  • Leader Welcome Message (entering TL4)

    Explains leadership in terms of general expectations. Links to the specific documentation of the permissions.

How to Change Someone's Trust Level

Transitions from one trust level to the next are mostly upward. Metrics help with decision making. Some of the transitions may be automated.


  • A leader (TL4) can promote or demote anyone.
  • Anyone can promote someone else up as far as the level below themself. (That is: a TL2 can promote someone from TL0 to TL1, and a TL3 can promote someone up to TL2.)


  • Automatic triggers can and should be defined for the lower trust level transitions (TL0 -> TL1 -> TL2), if there are enough people joining to be worth the effort of configuring it.

No matter how a change is made, the TL Transition Actions (messaging etc.) always occur.

Automatic triggers are based on metrics about user interactions, such as how many messages you sent, and on how many days you visited.

Automatic progression to a higher trust level based on collected metrics may be helpful when there are large numbers of new people joining. It can ease the management of newcomers' issues, including both normal behaviour and any attempts at deliberate misbehaviour. At higher trust levels, automatic progression based on simple metrics is inadequate and human judgement is needed.

Responsible Persons will benefit from having metrics available when they need to decide on a manual promotion or demotion. Collecting and displaying metrics should therefore be a priority before we consider automatic progression based on these metrics.

Metrics for Automated TL Progression

Here is an example of how we might assign automatic progression through the lower trust levels.

metric TL0>1 TL1>2
Visiting on at least N days 3 10
Reading for a total of N minutes 10 30
Posting in at least N rooms 1 2
Sending at least N messages 3 10
Sending at least N words 30 100
Others reply or mention you at least N times 3 10

Other reasonable conditions should be included, such as a time delay, and a requirement that no abuse report is outstanding.

The idea is that when all (or most) of these conditions are satisfied, the system should indicate that the person is "considered" for promotion, and may automatically promote them.

The system of trust levels and promotion is a technical assistance for a social agreement. As said before, the priority is for Responsible Persons to review the metrics and make manual decisions; automation is of secondary importance. Therefore they need a way to review the current metrics and indicators, and change the outcome.

Further Work

  1. Trust Levels across Hubs and Rooms. "Are you new to PubHubs, or new to this hub, or new to this room?" Probably, a person has the same Trust Level across all rooms within a Hub. However, we may wish to bring a user's "reputation" from another hub, allowing them to begin in this new hub with a Trust Level higher than zero.