The terrific Kathy Sierra left an important comment over a week ago.
"By using an "incentive", they are risking de-valuing the very act they are hoping to encourage. The problem is NOT that the badge itself has no value… It is that the act of giving a badge carries a potential for side-effects: a short-term engagement spike followed later by either the *wrong* kinds of engagement (e.g. Focus on the badge rather that the point of providing reviews) or, more typical, a drop in interest to levels even worse than before the incentive program."
Self-justification is an important concept to understand. It's how we rationalize our actions. Incentivising any community related behaviour (joining, participating etc…) may be useful to achieve it's goal, but it causes long-term harm.
If a member believes they joined the community to receive an incentive, as opposed to becoming part of a special group of people who's values match their own, they are very unlikley to participate. In fact, without the incentive, they might have joined the community for those very reasons.
This is also why you shouldn't reward your volunteers.
This isn't to say all gamification is broken and all incentives are bad. But, for now, we should maintain a healthy skepticism.
If only we could persuade Kathy to blog again….
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