One of the "cool things" for online communities is badges. It's a way for technology to motivate people psychologically.

  • LinkedIn has badges. They function differently that some others (they are less-often "earned" and more often just like joining a group) but they are similar in the accumulation and identification psychological goals.
  • The XBox Live (XBox 360) system gives out badges for finishing different parts of games. (They are called "achievements," but it's the same kind of thing.)
  • I am involved in the beta version of a developer question site: which has made a big deal about the badges.
  • uses badges to encourage participation

Lots of sites that allow for community / feedback allow for multiple "levels" of activity. But this is different: it's more fine-tuned.

It's good for building community. It has a fun element. And it just plain works.

  1. Badges are, by definition, desirable
    It shows accomplishment
  2. They build community
    they show when you joined and what you do
  3. They are fun
    There is a collection effect here. It's fun to collect them.

If you have never been involved in an online community with badges you may not "get it." I'm surprised at how well it works as a motivating tool. I didn't expect to, but have found it addictive: you get a badge or two and want to get more. You look around at what badges you could achieve and what it would take.

And then, of course, you start a fire without a lighter or learning 15 different kinds of knots. This is the whole point of the badges: it encourages user activity & involvement.

We don't need no stinkin' badges

Badges are just one form of increasing involvement. Any game, fun, or badge system stimulates user involvement. Don't believe me, how about a 4x increase in involvement? From The Economist article linked below:

Before it releases a new version of its Windows operating system, it asks staff to help debug the software by installing and running the system. In the past, project managers had to spend a great deal of time and effort persuading busy Microsoftees to help them with this boring task. So for Windows Vista, the system's latest incarnation, Microsoft created a game that awarded points for bug-testing and prizes such as wristbands for achieving certain goals. Participation quadrupled.

That's impressive but it's not rocket science. If something is fun (in addition to being useful) then it gets done more. Anyone involved in learning or motivation should know this and be using it to their advantage. It's Psychology 101 really.

And yet, many badge & other game opportunities are overlooked:

  • Wikipedia could have badges, but they don't.
  • YouTube could
  • Corporate meetings could, but often don't ( Carlton Draught's Boardroom Bingo is fun, but may not help with the corporate goals)
  • Corporate training should -whether eLearning or in-person (though this gets dicey as the line between "fun" and "lame" is different for different people)


Tuesday, September 09, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: badgesandgroups, elearning, microsoft, motivation, onlinecommunities, psychology, socialweb, wikipedia, youtube