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Driving User Adoption...Socially | SharePoint and Badges

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Categories:Adoption; My Sites; General Knowledge; MOSS; WSS; 2010


Note: We recently unearthed articles that were published on EndUserSharePoint's sister site EUSP2010 but were never migrated over to NothingButSharePoint. Over the next few weeks we'll be publishing these. The following article was originally published in July 2010.

Editor's note: Contributor Daniel McPherson is cofounder of zevenseas. Follow him @danmc

I recently presented a session titled “How to be more Social” at the SharePoint Australia and New Zealand conferences. The basic premise was to talk about some of the experience I picked up helping large organisations do better Knowledge Management through “Social Computing”. It’s things like

As the events got closer, I decided to include something a little “out there”, something I’ve yet to see an organisation adopt, but which I think could make a difference to user adoption. To my surprise, it was probably the section of my session that got the most traction, so I wanted to follow it up here.

The Problem

The biggest challenge an organisation faces during the roll out a new solution is not the technology. The technology is always the easy bit. The difficult bit is the people. There’s just something about us psychologically that we are resistant to change. I see this in myself, catching moments every now and then where I get annoyed at SP2010 for no reason other than the fact that it has changed even when, in most cases, it’s a change for the better.

To put it another way, there is no product feature or technical innovation which will make overcoming our innate psychological predisposition against change easier to overcome. Further, exactly how you should go about overcoming this resistance is all art and no science. User adoption remains one of the biggest challenges we face. Just ask Microsoft what percentage of their SharePoint licenses are actually deployed.


This is why I like the concept of “Badges”, it plays on another innate psychological predisposition, our desire to collect things, and our need to be rewarded. Badges provide a way of rewarding people for using the solutions you build in a constructive and beneficial way, and people are motivated to use your solutions in this way in order to collect all the badges. Its a positive feedback loop, its bringing “game” based elements to your intranet.

Before you write this off, and with it my blog, let’s take a look at some examples.

The first example is a geeky one, the Xbox. Today, nearly every Xbox game comes with the concept of “Achievements” built in. Why do we have achievements in games? Because it motivates people to play a game more, and getting more game hours out of a title means more value for the gamer. It is a solution that publishers created in order to overcome a classic “user adoption” problem.

Stepping out of the geek world for a moment, how many people were in the Scouts? If you were, then how many badges did you collect and why did you collect them? Badges in the Scout movement reward people and keep them engaged, there is always a new knot!

What about the military? There are badges all over the place, they convey rank, they convey bravery, they motivate. And when you were at school, your teachers understood how valuable badges could be in promoting good behaviour and completing school work, anyone get a smiley face stamp? You see we have always loved badges, it’s part of the human condition.

Heading back to the geek world, it’s now rare that a new mainstream site will launch and become successful without the integration of some sort of “game” based elements. The best recent example of this is Foursquare. The designers of the solution wanted people to check-in their locations on their phones, allowing them to see if friends are nearby, and be offered deals for frequenting nearby vendors. To encourage people to “check-in”, they introduced both the concept of becoming a “Mayor” and lots of badges. The person with the most check-ins at a certain location became the mayor, complete with leaderboard, and by doing different types of check-ins, you collected badges. What happened? People started competing, and the number of check-ins went through the roof. They solved their user adoption problem because people were encouraged and motivated to use the solution in exactly the way it was intended.

To me, all of this says that badges can work for SharePoint too. More specifically, applying the concept of badges to our solutions can give us just one more tool in the kitbag of user adoption techniques and strategies. So I built a proof of concept.

How does it work?

The coolest new Social feature in SharePoint is, without doubt, the Activity Stream. This is basically SharePoint’s version of the Facebook newsfeed, providing you with a list of (nearly) all the interaction a user has with SharePoint. Tag a document, it goes in your activity feed. Update your profile, it goes in your activity feed. Rate a blog post, it goes in your activity feed.

This is exactly the sort of information we need to build a badge system. A person updating their profile is a good thing, and they should be rewarded for ensuring that that information is up to date. In this case, rewarding them comes in the form of an “Autobiographer” badge, a gold badge, which is displayed on their “MySite” profile.

The diagram below shows a users “My Site” before they have collected any badges:


If we now go and edit the users profile, we should see it added to their Activity Stream on the left and, at the same time, see a new badge appear on the right.


In this case it’s a silver badge, but you can also create Gold and Bronze. Hovering over the badge reveals more information about it.


To setup these rules, I created a very basic rules engine. Essentially it just counts the number of times a particular Activity appears in a persons stream, then when you go over that number, you get the badge.


We are currently working on a more sophisticated model which provide for more possibilities.


In summary, I firmly believe that badges have enormous potential. Driving adoption has always been, and remains, the biggest challenge facing those looking to realise maximum business value from their investment in software based solutions. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.

If you are interested in badges, and think it could make a difference to SharePoint in your organisation, drop me an email I love talking about this stuff!

Further Reading:

Check out Badges and Point on

Coding Horror (the developer behind Stack Overflow):


Nancy Skaggs

Love this concept

I love this idea and agree that it makes people want to change, which- if you can get that to happen- is the catalyst for all the rest of it.

Posted 04-Dec-2012 by Nancy Skaggs
Dana Knowles

great concept...but what about companies slow to adopt?

Perhaps this isn't the forum, but do you have any solutions for those still plodding through the dark ages of 2007? Thanks x

Posted 04-Dec-2012 by Dana Knowles
Rich Blank

badges do have great use cases but SP2013 is limited

Rewards and recognition are things that already exist in many orgs in non-digital form. Use cases will drive the digital form of reputation and gamification. When you dive into use cases where badging and recognition can drive real measurable business value, SP2013 capabilities are just limiting. Some examples of SP2013 limitations are no peer to peer recognition; SP2013 badges are only awarded on community site level and not across the entire social network; when you get a badge you don't see the event in the activity stream; there's no tiered badging; no reporting on badging; and SP2013 is limited in terms the types of system activities that can be included towards earning badges. And there are many use cases that involve gamification integration with backend systems/processes and require external events for badges...and SP2013 has no ability to bring in external events. These limited capabilities of native SP2013 limit the potential of possibilities.

Posted 04-Dec-2012 by Rich Blank

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