Do you want to be a gamification guru?

Born in the late 70s, I grew up surrounded by comics, literature and the cinema mythos of the 80s. These are images that powerfully call my attention. Maybe your attention too :D.

One these cool scenes happens when the hero, confident in his abilities, attacks his nemesis with a blow that he believes unbeatable or deploys a strategy that (he thinks), will give him the final victory against the terrible enemy.

After receiving the hit, the opponent rises from the ashes (preferably with an evil laugh) and thunders:
"Is that the best you got?"

Besides an obvious homage to Campbell's Hero's Journey ... What all this has to do with gamification?


While writing the post about 2015predictions a couple of weeks ago, I began to reflect on the community of gamification professionals and how we could be perceived by society and potential customers. I was surprised to discover that one of the most visible landmarks for the measurement of the value added by each member of the community, and perhaps the only "official" international reference we had today, is Rise’smonthly ranking (ex leaderboarder) under the unfortunate (in my opinion) "gamification gurus " name.

What is the purpose of that ranking, I wonder? Highlight those members who contribute most to the community? Increase the visibility of a company? Encourage competition, and thus a larger quantity of content (regardless quality, maybe)? The truth os, I have not arrived to a clear conclusion, even after reading the header that explains the ranking.

"Gamification Gurus" Ranking - January 2015

At first glance it seems a bit unbalanced ranking when weighting quantity vs quality (with the first term ahead from the latter one): Quote a phrase from someone or give your own opinion is equally rated, if associated with the hashtag #gamification. Writing the same post in English and Spanish (as I do) counts twice, even if obviously doesn’t double the corpus of knowledge of the community, or my value as professional.

Even more, from a competitive point of view (which appears to be the ranking’s core mechanic)… Could it arrive the point were my decision to give visibility to the ideas, tweets or posts of other professional depend not so much on the intrinsic value of the idea by itself, but on its proximity to my position in the ranking, and the perceived danger associated at losing positions? If you think this is a crazy idea and it couldn’t happen, pleaseremember what happened in the ranking for “the most influential gamification professional”organized by GSummit and the criticism that hindered its reliability and value (beyond the rightness or not of the topic).

In addition, rankings are not only a tool for social comparison. They can be an excellent way to self-assess our performance against our own past behaviour, regardless of the other people involved at the ranking. But that requires a key element: measurable and understandable dimensions.

Perhaps the ranking suffers from excessive functionality, or it does not own an attractive GUI. Maybe the measured dimensions or the assigned weights are not adequate (youtube views did not appear at the ranking measures until recently) or they are not as precise or clear as they should. I encourage you to try to calculate manually your score at the ranking or compare it with other members.

Either way, it is clear that this design could be useful for other things, but not as a facilitator of individual progress for someone who is not a full-blooded “killer”: variability between each measurement point (month to month) is so high that participation becomes a rollercoaster ride experience, rather than a process of controlled progression. Maybe regulatory mechanisms for managing disproportionate monthly variations are in order, for example by changing the frequency of measurement or including corrective factors to take into account the overall performance will be appreciated.

Or maybe it's just me. I'm doing a misreading, asking for the impossible. This ranking is perhaps not the tool to measure the health of a professional community and the way to identify the most valuable members of it. Maybe it's just a popularity contest, where the winner is the best community manager of your own personal (gamified) brand.

Let me clarify something very important: What I am criticizing here is not the team behind the creation of the ranking nor am I denying the value of people who are (myself included) in the top positions. Toby Beresford, who I had the fortune to meet in the last Gamification World Congress, is a open-minded professional, concerned as everyone about the development of the gamification community and very responsive to any proposals for improvement. Andrzej and Yu-kai Chou are two excellent professionals whose contributions have brought value to the community beyond any other one.

I'm just thinking that the ranking requires a few iterations (those I proposed here, and others) to meet all its potential. But everything depends on the pursued goal, of course.

Sure some readers may be thinking, "Okay, my dear ... Then why you don’t leave the ranking?"

You don't like rankings? Then...

Very simple: Like the Gamification World Congress and GSumit forum are the "places you must go" if you like gamification, Rise’s is "the place to be" if you want to have visibility on the field and find out "who's who". Like it or not, external customers and anyone interested who does not know about gamification, sooner or later ends up falling on that list. Of course, after that you have to prove tour value with facts.

And it’s fun, of course: Like any human being I find fun on the list movements, all the meeting new people thing and (above all) make jokes about the Spanish top-ranked and stuff ... I think it helps when building a community.

However, this don’t leave me happy. For example: check the “number of comments on posts” indicator ... Can we really call ourselves “community” when we generate content, but did not interact meaningfully with each other? Perhaps we are not measuring the important things properly? Is this the best tool we can design as gamification professionals to create a stronger community? Are we a guild of blacksmiths using rubber hammers to forge, instead of metal ones?

I hear how organizations and markets rise and ask us ...

"Is this the best you have?"

It's a multifaceted topic, and I will be more than happy to discuss alternatives in the comments or in social networks… but please don’t forget using the hashtag #gamification :D

4 comentarios:

Roman Rackwitz dijo...

Hey, great article.
Exactly, the problem with the rise leaderboard is that it is mainly focused on quantity and, on the other side, it is difficult to find out where the numbers come from.

Often, I know that there was a better interaction with my stuff but the numbers say: 0.

I already discussed a lot with some of the other guys from the top like Andrzej or Mario that (because we are still a small community that wants to grow the Gamification industry, that I don't like the idea of this leaderboard. It enhances competition rather collaboration.

I really like Toby Beresford and he has done a great job by creating a hub for people like us. But, nevertheless, for me it is the role model of an element that I want my clients NOT to use: leaderboards.
And this is difficult to argue if they see me on the Top leaderboard position. I had this argument twice in last month.

This is why I quit the Gamification guru leaderboard. It is a nice way to stay in touch with some of the guys but, unfortunately, it doesn't work for me anymore.

Isidro Rodrigo dijo...

Thanks Roman! :D

I agree, but I'm not sure if quitting the ranking is the solution. It has other values besides competition enhancement, after all, as Andrezj said in other G+ comment (discover who is interested in the discipline, among others).

I think that it could enhance its usefulness by redefining (and clarifying) the key performance indicators to solve de unbalancement towards competition.

Obviously, the question is if we're able to design other solutions to reach those ones.

Thanks for your comment!

Toby Beresford dijo...


Great thoughts!

Personally I'd like the purpose of the board to be a way of growing the gamification industry and educating the market (in line with the principles of GamFed, GWC, Anagam et al.) by showing who to tune in to. If it helps some people with lead gen / client conversations as a side effect then great.

At one level it does reflect those people who are doing the best at promoting and educating the world about gamification - certainly Yu-Kai, Monica and Andrzej are creating little followings of their particular gamification point of view / frameworks.

It also reflects that many of those who have published books on the subject have kind of left it at that. Witness the very little activity around gamification online by many of the North American authors who led the early charge.

In one sense it survives because it is a reasonable picture. It has also proved tricky to game - I saw one guru who shall remain nameless try to tweet his way into the top 10 and actually saw his rank fall that month because his followers hadn't retweeted him!

I love your fresh thinking on it though, a change in program design if you (and others) want to propose one via this comments section would be great. Other than stating that it must be player led design - i.e. give value to the individual players on the board, I open to all suggestions.

In terms of rendering, it doesn't have to be a leaderboard, that's just the high impact visualisation that I picked back in 2011 when I first created it. Suitable for an immature community but perhaps as we mature there is a need for a different structure.

There are three other options to render it on Rise other than a public leaderboard:

1. Personal Score only - this is what we use at http://www.rise.global/socialsellingclub - in this instance the individual scores are private only to the individual. The strength of this is that it helps build personal skills - you see your own progress month by month with only limited comparative information (quartile only).

2. Private leaderboard - many customers use these especially for internal sales teams - this would be the gamification gurus board as it is today but you would have to log in to see it. This would in effect create a closed community. It would remove its value as a 'bragging tool' / list of gamification experts.

3. Collective goals - in this format e.g. http://rise.global/cmgr - we can focus attention on the combined might of the community - 19 blog posts posted about gamification this month, 190 retweets and so on. Again we'd need to decide what we want to encourage.

I do take your point about accuracy of social data scores and the GUI design being below par. Both are areas I continue to work on, ultimately its up to each board manager to ensure the accuracy of the data. In this case it's me and I'm sorry where I've not been as diligent as I should! I'd be happy to invest some resources in a relaunched design if it has player input.

When you click on your guru profile though I am hoping it is fairly transparent how your score breaks down.

So the questions are:
a. What rendering would you prefer?
b. What metrics do you need?
c. How should those metrics be weighted?



Roman Rackwitz dijo...

Hey Isidoro,

no, you are right. Quitting the board is not a solution. But that wasn't the reason.

It is just a little bit contradictory to what I'm promoting to my clients and, as Andrzej already said it is more a game about social activity of people that have a common interest. That's a cool game and I played it more than two years.
But people/customers that are looking at it, misunderstand it as a game of Gamification experts that are ranked around expertise, quality and status. So, it is misleading them, from my point of view.

I already had some discussions and talks with conference participants and even few customers about it. At the end, I think that it is better (for me) not to participate than to argue about it with these guys.

That's all. It definitely has its purpose. You just need to know if that's the purpose you need/want. :-)