At the Lift Conference 2015 in Geneva Adrian Hon made a compelling case against gamification. Hon – who amongst others developed the highly popular running game Zombies Run! – argued that leaderboards, achievements and challenges are often used to make a basically uninteresting thing ‘fun’. A good product doesn’t need gamification. A great book doesn’t need it, a smart game doesn’t, an intrinsically useful product doesn’t.

Later the same day, speculative designer and researcher Lisa Ma explored a similar idea. The projects Ma presented are hard to summarise in a few words, and all looked at the point where people become activists, and what this means for society. For instance, in the world’s vegetarian capital Ghent, she worked on the vegetarians’ role in keeping invasive species such as Canadian geese under control. A conclusion: sometimes it’s better for a vegetarian to put a bird on the table and explore new forms of animal activism.

Ma’s call to action made a lot of sense: we need to teach people to be critical activists. Rather than distract them with click bait and turn them into slacktivists, encourage them to really reflect on their ideas, ideals and the impact they can have on society. A good cause doesn’t need a million clicks on Facebook.

And of course all of this works the other way around as well. A million clicks doesn’t make something a good cause. Leaderboards don’t make a boring product fun. Gimmicks don’t make a weak idea relevant, they just distract.

To drive the point home, here’s what I got when I went to purchase an image for this post. I don’t really need a badge to be a loyal customer, rather give me better search options!

2 years of membership badge

  • has anyone a strategy for linking museum objects to archival records to photos to family history – that actually works, is simple to use and can be taught to and used by volunteers in a local museum – and then used for blogs/social media/etc?