1. "achieve a consistent look and feel". They already have a consistent look and feel.
2. Replacing descriptive *word* links with ~icons~ is a bad idea. Even if a word "tip" appears with mousing over the icon, that is an extra and useless step (looking for the pertinent icon). Keep the text links. There really is such thing as too much bling. These message boards should be kept as simple as possible to use.
Oliver Hardy (to Stan Laurel): "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."
I assume there are two reasons for the changes:
--accommodate hand-held devices (will eliminating text links actually help navigation and operation of boards?);
--accommodate more and blocker-resistent ads. Pretty soon the board messages will be a teensy oblong in a sea of detritus, requiring scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and . . . .