“They don’t tell you how to lay out a page or where to put an interactive widget. Instead, they address how to design a reputation system for your social software.”
Why is this important? The patterns are a wonderful resource for any news organisation looking to plan a community element in which reputation performs a role. In my experience, reputation systems are pretty important in encouraging users to keep coming back to your online community – you could argue, for instance, that the number of friends in Facebook or followers in Twitter is one simple example. Plurk more explicitly uses ‘karma’, as does (in a much better way) Slashdot (for more on Slashdot and karma systems I thoroughly recommend Gatewatching by Axel Bruns).
Yahoo say these are “the first of several collections of social-design related patterns that we’re working on,” so worth keeping an eye on what comes next.