Gamifying Online Communities


(Jess Burnham) #1

Hey folks!

I’m wondering if anyone here has much experiencing in gamifying online communities to increase engagement. We operate on Discourse, and it lets admins create unique badges for community members. I’m entertaining the idea of rewarding community members with a specific badge after a certain number of posts, and sending them a t-shirt or some stickers.

Has anyone else tried this and seen much success?

Thanks in advance!

(Travis King) #2

Yes, we have a whole badge system that users really enjoy. Most of our badges are tied in with achievements on our sites, but we’re planning on trying to work some of Discourse’s badges in as well.

I know there’s plenty of debate on using reward systems to drive users, but ultimately I’m a fan of awarding badges. It really allows the users to strut their stuff :smiley:

(Nick Emmett) #3

My thoughts here are that it’s definitely a good thing. I was chatting with a member yesterday who reminded of when he first joined and started to add value - we’re on Salesforce and use their inbuilt Reputation system and members move through various levels as they add more value and build their reputation for adding value. He told me that it was a great driver to him as he was trying to always get to the next level so constantly looking for posts where he could add value etc.

We also publish the leaderboard (a manual process at the time but much better now within Salesforce’s templates) and trying to move himself up through that leaderboard was a great motivator to participate.

I guess the thing is gamification can work.
Things to consider though is that if people aren’t that way inclined, i.e. not motivated by badges etc then it’s probably not a going to be succesful - however there is always someone who will try and push and then, through social acknowledgment others will see them doing it and want to be involved and recognised.

I’m waiting on my platform to have better badging, in fact any badging, that can be flexible - I’d like to be able to give badges for certain things, behaviour and value add. Also for things like attending our customer events or being a member of a User Group - it all adds to a member’s social worth and perceived value within the community.

(Ingrid Peters) #4

I am also looking into our badges in Discourse at the moment. My first impression of the default badges is that there are to many. I also want to reward a member for a contribution to the community, but I am not sure about the interval of giving someone a badge. If you get a badge for say 5 posts, when do you get a second one, 15-30-50-…? And is it even necessary to still give these kind of badges for regular contributors?

A few of our ambassadors are resellers that have great knowledge of our software system (ours is a support community). I’d rather manually grant them a badge clarifying their knowledge and status. Unfortunately Discourse doesn’t display the badges under the user profile. Do you think it is important to show a member status? Does it make an answer to a question more valuable in your eyes if it comes from someone with a ‘status’ badge? And do you think motivation for a status badge will be bigger then for a contribution badge?

(Jess Burnham) #5

Hey Ingrid!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t you adjust the settings so that badges are displayed on user profiles, as shown in this screenshot? :point_down:

I think that’ll be a case-by-case basis, the quality of the content will probably have more impact than a badge on their profile. The badge reward system that I’m slowly introducing is just going to be self-serving for the user to begin with. If enough users find value in it, I’ll likely explore more options that may actually add “legitimacy” to users’ posts. For now, this is just motivation for engagement in the community.

(Jess Burnham) #6

Hi Nick!

We have a group of ‘Experts’ from our Community, and the majority of them became Experts because we were using GetSatisfaction which had a point system, for each post, you’d get more points. The reward for reaching a certain score would be to join the Expert Program, it was hugely motivating for our users.

I love this idea, but Discourse doesn’t have anything like this that I know of. Unless anyone here can enlighten me?! I’ll be looking into Discourse Meta as well to see if I can find any answers.

We’ll probably know very soon whether or not this idea sticks with our users, if we don’t see a pick-up in the first 2 months or so I’ll likely re-evaluate.[quote=“Nick_Emmett, post:3, topic:5891”]
I’m waiting on my platform to have better badging, in fact any badging,

Do you have any intel into their roadmap for this?

(Ingrid Peters) #7

Hi Jess,

I am not able to change these settings except for the ‘enable’ option and the ‘allow as title’ option. The other options are read only. Have you seen this before? But even I could change these settings, I don’t think this will bring me what I was looking for. I was hoping to see the badges underneath the profile picture, but I noticed I have to click on the picture to see the badges.

I agree with you on that one. However we are starting a new community and our resellers already have a lot of knowledge about our product and the general subject. I would like to share this with the community by giving them a ‘partner’ badge or ‘expert’ badge. This badge is based on their experience rather then content. That’s why I was wondering if it is important to show a member status such as partner or expert. We also will be creating content related badges.

(Sarah Hawk) #8

It depends on the badge. There are some system generated badges for which the options are limited. If you create your own ones you’ll have all the options.

Do you mean under your avatar here?

You could do that if you were self-hosted, but I’d be careful because you might lose the customisation if you upgrade in the future.

(Ingrid Peters) #9

Yes that’s what I meant. Thanks for the advice. Will discuss this internally.

(Jess Burnham) #10

We have an Experts program in our Community, it’s been a huge success with us to have constant engagement in our Community across all timezones. It’s also extremely rewarding for our power users to be able to help other customers find success. I’d highly, highly recommend this idea. How many do you think you’d be wanting to recruit to your ‘partner’ or ‘expert’ badge? Would it be a small, coveted group, or unlimited?

(Ingrid Peters) #11

Thanks for your answer Jess and I’m sorry for the late reply. The expert group will be just a small group. The partner group I expect to be a little larger. We have a long list of partners, but not every partner has the same status. How did you decide on the various expert status?

(Mark Williams) #12

I’m a bit late to this conversation. Extrinsic rewards like badges and schwag are excellent motivators for those that want that. But keep in mind why you want to reward them and what specific behaviors you want to encourage. Number of posts can be a terrible measure of value (both for the community and for individual community members) - trust one who’s been bit by this.

I’d also recommend Randall Farmer and Bryce Glass’ book “Building Web Reputation Systems.” It occasionally gets technical, but the examples of what not to do are eye opening.

(Sarah Hawk) #13

What happened?

(Jen Blanford) #14

We used to have “karma levels” based off of various things, including number of posts. We also used to publish a leaderboard. It has been years since we have done this, but I know it was motivating for some of our members. We are considering going back to something like this. I am all in favor of it, even more so after reading through this thread.

(Mark Williams) #15

I designed my first reputation system before they were a thing and made a simple up/down vote with unlimited votes and a direct feedback loop. It ended up a bit lord of the flies and we had to redesign.

Here’s a recipe for a decent reputation system:

  1. Equal parts economics and knowing your goals
  2. Heaping spoonfuls of UX and UI
  3. A dollop of social psychology (anthropology can be used in a pinch)
  4. A soupçon of intuition.

Mix together in a bowl and then put in a dish lined with a solid reporting infrastructure. If possible, test for bad reactions before serving.

(Travis King) #16

Ahh crap…I added baking soda instead of baking powder.

My reputation system is ruined!

(chiprodgers) #17

Sorry I’m late to this discussion as well. But I’m a huge believer in gamification in communities. Here are a few thoughts from my experience:

  • When we introduced gamification, we saw a 400% increase in engagement. And saw universally positive responses in the community and on social media.
  • I’ve used both Bunchball in a Jive community as well as Lithium’s native gamification platform.
  • We spent a lot of time up front building what we thought would be a workable “points economy”. How do you earn points, what are the recognition levels and how many points do you need to earn to reach each level, what challenges and badges do we create to encourage people to do what we want them to do, what do we want the challenge badges to look like that reflects the brand and doesn’t look to goofy, etc. The time was well spent. We had some adjustments after launch, but it was REALLY important to have thought through all that ahead of time.
  • Our philosophy was always that “you don’t get points for doing something… you get points for how the community reacts to what you do”. So for example, we would give just 10 points for writing a blog. But you’d get 2 points for every like and 5 points for a 5-point rating. So for example, a blog that gets 100 likes and 30 5-star ratings from the community would have earned 350 points.
  • In the early days of the community, we thought we’d need to give physical things like T-shirts to encourage people to contribute. But it became unmanageable, so we had to eliminate it. We thought we’d see a drop in participation, but actually saw no drop. People wanted to contribute because they were growing their reputation, not because of extrinsic rewards.
  • We had 450 topic areas – each area had its own leaderboard, so people could become “stars” in their topic of expertise even if they weren’t a major star in the entire community.
  • Gamification became so popular, and the Bunchball gamification console was so easy and flexible, I had the team set up an internal “gamification service center” where we approached our product managers and introduced specialized challenges focused on specific products ahead of product launches. “Create a video, write a blog, and answer 3 questions and you get the XYZ superstar badge”. We had fantastic responses from the community with tons of great, authentic, original community-generated content that the product teams used in their next launches. Community-generated content from customers and partners like this is much more believable than just another press release from the brand.

I went a little longer than I expected… I think this may be the beginnings of a blog post… :slight_smile:

Let me know your thoughts!


(Sarah Hawk) #18

I love this. I think this is where the power is. It’s not about just doing things, it’s about doing thoughtful things.

(Mark Williams) #19

I just got an email today from Vanilla - they have an ebook on gamification that’s free if you give up your contact info. I haven’t read it yet, but I thought I’d pass it along:

(Mark Williams) #20

Another followup. First Monday posted a study of Stack Exchange’s badging which does show a correlational effect on user behavior. It’s not A/B but natural, observational data. I warn you, while interesting, it’s dry: