We recently implemented a suggestion from our users to insert the national flag for each user’s country of origin next to their user name after they add a post.
When several users advised us to implement this feature, we had not seriously considered how or why flags would enhance the forum community.
However, after implementing this feature, several benefits became obvious:
- Diversity & Tolerance. Flags emphasize the diversity of the forum and this seems to make people act more tolerant toward one another.
- Background Information. Knowing where a user hails from gives clues about their circumstances. This background information makes it easier to empathize with the user and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.
- User-To-User Connections. Practically, knowing a user’s general location helps users connect with people from their own country and can signal whether a person is awake or asleep at a given time.
In sum, flags make the forum community experience more engaging. They’re not always useful — e.g., if your community is clustered around a specific physical location and everyone’s from the same locale, flags won’t help much.
But on boards where the user base is spread across the world, flags create an extra dimension that helps users engage with one another.
When it comes to forums and gamification we prefer to keep things simple. Allowing users to give out reps to other users for adding valuable content is the best example of forum gamification because we want to reward constructive contributions without being too distracting.
At its core, the concept of badges as they are commonly used around the ‘Net today is basic as well: the user achieves some goal, and in turn the user gets a shiny piece of flair for their profile.
Computers are perfect for detecting certain milestones: it’s been one year since you joined the forum; you achieved a rep score of 100 points; or you created a thread with 1,000 views.
But in the context of forum communities, where user-to-user interaction is king, this purely automated approach seems rather boring and difficult to customize.
Besides, there are plenty of other tasks worthy of shiny profile flair that are more nuanced. Does the user go out of his or her way to help newbies? Did the user donate to the latest forum fund raiser? Is the user a leader in the community? Is there an inside joke with the community that we can pay homage to? It is much harder for a computer to create, judge, and reward such feats.
Bearing this complexity in mind, we designed the Ninja Post badge system to accommodate three scenarios:
- Badges automatically generated by the system. For achieving a milestone…
- Badges only created and awarded by Admins. For going above & beyond the call of duty…
- Badges users can award to one another. For impressive accomplishments and perpetuating inside jokes…
Most badge systems stop at the first item on the above list. But our goal is to maximize user engagement and user-to-user interaction. We believe that allowing users to create badges and award to one another is a novel way to make your forum more fun and engaging. See some examples in the chart below.
Imagine attending a cocktail party where the host only permits guests to talk about subjects that he or she deems worthy. No other topics are allowed. Sounds pretty lame, right? Well, reading a popular blog is like attending a party where the host controls the topics of conversation since readers can only comment on stories created by the site owner.
Ninja Post forum software alleviates this problem by allowing users to interact with one another more directly. Ninja Post gives users a place to hang out and the freedom to talk about any topic. Most importantly, Ninja Post makes it easy for users to share knowledge with one another and forge meaningful connections.
Serving as a platform to connect like-minded individuals with one another is one of the driving forces behind Ninja Post. After all, the best parties are the ones where you’re free to meet and interact with everyone in attendance.
Image credit: Cocktail Party by Charlie White (2000)