An Open, Federated Award Ceremony

web2.0 has its share of badges

I had this wacky idea... a useless idea, but maybe an interesting one to think about, just as a casual thought game, if you really apply the old grey matter.A kind of distributed badge service -- like twitter, but for awards.

You are familiar (I damn well hope) with Stack Overflow, the site where programmers ask questions, give answers, and vote on questions and answers.

works on my machine

Two important parts of the way users interact with the system are 'reputation' points and 'badges'. What I'm interested in today are the badges.

The badges on stack overflow are largely inspired by xbox live gamer cards. But all of this is really a product of Pavlovian psychology/Skinnerism -- Not to mention the pre-psychiatric system of 'war medals' (Napoleon tells us: "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon" -- only he says it in french, so he kind of mumbles it.)

Now -- think about twitter for a moment: it's a kind of distributed conversation, where you talk to anyone who'll listen (whether you listen to them or not) and you listen to anyone you're interested in (whether they listen to you or not).

works on my machine

Combining the two ideas together, i've been thinking (for no good reason) about a kind of distributed awards program, where people give and receive (maybe by nominating and voting on) awards to others, to encourage behaviour that fits an individuals view of what behaviour is best.

In this idea, you can only accept an award if you're subscribed to the person/institution who gives that award.

So, if you love greenpeace, you'd happily accept a 'rainbow warrior' award from them. If you're a republican, you probably wouldn't accept a 'biggoted halfwit' award from the democratic party.

If you're a fan of... say... (what's some modern band? ah yes) Mungo Jerry then you'd probably be thrilled to accept an award for 'biggest fan of mungo jerry'.

Awards only have meaning if you trust the person who gives them. (A given award would de-value quickly if given out too quickly, such as the awesome works on my machine badge' or the all-too-common 5 star awards' from a download site, that dowwnload sites caught handing out too freely a few years back (link missing, sorry... anyone?).


And maybe -- just maybe (it's only a thought game) -- other people's badges only appear at half-size, unless you subscribe/accept the giver of the badge.

So if you are viewing the Barack Obama's profile, then his 'president elect of the united states' badge is only half-sized to you, since you're not a subscriber to the united states democracy. But fidel castro's Cigar Chompin Legend badge appears full size because you subscribe to the institution for 'Cigar Chomping'.

Flair. Bling.

And the point of all these crazy awards would be to display them on your blog, or your mysite, your facebook, or perhaps even your resume.

Resumes are an interesting point -- this could be one part of the way that qualifications and certifications are actually dealt out. I'd be awarded a bachelor of engineering from an institution I care about. If I pass the right exams with microsoft I'd be issued the relevant badges.

All badges are of course 'click to certify' -- patent that, my son.

I'm thinking the 'openbadge' protocol, for federating the brokerage of such awards would be excellent. In web 3.0 it would be built on minimalist rest+json+microformats, and within 'enterprise' it would use the WS-(death)* plus federated-certificate-chain-hierarchy-taxonomies-for-authorative-something-etc.

My initial idea for this, by the way, was as an idea entirely within a large enterprise. In a big company I know they have sharepoint and they also have certification systems (for health and safety, and for other more rigorous disciplines). I thought to myself it would be nice if departments within the corporation could grant specific certifications to individuals, that were then displayed on that user's 'mysite' in sharepoint. Naturally, i want the whole world to get involved, not just a few lousy employees.

The internet has had 'badges' since the very early days -- so why not share them around somehow... any thoughts?


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