You’ve gained The Grumpy Cat Badge: gamification and social networks

As I tweeted earlier:

And I learned a new word. Go me! Where’s my badge? Have I unlocked a new level? Gamification

Gamification (strangely pronounced GAMEification) is the idea of treating business, training, work or play as a game with a set of rewards. I’d come across the concept but not the word, and it was this BBC report on SXSW that introduced me to it. I like the fact that Grumpy Cat is the most popular thing in SXSW, and I think the idea that SXSW is sort of a gamification of finding venture capital and new tech as a great point. But the apps where you gain some silly star or badge are condescending and annoying, like the ‘tick and a star!’ I once heard some 4x4DrivebyMom annointing a Princess-dressed Jessica in Hampstead once.

SXSW does seem to have a religious zeal in the same way TED is strange in it’s cult-like self-perpetuating belief system. I do wonder who is trying to convince who at these things? Like some mix of evangelical church, PR puff sessions, infomercials and self-delusion/belief. The burn cycle in full effect – everyone talking at each other but no-one listening? Pitching to each other? Another circle of hell? Presided over by The Grumpy Cat Pope.

But the stuff about Yappem made me worried: this idea of bribing people to recommend stuff to their friends isn’t new, but as I get deluged by people who work in the industry recommending the SAME comedy show it triggers the same response that I’m guessing will get more and more familiar. In this world of endlessly shared but factually wrong Facebook memes: cynicism and skepticism.

The Cake Is A Lie, and I don’t care if it’s a badge in Foursquare you can keep it. It’s nigh on impossible to get anyone to actually listen for free stuff anyway but in the future that hurdle will be much higher. As the noise ratio isn’t just from the traditional channels and a few Facebook games, it’s going to be your whole social network gaming Minority Report style to get some benefits from their friends. Yes monetizing or ‘gaming’ your social network? That’s as horrible as it sounds…coming to an app near you.


  1. March 19

    I appreciate your blog but must correct some assumptions on what the platform does. One of the great things about Yappem, is that is decouples the incentivized review/recommendation. We are rewarding people for sharing their experiences, but they are not forced to choose that brands gift card. For example, if a user is talking about McDonald’s and Gatorade and then earns enough coins for a gift card, they may chose to get a gift card from Thus brands are not able to “Pay” for endorsement.

    Our idea is to have organic naturally occurring behavior (which is already on other social platforms) go through Yappem. We are not interested in SPAM or other incentivized content. We are going to reward users by sharing the profit in the form of gift cards. We like the idea of this behavior getting rewarded as it is currently creating profits for companies but those profits do not seem to find their way back to the users. We think the users own their content, and thus should be rewarded.

    I hope this gives you a more clear understanding of our platform and we would welcome a further discussion to allow you to fully understand what we are offering.


    Justin Webb – CEO and CoFounder of Yappem

    • March 22

      I think you’re missing the point here.

      Alienation and disenfranchisment is bad enough in the modern world without having to worry why your friends are recommending things. It’s not so much that they don’t get benefit currently – that’s why those suggestions bear some weight and trustworthiness.

      Having people gaining credit (from anyone) for such recommendations breaks that trust. The idea of ‘monetizing’ mine or more importantly my friends recommendations makes my stomach turn. And is pretty evil, as it brings advertising and outside influence and money into a social friendship, and makes you question the veracity and source of the other things they say.

      Very problematic – and I bet either people won’t declare they are doing so, nor will there be the transparent framework to see it’s a ‘sponsored’ suggestion, and the companies won’t want that because they want to leverage those social connections and they know such ‘outing’ would mean people would then switch off as advertising.

      It’s an insidious way of using social relationships and media, and I don’t see how it can work especially when (and it will be when) such ‘benefits’ come out and the inevitable fall out happens…because it won’t be organic, people will start suggesting the companies that are part of the scheme to gain more benefits…such ‘brand champions’ I don’t want to be part of my social circle as they have basically sold my friendship.

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