Why Our Community Needed Some Stinking Badges!
Fresh off the news that TopCoder had won a Veterans Affairs “Badges for Vets” competition we had the pleasure to recently announce that an internal project we had been brewing for many months was finally ready for release. Last week we unveiled to our community of near 400,000 that the first round of TopCoder achievement badges were created (through TopCoder Studio competitions of course) and were being implemented straight away for our TopCoder Studio members. Soon, all disciplines canvassed on the TopCoder Platform, including software development and algorithms – will have digital badges associated with varied levels of accomplishment.
Visual Representation of Real World Achievement & Skill
At TopCoder, we have made the cohesive decision that when utilizing game elements that the achievement will be tied to real world accomplishment and skill, and therefore hold true value to the badge owner and any person seeking to understand that individual’s specific skill set. When badges are anchored in real world accomplishments, we feel they can be incredibly powerful motivators and a real value add to community members seeking to earn them. Keep in mind, the TopCoder rating – the core individual ”score” on TopCoder that identifies in a macro-sense an individual’s coding or development ability is so highly regarded that companies such as Google make this suggestion on their hiring site. This is because the TopCoder rating is anchored in reality and accomplishment. Badges allow us to showcase more specific skills and accomplishments and do so in a highly compelling, visually pleasing manner. There is a reason Instagram has 25 million users – people prefer images.
Jessica Williams, Director of TopCoder Studio, answered a few prescient questions regarding the new badging system and we thought those operating communities or simply into effective gamification would enjoy her answers.
Why do digital badges make sense for TopCoder and the evolving future of work?
Achievement badges make perfect sense for our competition platform because our members have proven that they are just as interested in bragging rights as they are in winning prizes. It’s a natural addition to the popular ranking system in the Software platform and the traditional gallery/showcase of the Studio platform. TopCoder already identifies and captures meaningful achievements for competitors and copilots – badges are a fun and fresh way of spotlighting those accomplishments.
What do they represent?
We’re showcasing everything from beginner accomplishments like “first win” to incredible achievements like “TCO champion”. In addition to straight-forward competition achievements, we’re planning to roll out a series of badges that call out unique work or community-related efforts that outshine everyone else. For copilots and competitors alike, a set of skill badges highlight specialties like “mobile UI design”. Lastly, competitors will get the chance to earn rare and time-sensitive badges that are directly tied to special client projects.
How are they legitimate? What real-world metrics are they tied to that matter?
The majority of the badges are based on objective metrics that we’ve been tracking all along. Some are measured achievements that are regularly and eagerly watched by the members (such as Digital Run leaderboards) while others are based on data that the members probably don’t have easy access to, such as the number of milestone wins they have earned.
What’s the goal? Near-term and long-term?
Achievement badges allow all TopCoder users – competitors, copilots, clients and general users – the ability to quickly scan a member’s accomplishments and skills. It’s a great way to visually represent placement and activity within the community. When TopCoder clients begin achieving badges of their own, everyone will have simple, visual ways to measure and learn more about each other. Because the badges represent important metrics, members are more motivated to collect them and, eventually, share them. Quite simply, badges are a great way to graphically illustrate a community of competitive “achievers”.
For the TopCoder Community, this was a natural progression and visual extension of what we’ve always believed. If you anchor ratings, scoring, badges or anything of that ilk to real world metrics and achievement, than they will hold real meaning. That has value to our members and that is why our community needed some stinking badges!