I hesitated to answer this, because I’m not disinterested. But…
… *shrug* Nick shall be Nick. That’s more important. To me, anyway.
Scarcity + lack of transparency is a recipe for disgruntlement in any system of awards. The scarcity is inevitable, even desirable. But though I see some arguments for lack of transparency, I see many more against. Same as with the refusal to publish a list of TWs officially; given that the unofficial lists aren’t being suppressed, I just don’t understand why (and the arguments offered in the related question don’t convince me).
Objective and visible criteria (or at least thresholds) would mitigate any disgruntlement about awards. Maybe not remove it, but mitigate it. They don’t have to be based on popularity; but if a user doesn’t visibly score on expertise, popularity, breadth, extensive answers, or community engagement, then people are left scratching their heads. And any resulting disgruntlement is least fair on those awardees: their award shouldn’t be allowed to be tarnished.
It would be nice if we had an indication of TWs needing to meet one or more publicly visible thresholds, including follower count, Most Viewed Writer count, answer count, edit count, reports count, external expertise, view count, upvote count. It would be nice if we had an explicit note that this award goes to this person, because they have been a good contributor, and you can all see how. It’s not like that information isn’t public (apart from the reports count).
Celebrities like Tim Kaine should not get TW for being celebrities (and boy, does that pick look bad in retrospect). TW should be about community participation, not about “ooh, we got a celebrity to join a one-off Session!” It undermines the perception of a level playing field; it looks vanity press.
Quora Staff getting TW… well, that’s been discussed already. I understand the dogfooding argument, and I also agree that it comes across as vanity press (the presumption of community participation does not necessarily apply to Quora Staff). The underlying assumption by users is that TW rewards only community participation, and that assumption is not an irrational one.
I agree that Quora should have some discretion about awards, and I can be persuaded that some awards should be used to motivate engagement rather than to award past performance. It’s a tough gig, and I don’t envy it.
But it generates a lot of unnecessary angst, as I described in My TW day by Nick Nicholas on Opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr In Exile. I’ve talked with several upset users since, and I’d like for there to be less of that angst.