We need more meta data about progress for some of the badges, particularly with new ones like Electorate, Pundit, and more. This started off as a whinge about Electorate, but has been expanded into something which might be closed as a close-to-duplicate. But I'd actually like some of these answered more individually. StackQL doesn't fix it, because it's typically old.

For example - I don't think I can tell how many questions I've upvoted. I can see how many upvotes I've made, but I can't tell which were questions and which were answered. So I can tell how close I am to Civic Duty, but not Electorate.

I can't tell how many upvotes I have on comments. This means I can't even tell which of my comments are popular, and the kind of comments that I should be making more of.

I can't tell how many consecutive days I've been around. (I know - I've asked it before, written the query, got the T-shirt - sorry, that was on EE - etc...)

I can't tell how many days I've hit the 200 point cap.

I can tell how close I am to Great Question, to Populist, to most of the badges in fact, but there are some that aren't. I know that the tag-related questions are designed to be 'surprises', but even that info is available in the Tag Stats. So I don't get why we don't see just a little more info.

I've heard that it's about the load on the database... but as there are queries which calculate all this quite often, how about the results of the queries get stored in a table somewhere, and then let people view the results for their stuff somewhere?

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I can't tell how often my vote to close found enough fellow-curmugeons to do the deed, and that would help me tune my closing to the general zeitgeist. –  Rosinante Jan 4 '10 at 2:12
I think they want badge acquisition to be a surprise.. as I have read on here before. So any statistics are going to be a closely guarded secret.. see my previous question here: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/30902/… –  staticx Jan 4 '10 at 3:14
What I'd like to see is if you click on a badge, to see where you are with regards to the requirements. IE: Pundit is 10 comments voted 10 times or more, you have: x –  OMG Ponies Jan 4 '10 at 3:27
@Roboto Yes, but many of them aren't surprises at all. I just want a higher degree of consistency, and a little more information in the areas where you can almost tell, but not quite. –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 3:32
@OMG Sure, but Jeff has stated before (somewhere) that he doesn't want to be running those queries over and over, since the database is already under quite a bit of load. Although, you'd think with decent indexing... (stuff that BrentO already knows) –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 3:35
@Rob: Plus they cache the tag stats, and it could be part of the user profile... –  OMG Ponies Jan 4 '10 at 3:37
Yes. tag stats are easy to see. Eg, I recently noticed that Matt Hamilton was very close to 400 on the wpf tag, which influenced my decision to upvote an answer of his that I liked, but on a day when I was running out of votes. –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 4:04
declined for the reasons stated below - but see: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/3230/badge-progress-reports/… –  Shog9 Feb 20 '13 at 7:19
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4 Answers

up vote 64 down vote accepted

Some of the badges are supposed to be surprises, not World of Warcraft style level grinds based on numbers.

I worry that if we provide too many metrics:

  • it becomes noise, like a bunch of inscrutable F-16 cockpit gauges -- how are all these numbers useful except for these specific badges?
  • the badge becomes the explicit goal instead of the desired behavior
  • the badges are no longer a pleasant surprise and reward but an expected "level up"
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I think it comes down to a matter of pride. So, if someone knows their consecutive day count is high, they might try that bit harder to get online that day to keep it high. Not just about the badges, but also the kind of metrics that are available. It's nice to aim high, and metrics help with that. –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 5:24
I'm still a little bothered that I didn't get Fanatic on SO while I did get it on Meta - and as far as I know, I've never visited Meta without also visiting SO. And now I have no idea how far I have to go; the idea of trying again for 100 consecutive days sounds so off-putting that I'm considering simply breaking loose from the site while my day-count is still low. –  mmyers Jan 4 '10 at 15:33
I'll reluctantly accept this answer, even though I don't agree with Jeff's perspective (as I think the site would benefit from more metrics) –  Rob Farley Jan 18 '10 at 3:31
Sorry, Jeff. That may be what you want but it may not be the natural psychological consequence to the situation you created. There's a reason that WoW-style badge systems work. I don't know all the reasons why and I'm guessing you don't either, but I bet the people who made WoW know. You copied a winning formula and with it comes a certain result. Apparently it's not exactly the result you were going for but I'd still call it a success if you can accept that we may crave the actual arbitrary badge goals you've set and keep setting them appropriately. –  Dinah Mar 16 '10 at 14:30
@Jeff - I just up-voted to give you a Great Answer badge :) Oh wait... you didn't post to get a badge... dang. –  DVK Apr 3 '10 at 15:01
But why then does the Legend say: "Gold Badges are rare. You’ll have to actively work toward these."? –  Thomas Ahle Feb 18 '11 at 16:35
@Thomas, you have to work for Gold Badges, however it is a surprise when the system decides you have done enough work - just like you boss giving you a pay increase. –  Ian Ringrose Jul 29 '11 at 15:08
IF the badges are to be surprises, then I think the badge list should be hidden! THEN it's a real surprise! –  Tomas Aug 13 '11 at 17:33
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Beware, cynical response ahead...

Who really cares? Do you really care about badges so much that you would rather see your progress towards a specific badge, rather than seeing this "progress" as what it really is, something you should be doing anyway?

Why not treat Stack Overflow for what it is - a question and answer site - rather than what you make it out to be, some kind of game. If you can answer some technical questions and find some value in doing so, then do that. If you have a question that others can answer, ask it and get some answers. But otherwise, why are you here?

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But part of the reason why SO is such a successful site is because people want the badges. Experts-Exchange has been successful because of the points and rank system. The MSDN Forums have been successful because of the points and medals. All these sites have things that try to make them more appealing, so that people maintain interest in answering. Altruism often wanes... Carrots can taste quite nice sometimes. –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 4:29
IMHO, if you are tailoring your behaviour to match the badge criteria, you're doing it wrong. –  Ether Jan 4 '10 at 4:31
I still hope to be able to get Gold on the one answer of mine that has got quite a few votes. At last count I was on 87, and it looks like that's my limit. I would like it to make 100, just so that I have the bit of yellow near my name (like your Fanatic badge). I'd love Populist for it too (unlikely). I'm sure mentioning it here will see me get some down-votes, but I'm just using it as an example. The appeal of badges helps people write answers on completed questions, like I did on stackoverflow.com/questions/1176011/… –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 4:33
By tailoring your behaviour to match the badge criteria, you're trying to use the site in the way that the site admins intend. The whole point of the badges is to encourage types of behaviour, so we should all take note of what they are and do it. "Come to the site every day", "Answer old questions", "Delete those questions that should be deleted", "Flag spam", etc... all encouraged by badges. –  Rob Farley Jan 4 '10 at 4:35
Better the carrot than the stick. –  Dennis Williamson Apr 3 '10 at 16:34
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We cannot forget about the Uncertainty Principle, by Werner Heisenberg, which can be applied here: you cannot observe a phenomenon without interfering with it.

By creating the badges, which is a phenomenon observation, you most certainly interfered with StackOverflow usage, the phenomenon itself.

Personally, I find SO addictive mainly for 2 reasons:

  1. I'm rewarded by peers for my knowledge
  2. I'm rewarded by SO by my participation
  3. In the end, I get recognition by sharing my knowledge

I would very much doubt SO would have it current level of success if people were not driven by their sense recognition for something positive: their knowledge.

Therefore, I think all of information on badge metrics should be available. The reasons:

  • Most of them already are (Good Answer, etc.)
  • The ones that are not, people are trying to get via data.stackexchange.com
  • Some badges you just cannot try to achieve, because you have no control over it, no matter how hard you try. A good example is the Unsung Hero badge. How can you work on having your answers accepted with no upvotes?

And the main reason is that in most badges you want people to try to achieve, so you positively tailor behavior. The reasons:

  • Some badges indicate participation. We want people to participate.
  • Some badges indicate level of knowledge. We want people to share their knowledge.
  • Some badges indicate quality of posts. We want people to post with quality.
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As of May 8, 2011, this is possible for Electorate. Distribution of votes cast (on questions vs. on answers) is now public, so users need only do a little math. For those who find the badge description confusing, there's a handy example chart here.

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