Agreed. In my experience, people linking to you is 90% of the work. Everything else (canonical URLs, etc.) doesn't really matter. Case in point: I now rank close to #1 for the terms "startup conference". Why? Because since I launched the new name for the conference, enough people linked to it. 6 months ago, I barely made it to the first page of Google results.
And by the way, there is one repeatable way to get high-ranked sites to link to you: produce quality content. So karma and SEO are not that far off.