WP.com Gets A Trophy Case – Is WP.org Next?

Automattic employee Isaac Keyet published an interesting tweet yesterday that showed off a WordPress.com Trophy case that was custom made. The trophy case displays all of your achievements on WordPress.com and looks like the following.

WP Trophy Case

I find this to be particularly interesting because I remember Toni Schneider saying in a presentation or in an interview, one in which I can’t find where he talked about the future of WordPress.com and how they were going to try to gamify certain aspects of the publishing process. Gamify is defined by WikiPedia as: “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, Return on Investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.

Back in December of 2011, WordPress.com introduced the first of possibly many enhancements around the gamification concept to encourage users to generate content. As soon as a post is published, the progress bar changes and each time a person publishes 5 posts, they are rewarded with an inspirational quote and the bar resets.

Cool For WordPress.com But What About WordPress.org?

I think the concept of having a trophy case showing off achievements is a great idea as well as a motivation factor to continue interacting with WordPress.com. However, I think the opportunities are endless if something like a trophy case was created for the WordPress.org project. Something that shows off badges or rewards for their first patch, their first commit, their first plugin review, so many support forum posts responses, etc. All of this information would then be tied into the WordPress.org profile which would really showcase the user’s activity across the project. I reached out to Otto of Ottopress.com to see not only if this idea has been discussed before, but if some day it could become a reality. Here’s what he had to say.

We’ve thought about adding badges to the profiles pages for quite sometime, but that’s one of those things where we need to get profiles themselves working better and collecting more data from all-the-things first. Eventually we’ll have something like that though. I want to be able to collect enough data to have badges for things like “attended WordCamp” and so on.

I remember reading a Wired magazine article a few years ago that discussed the topic of everything in life being a game. Add a gaming concept to something and you magically have more engagement to try to earn badges as well as rewards that are meaningless to just about everyone other than the person that earned them. We’ve seen this work with FourSquare, Reddit, and other popular sites that have a lot of community interaction. I think it would be natural to see the gaming concept be part of the WordPress.org project. It would add a little more fun and spice to the act of contributing.


8 responses to “WP.com Gets A Trophy Case – Is WP.org Next?”

  1. ‘Gaming’ in general, and real-world applications of the formalized Game Theory that was articulated & formalized by mathematician John von Neumann leading up to & through the mid-20th Century, in particular, carries some hefty negative implications.

    “1984” and “Brave New World” explore societies given over to gamified management.

    From the beginning, Von Neumann was explicitly focused on the ‘gaming’ of the economy, which some say continues to be the root of major social disorders, today. The military, intelligence and State Department were all early & enthusiastic adopters of formalized Game Theory. Generally to the detriment of the values & interests of the Citizenry.

    Fidel Castro ‘games’ the Island. Vladimir Putin is ‘gaming’ the Russian population with his parade of macho-man stunts.

    To “recognize” and “reward” good works and achievements, is easy to get on-board with. To put such an initiative in terms of Games, is going be fraught with unwanted baggage.

  2. I can’t deny that gamification is powerful. But it makes me nervous. It can be used to amplify the intrinsic value of an activity or achievement, but I think more often it does the opposite, replace the intrinsic with the extrinsic.

    For me this is the problem with capitalism where greed for money replaces whatever your original vision of a life well lived was. It’s the problem with grades in school where greed for an “A” replaces the idea of learning valuable things.

    For me this is the problem with Automattic. There is no doubt in my mind that Automattic is an amazing company that has made so many wonderful contributions and offers real voice to millions of people.

    But Automattic wants people to feel satisfied with their blogs so much that they’re willing to distort reality. Automattic blocks “real” Google Analytics (which ironically you can get on Tumblr) and instead gives users only their own dubious stats. Worse, they send a year end summary of how you did which may technically not lie about numbers but tries hard to distort what the numbers mean. They equate your hits / visits for the year with seats in some famous theater or stadium and say your blog would have filled this venue up 100 or however many times.

    This is silly and insulting! A concert at Radio City Music Hall represents expensive tickets bought weeks or months in advance, days of anticipation, a day planned around the event, leaving work early, perhaps new clothes, likely an incredible dinner before or after, and days of telling friends about one of the peak experiences of your life.

    To equate a single visit to your blog, with a single seat at Radio City is absurd! That blog visit was probably a bounce, it it wasn’t it was probably under 2 minutes, and the chances of it having been a peak experience in anyone’s life are remote at best.

    So Automattic doesn’t “lie” exactly, but they intentionally distort wildly. I think the problem is that they’re too eager to have happy, satisfied bloggers, to tell bloggers the truth. Lots and lots of blogs have very minimal impact and are read by very few people. That’s not necessarily bad or good, and individual bloggers can go forth with whatever goals they choose, but I think if you work hard on a blog you deserve the truth you need, not the overblown validation you desire.

    Of badges and other gamification elements I worry that it’s more feel-good validation in place of letting the blog itself be forefront. Maybe you get lots of comments and have a great cultural conversation on your blog. Great! Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re ok with that. Maybe you want to explore ways to become part of a more interactive community. But if WordPress is about content and the freedom to express, then let it be about that, not about dubious badges in a virtual trophy case.

  3. @John Blackbourn – I asked Isaac on whether this was custom made or if they were using a plugin and he mentioned it was all custom made. However, I believe the profiles section on WP.org is powered by BuddyPress so it’s possible that in the future, something like Achievements will be used for the WP.org profiles.

    @Ted Clayton – Interesting. I wasn’t aware and really have not read into the negative impacts game theory could have. I’ll have to do some more research into this area.

    @Erlend Sogge Heggen – I have not heard of OpenBadge but if it’s platform agnostic, it would be great for something like that to be used instead of something tied strictly to just WP.org.

    @Vanessa Blaylock – Well said. I’ve never heard anyone provide that kind of perspective on things. If I get the chance, I’ll try and get in touch with whomever is charge of things like this at Automattic and point them to your comment to see what they have to say about intentionally distorting things.

    @Syed Balkhi – If it helps, I typed in different Gamification search terms into Google and a WPBeginner article kept popping up :P

  4. One of the Google Summer of Code students has been working on improving WordPress.org profiles for the past few weeks:

    As part of his project, he wanted to add gamification aspects to the profiles (see the badge at the bottom right of the wireframe). He had to limit the scope of his project so he chose to work on improving the Profiles homepage. But once Profiles really collect all the data from our Trac / plugin / theme / support activity, I’m guessing it’s going to be easier to add badges and other fancy modules to make the Profile pages sexy again!


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