I'm a noobie who has been "lurking" on this forum for some time. I hang around because a majority of the members strike me as both reasonable and knowledgeable people, and I frequently discover issues and photographic possibilities I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I haven't joined previously, however, precisely because of the whole karma and virulent "fanboy" behavior that sometimes marrs the discussion.
The recent introduction of Nikon's D800 seems to have whipped a certain subset of CR members into a particularly high dither. Anyone who even suggests that they might be considering this camera is tarred and feathered Internet style. "Stop whining. Leave! Who cares what you think, traitor?" Most people on this forum probably have a significant financial commitment to a particular camera maker's line of products, but how can anyone be so personally threatened by someone else's musings about a choice of consumer product?
Fanboys may say they don't care, but I'll bet Canon does. The features of the recently announced IDX strongly imply that Canon at least sometimes listen to its customers, and it's my guess the company is concerned when a competitor's camera provokes significant talk about defection among those customers serious enough to participate in forums like this one.
I'm one of the people with a financial commitment to Canon far beyond my capacity to change horses, but all the major players are making good equipment these days and I'm not too worried about Canon's ability to answer Nikon (and Sony) with a competitive product. That, however, doesn't alter the fact that the D800 is a very attractive offering from Nikon. Fake Chuck Westfall nothwithstanding, we don't really know much yet about the important criterion of image quality, but in terms of build (weathersealing, shutter life, etc.) and feature set (autofocus, storage, format flexibility, resolution, etc.) it is a startling advance and--for the moment at least--the new standard at the "high prosumer" price point. That's a fact, and saying so--or even ruminating on the possibility of buying a D800--ought not to get one pilloried on this forum.
Previous posters have raised several additional objections to the whole karma thing. First, as it applies to an Internet forum, "karma" is an extremely nebulous concept. What exactly is being applauded or censured? Grasp of facts? The opinions derived fromj those facts? One's attitude toward the subject? The cut of one's jib? Secondly, the karma button turns what should be discussion or a debate into an election--which is something fundamentally different. A discussion or debate strives to inform, resolve and include. The purpose of an election is to include certain parties and exclude others.
Unfortunately, I decided to formally join this discussion too late to vote in the poll. And I see the karma crowd has won the election. It's not surprsing, voting is their thing. However, Craig, if you read you're own polls, you might notice this: the great majority of people who have taken the time to post a comment favor either significantly modifying the karma feature or doing away with it altogether. My now non-binding vote would be to can it completely. Voting is a lazy man's way of framing an argument; it does nothing to advance the discussion, and as I and several other people can personally testify, it does discourage participation.