Many of you agreed that the system should automatically report players that are AFK, rather than relying on those of us who are fighting and defending to point them out. There also seemed to be an agreement that AFK'd players should not be allowed to remain so; after a certain period of time, they should indeed be booted from the battleground.
In order to avoid harsh penalties in a legitimate and unavoidable AFK situation, jr suggests that whatever punishment is implemented, it should not be so for manually /AFK'ing oneself, or when the player is disconnected. Our own Matthew Rossi does point out; however much we might like to impose a more aggressive system of punishment, players will find a way to exploit and abuse it. Malachi145 also pointed out that, no matter what, AFK'd players should not be gaining credit for the daily battleground quests.
Several players even outlined complete systems that could be implemented in a future patch to further reduce the problem that AFK'd players in battlegrounds pose for their teammates.
A system of thresholds
Sloane suggested that Blizzard could set some minimum thresholds for healing, damage, node capture, and node defense. If a player does not meet at least one of these after a certain amount of time, then even if they are not AFK, they are hindering their teammates, and action should be taken.
I think this would have to be worked out on the PTRs to see if it would be effective enough to balance out any loopholes wherein players might be legitimately helping and yet not meeting a threshold. Perhaps there could also be a threshold for deaths. If you are rushing to a contested, and therefore important, area and being attacked and killed, resurrecting, running back out, etc then at the very least you are trying, and providing a distraction or slowing the other team down. In addition, I think there would have to be some improved methods of measuring node capture and defense, as you might help to do this and yet not be the one to click the flag.
Along this line, Buckaroo had an interesting idea. Players standing within ten yards of a contested node would be exempt from potential AFK status for the four minute duration. Once the node has been capped, the players are again subject to AFK flagging. I feel that this would need revision to allow defense of nodes that can be recaptured, such as the towers of Eye of the Storm, but a similar method of system recognition using proximity could be used to determine who is defending, and protect them. As it is, it is difficult to obtain a much-needed defensive team in many matches.
Scaling deserter debuff
Several comments were made that specified ways in which the deserter debuff, which currently prevents any player who /AFKs out of a battleground from entering any other for a duration of fifteen minutes, could be improved. Specifically, that it should scale with repeat offenses. Buckaroo suggests a 30 minute debuff on first offense, with all subsequent removals resulting in a one hour debuff. He also felt that it should reset each day. Sky_Paladin opted in on the lenient end of the spectrum, positing a punishment scale of 0mins/5mins/15mins etc. Fearmonger proposed a "three strikes" scale, landing you with a 24 hour deserter debuff should you be reported and booted as AFK in three separate matches.
Suspected bot reporting
In addition to being able to report someone as AFK, anonymoose suggested that players should be able to report another player as a suspected bot. Once reported, the player would have a short time window in which to drastically change their behavior in some way, either by moving to a new locale or objective or speaking in battleground chat. Upon removal of the suspected bot debuff, the AFK debuff would automatically be applied, ensuring that the player would have to enter combat within the appropriate time frame, and potentially face being booted from the battleground entirely. A failure to remove the bot debuff would result in some punishment, and generate a report to Blizzard.
I definitely like the idea of being able to report someone as a suspected bot. In fact, I'd like to see it outside of battlegrounds as well. I doubt that anything would ever come of such reports, but it would make me feel better. Although, an accumulation of reports over time might well lead to action on Blizz's part.
I also like Mordrod's idea of a challenge/response mechanism being applied to a suspected bot report. Once you gain the debuff, a typical "re-type these oddly written characters into this box" prompt would appear, forcing your character to prove that it has a human manipulating it. Of course, I get those wrong at least half the time, so I'd definitely like to see a three strikes system, with unique prompts each time.
Tristan puts forth the notion that once having been debuffed as AFK in a given match, a player that rids him or herself of the buff by entering combat would subsequently be automatically re-flagged after every X amount of minutes of similar inactivity. I think this would be a great way to keep the lazy players hopping, and it might force members playing defense to choose their nodes more strategically.
While one still might fall AFK from seeing no action at, for example, a base in Arathi Basin, and end up re-flagged for the same reason, in the amount of time this would take, the team might have benefited more from potentially losing the base and having to retake it, while having an extra pair of hands elsewhere.
The heavy hand
There were several players who felt that more extreme solutions, such as extended bans from battlegrounds, would be most favorable. Guernia suggests that should a player complete three games with an inactive debuff (or, one would think, be booted from three should that be implemented), the player should receive a deserter debuff that bans them from battlegrounds, persists through death, lasts for 24 hours of /played time, and also prevents honor gain through any means.
RogueJedi86 mentioned that, should one end a match with the AFK debuff, the resulting deserter debuff should last a day or two, although the results could be reversed by petitioning a GM and having him or her examine your record. Because I still feel that people can legitimately fall AFK, I would rather see a threshold before even considering supporting such a ban, myself.
Of all of the ideas put forth, I have to say that Ahoni's was the most strict, claiming that if on any two days in a seven day period, you have been booted for being AFK more than three times, you would receive a seven-day ban from battlegrounds. Your third seven-day ban would award you with a permanent exile. While part of me thinks "oh-em-gee a perma-ban?", the other half is struggling to see how anyone could receive this and still be innocent.
Most creative (and wicked) solution
Anonymoose's vision for the fate of the AFKer who failed to remove the debuff and was then booted, ranks as the most interesting, creative, and downright devious. Once booted, instead of spawning at the battlemasters in a major city, the offenders would find themselves in a hive in Silithus, with their hearths auto-banked, and no honor doled out.
The one-hour deserter debuff will be applied once any major city containing battlemasters is reached. Each repeat offense will see the debuff time doubled, and this would never reset.
Which solutions do you agree with? Or do you have complex theories of your own?