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October 14, 2011

The Dangers of Over-badging in Online Communities

by massmarotta

I caught the [New] episode of Parks and Recreation last night, “Pawnee Rangers.” The Pawnee Rangers are a spoof on the modern day Boy Scouts. Having a boys-only policy, Amy Poehler’s character, ‘Leslie Knope,’ goes off and starts her female version of the exclusive group, “The Pawnee Goddesses”

The episode immediately kicks off with Leslie awarding her Goddesses with badges of achievement; rather obscure and very niche badges at that. Seemingly, a badge for everything imaginable.

  • Most Community Service badge
  • Best Penguin Blog badge
  • Flyest Hair Style badge
  • Second Flyest Hair Style badge

Later in the episode:

  • Cabin Refurbishment badge
  • Best Pillow Fight badge [Gold, Silver, Bronze]
  • Banging Hair day badge

I took these as a shot at diluting the value of the badging system. If everyone receives a badge just for the sake of completing any old task, then where’s the value? It’s the scarcity of the reward that makes it valuable. And that, I think, is what the show was trying to get across; our dependence on insignificant rewards just to inflate our egos for a temporary moment.

Make badging a sliver of your overall reward and incentive program mix for your online community. Leverage other gamification strategies like leader boards, point systems, progress bars, status rank.

If I can quote Gabe Zichermann for a second; “Gamification is not just throwing up shitty badges on your website.”

See also Gamification of Online Communities for Beginners

Now, I’m going to take a stab at creating my interpretation of ‘Flyest Hair Style’ badge.