Happy New Year! Now that 2015 has come to a close, we've been thinking about the past couple of years and looking at ways to improve things. We haven't had the best track record when it comes to rapid adaptation, but we'd like to see if we can improve that right off the bat for 2016. Before we get into the new year's changes, though, let's recap a few of the things we saw in 2015: Not so good in 2015: Steam Changes. Last year was a challenging year for the Steam trade community, with more scamming each day, Valve's trade policy changing, Community Market and gifting changing for lots of games, and lots of other challenges. Fraud and confusion probably grew overall versus previous years. Policy Frustrations. Many frustrated community members raised SteamRep concerns via social media and forums. While some are the expected people with personal interest in attacking SteamRep (which will always be an issue for an anti-fraud site), there are others who had genuine/valid concerns that we really should be revisiting. Large Backlogs. SteamRep backlogs for appeals and applications continued to grow last year at a rate faster than we were able to process them. In addition, while we'll never be able to handle every report that comes in, we didn't handle reports as quickly as we'd like either. Education Progress. While more resources and guides were created, we didn't make real progress on our certification programs or formalizing our fraud education. Site Changes. We were hopeful that we could make more site, forum, and API improvements in 2015, but we weren't able to make many of the changes we wanted. Good in 2015: SteamRep's Popularity Grew. The number of visits to SteamRep grew by 20% in 2015. With ~9 million sessions and the nonstop flurry of API calls, it's clear that SteamRep's popularity is going strong. Increased Appeal Velocity. Substantial appeal progress has been made in the last half of this year. There's a lot more to do here, but the appeal backlog is one of the most important things we have to tackle. Amazing Donation Support. Since we reopened donations, the community has exceeded our funding goals every month. In 2015, our nonprofit organization has received $10,864.94 in donations. This allows us to afford server fees and other business expenses while enabling our upcoming certification and awareness initiatives. SteamRep Uptime Improved. In 2014 we had ~170 outages (99.49% uptime, or 48+ hours of downtime). In 2015, we increased performance and traffic, but still reduced outages to ~50 outages (99.81% uptime, or 17 hours down) and much of that downtime was outside of our control. Improvements are mostly due to moving to better hardware, thanks to our awesome and generous supporters. New Staff Added. While there's more we can do, we substantially grew our staff in 2015 with eleven promotions and/or additions. Four new admins (Eoj Charlie, Lava, Penguin the Fluffy, Sjru) and seven new moderators (Chride, Cyborg, Gentleman, Horse, Monkey, TFD_Industries, Toughsox). Please join me in thanking them for their volunteer work. Unconfirmed Reports in API. In response to many requests, we made adjustments to our API to reveal the number of unconfirmed reports that are pending against a profile. On to 2016, though! New for 2016 After reviewing the evolution of Steam trading over the past 24 months, getting feedback from the community and discussing with our partners, we're announcing some policy changes for this year that will move us closer towards our goals of preventing online fraud through awareness and education. Many changes are planned, but there are four we will discuss today. Trades with Scammer Policy, End of Life As probably the biggest change, we plan to remove the policy that can escalate to a ban or caution in "Trades with Scammer" situations. This will apply to existing bans and also to partner bans and cautions. A full explanation and discussion can be found in this thread (please discuss there): http://forums.steamrep.com/threads/policy-change-trades-with-scammer-policy-end-of-life.119528/ Pre-Trade Checklist / Scam Report Priorities To continue to move the trading community forward, we are going to change our scam report policies such that we will give priority to reports that, at a minimum, demonstrate the victim at least used a simple pre-trade checklist before trading. A full explanation and discussion can be found in this thread (please discuss there): http://forums.steamrep.com/threads/...ize-reports-using-pre-trade-checklist.119539/ Defunct Community Appeal Process / "Legacy Ban" Over the years, some partner communities have closed their sites-- this causes difficulties handling their bans. With those sites gone, often the evidence for the ban or caution will be missing. As SteamRep requires evidence for all bans, we can't support those bans normally so appeals are very problematic. Starting in 2016, we will be changing this process. Defunct communities without surviving evidence will have their community's CAUTION tags removed. In addition, accounts that are banned by that community will be able to use an automated appeal system to (after a wait/review period) downgrade their ban to a warning-like "LEGACY BAN" status. These legacy bans will not be reflected automatically as a true ban via our API, and it will be up to communities to decide how they wish to handle legacy bans. We will be handling parts of this process manually while we get the automated system in place. If you have questions on this, please ask them below. Safe Trading Best Practices / Certification As a New Years resolution, we're going to be focusing more on our certification goals for 2016. Our plan right now is to create our first certification tests based on a set of core Steam trading best practices. Certifications will display on your SteamRep profile and will be a good way to demonstrate you understand the core concepts. We highly recommend you get familiar with (and provide feedback for) the current best practices draft. ------- These are the four changes we're ready to announce now. As in previous years, expect more changes, more staff, and more progress in other areas, too. Stay tuned. Tell us what you think! We will continue to listen to feedback and make changes as needed. If we get the impression any of the new initiatives aren't working, then we'll definitely adjust. Constructive feedback is a great help. Questions are also great, because it shows where we didn't clarify things well enough. We need volunteers! If you're trustworthy and have a solid knowledge of fraud avoidance in Steam, please consider applying to join our volunteer staff. If you have special skills that would be especially useful (e.g. development, UI design, additional languages, etc), then please mention that in your application. Scammers, of course, need not apply.