Unconference Session 1: Badges and Participation

Outcomes of the discussion about increasing adoption:

1.       Leverage the crazy

2.       Connect back to theory – it’s out there

3.       Highlight activities, not individuals

4.       Feed and water all the users



Issues of participation have been researched before

More participation can be achieved by requiring people to “be there” on Gameful

·         The 1% rule is a reflection of the way we are

·         Fill in a profile, mandatory friending of 5 people, mandatory forum post, avatar (which evolves visually)

o   Engage with social system mechanics as a prerequisite to being able to “do” anything

o   Use Play to get people to engage with the system

·         Random friending: degenerate, effective, or both?

·         Does this kind of entryway gating result in a net increase or decrease in Participation?

Drawing on online dating sites to continue engagement

·         OKCupid


·         Reddit Gold – RL money -> transferrable privileges via social interaction (giving, recognizing)


Which is more valuable?

·         Fewer with full completion, or more with some participation?

·         Do both in phases?

o   Build a core

o   Lower the barriers to participation

High quality users give a way to demonstrate and prove the way your system should work

What should someone’s experience with your system look like after a year?

·         DOR: Ecosystem of badge issuers, earners, acceptors. Want a user base for employers to find skilled people out of, but chicken-egg problem getting people to earn them. Increase visibility of “if you earn it, jobs will come” arrangements. Leverage institutional endorsement of badges to imply and articulate value.

·         “Recruit” strategy: Rather than establishing the use first, what about establishing visibility of the badges? Take sites with already large populations, use them as feeder conduits to badged experiences. Create a badged MOOC that leads to more badging opportunities. Possibility to retroactively award badges as a draw as well.

Can you get the 90% or the 9% to cycle into the 1%?

·         In schools, a similar phenomenon: 90% follow directions, 9% explore, 1% completionist

·         Can badges facilitate this migration?

·         Students championing other students as high earners?

Alternate Reality Games:

·         90% observers who want to see an ARG

·         9% semi-involved who want to solve puzzles but can’t commit enough time

·         1% crazy people

The Pyramid

·         A sustainable model needs to leverage this natural structure and promote mobility and migration

o   LEVERAGE THE CRAZY: Create problems that require the 1% to engage the 9% and the 90% to successfully complete

o   The 9% want a little more guidance than the 1%, the 1% could provide it

o   Batman marketing: 1 pixel change per phone

·         Deconstructing the elements that define the levels may provide insight into better-gradiated ways to move someone up the scale

·         Is there already a pedagogical model that tracks with this line of reasoning?


·         Top 10 students “grinding” but not gaining

·         Doing the thing should promote meaningful gain for the 1% individual doing the task

·         How do users actually respond to this type of setup?

·         Have a dialog between designers and researchers on these issues, it’s not quite that simple ;)



·         The current breakdown reflects a real structure

·         We may be able to leverage the structure itself to migrate people up it

·         There is already a lot of theory that connects to, supports, and should guide this


Pivot to Badges specifically

·         Collaborative badges: All undergraduates at RIT earned the badge if X% of freshmen passed. Juniors and Seniors got engaged to help the incoming freshmen.

o   A bit dangerous

o   What about loss-aversion strategies

o   What kind of motivation is this?

§  Expiring Badges: What does it say that someone wants to renew a CPR certification in order to not lose it?

·         Maybe not the right question?

·         The purpose matters: is it learning?

·         A hybrid strategy: This badge requires a continuing investment. But they should be non-core badges.

o   Badges inherently reflect continued engagement through accumulation, but this doesn’t necessarily promote depth

o   Promote depth of participation as well as breadth

·         How to Start a Movement (TED Talk)

o   Most important person isn’t a leader but a follower

o   Make the lone nut not look like a nut; draw the first follower in so it looks like the norm an people are able to engage

o   Can a badge system encourage this?

§  Research: Communities of practice

§  Strategic curation to highlight the 1% in a way that makes the 9% move toward them

·         Principle: Don’t get too precious about your badges

o   Don’t make them too hard to attain, or you’ll turn people off

·         Eject people from privileged positions

o   Forcibly break the cycle

o   So conferences don’t become social clubs

§  Not always bad, but sometimes you want to promote fresh ideas and churn

o   An alternative: the novelty of the badge system is appealing as an alternative to standard grading; constantly generating new badges can create fresh opportunities to promote new individuals to engage

§  What about badges that the 90% has to earn before the 1% can?

·         What about engaging the 90% by recognizing something new that they can do well and feel good about?

1 comment

I was at a different session but almost feel like I was at yours---thank you for such careful, generous note taking and for publishing your notes, Ross.