Gamification of Green Stamps and So Much More

S&H_Green_StampsI remember Green Stamps! It used to be my job as a little kid to lick and stick ’em all into those little collection books. Oh, wait. That’s not the green stamps they’re talking about in this AdAge article.

It describes Procter & Gamble’s Future Friendly program that aims to create incentives for people to sign up for a sort of electronic “green stamps” that give points redeemable for merchandise when they recycle through curbside collection programs.

While the term social gaming brings to mind the story a friend of mine told about how she found herself yelling at the public pool for her kids to get out because Mom had to go home and harvest her Farmville potatoes, and everyone seems to be throwing birds at pigs lately, these type of “addictive games” are only part of what’s happening.

Whether it’s stamps for recycling, MVP designation for community participation or badges for checking in at locations you visit, it’s hard to get away from the integration of game theory into social media today.

Some would use the term gamification to describe it, but that in itself has raised a controversy recently – with the Wikipedia entry for it being taken down, then re-posted. David Helgason of Unity, a company that produces game development tools explains gamification as the application of game technology and game design outside “gamespace.” 

Whatever you call it, it’s every where these days. The Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum recently announced that the changing nature of games, simulations and virtual worlds on work and education would be their theme for 2011.

Should businesses rush to apply social mechanics Alexia Tsotsis recently asked in a TechCrunch article? “It’s just natural evolution,” said Disney Mobile SVP Bart Decrem. Tsotisis wrote that businesses developing a product should ask themselves, how the product could let you connect with your friends and make it fun.

Those old S&H Green Stamps are evolving that way even. They’re now known as greenpoints that you earn by shopping various merchants (including my employer, Dell) through the Greenpoints web site. I didn’t see a lot of ways to share the experience with your friends, but you can follow them on Twitter!

What do you think? Is there a point where there could be too much fun? Will we burn out trying to earn gold stars or are humans forever motivated by rewards like Pavlov’s dog? (who has also apparently been “gamified“)

Image courtesy Roadsidepictures via Creative Commons.


Maybe Revolution Won’t be Started with a Tweet, but It Can be Strengthened by Them

Malcolm Gladwell portraitMalcolm Gladwell, who’s been called “a spirited contrarian,” poked a stick at a whole beehive of people last week with his article in The New Yorker titled “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted.”

If you missed the original article, you might have more likely seen one of the many that came out against it afterwards.  In the Huffington Post, David Helfenbein said Gladwell “missed the mark.” One mark he aimed at was social media evangelist Clay Shirky who when asked about it in a Guardian article said:

“Oddest of all, Shirky suggested was that ‘the book that has done most to explain to the public how weak ties could spread the kind of political fever that Gladwell writes about is The Tipping Point’.” (Gladwell’s own book)

The exceptionally smart Rita J. King took on his claims that innovators tend to be “solipsists” by saying he missed the “vesica piscis.” (Two terms not in my usual vocabulary that I had to look up.) In her well-reasoned response, King said:

“The Internet is used in extremely creative ways by those who realize that Facebook and Twitter are not the sum total of the opportunities created by this new dimension in human interaction.
[…] but just because he doesn’t personally know any revolutionaries doesn’t mean they don’t exist and it also doesn’t mean that they aren’t using the Internet in ways that perhaps Gladwell himself can’t imagine.”

Gladwell did make it rather easy to take opposition with him when he said things like:

“The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960.”

It would be hard not to take it as an insult if you believe the the power of social media; and if you do, then you’re the person most likely to use it to refute this sort of broad statement. But, it also leaves room for less personal arguments when Gladwell says the platforms of social media are built around weak ties – the thousands of Facebook friends he posits that people have – when statistics show that most Facebook users have an average of 130 friends.

All-in-all, though, it is an article to make you think – something I’m pretty sure Gladwell intended. There are many elements of it I disagree with, but I can’t disagree with the fact that it is much easier to join a Facebook group, retweet a call to charity, write a blog about a good cause or text a $5 donation, than it than it is to actually travel to another country and help them dig out from under rubble. It definitely takes more nerve to stand face-to-face with someone who is vehemently opposed to your cause than it does to sit behind a computer and broadcast your beliefs.

But, those people who feel that passion will still do it. They may also blog about it, tweet it and start a Facebook group for it. That’s not a bad thing. In my opinion, 100,000 weak links supporting a cause is still more support than that same cause might have been able to garner without the help of these new tools of social activism.

Image courtesy Creative Commons by deepsignal/Nick Dynice