Of course it is! How can a non-existent, virtual badge be anything but an incentive to carry out the tasks required to be awarded it? You said yourself - absolutely rightly - that the “like” buttons were one out of many criteria for establishing trust and adding incentive. But if our activity on the forum is not to be influenced in any way by the reward-based system Discourse provides, then why bother? You’ll just be awarding a badge or an additional trust level to someone who wasn’t aiming for it, had no idea they’d achieved it, or how they’d achieved it, and who has no stake or interest in maintaining the level of involvement which won them their award in the first place. Pretty much every tablet/phone-based game or app hands all sorts of virtual treats, awards and prizes for the completion of this task or that, encouraging the user to reach for the next prize, the next treat, the next level. And yes, the trust levels and badges DO ensure that the user knows what he/she is doing, because they have to try out every function the forum provides. But how will they know what they need to tackle next if they’ve not going to check?
And yet, despite all that, it’s still the trust level’s dependence on the likes which is the problem. You believe that, eventually, the most productive and valuable forum members will stumble to the more responsible trust levels? Well, maybe, eventually (though they’d get there a lot quicker if they chased their fun little targets down, since that’s literally what they’re for ) but that won’t happen while too few people are “liking” posts. Come on mate, @Stanton has never given out a "like ", ever. If he doesn’t want to that’s fine, but he’s never going to reach trust level 2 let alone level 3, no matter how valuable an asset to a spaghetti western forum he demonstrates himself to be again and again and again. To me, that sounds horribly at odds with your belief that the system will elevate the most dedicated and valuable posters.
Now, if you respond and I don’t answer it’s not because Im ignoring you like a stroppy tart, but it’s New Year’s Day, we’ve got relatives over and I’m tapping away blindly at my tablet while everyone else is drinking all the gin. And I’ve got to get to my The Simpsons: Tapped Out Game, I’m only three missions away from levelling up and unlocking Sideshow Bob’s cowboy outfit (it’s not a real cowboy outfit of course, it’s just one of those silly incentives they give you for achieving a set of tasks…) xxx