Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Foursquare Day #4sqday "Gamification" seems to be the up and coming buzz word. You may recall that in April, I covered Empire Avenue in a post about the gamification of social media. Now, Google is in the news (literally) with a gamification project of their own, and I think it has some potential.

Let's explore why.

This week Google announced the launch of their Google News Badges. Google heralded the launch with the following description:
The U.S. Edition of Google News now lets you collect private, sharable badges for your favorite topics. The more articles you read on Google News, the more your badges level up: you can reach Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and finally Ultimate. Keep your badges to yourself, or show them off to your friends.

You'll probably feel like the badge adoption seems familiar; after all, Foursquare made this a central part of their service. The first time you unlock a badge on Foursquare, whether it's an achievement you can expect (like the "Superstar" badge for 50 check-ins) or one that surprises and delights ("Crunked" for making 4 or more check-ins on one night), the service gives a positive feedback loop that makes members want to use the system even more.

Similarly, Google has created a way to make some fun and competition out of what you already do - that is, read the news. They've created categories with badges that allow you to level up and share your achievements if you wish. But, being acutely aware of many peoples' need for privacy, they've also given you the option to turn the feature off. To me, this still makes it a viable system because there's an element of self-competition here as well. We all like to see our own achievements, whether or not we want to share them with the world.

Google plans further developments to this project as they get feedback and observe the usage. In addition, it's highly likely that they're determining news reading habits from the data they're receiving, which in turn will lead to better optimization or customization of news stories. While you're already to get customized news categories via RSS readers, custom modules on sites like Netvibes or Google's own iGoogle home page, Google's news badge system could usher in the era of truly customized news stories for readers everywhere.

Update (September 28, 2012): Google has decided to discontinue this feature, along with a number of others.

Image credit: Austin Bryan (Flickr)