True confessions: I really love badges

I mean, lookit this:

And half of those are from Photography. Here’s the confession part: I have sometimes gone out of my way to do things to increase this collection. No, wait, often. And then, I usually keep doing that thing. The system of copper badges for introductory actions and fancier metals for more involvement is great. I’d love to see a similar system on the new site.

I’m mentioning this because now because I noticed on this site that the Discourse badges don’t seem to work. They’re buried somewhere, and every now and then I get a notification that something I did has earned me one. Yay, I guess? They’re just random stickers for things I already did and don’t help me know what to do next.

When done well, badges lay out a path for involvement. They show me something that I could be doing but haven’t yet. In order for this to work, there should be progressive chains with clear links from level to level — and there needs to be a system for suggesting what to look at next. We should look at activities we want to encourage and create badge chains for these, and the UI should show these chains prominently.

I’ve heard objections like “this causes badge hunters to just do the things to get the badge!”. To that I say: cool! That’s a nice side-effect!


I agree with you about a need for badges in general, although I disagree with you here:

It is okay to be motivated by badges, but just doing something with the least possible effort to gain the badge is not okay. People complaining about “badge hunters” complain about people doing low-quality reviews, e.g. always clicking “Approve” in the Suggested Edit Queue on SE, because it doesn’t require any further action, unlike “Reject”. That is a problem, because it leads to low-quality actions being taken (for example: wrong/bad edits approved).

There should be some way/filter to prevent this, for example by requiring “50% agreement”, i.e. in 50% of all reviews, the outcome should agree with you. That isn’t perfect, but probably better than nothing.


I agree that badges should be designed to be resistant to credit for zero or negative-quality actions. But otherwise, even if they’re small (like fixing very minor formatting and spelling errors), I figure fine, whatever.


I never cared about them much and then apparently I somehow ended up with 19 gold, 174 silver and 292 bronze ones on SO. Who cares - what am I gonna do with those now? Can’t sell them on e-bay :slight_smile:

More importantly, I never figured out if they did most harm or good.

On one hand they encouraged weird and counter-productive behaviour such as “now I’m gonna edit a lot of posts/do a lot of reviews etc, not because I actually care about improving the site, but because I want more badges”.

On the other hand, they were the only useful measure of domain knowledge we had on SO. The gold badge and the gold badge dupe hammer was one of the most useful moderator tools we had for a high traffic site like that. Reputation could have filled this spot if it actually meant anything. If we can manage a design that splits score between domain knowledge and moderator suitability, then badges wouldn’t be needed for that purpose though.


Totally agree. The suggested edit “robo reviewers” was a big problem on SO, constant source of friction and frustration. A problem they never managed to solve. Review queues in general are a very bad thing to have. Having a moderator chasing the 3 to 5 supposedly experienced users who did a poor edit review, chasing the person who did a poor edit, chasing the person who posted a bad post in the first place… that’s really not a sound design and so much waste of time. This is something we should definitely try to avoid and badges just made the problem worse (at least on SO).

Instead, I’d love to see lots of dev effort put into new user experience, ask-question-wizards, smart pre-question posting scripts, mentor programs and so on, whatever people can come up with. A positive new user experience is going to make the sites sell themselves. That’s another thing SO never quite managed to fix.


I’d like to see us consider a thoughtful badge design post-MVP. Before we get into specifics, we have to identify our guiding principles. What do we want to reward? What cadence do we want to support – how frequently should users at different levels of involvement see new badges pop up? What potential badge rewards could lead to abuse and what do we want to do about it?


That’s great. I’ve been saying here that some kind of reward or recognition is important to keep top level users engaged, and that this needs to be taken seriously. Personally, I never really cared much about badges, but rep was a motivator for me. It wasn’t so much the rep number, but having the highest rep number on the site. It’s cool to be seen as the top #1 user. I’ll confess that when I was #2 and getting close to #1, I put in a bunch more effort. I also put in more effort whenever I saw #2 starting to creep up. We can’t have Andy or Spehro being at the top, now could we? :slight_smile:

If badges worked for you, I’m sure they worked for other people too. This kind of motivator is important for the right kind of site. That should not be underestimated.

That’s a poor excuse for not giving others the motivation they desire. Yes, there will always be ways to sortof game the system, but I haven’t seen this really be a problem. Maybe a few squeaked by with the minimum possible effort to earn a badge or some rep, but even those actions were probably userful.

Out in the real world, we have credit card fraud that’s real. That means the system isn’t perfect and we should try to make it better. It doesn’t mean that nobody should have a credit card because abuse exists out there.

But that’s what you want people to do. If getting a badge or earning some rep is a motivator, OK. Roll with it. It’s cheap and easy to give out. Just because you think that’s not what should motivate people, don’t take it away from others and don’t trivialize it, especially if they end up contributing to the site as a result.


I think you misunderstood, what I was going to say. I am all in favour of badges! I just warned, that we need to be careful, choosing the triggers.

And “robo-reviewing” is a real problem on some sites. We shouldn’t neglect, just because some sites don’t have it. I don’t intend to call everyone who is motivated by a badge a robo-reviewer, but those who harm the site by just always clicking one option instead of proper review.


I like badges, too; I can’t really explain why. Maybe because they’re so shiny :slight_smile:


In my case, they certainly drove my behavior. For example, I focused on one of the review queues until I got my gold. And, sad to say, I pretty much stopped reviewing after that!

Perhaps this would be called “badge hunting” but I disagree with the idea that the behavior was problematic. I gave each review full consideration; I never just “clicked on something” to get the badge. When I got the badge, I knew I had helped the Stack to the tune of 1000 useful reviews! That was a good feeling of accomplishment.

It seems to me that, if people are giving poor-quality reviews to get badges, we should work on fixing the system that lets poor reviews through. But I don’t think we should simply get rid of the badges.


Hmm, my use of the past tense there is revealing. Time for some introspection :neutral_face:

Then that problem should be addressed directly, not by throwing out badges or other rewards just because some people sometimes get those rewards illegitimately.

For example, the system might detect lots of reviews with the same result and suspiciously short dwell time on each.


A thought for review-type badges: Only the first x number of the same response in a row get counted per hour/day. i.e. Only 10 “Approve” clicks in a row will be counted. After that, maybe 5 skip/ignore/I don’t know have to be clicked before another “Approve” is counted toward the badge. (Or, perhaps, if there are 10 “Approve” in a row, none of the rest of the reviews for the day are counted.) If there’s a mix of clicks - 3-4 Approve, a Skip, 3-4 Approve, an Edit and Approve, etc, then it at least appears that the person is putting effort in and should be rewarded.
That would stop (or at least slow down) the people clicking “Approve” 1000 times just to get a badge.

  1. The exact numbers should not be publicized and could, potentially vary slightly from day-to-day to prevent people from gaming the system that way (9 blind “Approve”, 1 blind “Reject”, 9 blind “Approve”, 1 blind “Reject”… may work one day, but not the next)
  2. I never liked the “Improve and Accept” because I got the credit for the edit and a new person who may be looking to build some rep in a simple way didn’t (to my knowledge).

Do you think requiring a certain “helpfulness”-quorum for badges, that ask for a mass of actions is not helpful? Because that’s all I am proposing here.

Otherwise, there’s nothing to discuss, at least from my POV. :slight_smile:

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I like where you’re going with that. Perhaps, also, we can assess how many of a user’s past reviews “agree” with the consensus once it has been reached.

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IIRC, at SE, it takes 2 to approve or reject an edit, but I’ve seen references here to a “consensus”. Are there plans/thoughts/discussions to require more than 2 to agree on a disposition?

I was using “consensus” loosely. I figure the details will be decided elsewhere :slight_smile:

Although if we do chose to use the model from SE, I would recommend needing three, not two, votes to accept or reject an edit.

Of course, if we don’t have review queues (and my impression is that there’s no strong support for implementing them), discussing any badges related to them is moot anyway.

Review queues aren’t in the picture at all? Got a link to that discussion?

I didn’t say “not in the picture at all” I said “not much support”. But I now couldn’t find those posts. There hasn’t been a dedicated thread about having/not having review queues; they were just mentioned at various places during other discussions.

There’s of course always the chance that I misremember something, especially if it is about general sentiment as opposed to concrete decisions, and if those mentions were scattered across topics.

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Okay, whenever I’ve seen people talk about the queues (or in my searches) they appeared to assume they’ll be part of the software. Maybe there’s not a lot of “support”, because who actually loves the queues? But yours was the first post I saw to suggest they might not be implemented.

It’s definitely worth us considering what should be reviewed and if all the queues are warranted or not.

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