In it's current form, it can be difficult to articulate how Hubski differentiates itself from reddit more than something like "well, it feels more like a community and we shy away from memes and low effort content". Now, I don't think Hubski should change just for the sake of being further differentiated from reddit. But - for better or worse - the format is largely the same, and I think Hubski ought to take the strong points of the reddit format and implement strong points of ye olde-style forums like http://forums.xkcd.com and many others, where the environment was a lot more conducive to forming a community-esque feeling. I'm sure there are lots of possible ideas, but here are the four I think would have the biggest impact:
1. Implement a reputation system. Higher reputation = votes count for more. Have the rep be some sort of function of followers and badges received. Have it on a scale from 1-5 or something so that those with a high reputation don't completely override others. This would dissuade people from creating additional accounts for voting purposes (obviously isn't an issue now, but could quickly become one since the site is growing quickly). It would also be less likely for rehashed content to get voted up a ton. And I have a feeling that most of the people currently here who would have a high rep will be generally more apt to share higher quality content than new users, and this might increasingly be the case as time goes on.
2. Let users set a profile image. And have it so hovering over a user's name for a second or two makes the image crop up. (This was discussed a bit a few days back in the Unfollow Guilt thread.) Would be really great for fostering more personal connections and recognizing users. Also, if clicking on a user's name led first to a popup similar to the markup popup, rather than directly to that user's profile page, I'd be a lot more likely to click their name to learn about them, since I wouldn't have to leave the comment page.
3. Have all posts be "self-posts". I'd be interested in hearing what others think about this. I think it would be more conducive to getting good discussion going. It's really a strong point of older forums that new posts are created not around individual links, but individual topics. It can also typically be seen on Hubski that self-posts have more activity than non-text posts. (I'm using the reddit definition of the term "self-posts": posts that don't go directly to a link, but to the comment section.) If someone wants to specifically share one link, they can have their post specifically just be their link in the textarea. This would also encourage this hypothetical user to give a bit of background or introduction or snippet from the link.
4. New user limits. The other day, mk made it so that users that haven't completed a hubwheel can only send a single PM every 10 minutes, which I think is great. Similarly, I think it'd be great if new users couldn't submit a new post until they've commented 10 (or 25 or some other amount) of times. This would go a long way toward preventing spam posts or product promotion from users who are here only to promote their own product (or their company's product, or whatever), and not actually participate. I think HN might have a feature along these lines.
I think Hubski's in a very unique place to be able to try to capture the spirit of older forums more conducive (I need to find a different word) to community and discussion, but in a better format like that of reddit and HN. These are obviously all just ideas, and I'd love to hear what others have to say about this subject.