Gamification = Garbage

If you had walked into a room full of business executives 20 years ago and said the future of brand advertising will be about family photo albums and a scrap booking then you would have been laughed out of the room.

Today people get paid good money to do this kind of thing for a living. They walk into rooms. Big rooms full of highly paid business executives and tell them that, if they hadn't noticed yet... The future of business is here... and it's all about getting yourself into the family photo album and the online scrapbook.

Of course we call them social media and they have global brand names like Facebook and Pinterest. But they are what they are. Online photo albums and scrapbooks. Public places where people play and interact with digital media.

The bottom line? The takeaway? The Competitive Edge you are missing out on?

If you are in business today you can't afford not to be in the game.

But is this true?

You see the whole Social Network story is based on the simplistic idea that the future of marketing is about target marketing. Or what we have now come to describe as contextual marketing.

The more I know about you. The more accurately I can target you with goods and services that will meet your needs and expectations.

So the theory drives a business model that focuses on harvesting audiences by creating free, user friendly activities that allow the vendor to measure relationships.

Not only relationships with other people but also relationships with activities and things.

To build these vast self interest networks. The vendors of these online scrapbooks and photo albums have been smart enough to leverage the dynamics of gamification to accelerate the process.

The problem is gamification improves your growth prospects.
But it also significantly undermines the value of data generated by the game platform.

Take for example influence. Influence as measured by the number of friends or followers or likes or even links. Once influence becomes an accelerant in the gamification process for building a platform then the value of the influence data being generated by the platform falls rapidly to Junk or Garbage status. Why? simply because, prior to the rules of the game being publicised, these relationships did not matter. Now they do. Everyone becomes actively involved in building connections with people and things they had no prior interest in simply to conform to the rules of the game.

No matter what the platform. Be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instragram, LinkedIn or Pinterest. 10, 50 and even 100 contacts or friends = a loser when the average player has 135 connections. 500 = an above average player. 1000 = a real player. 1 Million = a winner. And so the game goes. No matter what the game. The players learn the rules. Understand the objective and game the system to their advantage. That is the nature of game play.

The problem is each new game connection. Each new virtual connection = a Garbage relationship being recorded and tracked by the database.

Why? because the 10,000+ relationships they have accumulated on the platform are just game tokens

Inevitably, as the process of gamification accelerates across the platform, the database trends towards garbage and ultimately, if the continuum stretches out long enough, chaos.

And this ultimately is the root problem with the mining of the Social Graph business model. The methods by which you choose to build your social graph ultimately impact on the quality of the data you collect. When you gameify you ultimately trade off quality for quantity. But the paradox is if you don't gamify then your growth is so weak your platform dies from lack of connections. The absence of the network effect.

This is the fundamental weakness of the network effect.
Growth through gamification = growth in garbage data.

So Gamification fuels the Network Effect. Which fuels the collection of Big Data. Which = the Complex Analysis of Garbage Data

Or, more simply

Gamification = Network Effect = Big Data = Garbage

Or, what one could best describe as problems one normally associates with an Enterprise Data Warehouse writ large on a global scale.
i.e. Garbage In = Garbage Out.

Applying network theory to the challenge of marketing is fundamentally wrong.

The market is a complex adaptive system. You change the shape of it by changing the rules not counting the number of connections.

Originally Published Summer 2010. What are we talking about today? Follow us on Twitter

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