Cargo Cults, Beliefs and Real Value

by daniel on August 23, 2011

Cargo Cult, Beliefs and Real Value

Gamification is a relatively new buzzword for engaging customers.  While having some possible value, I mostly thing it’s a lazy man solution. Here is why.

Gamification, according to Wikipedia, is:

 “Gamification is the use of game play elements[1] for non-game applications (also known as “funware“),[2] particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications”

Wikipedia also lists possible techniques for such game play elements:

  • achievement “badges”
  • achievement levels
  • “leader boards”
  • a progress bar or other visual meter to indicate how close people are to completing a task a company is trying to encourage, such as completing a social networking profile or earning a frequent shopper loyalty award.[7]
  • virtual currency
  • systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and otherwise exchanging points
  • challenges between users
  • embedding small casual games within other activities.[4]

Looking at the techniques, one might ask himself what is the real values for such activities. Here are two examples:

Linkedin profile completion bar:Linkedin Progress barThe completion bar really helps to create a valuable profile, with enough information and content as to serve a real introduction card. But, after the profile is completed to 100% there is no incentive in adding information to the profile, even that for the end user this information might be valuable. As a guide of initial activities the bar is a good implementation, but after the initial engagement, there is little use.


Microsoft Office PowerPoint Ribbon Hero:

Office Hero Ribbon

The ribbon serves two purposes; one is to showoff how capable you are and present it in Facebook. The second is to get access to special animations available to more capable users. Leaving the ego boosting asides, I don’t believe there is real benefit in getting a grade on PowerPoint capabilities nor in viewing animations. Both of these features are not really advancing my use of the application and even the ego boosting badge has little value if my work is not mainly about PowerPoint usage (and even that is debatable).

There are many more examples as detailed in this post giving 15 examples of gamification

Looking at both examples and more gives me the impression that gamification is more a cargo cult and not a real understanding of how activates benefit the users. There are exceptions, but they show more of the Cargo Cult beliefs than the real understanding. Not doing it as cargo cult is especially important for Startups, as described by Teambox blog.

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