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Gamifying Blog Comment Killers at Business Insider


There is a long and painful relationship between gamification and blog comments. Ever since my Google Tech Talk, I’ve been using blog commenters as an example of Killer behavior in social app settings. Check out the video below to see what I’m talking about – skip ahead to 23:16 if it doesn’t do it for you automatically.



Today, Business Insider announced a revision to its commenting system that amps up countermeasures against killers that I find really interesting. You can read the full post by Blodget here, but in a nutshell, they’ve divided comments into three categories (decided by editors):

  1. Water Cooler (normal)
  2. Board Room (featured/awesome)
  3. Bleachers (sucks/disruptive)

And they’ve chosen a Viking motif…which is completely logical based on the sports/office metaphor they’re using. :)

This concept has been successfully in use for a while. Today, they unveiled a change that uses points to track users entry into the bleachers, and gives them an opportunity to redeem themselves easily. N.B. I’ve reached out to Henry for comment and will update this post when we get one.

If you get three comments “demoted” into the bleachers (which were cleverly designed to take the negative comments out of the core loop), for 24 hours all your comments will be automatically put there. That is, you get a “time out” where its assumed all your comments are disruptive. If you get even one comment into the Board Room (where great comments are promoted) all your strikes are wiped clean, and you can restart as a normal user.

The design is interesting, and raises a couple of questions. For example: how often will someone be in bleachers and boardroom at the same timeand whether the 3-strikes thing makes sense for their user pattern (or just as a general pattern). But regardless, it’s an interesting effort. I wonder why commenters behavior isn’t drawn across a longer continuum than just 3 comments, for example, and where the positive sustained promotion is, but I think this is a great start with a thorny issue.

The gotcha is – and will always be – that killers will keep coming back into the fray regardless of what you do, and small barriers/threats can often be won and worn as a badge of honor. The solution – to give people bragging rights for great comments – is an option that BI offers, but is very informal: If you write a particularly great comment, sometimes the editors will turn it into a post of its own (status!) but you’ll need to alert them to it first.

I’d recommend upping the ante and focusing the incentive loop on a more positive behavior change. Though it’s undoubtedly going to have a positive effect, long-term negative reinforcement rarely gets a community aligned the right way.


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