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Session by Tamao Nakahara, Pivotal

Premise: At Pivotal and previously at VMware, I have noticed a lot of pressure within corporations to "gamify" user activities. Coming from the developer communities world, I have an immediate negative reaction to that. Am I too cynical or am I wrong to think that developers have gamification fatigue? Happy to be challenged. My personal goal is to reward and recognize community champions without making them feel like they've been pulled into a system they don't like.

From our discussion:

1. Gamification in personal life vs at work:

We had a general consensus that we find some aspects of gamification fun when it has to do with videogames or personal goals such as walking. We can enjoy the challenges that we experience between us and our devices (jawbone, wii fit, etc) as well as between different users (friends challenging friends).

But we don't really enjoy artificial gamification associated with coding, community status, leaderboards, etc. Especially if gamification is run by a group (tool, agency, etc) that does not really participate in or understand the community, then the whole experience feel stale.

2. Gamification in Dev communities - learning vs. social/community marketing:

We also concluded generally through discussion that gamification can be gratifying if we have specific coding activities or challenges where we are explicitly learning something. Then the satisfaction of learning can be enhanced by a gamified reward or recognition.

On the opposite end, the most ungratifying gamification experience is rewarding community activities, especially those that feel forced and lacking in authenticity - eg. doing a meetup group, liking something, tweeting something, showing praise for someone else if it is purely to rack up points within a game system. If we still want to reward people for doing those things genuinely, we need to find something less artificial and more fun than an gamified program.

3. Gamification as necessary trickery?

We talked about the pressures to gamify lessons in our school systems because teachers are fighting for student attention against games that offer short-term gratification. Similarly, if we are convinced of our OSS technology's benefits, how far do we take gamification as a hook to get people to take the first step and hopefully "trick" them into seeing the merits of the bigger picture that we are trying to teach them. Can we lure students with games and puzzles that "trick" them into learning math, for example?

4. Negative associations with already "gamified" systems?

Some merit-based/or hierarchy-based systems are already strongly in place - eg. academic tenure programs that requires x number of books, y number of journal articles, z hours of committee service, etc. or eg. professional rating systems that require a savvy understanding of self-marketing, promoting performance metrics, 360 reviews, etc. How can we offer recognition without creating systems that could be associated with these negative experiences?

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