Working Solution · Last modified July 15, 2009
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Maintain and display a cumulative count of the number of points user has earned within a community.
The points generally come from performing specific activities on the site.
Points are best-awarded to congratulate performance rather than merely to acknowledge activity.
What Problem Does This Solve?
In some communities, participants want a tangible measurement of their accomplishments for personal satisfaction and to make comparisons with other competitors.
When to Use This Pattern
Use this pattern when the community is highly competitive, and the activities that users engage in are competitive in nature (e.g., player-vs-player contests, or coaching a fantasy football team).
Points are generally discouraged, except in cases where the fundamental, primary purpose of the community is competition, such as fantasy sports or games.
Specifically, don't use this pattern when
- The activities that users engage in are not competitive in nature (e.g., writing recipes, or sharing photos).
- The awarding of points might demean or devalue the activity that they're meant to reward. By pinning an arbitrary incentive value to an activity, you may unintentionally replace a user's satisfying intrinsic motivation with a petty extrinsic one.
What's the Solution?
- Maintain and display a cumulative count of the number of points that a user has earned within a community.
- The points generally come from performing one of a number of activities on the site.
- Points are best-awarded to congratulate performance rather than merely to acknowledge activity.
- You may also want to account for social points, driven by actions that others in the community take toward a community member. When possible, these social points should reflect a measure of quality (e.g., giving a 'Thumbs Up' rating to a well-written comment) rather than a generic or rote activity (e.g., awarding a number of points for each friend added in a social network).
- Consider Points as a supplement to some other Reputation pattern, where the points themselves are not the primary indicator of reputation - rather, they just give users a sense for their level of achievement and indicate progress toward the next reputation milestone. For example: "Dwalin is a Level 8 Dwarf (342 points)."
- Points should reward performance (e.g., winning a game against an opponent) rather than activity (e.g., 10 points for every message posted.) Points that reward activity may lead users to perform that activity again and again with no regard for the quality of their contributions. (The gaming world has a term for this: Grinding.)
- One exception to the above recommendation: points may be a useful reward of activity the first time a user performs an action. (e.g., You completed your profile! Here are 20 points.) These 'first time' awards are hard to game, and can encourage users to explore new areas of your offering.