- Avatars would be nice in comments to make identification of people easier (well slightly quicker than looking at names), but I will say I do like the compactness of the site/comments as they are at the moment... so if you add avatars can you keep from making the page twice as wide and each comment block twice as high?
- If you were talking of avatars just for the forums then absolutely, that would be good along with the standard stuff you mentioned like some form of reputation/time here/quality score or status type thing.
- A report Spam button in the forum would be good too.
- The thumbs up/down thing coupled with hiding/collapsing comments with a score of < -3 (or whatever) would also be pretty good.
- Have you considered doing something along the lines of making a forum for comments, as in each news story has a new thread in the dedicated forum and the comments are shown both under the story and within that forum. That would mean interesting discussions on comments wouldn't die/be lost so easily when new stories are posted - I know the 10 most recent comments attempts to do this but having a forum where the each thread was a stories comment section and are arranged by latest post would keep the comments more active.
(I hope this makes sense as it does in my head but I have a feeling it might have lost some clarity during typing... :) )
- Smilies in the Forum (as they are in the comments)