Gamification is a new word for me, even while the concept isn’t. Gamification is the process of implementing a social system that borrows elements from video games. 

I’ve been aware of such set-ups with services from Foursquare, Codecademy and stackoverflow. In many ways it’s odd that I’d never heard the word, I certainly like the idea.

I like the idea that we can keep people engaged in the system and push them to behave in a way that benefits them and others online. I’ve seen a number of techniques adopted, here are some of the better ones.

Badges, medals, ribbons - call them what you like - they all work the same way. Users can be rewarded for certain actions, this will add to a collection, a collection of virtual achievements that represents them and their online status or rank. Status online is of exceptional importance, with it being so open and often impersonal, users needs to be able to evaluate others. These rewards paint a picture that helps us suss each other out.

Badges also help keep users returning to the service. People get hooked, and these systems exploit that. But I don’t think this is a bad thing, in fact I think it helps build more full, interconnected and active communities online.

Badges don’t however rely on a large user base. True, many badges are awarded for social activities, however, not all badges need to be for this. Other badges can help encourage lone users to participate all the same - even if it’s while they wait for their friends to join up. This has certainly been the case for me with Foursquare.

Privilege Unlocks. My next personal favourite. These, rather than useless tags, are abilities that can be earned. These might include things like moderation, voting, correcting and so on. Certainly if you’re getting involved with an online community, these privileges can be very highly valued, and are desirable. Another advantage of course, these privileges, namely moderation, can keep your system cream and healthy without incurring too much additional work on your part.

Leader-boards is another feature I’ve seen, implemented again in Foursquare. While fairly easy to implement, and understand, this can really help give user activities at competitive side. Providing point allocation is sound this competition can exponentially help a system grow and flourish.

One final feature that I believe deserves a mention is the idea of Bounties. I’ve only ever seen these at stack overflow, however, I think they’re powerful enough to get a mention here. Bounties need to work alongside a user score system, they can be implemented manually or automatically to promote strong positive deeds that are highly desired within the community. This might be answering a tough question all correcting and improving an existing resource.

All in all, I think the effects of a grounded Gamification system can be so much more than just a gimmick.