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Huffington Post Does a Foursquare, Offers Readers Badges for Good Behavior

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Updated: The Huffington Post — taking a cue from Foursquare, the location-based social network that allows users to win “badges” for checking in at various places — has launched a similar feature for regular readers of the news site. The beta offering includes three badges that readers can win — known as the “Networker” badge, the “Superuser” badge and the “Moderator” badge — based on the amount of activity they engage in on the news site. For example, connecting with other readers on the site will earn you a Level One “Networker” badge, and connecting your Huffington Post reader account with either your Facebook account or your Twitter account will bump you up to a Level Two Networker, and your comments on the site will be a different color from those posted by non-Level Two users.

The badges are just the latest offering aimed at implementing social features on the site: the Huffington Post was one of the first to implement Facebook Connect when it launched, and the service was tightly integrated into the rest of the site — for example, showing readers who connected their accounts a special sidebar with news that had been read and/or recommended by their Facebook friends. The badges extend that idea, and are clearly designed to encourage readers to spend more time on the site.

A FAQ describes the different badges: Networker is based on connections with other readers and with Facebook or Twitter, while Superuser rewards readers for commenting on stories and for sharing them through services such as Twitter and Facebook, and Moderator is based on how many comments a reader flags. It’s not clear how much of a given activity you have to engage in to win the badges, however. The Moderator badge says you have to have flagged 20 comments to get a Level One, but only says these flags have to display “a high ratio of good flags to mistaken flags.” I’ve asked Huffington Post for comment on why the requirements aren’t defined, but it’s likely so that the site has some leeway in deciding who gets rewarded.

Update: Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz said in an email that “in the interest of preventing users from gaming the system at the expense of others, we’re not releasing the Networker or Superuser formulas. We do, however, disclose the formula for our Moderator badge. We also feature all user stats prominently so community members know which kinds of behavior helped them earn badges.”

The way Huffington Post is using badges makes much more sense to me than something like the Wall Street Journal’s (s nws) recent partnership with Foursquare. Offering news tips and Foursquare badges based on where readers are checking in with the location-based network is a nice marketing gesture, but the conversion rate from Foursquare user to WSJ reader is likely to be fairly low. Huffington Post’s badges, on the other hand, may seem a tad gimmicky but they’re focused on the right thing: increasing engagement with readers.

It’s a similar approach to that taken by sites such as Slashdot, which has one of the most devoted reader communities online: Regular readers who behave properly by providing a real name, posting and/or flagging comments and contributing in other ways get “karma points” which then enhance their status on the site. It’s a reputation management system, and one that is functionally identical to the way that players of World of Warcraft and other games “level up” through their activity in the game (which is why everything is becoming a game). The idea is that being rewarded for behavior encourages more of that behavior, and also builds a stronger relationship with readers.

It will be interesting see what kind of response Huffington Post readers will have to the badges, and also what kind of effect they will have on metrics such as time spent on the site, repeat visits, etc. According to CEO Eric Hippeau, the implementation of Facebook Connect had a dramatic impact on reader activity such as commenting.

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22 Responses to “Huffington Post Does a Foursquare, Offers Readers Badges for Good Behavior”

  1. Hi Mathew,

    I am a big fan of your site. You’ve always got great info. Anyway, I know that you are interested in Foursquare, so I thought you might like to check out the Foursquare app I’ve just built for Facebook and WordPress.

    “My Foursquare makes it easy to show off your badges, mayorships and checkins on Facebook, your blog or your website”.

    If you want more info I can send you a detailed blurb and screenshots etc. Thanks, and keep the good info coming!

    Dave McKinney
    My Foursquare

  2. suzanne:

    It’s been a few months since the introduction of the badge system over at HP. I can tell you that my views of the badge system has somewhat changed. I have seen most bloggers use it responsibly—In my mind I kept picturing a wild west scenario.

    What has arisen which is pretty bad is that a few rogue have begun to use it as a way to delete opposing views, but the community has complained and HP has made a few changes. I feel they are trying to address the situation.

    On a personal note:I deeply apologize, even though I said I would not, for callously calling you the c-word. I initially felt that you were one of the HP trolls coming here attempting to create confusion about the way HP works.

    Recently a blogger ther had a major meltdown and used the c-word causing hurt feelings—I used it to bait you, but seeing how this can be very hurtful I FEEL DEEP SHAME. I hope you can forgive me, but if not just know I offer the apology sincerely.

    Jack House.

  3. @ suzanne:

    I think we are in accord in regards to the Badge system, being infantile in design and reckless in application @ the CM2 level. It appears you are a regular on HP and are familiar with the way I post if not let me clarify:

    I post maybe a few comments (varying in length and my knowledge of the topic)after some time I don’t see the purpose in spending hours on end disagreeing/agreeing with ideas(I take what I find good and jettison the rest—I do find a lot of useful info) when I go into “tr0ll hunting mode: is generally when someone is just being a tr0ll. Which is why I decided to treat Zoe’s comments as such.

    I do not make any apologies for my opinions there, here, or elsewhere….but will treat others cordial if given the same courtesy. Thanks to all that read these post for dealing with my slight diversion of the topic.

      • tr0ll hunting/mode is just a phrase if I see a person writing with no other purpose than to incite(negatively) I will wait 5 or 6 post before engaging them in serious discourse is they act belligerent I treat them as a tr0ll.

        BTW I spell it that way because otherwise it goes into pending and the person may not see the reply.

        My, my you are inquisitive.

        P.S. Re: Josh Young he is an employee of the company and if he states the sites policies I have no reason to doubt him(even tho’ I may disagree)

  4. thanks for explaining this–it happened without warning. suddenly, morons with giant purple profiles were greeting each other like neighbors over the fence. my reaction is to quit reading the huffington post. it’s almost incredible how it’s degenerated from a politics blog into a bikini slide show. the self-congratulatory system for senile shit-ins is just icing on the cake.

    • Folks, People like Zoe is the reason tr0lls are born on sites like HP. Zoe, Huffington post embraces the concept of community that you find so offensive– you say “suddenly, morons with giant purple profiles were greeting each other like neighbors over the fence.”

      Below is a clip of Josh Young, social media editor for the Huffington Post. He clearly states that this community fosters stronger bonds and this is good for discourse. Those people that you insult usually have spent a lot of time staying on topic before engaging in some of the social aspect i.e. posting greetings or music. If you enter a post when this is happening they will have a discussion if you which to have one, but trying to dictate the flow of the place is very Gestapo of you. This is what creates tr0lls, which happens on HP too, someone else attempts to squash others opinions and a nut with a 10,000 socks is born, to what end?— To create chaos.

      I have spoken against the use of a reward system via badges, reminds me of grade school award stars, because of the child like implications of such a system. However the only badge I am against is the CM2 badge, with it someone with a grudge can delete postings that someone else has worked hard and is entitle to have and to contribute.

      Since you feel free to insult people …you say ( “the self-congratulatory system for senile shit-ins is just icing on the cake.) You won’t mind if I repay you in kind when I say that a recluse c u n t like you just won’t get it.

      Josh Young–

      • Well, if Josh says so it must be true. Look at all the good times that have been going down here.

        “Below is a clip of Josh Young, social media editor for the Huffington Post. He clearly states that this community fosters stronger bonds and this is good for discourse.”

      • @ Suzanne:

        The social aspect and the banning/censorship are different things—-most of the banning before was by mods as a result of complaints to HP—what is happening now may be as a result of people abusing the CM2 power. Only time will tell.

      • Jack,
        The censorship aspect is by far the most objectionable part of the new system. The rest of it is just juvenile. However, the constant bandying about of the word troll everytime someone disagrees with you is either tiresome or paranoid. And, the c-word. Well, that’s mighty social of you, Jack.

      • ejackson21st

        It would be unfortunate if the good name of one of the best HP anti-badge supporters is wrongly maligned here. There is a person who has made many excellent comments to the thread of us protesters of the badge system whose name includes zoe.

        Either the zoe who posted here is maligning the original zoe or it is possible that this post comes out of much frustration from someone who has been a huge support. Never have I seen Zoe speak using this kind of tone or language. I hope this can be looked into and that jackholesrealm’s reply to Zoe be reconsidered. This reply by jackholesrealm is being posted elsewhere and I think it can be unintentionally harmful as it absolutely does not reflect the Zoe we all have come to know. Thanks.

  5. I’ve never much liked the Huffington Post but they definitely know how to market themselves online, as evidenced by the amount of screen real estate they devote to Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz functions as well as their various mobile apps. As a result, their layout and design is pretty awful to look at.

    I was hoping this badge idea was more about weeding out stupid web comments (a personal crusade of mine) and though it seems to address that slightly, it’s really another way that the Huffington Post is using social media to drive more and more traffic to their site. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but the way HuffPost does it is so tacky.

  6. The site is becoming a circus.

    Instead of the quality of comments being what brings them to the fore, it’s now a matter of gimmicks.

    I’m not going to be posting there anymore, especially with the horrid push to push vigilante moderation that’s going to snuff out disparate viewpoints.

  7. Karthik Prabhu

    The idea of offering badges is really a good way to involve readers. This way the readers will be involved with the activities on the site. It is actually a really nice way of marketing. The readers get tempted to earn badges. Badges will also gain a few readers some recognition that he is some kind of an important guy on that site. Nice concept.:)

    • I post on huff po and find the idea insulting.
      I voiced my opinion and and was put on a time out.
      I couldn’t care less about the”important guy” on the site
      status and find it doubly insulting. I guess you don’t post there.

    • You’ve got to be kidding! In the realm of reality it’s a blog and most mature adults don’t care much about receiving badges. Icons don’t make you anything special. The real power is in the money that Huffington is getting for all the free marketing on Twitter and Facebook. Not silly juvenile badges.