Badges, badges everywhere but not a drop to drink

One of the potentially exciting improvements in SharePoint 2013 is badges. These allow you to assign reputation to users of community sites – but how do they stack up?

Badges are a “gamification” concept; you define achievement steps and give the learner a badge as a reward for reaching each step, or you give a badge to recognize achievement.  Potentially they could be a great boon in SharePoint for learning – by giving accreditation and recognition to learners. [See a slideshow by Justin Mori at SharePoint Saturday Belgium for some rationale on gamification.]

Like many, I’m still getting to grips with the strengths and weaknesses of SharePoint 2013. It’s definitely easier to use, but I’m disappointed that some features have been removed. For instance in SharePoint 2010, you can create Status Lists as dashboards – red for problems, amber for warning and green for okay – but these are dropped without a lot of explanation in SharePoint 2013.

If you’re using Office 365, migration to 2013 is great – Microsoft do it for you. But if you’re on premise, there’s more work than it should be – for instance if you have “best bets” defined in search in SharePoint 2010, they seem to need to be manually re-created as “promoted results” in SharePoint 2013.

But back to badges – how good are they in SharePoint 2013?

What badges can do

Badges are a capability of community sites.

There are two kinds of reputation that people can earn in these sites. The first is achievement points, as shown in the example below, whereby community members can get points for activities, for instance creating or replying to a post.

Specify the point values in SharePoint 2013

And the second is badges, where the community moderator can create text badges and assign them to people manually. These are defined in a SharePoint list – for example in the screenshot below, I’ve made 3 badges – Expert, Professional and Moderator.

SharePoint badges 

You can then assign a badge to a community member, for example I’ve assigned myself the Moderator badge in the illustration below.

What a badge looks like

For a good perspective after practical use, see an excellent article by Susan Hanley on Why We Are Disabling Reputation Settings in SharePoint 2013 Discussions Lists. Her view is that the reputation points system is too basic, for example a “best reply” is not too meaningful in knowledge sharing, but she mentions using badges usefully in one project.

Badge limitations

Badges seem to have a number of significant limitations:

  • Badges are text only – you can’t make graphical badges out of the box. (Though see this blog article for how to do so with some coding.)
  • There is potential confusion as to whether badges need SharePoint Enterprise – Microsoft suggest here they are only supported in Enterprise, but I believe they work in standard SharePoint. It would be helpful for Microsoft to confirm this will always be the case. 
  • A person can only have one badge. Giving a second badge takes away the first one.  This seems a pretty fundamental weakness – and makes badges very one dimensional. If you have two or more things to reward people on, you can’t do it. Or if you want to give badges for specific achievements, it only works for the first achievement people do.
  • You’d expect that community site badges would be visible in personal profiles within SharePoint.  So you could see centrally people’s achievements. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case – at least in Office 365, having a badge doesn’t show up in your profile.
  • Documentation from Microsoft on badges and how to extend them is very sparse. Although there is one interesting article here: How to Allow Only Users Who Have a Community Badge to Your SharePoint 2013 Site.

I hope I’m wrong on these limitations – if anyone knows better, please comment on the blog or email me and I’ll update.

Summary

My title “Badges, badges everywhere but not a drop to drink” is a little mean. Within a single dimension, community site, badges look as though they could be valuable. And every great feature has to start off somewhere.

But compared to other systems – see for example how SAP use gamification and badges in the SCN community network – SharePoint badges are very basic. For badges to truly be part of a great SharePoint based learning system, they’d have to do a lot more.

Microsoft have shown in the past that they can listen to feedback and make weak software into great software, and I hope future updates to SharePoint give us a lot more.


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3 Responses to Badges, badges everywhere but not a drop to drink

  1. Jonatán Panduro says:

    A very usefull blog, congrats, I really was searching information about gamification API’s for sharepoint and now I can see Sharepoint 2013 has this badges, but really basic. I’m not sure but I guess with a particular development in sharepoint with .net is possible to improve and upgrade a custom gamified badge’s system
    Cheers

  2. Morgan Roach says:

    Thank you for this helpful post!

  3. I think there’s something wrong on the replies front. The reputation level doesn’t go up no matter how many replies levels they reach, it only increments when they add a new discussion. Have you found this? Is there maybe a setting to be tweaked? I checked all the reputation settings and they look ok.

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