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28. Design for Collective Good


How to ensure we’re gamifying in a thoughtful, deep, substantive, meaningful way?

Example: Stackoverflow

(Click here for quotes from Co-founder Jeff Atwood)

Stackoverflow is a tremendously successful Q&A site for programmers to ask and answer questions about coding. Coding doesn’t seem interesting but how did it get people to volunteer time answering other people’s questions?

  1. Think about the problem in the right way. What is programming? Something dull or wonderful? If you can think of what you’re doing as fun, then it naturally leads towards a gamified approach that’s authentic, not based on how we make people do something they wouldn’t want to do.
  2. Know your players and understand what the community is that’s involved in the activity. Badges in Foursquare are designed to be cool and fun while those in Stackoverflow are only gold, silver and bronze.

In Stackoverflow, people are encouraged to work together to win the game. The game mechanics below are structured to reward not the individual achievement but things that serve the collective good. Stackoverflow pull against natural tendencies for groups to collapse into selfish interests.

  • Points – Reputation are obtained when users vote up your Q&A.
  • Exchange & Gifting – Bounties allow you to give reputation to someone for coming up with a good answer to a question
  • Badges – Achieved by helping others or doing something for the site (e.g. edit 100 inactive posts, visit every section of FAQ)

The game elements are in service of a higher purpose. They push towards cooperation, collaboration and larger good and purpose.


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