After raising $50 millionlosing one of its cofounders and introducing trending topics, Quora is back with more news; recognizing nearly 500 of its most valuable users with a new “Top Writers” badge.

Unlike recent updates that push for greater engagement amongst the larger Quora audience, it looks like this move was largely made to recognize power users and show appreciation. As a side effect, however, Quora’s new badge could also end up driving highly engaged users to answer even more questions in hopes of eventually being recognized.

Quora tells TNW that its Top Writers “are a group of remarkable people with a talent for communicating with expertise, knowledge, authenticity, and empathy.” While some of these honored users are experts and/or professional writers, Quora says that many are simply dedicated to the community. For example, the median Top Writer has posted more than 350 answers, and favors the following topics: Movies, Food, Startups, Psychology, and U.S. Politics.

Screen Shot 2012 10 29 at 11.42.06 AM 520x150 Quora recognizes its 492 most valuable users with the Top Writers badge

In addition to the badge (shown top-left in the screenshot above), users on the 2012 Top Writers list will also receive a fancy t-shirt plus “some other surprises in the coming months.” Perhaps they’ll receive early access to new features?

In case you’re curious, here’s what was considered during the judging process:

1. Recent contributions: high-quality answers written, over the last year
2. Overall contributions: high-quality answers written, regardless of date
3. Topic expertise: high-quality answers written in one or more unique topics

If you didn’t make the cut, don’t fret; additional user recommendations for the 2012 list will be considered, and an entirely new list will be created every year. See the full list via the link below.

➤ Quora Top Writers 2012