There are three main activities in Villages:
Endorse users you trust to build the trust network. When you endorse someone, it indicates that you trust them to provide value to the community.
You choose a number of hearts to endorse them with. Each heart allows them and people they trust to send you one hour's worth of acknowledgement (more on this below). You can also leave a recommendation message for other users to see.
Starting out, you have a limited hearts to give out. This helps keep the value of your interactions with the system lower at first so it's not too big a deal if you screw up. You have five hearts to give for every person that endorses you.
Use the Villages feed to find people and posts that interest you. Put your skills and interests in your profile so others can find you. Post items and services you want or have to offer. Meet up to help each other out.
Villages helps you find people who have been endorsed by those you trust, so you can feel secure in knowing you are dealing with good people. Each user is given a reputation score that helps you know how trustworthy they are based on how well they are connected to you in the network. The more ways you are connected, and the more hearts that have been given out as endorsements along those paths, the higher the reputation score.
When someone has helped you out, acknowledge that help on Villages. Villages acknowledgements are a currency denominated in hours, consisting of gentle promises made to the person who helped you out to return the favour at some point in the future. When you have received acknowledgements, you can spend them to acknowledge others without having to issue any promises of your own.
If there is a connection through the trust network from you to the person you're acknowledging, Villages can transmit the acknowledgement through the network using Ripple, so that the person who helped you receives your acknowledgement as promises from someone they have endorsed, and your promises go to someone who has endorsed you.
Sometimes you will be on a path connecting another person to someone they're acknowledging. For example, your friend Anne, who you have endorsed, might want to acknowledge Bob, who has endorsed you, but does not know Anne. In this case, the system will find the path from Anne to you to Bob, and record the acknowledgement as Anne acknoledging you, and you acknowledging Bob.
Anne's acknowledgement might not have meant that much to Bob, since he doesn't know her. Anne's acknowledgement has meaning to you, however, since you have endorsed her, and your acknowledgement has meaning to Bob, since you have endorsed him.
(If anyone want to make a nice picture here, please let me know.)
Acknowledgements are meant to represent that you have received a gift, and would one day like to return the favour. They are not a debt to be collected, or an obligation that creates stress or worry. They are more like a reminder to yourself of something you would like to do, and a way for the friendly exchange of gifts within a social circle to extend beyond to encompass the entire community.
In Villages, one hour of acknowledgement is meant to represent one hour of basic, unskilled labour, approximately equal in value to minimum wage. Those offering skills to the community that have taken years of work to develop can and should be acknowledged with multiple acknowledgement-hours for each hour of their time given, according to the value of what they have given in that time.
If you need a dollar value for hours, $10 is a good guideline.