Archive for January, 2014

Gamification is great, until it destroys us

Posted by on Tuesday, 28 January, 2014

sartre_gamification_ceaOr:  “On the ethical use of gamification.”

Gamification is the use of game theory in practical application to drive real world activities and behaviours. One of the most simple examples of this is the rewarding of badges on websites where users are encouraged to participate. This may be a television show’s site or a topical forum that promotes active discussion.

Implementation of game elements in various real world business applications has been proven to be an effective method of encouraging desired behaviours and is quickly becoming the solution de rigueur for increasing participation. Rajat Paharia’s article on exemplifies why: “This is not a game: Why gamification is becoming a multi-billion dollar way to motivate people“. Clearly, there is money to be made by businesses implementing gamification concepts and structures to drive loyalty among its clients, or to improve operation efficiencies within its employee base.

Seems like the perfect solution, doesn’t it? But what if it had a dark-side to balance all of these benefits? What would that dark underbelly look like?

Without the rose-coloured glasses of increased profits, gamification can lead to a society that expects rewards for every action. Similar to the positive reinforcement ideologies which molded education changes in the 1980’s and subsequently created the entitlement generation (as outlined by Brian Moore‘s article in the NYPost: The worst generation?), gamification has the potential to condition us to expect  returns and benefits for every action we take, which previously wouldn’t have had any value or discernible impact in our lives. Worse yet, is how that entitlement to reward drives further selfishness and individual focus on benefit regardless of larger impact.

This is where the ethical implementation of gamification really comes in to play: as corporate entities, we must understand all the potential ramifications and long-term costs of doing business when implementing behaviour changing models. While proven to dramatically improve returns on investment, the longer term effects of gamification on culture are not yet fully understood. What was once a novelty and unexpected reward may soon become expectation. Imagine a day when a company rewards people for tweeting about a product; soon you’ll see people expecting to be compensated for those very same product focused tweets. Sure, it is an over simplified example, but one which we have already started to see emerging with the influx of articles about monetizing your twitter activity.

Lest I leave you with the idea that I detest gamification: I don’t. Game elements to help drive real business results are not only effective, but also valuable to both sides of the client/business relationship. When used properly they can drive true success in many differing aspects of business or simple community engagement across disciplines and industries. I do enjoy a well gamified site and am often myself caught up in getting more badges/mayorships/or achievements. is a good example of gamification implemented in a way that helps to drive my own consumer behaviour to particular restaurants to maintain my mayor status (really more of a slight added benefit than an actual behaviour modifier, but still).

It is the over use  and permeation of gamification principles into every  aspect of daily life that can and will condition our behaviour and quickly lead us down this path of culture change driving entitlement and expectation. As social business professions we need to evaluate and understand our own motivations for implementing these elements, while as consumers we must be informed and understand how these varying tactics can play into our own psychology to motivate our actions. Only by ethical use and educated consumption can we keep ourselves from falling down this dark well of badges and unlocked achievements.

The long and short of it all: gamification is not a panacea. It can help solve some business problems, but should be implemented with thought and care to ensure its impact isn’t thwarted by the very nature of what makes it work.


image credit:  Some rights reserved by Cea.



Community as a key to success; or, there’s Too Many Secrets

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

Digital StillCamera

One of the keys to long-term success is the involvement in community. You’ve likely heard me say that the only value in knowledge is not in applied knowledge but rather in shared knowledge. While applied knowledge of course has some value, it is in the sharing of knowledge where real and long-term impact value is seen, and where both substantial personal and business growth is achieved.

I was recently reading an article in The Register UK that highlighted this philosophy quite clearly. In the article, the author outlines how Amazon is beholden to open source projects but refrains from contributing back in any substantial or consistent fashion; that the corporate culture dissuades employees from engaging in community either through code contributions or even just conference presentations. The article goes on to say this same secrecy while providing some short-term advantages is now beginning to show some long-term problems as new talent is going elsewhere, to companies that encourage community engagement and allow developers to grow both inside and outside the company.

In the changing models of business, the traditional resume is losing ground to more social and visible methods of proving your value. As noted in the article, a GitHub profile is now a developer’s resume; it shows both skill in coding as well as contribution to the larger community as a good citizen. (The same could be said for a twitter/g+/ or blog for someone in a Social Business role, as they show capability and skill rather than simply tell like a resume does.) Any company that has a focus on long-term success (as all say they do) must encourage external knowledge sharing and contributions to communities both physical and virtual. If you can’t attract talented employees, stagnation and eventual collapse are your only future in business. Conversely, when you encourage employees to interact socially, to share and contribute with a philosophy that extends far beyond sycophantic protection of self-interest and into more philanthropic ventures the future of business suddenly becomes both innovative and lucrative.

This new way of doing business is no longer new. We are now a few years into the experience of social business, and are seeing some of the longer term effects now becoming evident. Effects like the shift of portfolios and resumes to online socially share-able media, where showing is more important than telling, and where sharing knowledge is more important than simply having knowledge. The sooner companies figure out things have changed and to stay relevant means adopting community engagement models to collectively share knowledge, the better off we will all be as we navigate these new paradigms of work and economy.

It all reminds me of the 1992 movie Sneakers: there’s “Too Many Secrets”. But, instead of a nefarious plot to collapse the world economy, today we can use social sharing to avoid having too many secrets which will in turn allow us to adapt and change to new models of business and successful enterprise by sharing knowledge across communities.


Sentiment analysis is dead, long live sentiment analysis

Posted by on Thursday, 9 January, 2014


Article authored in collaboration with Kelly Smith, @kellypuffs

Ok, we’re being provocative here (but when are we not?)

Perhaps sentiment analysis is not dead, but it will be if we forget one of the basic tenets of social business: it’s all about the people, the human side of social.

One of the many lessons we’ve learned from the past few years working in social business, is that sentiment analysis works best when real live people are on the social media front lines, in the muck of it all actively searching and engaging in conversation. Building your audience is done by listening and reacting to what people are saying in a real-time environment, as it happens – in short, paying attention. Humans, interacting in the social spaces you’ve found useful to your brand, sharing things which your target audience wants, and providing the assistance they demand, that is where your investment in social needs to be and where your investment will begin to reap the rewards of human connection.

Without a human team to watch the reports, sentiment analysis will only cling to life in the marketing space as a way to understand simple A/B, yes/no, good/bad leanings. What really matters, and where you want to be spending your marketing dollars, is on quality social teams; people in the muck of it all who can actively analyze and understand the value in your sentiment reports and take those insights into actionable items.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective:

You have 5 spoons. Each one of these spoons represents a 40 man hour work week. You have two projects in which to disperse these spoons: Automated Sentiment Analysis, and Proactive Social Business.

  • The first project, Automated Sentiment Analysis, provides you with daily, weekly, or monthly reports on what your audience and the wider social spheres are saying about your products.  The end result of this project in one week’s time is a better understanding of what people feel and say about your products. This business intelligence can then be delivered to other organizations for action based on this information. One might argue that social sentiment packaged up and delivered on any schedule less than daily is irrelevant.  It’s almost certainly not directly actionable, and it’s stale in this highly automated fashion. As it stands this may only take one or two spoons to run.


  • The second project, Proactive Social Business, provides you with real-time sentiment analysis and business intelligence in the form of direct conversation and the ability to immediately address any issues to which can impact sentiment within minutes. Simply by actively participating in the social networks, sharing content, amplifying others’ content, active network curation, and running ad hoc reports to locate relevant conversations, each spoon in this team can take immediate action on the discovered data using the right tone and voice as each discovered post dictates. More importantly, active listening and paying attention on social channels is MUCH more accurate, focused, and timely.  While this takes a few more spoons to ensure success, something as simple as a follower reporting a broken link can be actioned immediately. More importantly, a quick response shows the company is listening, interested in feedback, and cares about the end-user experience.


After all, that IS what social business is about, right? The ability for clients, customers, and general audiences to break down those corporate walls and directly connect and engage with companies – not bots, not automatons, but humans in companies –  in conversations to resolve issues, gain insight or knowledge or champion for brands. Social business isn’t about passive listening, nor is it a marketing communications channel.  It is about relationship management, real-time engagement with your clients, seekers, business partners, and potential customers to provide them with value when and where they want it.  To accomplish this with any modicum of success, you need a team of dedicated, socially savvy people, on the ground with their hands in the soil of social conversations, and paying attention to both real-time sentiment and the garden/network they are cultivating. You need to put your spoon investment in the right places in order to get the right results.

Because it stands repeating: Humans, interacting in the social spaces you’ve found useful to your brand, sharing things which your target audience wants, and providing the assistance they demand, that is where your investment in social needs to be and where your investment will begin to reap the rewards of human connection.


image credit:  Some rights reserved by Gauravonomics