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If you would like to introduce those values via settings.py, then use the convention of the overrides by the livesettings app. Those settings are not the same as uppercased local variables inside the settings.py file.

LIVESETTINGS_OPTIONS = {
    1: {
        'DB': True,
        'SETTINGS': {
            'KARMA_AND_BADGE_VISIBILITY': {
                'KARMA_MODE': 'private',
                'BADGES_MODE': 'hidden'
            },
         }
    }
}

Where number 1 is site id. Key 'KARMA_AND_BADGE_VISIBILITY' is a section of livesettings - you can see that in the various askbot/conf/*.py files.

In general, I would say this is for the users who do not mind to get their hands on the code. Otherwise it is possible to change them via the /settings/ url.

We might in the future move away from the livesettings app as it has some limitations, and in that case the custom settings specified via the overrides will need to be migrated to the new, hopefully simpler format.