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As a new user user experiencing my first rush of SO addiction, it was interesting to see that the random rewards of finding questions to answer and getting notifications on my own questions didn't extend to badges. I complete a well defined task (edit 500 6+ month old posts), I get a pat on the head/badge. Could some of the behaviours be better encouraged by setting a general aim (edit old posts) with unpredictable and variable rewards, or is there an element of this system that I am missing?

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There sort of are: the count of upvotes on an answer/question are largely "random" in that you can't explicitly work specifically toward that goal. Plenty of others are long-term without explicit reinforcement beyond "keep editing and you'll get it eventually" since it's not shown explicitly. There's a good mix of reinforcement schedules IMO – Ben Brocka Aug 16 '12 at 14:00
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Intermittent rewards would work for what you want (encourage users to do X), but not in the way that we at SO want to encourage users. Stack Overflow isn't, and never will be, a RPG. The badges are there so that users can see what's encouraged (answering your own question, for instance) not so that people can collect and compare. The addictive nature of intermittent rewards would put the focus on the badges, rather than the work.

(Plus, adding dumb luck to badges would decrease their value. There are too many people firing the SO question shotgun already)

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What? It isn't RPG? – Oleg V. Volkov Aug 16 '12 at 14:32
@OlegV.Volkov No, it's a realtime strategy game. – Servy Aug 16 '12 at 14:37
Pretty sure it's a text adventure. Still haven't got ye flask. – Ben Brocka Aug 16 '12 at 14:58
Every time I log in, a grue eats me. Or a grep. I'm not sure which. – SomeKittens Aug 16 '12 at 14:59
Came here for the Quorum badge sidequest, stayed for the MUD. Thanks guys. – MilesHampson Aug 16 '12 at 23:48

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