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author's profile photo Matt Fraser

Karma Chameleon

So, erroneously-awarded karma credits for likes on coffee corner discussion comments are about to be removed. This is a good thing, of course, bringing us back in line with our pre-relaunch strategy of keeping Coffee Corner "points-free." But it did trigger me to go and take a look at how many points I have (something I haven't paid much attention to), and then to wonder how many of those are from the aforementioned coffee corner discussion comment likes (yes, I know that's a mouthful).

I think I'm suddenly going to have quite a bit less karma. Maybe a whole lot less. But, since only I can see the number (well, moderators can see it, too, if they care to go look, but they have to dig a bit for it), you won't know, will you?

But I'll know.

So what will this dramatic reduction in karma mean for me? Will it mean that in my next life I'll have to come back as a toad, to relearn important life lessons I've obviously forgotten?

My need to relearn life lessons is probably obvious, but I doubt I'll come back as a toad. Although this wouldn't have to be all bad -- Mr Toad from The Wind in the Willows didn't have that bad a life, did he? But that aside, what's being lost is something I shouldn't have earned in the first place. I leave pithy comments on discussions created by others in a space intended only for fun, and some people like those comments. Where's the karma in that?

Nowhere, is the right answer.

Karma Credits, like the somewhat fuzzy (and much misunderstood) karma they are named for, are something of a philosophical -- mystical? -- concept. They give you a measure of how you're doing, except you have no scale for the measurement, and no ruler to use. Do you have more or less karma than your neighbor? No way to know, unless you reveal your numbers to each other. In that way, it's a bit like salaries in private sector organizations where such things are kept secret. You don't know if you're making more or less than your colleagues. You may be quite happy with your salary, until you learn that your more-junior and less-skilled coworker makes more because he's a better negotiator than you are.

Of course, I work in the public sector, and my salary is a matter of public record. Anyone who cares can go look it up, or at least file the local equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request to discover it. The salary scales it's based upon are published, so if you know my grade and step, you know how much I make. The grade is related to the position title, so that's not hard to figure out, and the steps are based upon seniority, so you can probably make an educated guess. There are some unfairnesses built into this scheme, but also transparency that helps (not completely, but it helps) to eliminate biases such as the gender pay gap (assuming that women are granted equivalent job titles to men they work with). Plus, this keeps me accountable to the taxpayers who are the ultimate source of my income.

Hmm, so should karma credit scores be public? Or remain private, as they are today? I don't know the answer to this, and at the moment I don't really have an opinion on it.

What do you think?

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  • Jan 25, 2018 at 07:19 PM

    Personalise it. Allow the user to choose privacy setting. Users who love gamification can make score (and peehaps activity) public whilst those who don't can ignore

    Points chasers could be punished (I mean re-educated) by having admin hide their scores from everyone including the point chaser for 30 days or whatever the lesson needs to be so they stop fixating on the number

    • Jan 25, 2018 at 08:36 PM

      I cared for badges, back in the day but not enough to be a ponit-hunter. I don't really care what my Karma Credits show.

      So I could go either way, but I like Colleen's idea to make up to the individual.

      But please like my comment at least for now. :-)

      • Jan 25, 2018 at 08:50 PM

        There, two more points for you to lose! :)

        I liked the badges. I found them to be fun, and I think they helped to engage people and motivate them toward desired behaviors, by giving them missions to complete.

    • Jan 26, 2018 at 07:40 AM

      Totally like your idea and, as Susan Keohan and Matt Fraser, i liked the badges (even if didn't gain many of them ) because somehow they showed a kind of interest by the people "wearing them".

      They were not a real certificate but at least can attract your attention toward this or that person.

      • Jan 26, 2018 at 01:24 PM

        I liked that the idea behind the badges was that you participated in a specific type of activity - whether is was Blog It Forward, or reading the ROE, or participating in our Doctors Without Borders challenges (I care, I gave, I inspired). There was a path towards achieving a badge which may have helped members.

        I was not a fan of the whole gamification idea when it came out, but it had more meaning than Karma credits - and yes, the usual disclaimers apply - there will always be people who attempt to game the system so it wasn't perfect.

        scn-badges.png (69.0 kB)
        • Jan 26, 2018 at 03:20 PM

          Precisely! Although I did (and still do) like gamification. But the badges specifically represented missions (which are coming back, yay!), and missions represented specific activities, just as you said. This is how you became a better contributing member of the community, by following the path of activities that the "elders" laid out for you which leads to full citizenship after a period of apprenticeship. We do this for our kids, making them advance through grades in school, taking certain tests to prove their knowledge, etc, resulting in a diploma, and with advanced "missions" that result in degrees, or licenses, and so forth. This works for our society, and it can work again for our community.

          Personally, I always felt that Caroleigh Deneen has the most fun job, getting paid "super serious" business types to design game rules and missions for users to strive for.

          It's a bit like the long-standing (for generations!) argument about how to encourage your kids to do better in school, or to do chores around the house. For instance, should you reward your kids with cash for grades they earn? There's the argument that they should study for the sake of learning, that gaining knowledge should be motivation enough. Then there's the argument that later in life they will absolutely be paid for achieving things in their careers, and their grades in school have a somewhat direct relationship to that later career, so get them in the habit now of understanding that applying themselves results in more money. And there are other arguments besides these two, for or against.

          For the record, I paid my daughter for the grades she earned all through high school, and I'm continuing to do so now she's in college. It has had a noticeable effect, as she sees a direct and meaningful difference for getting a better grade (and it also rewards her for attempting tougher classes -- "easy A's" aren't rewarded as much), and it certainly makes her happier.

          So why should gamification in the Community be any different?

  • Jan 25, 2018 at 09:40 PM

    Listening :)

  • Jan 26, 2018 at 08:47 AM

    Hm, I don't have an opinion, either, but I do hope I can quickly get that chorus out of my mind that was triggered by your subtly-chosen title...

    • Jan 26, 2018 at 12:31 PM

      It's in my head too, but it comes and comes and goes...

    • Jan 26, 2018 at 03:23 PM

      I was wondering how long it would take for someone to comment on that! Congratulations, Volker wins the prize!

      I hated that song at the time, when it was new and popular. But it's a serious earworm.

      • Jan 29, 2018 at 08:37 AM

        So do I get pinots for that? - Ah yes, at least temporary:)

        I hated that song at that time, too, and that has not changed much. Apparently hating a song increases its chance to become a personal earworm...

        • Jan 29, 2018 at 10:44 PM

          And becoming an earworm increases a song's chances to become hated...

  • Jan 26, 2018 at 12:36 PM

    I couldn't sleep last night -- tossing and turning and torn up over the looming loss of my credits. And I got to thinking...couldn't we get some sort of points (sorry...pinots) for Coffee Corner contributions?

    Barista tips?

    Star bucks?

  • Jan 26, 2018 at 03:04 PM

    The community giveth and taketh away...

    I know this karma point shaving scheme was discussed previously when gamification was postposed for all the right reasons on prioritization, etc. but admittedly I have looked from time to time to see my point total. When receiving the email I was not surprised, but personally I think the accumulation should have simply been frozen months ago and the points should stay as-is. Why add anything further to provide additional demotivation.

    Community growth is not addition by subtraction...

    • Jan 26, 2018 at 03:08 PM

      To my mind only small part of Community users actively participated in Coffee Corner discussions. And this part will survive even without Coffee Corner points :)

    • Jan 26, 2018 at 03:32 PM

      Ah, now we get to the 'serious' part of the discussion.

      I can understand the difficulties the team must have faced in deciding how to handle this, since yes, they've known for some time that points were being awarded inappropriately. My guess is that until they had a technical solution from the vendor to separate Coffee Corner from the rest of AnswerHub in this regard, it was probably a matter of either freezing all points for all questions and answers, or letting it go on while they worked it out. That could potentially have resulted in demotivating more people, earlier, during a time when the Community was struggling more than it is today to keep members engaged.

      And, Caroleigh did indicate that they are paying attention to reactions to this announcement, which means they remain open to suggestions for alternate paths forward.

      • Jan 26, 2018 at 04:01 PM

        Hi All --

        Thank you for the input. It is true, that it is a very small percentage of the community that will be affected (~150), and most of those, by quite a small amount. It is also correct that the configured awards had to apply throughout the site, for participation in all tags and all of coffee corner. We we learned of the issue, we adjusted our planned allocations accordingly, to try to reduce the inflation, while still recognizing the contributions in Q&A. It was a messy compromise. And it's been painful for me watching and waiting, knowing it was going on.

        Since we do still hope to use the karma totals to take advantage of some of the platform's "privileges based on reputation" options, (you may have also heard it called crowd-sourced moderation, or the trusted member concept), adjusting still seems like the right course of action to me. Present company excluded, not all the folks who contribute in coffee corner (in the last year, or looking toward the future), would be worthy for extra privileges, for example, if they are only active here and not actually in the Q&A platform.

        I think a mission that recognizes the active socialization here seems appropriate. Many clever names come to mind, but I will zip my lips and ask, anybody want to make a proposal?

        PS - Yes, I do have a fun job!!! But this year is shaping up to be a lot more fun that last:)

      • Jan 26, 2018 at 05:25 PM

        I've stopped trying to guess what goes on behind the scenes, and just offer to help where I can. But IMHO excusing it away because of vendor limitations and the waiting / blame game doesn't hold water any more, especially since we moved off the Jive platform with the own our own code and destiny statements. </rant>

  • Jan 26, 2018 at 07:35 PM

    I just hope you realize what you have done with that title.

    now my brain is dead.
  • Jan 26, 2018 at 08:19 PM

    I rather miss the good old precious metal and stone levels. We had that since SDN and it was just something to look forward to. Also they were shown next to your posts, which was nice and sometimes helpful. Right now other than moderators, Mentors, and SAP employees SCN members don't have any distinguishing marks, so to say. Even MOMs have nothing. And that's a shame IMHO.

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