We can argue that almost all social networking tools these days have some form of “rating”, and that this trend is quite old. You can “like” things on Facebook, give “love” or “stars” on other platforms, rate eBay merchants, and so forth. VW Platforms like There.com also had a system of rating and achievements. In IMVU or Frenzoo, if you’re willing to spend some minutes chatting with random newbie strangers to welcome them in, you get points (and virtual money) for doing so. Most web-based forum systems have ways for participants to rate each other, and if you achieve a certain degree of ratings, you’ll get more functionality (from the ability to get a personalised avatar icon instead of a standard icon, to merely nice badges and titles). Digg is perhaps the ultimate ranking system, where news just get across if enough people are willing to announce them. If you take a look at my blog’s sidebar (well, at least in 2010; I might change the layout in the future, while this text will probably remain searchable on the Web for a few decades…), you’ll see a lot of badges — my Technorati rank, my Google Search rank, and the “achievement” to be one the best blogs for this or that company, and so forth. How are all those things different from an achievements system for a virtual world? They aren’t.
Why do I display them at all? Well, for two reasons mostly. The first is vanity and a sense of pride — “hey, I actually manage to get people to read my blog!” Pride/vanity are huge motivators for people to do things, specially if they can get some sort of public recognition for what they have done. That’s why we have prizes for all sorts of things. And the second reason is that it establishes credibility. I’m supposed to have been reviewed by an organisation that gives me the right to use a badge of some sort — or, as an alternative (like on Technorati), there is a public jury out there who thinks that I’m worth being read and give me nice positive rankings. Credibility and reputation is the coin of trade in virtual worlds and online communities — it’s thanks to these that I might be hired or contacted to do something.
Moon Adamant, my RL roomie, and who is far more clever than me (that’s mostly why she doesn’t blog; in her words, “if my opinions are worth anything, I don’t give them away for free by blogging”), summarises those two reasons in her famous statement: “All people are motivated either by Greed or Glory (or both)”. Glory is tied to public recognition and an appeal to vanity and pride; Greed is tied to the ability to get a tradeable asset (most people would think “money”, but, as said, “reputation/credibility” is also a tradeable asset). Some have both. Some clearly just work for Glory (e.g. open source developers). For most of us, we respond to both.| ← Previous | | | Next → |