Another aspect of virtual badges that is often forgotten is that they need privileges. A key blunder (beyond having too many badges) is the tendency for sites to hand out badges that offer no privileges.
Badges, when correctly applied, should give the holder certain privileges not available to an ordinary community member. Otherwise the badge is purely aesthetic.
A privilege doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to exist.
Let’s take another look at Blue Peter badges.
Any winner of a Blue Peter badge can instantly get free entry to one of 200 attractions in the UK. That doesn’t have to be an educational attraction (in keeping with the spirit of Blue Peter) but can be purely entertaining – such as entry to the Alton Towers theme park.
The actual monetary value of this discount is small (about $15) but it has a high perceived value, especially in terms of bragging rights – “I have it and you don’t”
Badges have been used to show who has privileges within a community for a while:
- Disabled Badged cars give owners the right to use Reserved Disabled Parking bays.
- A Rotary Club member wears his Rotary Badge to ensure he can get a free lunch at any of 34,000 clubs worldwide
- Winning the mortarboard badge on Stack Overflow gives users the ability to update post tag classifications
- Online discussion forum enthusiasts can sometimes win a “Moderator” badge giving them the ability to edit other people’s posts.
When I was at boarding school, we had some crazy “privileges” allowable within a strict stratified, age based, pecking order. For example, in your first year you were only allowed a personal music player with headphones, in your second a stereo (without detachable speakers). It was only in the third year, that you could graduate to the giddy heights of owning a stereo with detachable speakers. These privileges may seem petty and miniscule but to 14 year old boys those privileges take on significance and hence the corresponding badge – (“First year, Second year, Third year, Sixth form”) – did too.
So, before you add a new badge to your community, make sure you know what privilege is going to go with it. Believe me, it matters, however small.