I've read a number of posts here, and there seems to be a bit of confusion about the merit system on the Bitcoin Talk forum. The sytem was introduced in an attempt to reduce the flood of posts that were being made by members promoting bounty, air drops and other crypto programmes. They were doing this by displaying signatures, and making posts that were often off-topic, indecipherable or copied from other threads or sites. The merit system has been a success in reducing the number of these posts. It is not true that it disadvantages new members, and I have awarded merit to some new members for their very first posts. Something had to be done as Bitcoin Talk now has over 2 million member registrations.
Here is a brief description of its operation, and you need to consider 3 things. These are post count, activity and merit. Post count is a simple count of the number of posts that a member makes on most of the boards. Activity is a limiter to prevent a prolific poster from gaining an advantage. It is calculated in 14 day periods, and is restricted to a maximum of 14 for any period. One activity point is equivalent to one post. Merit is an award given to members for making posts of above average quality. It is awarded by merit sources, or other members with SMerit ( spendable merit ) to award. A member receives one sMerit for every two merits that he is awarded, and he is free to award his sMerit as he sees fit. In this way, it is the community that decides on the bulk of the awards. Merit sources are there to maintain the flow of merits from a monthly allotment they receive. Without this, the merit flow would decrease as a result of the half life of the awardable merits. Every 2 merits from a merit source creates a new sMerit for a community member to award. Once a merit is awarded, it stays with that member for the duration of his membership. It is only his sMerits that he can award, and there is no advantage in him keeping these and not awarding them.
Merits are important for the ranking up of members, and higher ranks can receive larger payments for renting their signatures. Because of this, merits are a hot topic, and many members are pursuing them. To understand how merits impact ranking, it is best to equate it to a real life journey. Activity increases take you along the road to the higher ranks. At various points along this road, you will encounter a gatekeeper at the entrance to the next rank. He will ask to see your merit wallet, and if it doesn't contain enough merits, then he will not open the gate for you. You then have to contine to make quality posts to boost your merit count for consideration at the next evaluation point ( 14 days later ). If you are incapable of providing the forum with quality posts, then you will not be able to pass through the gate to the next rank.
I hope this explanation will help to clear up some of the misconceptions, and please do not hesitate to ask any questions if I have not been clear in my explanation.