I have been contemplating the use of badges/achievements/points on websites such as Stack Overflow. I am trying to figure out why users are motivated to complete a badge and what attributes of a badge increase motivation. With that in mind...

Why are you motivated to complete a badge?

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    I'm not motivated to complete badges. It's just a coincidence that I voted on this question and I don't have the Electorate badge yet. – mmyers Aug 20 '10 at 19:27
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    I have no frigging idea! Who cares about stupid badges? Grab for my Beta badge and I blow off your head! – Ladybug Killer Aug 20 '10 at 20:02
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    They were neat at first but now just a novelty... If it keeps someone motivated, then so be it. I am in for the intrinsic motivation. – Brian Aug 20 '10 at 22:15
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    Here's the 10th vote for your Nice Question badge. – HoLyVieR Aug 20 '10 at 23:05

10 Answers 10


For the same reason that people strive to unlock achievements in Xbox games, and Boy Scouts try to earn more merit badges. It's there, it's earn-able, and I just want them.

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Badges and points play to the very human desires to collect and catalog.

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    +'d for the philosophic answer :) – Zuul May 10 '12 at 9:24

We like other people to admire us. As geeks we like others to admire us for our skills. Badges/achievements stay visible in association with our online identity long-term, unlike individual good questions & answers which quickly fade into obscurity.

If I play a game and get a great score, it's nice, but it means little to others unless they have the context of what typical scores are for that game (and difficulty level etc.) Whereas an achievement is a little more compact of a summary of what you've accomplished.

Badges also give us a checklist whereby we can see how far we've come since we joined the web site -- and how far we have to go in order to be average, or to be exceptional.

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They have this annual winter hat challenge around X-mas and new year. Same thing: There isn't really a point, other than you show some good representation in an agreed system, that's judging what's good or not.

I was hitting this question when I was about searching for users' opinions what's their motivation to make posts on SO (answers merely, the motivation to ask questions must be some kind of desperation for most of the cases with freshman users of SE. The probability to get a closed/downvoted question quickly is pretty high, and that's good!).

I believe the prior motivations for gaining reputation, hats, badges, etc. are

  • Having fun in improving the site's quality (after finding it useful in many cases)
  • Reputation and badges represent how helpful a particular user is with improving the site
  • The most users want to have a good representation within the site's scoring system

Any other motivations are actively discouraged from SE's moderation rules and general consent of the communities.

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I'm not.

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    Agreed. There is no point to badges. – TheLQ Aug 20 '10 at 19:14
  • Ironic that this answer was posted by someone with 70 badges. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Aug 20 '10 at 19:40
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    @Mark - I only posted this because I'm working on my Irony badge. – user27414 Aug 20 '10 at 19:43
  • "We don't need no stinkin badges!" Seriously, even though I seem to have accumulated almost 250 badges, I have no idea which ones I have apart from the gold Java badge, and I'm aware of that one only because it lets me dupe-hammer questions. I was quite surprised the first time a VTC-dupe took effect without the requisite quorum. – Ex Umbris Aug 4 '17 at 21:58

I'm on a diet, but I buy myself a cake for each badge I earn.

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    Don't tell Jeff Atwood. He'd owe himself 413 cakes. – user27414 Aug 20 '10 at 20:03

They are essentially a skinner box. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

Here's a great article on how games use them to addict and motivate: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3085/behavioral_game_design.php?page=1

By the way, the guy who wrote that article has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences.

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  • That's a bad analogy. Badges and points could be the lights in a Skinner box, if SO is the Skinner box, but I don't see how the badges and lights themselves could be a Skinner box. – Peter Ajtai Aug 21 '10 at 0:31
  • The question was about "websites such as Stack Overflow". I didn't say the badges themselves were skinner boxes. – jwsample Aug 21 '10 at 0:42
  • Well, I read the question as, " Why are badges motivating? ". ------------ PS: If you don't put @Peter in your comment, I won't see it. You're always notified when I post, since you wrote the answer. – Peter Ajtai Aug 21 '10 at 10:58
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    SO IS one-big-giant Skinner Box. The lever-pushing mice hate to hear it though. – JustBoo Aug 23 '10 at 20:11

Because some people like to have more of anything than other people, even if it's virtual stuff.

Competitive drive, I suppose.

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The word is Gamification. It is a "must" for a successful site or app.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, such as to improve user engagement, physical exercise, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning. A review of research on gamification shows that most studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.

You can find more information and references in this wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification

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Earning badges and getting points are the same thing as we are stick and seating in casino for long time to earn more-n-more money in casino.

We can also mark that, everybody wants to be "Jon Skeet" by earning more-n-more badges and points.

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    Paresh, you probably shouldn't go to any casinos if you think that the longer you sit the more money you earn ;) – Peter Ajtai Aug 21 '10 at 10:57
  • @Peter it is not like that - even the man who loosing more-n-more also sit for long-time to cover – Paresh Mayani Aug 21 '10 at 11:07
  • Paresh, i think the comparision between earning badges and sitting and playing at casinos is really bad because i hope u know the difference between ADDICTION and PASSION. Hope you can differ those two worlds with these two WORDS...... – Avadhani Y Mar 6 '13 at 10:43
  • It's 2 year back when i posted :) I met and came across many persons saying the same things regarding earning more and more badges. So i said the same. Is there anything wrong? – Paresh Mayani Mar 6 '13 at 10:50

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