Gamification, the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications, is transforming online news into an engaging, social and fun activity. It’s quickly becoming the next frontier in web and mobile technology.

But what makes gamification successful? Simply put: motivation. By tracking readers’ success, news organizations provide a sense of progress. This, in turn, motivates readers to continue reading, commenting or performing whatever actions on the site that will contribute to their overall progress.

At Mashable, we’ve incorporated gamification into Mashable Follow, our social layer and content curation tool. Readers sign up for Follow with their Facebook or Twitter login to comment on and share stories, manage their news streams by following the topics they care most about, and connecting with fellow readers by viewing and commenting on their site activity.

Activity is the core of Follow. Readers must be logged in to comment on articles and are encouraged to share to any or all of their social media accounts with a single button.

Rewarding readers for taking these actions was an important component of Follow. We decided to use Badges as the reward systems because they are native to our audience. The Badges are central to Follow’s game mechanics. Readers earn badges for everything, from gaining followers to connecting social networking profiles to their account. So far, there are 26 badges that Mashable community members can earn. Most are named after web memes, such as Strutting Leo and Double Rainbow.

Of course Follow badges are just one example of game mechanics on a news site — and here’s why they work.


Fostering Community


As a result of the hunger for badges, readers develop a more personal and valuable community on our site. All badge-worthy actions are tied to Mashable community contributions, such as commenting and inviting friends to use Follow. This inadvertently creates a stronger bond between Follow users and our site, making for a more engaged and committed readerbase.

Andrew David Baron, an avid Follow user, can attest to the badges encouraging Mashable readers to comment more. “[The gamification] lends itself to creating an informed hierarchy of Social followers… not many people are willing to take a risk and put their comment out there first,” he said.

Bob Aycock, another frequent Follow user agrees.

“Once Mashable launched Follow it made me start leaving comments and replying to other folks’ comments,” he said. “I also read more posts now that Follow has become such a hit (and personal addiction).”


Resonating With Readers


Mashable coverage is driven by web culture. That’s why we chose web memes as the main theme for Follow badges. Some of the most popular ones are David After Dentist, the unforgettable YouTube video of a child reacting to dental surgery medication, and Dramatic Chipmunk, yet another notable (albeit short) YouTube video. Keeping the badges consistent with our content area helps give readers a deeper connection to Mashable.

“It really makes people smile to see something funny, referential, nerdy, etc. — things that we can relate to and feel even more at home at Mashable,” Baron said. The Sad Keanu badge, inspired by a viral Keanu Reeves photo, is his favorite.


Creating Competition


In real life and on the web, badges are status symbols. Each earned badge shows as an update in the reader’s My Activity stream as well as the Friends’ Activity stream. Followers can comment on these updates and often do so, sharing congratulations — or jealousy. Knowing what badges friends are earning makes the game more of a friendly competition, which increases readers’ motivation to use the service. In addition, each Follow user profile has a Badges tab that shows what badges a reader has earned and which they have yet to unlock. These publicly displayed achievements make keeping up in the badge-earning race essential.


Room For Growth


Just as the next big web meme is always around the corner, so are future Follow badges. We aim to give readers something to continue striving for as a motivation to remain active. Our team is continuously brainstorming badge design and milestone ideas. It seems our readers are too. They recently got involved with the process by entering our Follow Badge Contest, which resulted in our newest badge: The Honey Badger. Involving the community in the gaming dynamics gets readers further excited about and vested in Follow.


Conclusion


Though badges have worked well for Mashable Follow, there are a number of gaming mechanics and strategies. Points, challenges and virtual currency have been successful for some sites as rewards, while behavior and calls-to-action are examples of viable game dynamics. Gamification remains an open book for the news industry. We’ve only scratched the surface on the potential for community building, revenue and more.

At the heart of gamification is games — and games are intended to be enjoyable. News organizations should explore it and challenge themselves to take a fresh angle on engaging their communities. And, remember, have fun.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rubenhi


Presenting Sponsor: AT&T


More About: community, content, curation, gamification, journalism, mashable, mashable follow, Media

For more Dev & Design coverage:


Brafton Infographic: Why Content for SEO? explores how content is key to search engine visibility.  They also have a related post which breaks down each area of the infographic. I like this stat – “76% of marketers who have strategic SEO campaigns in place invest in content creation.


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It seems like everyone these days is texting away on their mobile phone or updating their social network status every 5 minutes. It’s no surprise that the convenience of being able to access the Internet from anywhere at any time has made sharing messages and pictures so popular. I can’t imagine going anywhere without my cell phone on the off chance that something interesting might happen and I can document it as if I were the first news reporter on the scene. This is the first article in a two-part series in which I will show you how to create a photo blog as part of your personal website which you can update from your phone simply by sending an email.

Read the original:
PHPMaster: Creating a Mobile Photo Blog, Part 1

BuildMobile is looking for talented authors to join it’s team. We’ve got a large demand for a wide range of topics and we simply can’t keep up! If you think you can write on these any of these topics, then get in touch below. Mobile Application Design Small Screen Website Design Responsive Web Design Objective-C for iOS Java for Android jQuery Mobile Zepto.js Backbone.js jQTouch Appcelerator Titanium PhoneGap Sencha Touch Content Strategy on Mobile Mobile News and Events Send your ideas or what you’d like to write about through to us now! It might be worthwhile having a quick read of the About and Contribute sections of BuildMobile. Once you’re set, please email The Editor where fame and fortune awaits!

Originally posted here:
BuildMobile: Write for BuildMobile!

Not very long ago when we were planning the launch of our humble magazine BuildMobile, which you are reading right now, the content strategy included coverage of the nebulous WebOS mobile operating system. Come launch time, there wasn’t enough traction to include it in our platform categories, but we were hopeful for the future. WebOS in 60 Seconds WebOS is a mobile operating system based on the Linux Kernal Initially developed by Palm and first released in January 2009 Acquired by Hewlett-Packard in April 2010 for US$1.2b WebOS uses a “card” UI with a left-to-right flick for app swithcing, flick up for “off” The WebOS broswer, called simply “Web” is based on the WebKit layout engine WebOS “Synergy” feature integrates information from many cloud services into a single list Devices include the Pre , the Pixi and the Veer phones, then the HP TouchPad HP announced in March 2011 that WebOS would run within Windows by the end of 2011 On 18th August 2011 HP announced it would discontinue operations for WebOS devices Potentially even more HP TouchPads will be made and sold at a loss Web Standards based Native Apps A feature that was full of promise, and partly responsible for the underdog adoration WebOS attracted from developers worldwide, is that web technologies like HTML, CSS and Javascript are first class tools for developing native apps for the platform, with full access to hardware APIs like the camera.

Link:
BuildMobile: The Future of WebOS

It all about feeding the Beast!

If there’s one topic that is as alive today as it was in year past, it’s paid links. Are paid links bad? What are the ethics? Are they worth it? On and on. But I rarely hear talk some of the more important aspects when looking at them from a resource perspective.

First things first, there is rarely anything that doesn’t qualify as a paid link (technically). If you’re simply buying them outright or creating content/resources to get them or just a mommy blogger that networks; there is an associated cost. Sure, we’re being a bit anal in the assessment, but it’s true in most cases. You are paying for links. Thankfully, Google doesn’t see it that way.

Paid Links Debate

Paid Links

Now, we can deal with the questions in short order;

Are they bad? – no. Heck, even Google doesn’t mind them as long as they are flagged (via nofollow) so they can be discounted. But hey, search engineers know there are far more problematic things out there (artificially) affecting the rankings, the proverbial monkey-wrench.

Are there ethics? – I personally believe so. If you are purchasing links on behalf of a client without first fully explaining all the potential ramifications, then you are not doing your job in good faith as a part of the SEO community.

Are they worth it? – this one also depends. Many SEOs I speak with are resigned to the fact that in the more competitive spaces, it is mandatory. I know other link builders that almost entirely deal with paid links these days. But value really comes from actually looking at the situation and the road you are travelling. All that glitters may not be gold.

Let us consider;

  • Have to keep paying or the ‘equity’ dries up
  • Have to keep feeding in temporally affected query spaces
  • You need to keep feeding if competition is high
  • You run the risk of having them nuked
  • Ethics; have you truly explained the risk to the client?
  • What happens if the link seller gets nuked?
  • Ranking rentals….
  • Usually in a bad segment
  • Will Google (continue to) erode the value of links?
  • Traffic? Will it send actual traffic?
  • Budget eater (if sellers consistently raise prices)

Let me say this right out as well; I have been involved (called in after the fact) in places that have had ‘issues‘ from link buying. More than a few times (peeps called me; the Fixer). It is truly a double edged sword and one has to keep this in mind.

We can also consider elements in play such as page segmentation. If the Google is in fact using such an approach, we can also consier that even the location (usually low side panel of footer) further lowers the value of a paid link (more; page segmentation and link building).

Furthermore, there are less reputable ‘link builders‘ (term used loosely) that charge for a mass of paid links. Once they are off the project, for whatever reason, they take their marbles (links) and go home. Also problematic.

But what options are out there?

 

Content Programs

The next stop along the logic express of course is to look at some other approaches to generating links. Some that come to mind are;

  • Resource development
  • Breaking news
  • Networking (on and offline)
  • Outreach (sourcing)
  • Trolling (lol.. U know, emailing peeps)
  • Foundational (directories, article drops etc..)
  • Social Media (syndication, temporal, discovery)

You get the idea. There’s a TON more (like these link bait ideas) but that’s not the point here. So let’s move along smartly.

What are the considerations with these?

  • Less Risk
  • Future Proofing
  • Building Authority
  • More natural profile
  • Greater temporal opportunities (social)
  • Making important connections/relations
  • Less Susceptible to Google Changes

Thus I submit to you that a strong content program is often the best way to go. In combination with outreach, social (syndication and networking) it is a formidable tool. With more long term potential value.

One of my fav saying on it is;

Why rent what you can own‘ by Lee Odden

It has become easier than ever to get (quality) content out in front of the masses. Yes, there is always an associated cost, so it is a paid link of sorts, but the benefits and lack of risk make it the obvious choice. We also have to ask the question; is Google getting past the link? This also makes the risk v reward ratio more questionable.

Content programs are far more than a mere link building tool.

Paid Links V Content Programs

Thin Content in the Gun Sights?

Interestingly, with the whole MayDay changes and the assault on thin pages and content farms, we can infer that quality content will only be able to gain more ground moving forward. Google is unlikely to throw in the towel on that one any time soon.

Yea, I know.. the whole ‘content is King‘ spiel. I won’t be going there. One does tire of that line after this many years… but let’s not let that revulsion of a catch phrase unduly taint the attitude towards the concepts. There are plenty of SEOs that swear by paid links, many that promote content programs and even more that believe both are viable. I just believe that the paid route requires more consideration than many folks give it when starting down that path.

Let the debate begin! LOL… because I just KNOW I’ll be slammed on this one by friend and foe alike.

 

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Paid Links V Content Programs