This post was recently featured on EndUserSharePoint and I’m reposting it here.
I recently presented a session titled “How to be more Social” at the SharePoint Australia and New Zealand conferences. The basic premise was to talk about some of the experience I picked up helping large organisations do better Knowledge Management through “Social Computing”. It’s things like http://demo.zevenseas.com.
As the events got closer, I decided I’d include something a little “out there”, something I’ve yet to see an organisation adopt, but which I think could make a difference to user adoption. To my surprise, it was probably the section of my session that got the most traction, and so I wanted to follow it up here.
The biggest challenge an organisation faces during the roll out a new solution is not the technology. The technology is always the easy bit. The difficult bit is the difficult bit is the people. There’s just something about us psychologically that means we are resistant to change. I see this in myself, catching moments every now and then where I get annoyed at SP2010 for no reason other than the fact that it has changed, even when, in most cases, its a change for the better.
To put it another way, there is no product feature or technical innovation which will make overcoming our innate psychological predisposition against change easier to overcome. Further, exactly how you should go about overcoming this resistance is all art and no science. User adoption remains one of the biggest challenges we face, just ask Microsoft what percentage of their SharePoint licenses are actually deployed.
This is why I like the concept of “Badges”, it plays on another innate psychological predisposition, our desire to collect things, and our need to be rewarded. Badges provide a way of rewarding people for using the solutions you build in a constructive and beneficial way, and people are motivated to use your solutions in this way in order to collect all the badges. Its a positive feedback loop, its bringing “game” based elements to your intranet.
Before you write this off, and with it my blog, lets take a look at some examples.
The first example is a geeky one, the Xbox. Today, nearly every Xbox game comes with the concept of “Achievements” built in. Why do we have achievements in games? Because it motivates people to play a game more, and getting more game hours out of a title means more value for the gamer. It is a solution that publishers created in order to overcome a classic “user adoption” problem.
Stepping out of the geek world for a moment. How many people were in the Scouts? If you were, then how many badges did you collect and why did you collect them? Badges in the Scout movement reward people and keep them engaged, there is always a new knot!
What about the military? There are badges all over the place, they convey rank, they convey bravery, they motivate. And when you were at school, your teachers understood how valuable badges could be in promoting good behaviour and completing school work, anyone get a smiley face stamp? You see we have always loved badges, its part of the human condition.
Heading back to the geek world, its now rare that a new mainstream site will launch and become successful without the integration of some sort of “game” based elements. The best recent example of this is Foursquare. The designers of the solution wanted people to check-in their locations on their phones, allowing them to see if friends are nearby, and be offered deals for frequenting nearby vendors. To encourage people to “check-in”, they introduced both the concept of becoming a “Mayor” and lots of badges. The person with the most check-ins at a certain location became the mayor, complete with leaderboard, and by doing different types of check-ins, you collected badges. What happened? People started competing, and the number of check-ins went through the roof. They solved their user adoption problem because people were encouraged and motivated to use the solution in exactly the way it was intended.
To me, all of this says that badges can work for SharePoint too. More specifically, applying the concept of badges to our solutions can give us just one more tool in the kitbag of user adoption techniques and strategies. So I built a proof of concept.
How does it work?
The coolest new Social feature in SharePoint is, without doubt, the Activity Stream. This is basically SharePoint’s version of the Facebook newsfeed, providing you with a list of (nearly) all the interaction a user has with SharePoint. Tag a document, it goes in your activity feed. Update your profile, it goes in your activity feed. Rate a blog post, it goes in your activity feed.
This is exactly the sort of information we need to build a badge system. People updating their profile is a good thing, and they should be rewarded for ensuring that that information is up to date. In this case, rewarding them comes in the form of a “Autobiographer” badge, a gold badge, which is displayed on their “MySite” profile.
The below diagram shows a users “My Site” before they have collected any badges:
If we now go and edit the users profile, we should see it added to their Activity Stream on the left, and at the same time, see a new badge appear on the right.
In this case its a silver badge, but you can also create Gold and Bronze. Hovering over the badge reveals more information about it.
To setup these rules, I created a very basic rules engine. Essentially it just counts the number of times a particular Activity appears in a persons stream, then when you go over that number, you get the badge.
We are currently working on a more sophisticated model which provide for more possibilities.
In summary, I firmly believe that badges have enormous potential. Driving adoption has always been, and continues to remain, the biggest challenge facing those looking to realise maximum business value from their investment in software based solutions. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.
If you are interested in badges, and think it could make a difference to SharePoint in your organisation, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. I love talking about this stuff!
Check out Badges and Point on http://www.stackoverflow.com
Coding Horror (the developer behind Stack Overflow): http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/03/the-worlds-largest-mmorpg-youre-playing-it-right-now.html