Ebay sellers getting strongly sucked into Black Hat Gamification

As we know Ebay uses Gamification heavily to drive business. Sellers and buyers are rated after each purchase. For me as a buyer, rating does not matter much, as my most purchases are prepaid, money is locked in with Ebay, and once I confirm the receipt of good Ebay releases the payment to the seller. Nor, I am a heavy buyer which will get me special access if any which I am not aware off.

Recently I purchased a workout supplement from “sehdevesupplements” who has a more than 98% positive feedback and one of the star sellers. I have made several purchases earlier with this seller, but a recent Capture

purchase went terribly bad. I got a near expiry product, raised my claim for a replacement, when I returned the good I was told by Ebay that the seller will not be able to ship as the product is out of stock with them, and my shipping cost will be reimbursed to me in the form of Ebay coupons and the money bank to my account from which transaction was made.

As the seller and buyer ratings are transaction based, hence I evaluated this transaction as negative, Main reasons being, seller should have checked before shipping for the expiry date, should have honored the replacement (I checked price from other sellers for fresh stock was 500 INR or roughly 10 USD higher), or atleast made a proxy display for customer satisfaction by some other means. In return to the negative rating, the seller got so pissed off that the seller sent me a hate mail outside Ebay mode, as the seller had my email from previous purchases.

CaptureAfter I sent a reply justifying my ratings I get a more harsh reply “never saw such a harassing customer ever before.” All for not getting a 5 star rating. The seller did not think for once about the earlier purchases I made.

This is a point when a well design gamification system is going wrong, ratings are good and meaningful but when they take over the seller neglecting customer satisfaction, it turns BLACK. Though Black hat is not a bad gamification, but here the seller forgot while chasing for current ratings– getting driven by core drive no. 8 of Loss Avoidance– that there can be many more ratings that I could have given if there was a better customer satisfaction in the future. Not only the seller lost my business but also made a bad repo.


  1. After implementing a gamified system, check if it is being gamed by the players, it is possible that the tricks that players show, were not chalked out while the initial system was designed.
  2. Is it causing discontinuities among the players.
  3. Punish a good player to show as an example to other players.
  4. Change the rules, as soon as the first pernicious discontinuity comes into the light.

PS: To learn more about white and black hat gamification see Yu-Kai Chou’s blog, linked here.


Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Marketing


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Compelling story : Better nut cracker than 100 signup points for your gamification platform.

hook_ver1_xlgYou may be the one who has just adopted gamification as a new strategy for getting more retention on you blog, or e-commerce website, or even for your company’s new software training module. The most common problem with a gamification platform that I see these days, is as soon as I land on the inter-phase, it shows 100 sign-up points, just verify your twitter or facebook account and have these 100 points in your wallet. This is very poor onboarding for a new player. Reason being :

  1. The player has just come to your site, without even giving time for having a look on your home page, he/she is thrown a bait of 100 meaningless points.
  2. There is no connection that you have made with this player, that will make the player return for feel attached to your site/blog etc., you haven’t established any empathy, that makes the player understand and share your importance.

If you have been to a retail store, a clever customer representative, will never start bargaining with you on the final price. This rep will first form a connection with you, will make you feel comfortable within the store, and after that this rep will show the skills of clever selling, making you pay more than the adjacent store. Hence this rep, has hooked you to the store, not only for this purchase, but for future purchases as well.

Lesson to draw from the above example is, your platform should not start with “here collect these 100 points”, but a compelling story, which will make your new player empathize with your system. And this story that I am referring to is not a long tale, or a lengthy video torture for the player, within the first 10 minute on your platform. Ths story can be anything even two words, a good mission statement, or even just a picture, yes the aesthetics do matter a lot as well. If the story is compelling, the onboarding will not only be easy, but will be memorable for the new player, making a small space in the mind of the player, playing in the players’ mind long after the player has moved from your system.

This story has to be carefully designed, as the player will forget the 100 meaningless sign-up points, but if a successful connection was made via your story, the player will return to your system, and drive further engagement, he/she will be intially hooked. Stories can be of various types, but the basic essence it must pass to the player is that he/she is the center piece of the story, he/she is in power, and this place was developed / customized for the player only. Once you make this happen, your gamification strategy will pass the initial failure stage (onboarding); the scaffolding and end game is a different story altogether, will take that in another post later.. 🙂

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Design


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Confession of my engagement with a gamification platform: from fun to gaming within the rules

 taking_gamification_to_the_next_b2b_levelTo drive user behavior two of the best gamification blogs and many others use a gamification platform offered by BeatUp (name changed for anonymity). Posts have been written by the owners’ of blogs on why they use a gamification platform, but I am writing this post from a player perspective, who actually competes in the rankings.

The first stage of onboarding was fun. As soon I permitted the platform, to use one of my social network it gave me a meaningful booster and welcomed me to the setup. It showed that I have taken the initial step towards desired learning which was to know more about gamification. During the newbie days of my visit to the blogs and interacting with the platform, I was some 200 or more rank below than the top player, i.e. top player might be having 1,500,000+ points, and I was having some 400+ points. But each point addition that I was having, was a meaningful addition to my score, as the points and badges were not for free but with gamification post/video/comment that I interacted with.

Slowly, I started to enjoy the system, and started to compete in small badge/point achievement missions, like to watch 10 videos back to back. So, ordinarily I may stop after 5 or 6, but since I was learning, and the badge progress bar showed me that I can get a badge for watching 4 more, I stayed glued to the system. Doing this I was gaining new gamification knowledge and on the other hand I was climbing up the leaderboard, which in my view point, showed other players that I am a regular visitor to the site (Game technique of Envy), and I am very active as well. Staying on top for a day was fun initially, then staying on top of the board for a week showed my achievement to others, all was good till this stage, I was playing fair till now and making progress gaining gamification content.

The game turned bad now, the moderator of the blogs linked the ranking to some meaningful reward hoping for increasing activity, at this point fun became obsession, and weekly top ranking was no more engaging monthly was needed, but all-time top spot was what I wanted. The new materials started to dry up, as I had no new activity to do, and still I was way behind the number one player. So, I dived in figuring out how the system actually gives points/badges, can it be gamed. And to my luck it was possible. I learnt for example by giving 50 unique visit to the site, I will get 10,000 points, so I simply opened 50 tabs and opened the website 50 times in 10 minutes, and boom 10,000 points or write 10 comments and get 5,000 points so I checked that whether writing random comment like “qweqw ere qew” is counted, and it did, so boom 10 random comments I got another 5,000 points and in no matter of time, I learned all the rules and became number one player, or atleast top 10 before I stopped playing across various sites.

Though I have stopped doing it now, but by this post, I hope the gamification platform designers will learn something and prevent further exploitation of their platform or do not make activities contingent upon points which promote players to do the same things that I did.


Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Strategy


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Learning Gamification with 0$ investment and getting certified four times.

start         There is a lot of buzz in the market with Gamification catching up at a rapid pace, each one of you who is reading this post or who has just heard about the power of Gamification, want to learn about Gamification and gain expertise in this area.

Other than the formal sources like Gamification course embedded in the curriculum of Wharton MBA, people who are looking for other means turn for online sources. Currently the market of online courses is surfeit. If you google you will find many online courses, but they come with a hefty price tag. In some countries like mine even a 50 US$, money investment seems costly enough. I will give you a list of 10 places where you can learn Gamification, get knowledge at par with these online paid courses, also get free certification not once, but four times, provided you are not riding the certification conundrum, where you put low value on the free sources and higher on the paid ones. And trust me, before writing this post I have done each and every one of those paid courses, I lost some good money, but I do not want others to suffer the same loss of $.

  1. First comes the Gamification Mooc at Coursera, free of cost, offered by Wharton Business School., taught by Prof. Kevin Werbach.It the best one to start off your course of Gamification.
  2. Second in line, is the newly launched Gamification Mooc from Iversity,  free of cost, they claim to be more advanced than the Wharton one. It can be found here.
  3. Known to few, there is another  free of cost mooc at open learning titled Games in education: Gamification, check it out here.
  4. The website of Gamification.Co, there you will find mouthful examples of gamification spread across sectors, and arranged accordingly.
  5. Yu-Kai Chou Blog, though he has added some gamification elements, but it doesn’t matter if you give some tweet shouts for a place where you get something for free, and it is a quality stuff. Also, look for his Octalysis model, if you want to get more deeper in gamification (suggested for advanced learners)
  6. Currently Yu-Kai is giving free certification for his octalysis model, you just need to use his model at a very basic level and submit for review.
  7. The Wiki of Gamification by Enterprise Gamification, slowly it is becoming a great source of gamification related information.
  8. Now don’t be lazy, just Google, use the search tools, and sort the pages, look for authentic sources, like The New York TImes, TechCrunch, Ted Talks etc.
  9. Look for Andrzej Marczewski blog for some different view points.
  10. Youtube, here you will get long talk of Gsummit 2011,2012,2013, and others like of Gamification World Congress, and recently held GamifyCon, Munich.

I tried to make a comprehensive list of free resources providing quality gamification knowledge. Though there may be others, but these were the ones I used for my learning. So, in case someone who reads this and doesn’t find your entry here, please do not burn me.. 🙂

Moving ahead, if you want to go for gamification design in deeper, you can look for Design thinking and HCI courses on Coursera, they will not teach gamification design, but you will be able to relate to it easily, as the process remains the same.

To end the post, if you plan to look for gamification internships, after getting adept with gamification skills using the free sources I suggested above, you can contact Enterprise Gamification Consultancy, for Gamification internship opportunities.


Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Gamification, Learning Gamification


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Why onboarding of client in Gamification conceptualization stage a must do thing.

imagesAs a gamification consultant,  I have been working with clients for more than a year now. Started in October 2012, the journey has been a great learning experience for me. Though, I was adept with gamification knowledge, but the practical knowledge of designing and implementing a gamification design came with the projects that I did. A critical learning was, it is always beneficial to onboard the client, whom you are consulting in your gamification conceptualization  phase. Onboarding may not be of all the people in the client organization–as explaining to each member can take a large chunk of your valuable time– even a single person who understands the clients business will serve the purpose.

When a client brings the project, generally we understand their business and work on the contracted work. Since, gamification is a very new phenomenon, and the clients to whom I talk to, they have a very superficial understanding of the process. They understand PBLs (Points, Badges and Leaderboards) as a magic pill which will bring business to them, as soon as they are implemented. This superficial understanding of gamification leads to an improper transfer of the concept to the client if he/she is not involved, and it becomes disastrous even leading to failure of your hard worked gamification design.

If you take the client with you in the conceptual journey, before executing your design, it will help the client to understand that it is not just a simple implementation of PBLs, but there is a meaning attached to the points or badges which are awarded for some meaningful activity. The flow that you experience as a gamification consultant while designing the gamification system for the client, needs to be felt by the client as well. It also helps the client to understand, why a particular number of points are needed on a certain activity while others activities demand different points. In addition onboarding of the client helps in the communication phase, as the person from the clients’ organization whom you took in this journey, better understands the internal communication jargons, hence you can leverage on his/her skills to make more meaningful communication with other members of the client organization.

Finally, it makes your final presentation to the client more meaningful; every now and then I come across clients that are more interested in the visual part of the gamification, i.e. how the badges will look like or how the leaderboard will function. I strongly feel, there is still a lot of conceptual misunderstanding, which acts as a hinderance between you and the client to communicate effectively, and it can only be removed when the client is working with you. Then only they will understand the nuances of a gamification design and not limit themselves to trivial stuff in the conceptualization phase of gamification.


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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Gamification, Gamification Strategy


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Behavior Change Is (maybe not so) Hard.

mark feinholz - software, healthcare & stuff

I learned something recently that I wish I had learned 10 years ago: Self-motivation is not the way to create new daily behaviors that stick. The trick is to construct a new simple habit and just let it happen. Motivation is hard and tiring and not at all reliable but creating a habit and just doing it because it is a habit is actually quite easy. I credit BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits program (more on that later) for triggering this profound shift in perspective.

10 Years of Going to the Gym…

I joined a gym 10 years ago – at first of course I was inspired and eager to get there and lift_weightswork out, but before long, trying to motivate myself to go 4 times a week – forever – became hard. I have been going very regularly, about 3 times a week ever since, but just about every time…

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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


The 8 questions about players that needs to be answered: How to gamify for ‘the relevant ones’?

While designing a gamification system or more appropriately as I would say, designing motivation using game mechanics, the center stage is taken by the player. Player – the individual for whom the gamification system is designed to keep him/her hooked to your service/company/offering. This makes the player the vertex of the gamification strategy. For example, lets consider a marketing gamification strategy that is being developed for a global product. The players in such a category are so diverse that creating a gamification strategy keeping each and every player of your product into consideration set will be very difficult. It is almost impossible to develop such a gamified system that is engaging for all type of players. What may be fun and engaging for one set of player may not be so for the other set. 
As a solution to this problem, the gamification strategist working at your organization must realize the limitations and design the strategy keeping in mind the players that really matter. Gamification is about change: in the player’s behavior, their actions or way of thinking. A successful gamification strategy will encompass focused changes as mass or general changes are not feasible via gamification. Else it will be contributing to the pool of 80% failed applications as estimated by Gartner few years down the line.
So what it is about the relevant players that should be kept in mind while writing the stories? I will help you in this by putting them in 8 easy questions that the gamification strategist of your organization needs to answer before planning the engagement tools to be used.
Q1. Who do we want your players to be? [It is possible that your product caters to varied demographics, so for whom is this gamification strategy for? Is it for the least engaged or the most engaged.]

  • Q1 is the most important step; once it is answered precisely, rest of the following questions become quite easier to answer.

Q2. What does the player already thinks of your product (i.e. how informed the player is)?
Q3. What is the player skeptical of?
Q4. What are the players needs, demands and wants?
Q5. What is the most engaging media to reach the player? What are the touch points where the player can be connected easily?
Q6. What about the player can be changed easily and what will require a persistent effort via your gamified strategy?
Q7. Where has your offering touched the player in the past?
Q8. After the player has successfully engaged, how will the player interact with his/her fellow players?
Once you have answers to these questions go and gamify the players by using appropriate engagement tools, but remember do not crop and photoshop your game to accommodate more players, try to appreciate the fact that gamification has its limitations. One size doesn’t fit all.


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