Full agreement that best and postive have more value than simply answering. I put much thought in some posts, and others take a whopping 1 minute and 1 sentence. Count does say someone is at least on the board regularly and often, which has some meaning, but less than positives and bests.
Since best is subjective in the eyes of only the poster, and positives reflect the community at large, I tend to weigh heavier on democaratics than subjectivity. i.e. A poster could dislike an excellent answer that really was the "best", plus so many don't choose a best. For that reason, I place more value on thumbs up. I do a lot of thumbs up for a lot of different people. The more consumers see that we use it, rather than not voting, the more they will follow the lead. The more consumers vote, the better. The larger the pool of voters, the more accurate and democratic the vote will be. Consumers and newcomers will use the vote, if they see others voting. I have read JR's post that he thinks it is like prom queen. The larger the pool of readers and contributers, the more objective, democratic, and valid the vote will be. It's an evolution. I vote often. I vote TU often, not at all if I think it doesn't have value, and rarely use the TD. I reserve that for extremes.
As far as Top Voices in an "area". Absolutely, a local with 2 bests and 10 usefuls should weigh in strongly over the non-local with 10x the stats. If the choice is blank vs. out of area, then out of area is better. It shows the consumer and the Pros how it works.
Have any of you encouraged fellow agents or customers to visit Trulia. I have, and in follow up conversations have found they were asking questions showing their unfamiliarity. I think the newness creates a temporary need to rely on non-local support. But, by all means, local support is king.
While local support is King for referral and direct contact, there is a wealth of information on the national level. I have learned MUCH from Pros in other areas. If the consumer ended up in only their local area, they might miss a wealth of knowledge on general discussions. I see tremendous value for all of us in exposing and encouraging customer exposure to the Voices at large.
For example....I am in NJ. Maybe there aren't any posts on the dangers of overpricing on NJ board. But, on the national board there are fantastic threads that discuss overpricing. How many times have all of us struggeled with getting a seller to understand that we are really looking out for their best interests when they think they are losing out if they lower the price. I want my sellers to see those posts. It helps validate the credibility.
Having customers read many of the posts from across the country that rise to the top aids all of us as agents, brokers and our industry with credibility, image and professionalism.
So, for the purpose of referral....local is King. But, I would not want consumers to log on to one state and then never find their way to the national boards, and miss the value there.