Ever wondered what plant rooted itself in your garden, or what strange bug somehow survived the bitter cold outside to call your house its home? Or maybe on vacation to warmer reaches, you came across a disturbingly large insect? Some might run the other way, but if you are like me, you’re asking “what the hell is that?” Project Noah brings together a community that can help. It’s been out for over a year, and Project Noah has already engaged thousands of users in the age-old game that has attracted the likes of Darwin and Teddy Roosevelt: discovering and identifying nature’s treasures.
The web app is accessible and well designed, and the experience is also available on iOS and Android for finding critters in the field. Gamification features engage users towards contributing regularly. There is not a leaderboard, but top photos of the day are featured and reward users for contributing (check out yesterdays winning photo of a whale shark from user JessyZich). The overall design of the website is excellent, drawing on many of the design philosophies of gamification and engagement.
Badges and missions attract new users and provide depth for existing spotters. Badges in Project Noah are called patches and include the typical “leveling patches” for rewarding the simple number of spottings–going from tadpole to adventurer. Also, specialists patches, such as “bird specialist” and “arthropod specialist”, signal personal interests, and give a bit of customizability based on the users background.
User created missions are grouped in to different categories, such as being tasked with finding “Wildlife in Washington D.C.” or tagging the “Eggs of the World”. Individuals are not assigned missions, instead users join a group pursuing the same goal, creating a sense of community in the otherwise solitary experience of nature discovery.
Overall, Project Noah highlights many of the design elements of gamification by creating a structured and engaged community. Rather than force users into a track of rigid instructions and missions, Project Noah’s features promote sharing, customizability and personal engagement with the community and with their passion for natural exploration.