As of today, "Autobiographer" will be awarded to anyone fills out the free-form "About Me" field on their profile.
We will be awarding it retroactively, so you don't need to do anything if you already filled out your "About Me" to receive it. (But be patient, we're awarding them in batches for the next day or two.)
Why the change?
Previously, getting the badge required you to fill in all the profile fields, some of which were public (website, location, etc.) and some of which were private (age, real name, etc.).
But, those requirements weren't aligned that well with the two main goals we have for Autobiographer:
- It's a great introduction to the Badge system. It's one of only two badges ("Informed" is the other) that a new user, with no rep, can go earn instantly, without relying on others doing something, or having a specific question or answer. It did a nice job of giving those users who click the (top-level) "badge" tab on the home page a way to experience the re-enforcement system at work: Do something the community encourages, get a shiny thing as feedback - "keep that up."
- We think having an "identity" in online communities increases your desire to treat those communities with respect, and care about how the community views them. Don't get me wrong, we have some amazing users who are completely anonymous, but at the end of the day, we think the more you have an "identity" here (even if it's not linked to your real-world one), the less likely you are to be a jerk. At least in ways you think are jerky, anyway. For the most part, the more anonymous a system is, the higher the percent of nonsense and nastiness gets.
So if you like identity so much, why not encourage more of it, by giving the badge for filling out all the fields?
There were a few things that felt off with the old requirements:
- "Website" was a frustrating, dumb requirement, since many people don't have one (using the traditional meaning). So they either put gibberish, a twitter handle, hacked the system with a space in the field, or just figured they must not belong here, since everyone else here must have one.
- A lot of the fields felt too personal to many people. "Age" and "Real Name" in particular rubbed some people the wrong way as a "requirement" for anything, even something as silly as a badge.
- It made some people's first introduction to the "feedback reinforcement system" (okay, the "game") feel like the game was to drive behaviors that help us gather data, maybe so we can someday turn it into data-dollars.
The last one is particularly unfortunate for two reasons:
- The game is supposed to reinforce behavior that supports the community. We have to make a buck to keep things going, but the reinforcement system shouldn't go anywhere near that side of the business.
- And it wasn't - we don't use that data in any real valuable way. Or almost any way at all. The only thing I could find that we ever use most of it for is an annual aggregate survey/report on what our users look like. Put another way, we don't even care much about it, so making users think the game was part of some monetization scheme made them less enthused about the system based on something we weren't even doing intentionally.
If the badge is supposed to encourage you to feel more like you've chosen an identity here, it should be based on what you choose to share, not a bunch of stats that we might think are useful to others.
So, those of you who took the time to share something about yourself in "About Me" in the past, but didn't fill out some other fields, your day has come. And if any of you dreamed of seeing that badge glinting on your profile page, but resented some of the fields, go put what you want to share with the community in the "About Me", and it's all yours.
Note: We're awarding these in batches, so it may take a day or two for it to show up on your profile.