SEO spam works very similiar to this.
This personal hierarchical, not pagerank.
"Maybe this is why Twitter works"
It wouldn't scale particularly well, but most forums have a relatively small group of posters adding all the value anyway.
In my opinion it had two substantial effects:
- A substantial improvement in the quality of the discussion in the short term. No spam anymore, few low-quality writers, and the fact that users enjoyed privacy but not at the expense of accountability made for lots of interesting discussions.
- Almost no new members because of the reading barrier, which caused a slow but significant decrease in quality in the long term. While this private tight-knit community had a good run for a decade, once in a while an interesting member would leave for life reasons and at some point the lack of a new guard posed an existential threat to the relevance of the forum.
Both of these facts led the staff to reenable enrollment without an ID a couple years ago but still keep a private subsection with ID required. We had an influx of new members (as we expected), a few interesting ones among them (as we hoped).
Personally I think experimenting with anyone-can-read + writing-requires-ID could also be worth exploring.
I still love forums to this day and think they have a place in the modern web. Reddit and Facebook will want you to think otherwise, but there’s hundreds of niche hobbies that specifically DON’T want the network effect of a large multi-topic forum like reddit and still do very well.
This may be controversial, but I like the constraints of a non-branching discussion. In my opinion, unlike HN and Reddit's branching comments, linear posting allows for more in depth discussion of topics.
One concession to the times is a proliferation of discord servers for the community, for various writings (including the notorious alien space whale which these two are most known for), subject matter groups (engineering hard SF hardware), and just general subcommunities.
And the amount of people who buy 10$ to re-reg their banned account and get banned for the exact same reason as before could not be classified as "a few".
I am interested in learning which forum does the 5$ a year, I wasn't aware of many other forums with a pay-wall.
Disclosure: I work at Discourse.