StackExchange main features that can be leveraged
After interacting and contributing in C.SE intensely for 3 years as a software developer familiar with Knowledge-Base, Online Support, and Forum/Community applications, these are the 5 main features of SE which could be helpful to C.SE:
- KB System: to encourage the building of a library of Q & A with enduring value with a rich set of features such as markdown (for rich content), version history, tag system, etc.
- Meta site: to facilitate the community-based policy and rules for the main site
- Gamification: makes improving the KB system fun
- helps new users or regular users discuss topics outside the KB system (prevent clutter)
- a place for spillover of comments arising from content discussion in the Main site
- Community wiki answers: encourage public editing of answers dedicated as
SE's gamification features followed trend in early 2010s
Stack Exchange was also purposefully architected as a KB site with gamification technology, which started to be in vogue since 2010. At that time, the Internet technology companies were flocking to gamification to increase user participation and to reward "good behavior" with points and social recognition (badges) in the hope that psychological positive reinforcements would retain and encourage participants who are "beneficial" to the site. Computer hardware / software manufacturers started building community sites so the product owners/users themselves can supplement expensive support operation by email/phone, thus reducing their support business cost. As of 2022, this has become ubiquitous that ALL major technology companies have them. Even companies such as Amazon AWS now require paid support to engage their paid employees. Thus, gamification was designed to promote community self-support.
How SE gamification technology is designed
Did gamification technology work on me? When I reflect on my whole interaction with C.SE and also with other SE sites, I have to admit that there IS an influence there on the psychological level. I found that although (for myself) the main reason to participate is learning about Christianity, driven by
- intellectual curiosity
- love of research, and
- resolving existentially/religiously unsettling ambiguity inherent in God's partial revelation (God really seems to purposely left important questions unanswered, as though the pursuit of exegetical and theological enterprise in the academy could be God's gamification effort to know him better!),
I have to admit that the gaming aspect influenced me as well (although I rarely play a computer game), adding on to the main motivation:
- reward for unlocking privileges such as editing without approval, seeing deleted answer, etc.
- answer score as competition and feedback to write the better answers for the community
- tag badges to showcase expertise in a particular area
- various badges to encourage contribution in various areas like editing, asking, answering, offering bounties, etc.
- league pages to show top contributors by week, month, quarter, year, and all time
- good way of tracking activities, bookmarking questions, and setting tag/badge goal to "plan our next move"
- message "inbox" notifying users of answers to our questions, updates to favorite questions, incoming comments, new questions for a tag, to "hook us back into the game"
- making the whole system a pleasant way to compose, edit, search, and organize question/answer, as well as to chat with other users in various rooms
It is no accident that tag edits without approval are set as requiring the highest privilege given (20,000 points). Moderators are also given the charge to protect the integrity of the game.
Does gamification technology still work nowadays?
After 10+ years, does gamification technology in a software / online-service products really get people to achieve personal goals other than the score itself? In other words, does killing two birds (learning + gaming) with one stone work?
The answer seems to be YES. I was inspired to write this question after seeing a really funny advertisement on YouTube (while viewing other videos) for the Simply Piano app for learning piano/keyboard called This app is NOT a game!
DISCLAIMER: Kudos for Simply Piano marketing team, although out of ethical consideration of being a (somewhat) professional musician, I have to warn potential users of this app that if you want to be a serious classical pianist there is no substituting a credentialed piano teacher who has some background in piano pedagogy. This is because hand posture, muscle control and musicianship is critical in playing more advanced classical pieces well. Like any sport, playing a keyboard instrument is a physical activity that can incur injuries or accumulate bad habits that need to be broken before you can achieve a higher level. I have known at least 2 advanced pianists incurring injuries and I myself have to relearn some techniques (takes a year) due to bad habits incurred because my first piano teachers were not competent. Therefore, a good piano teacher is not only teaching music but acting as a "piano sport coach", with "coach" in the fullest sense of the word as in a "baseball coach".
In a way, a similar warning for users of C.SE as well, that there is no substitute to be a serious theologian / Bible exegete without a seminary education, whether full time or self study through online courses / reading seminary textbooks. There is also no substitute (in addition to the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit) for a credentialed / sufficiently mature Christian (ideally a full-time credentialed pastor) to "coach" one to make spiritual progress, although an "app" (i.e. books, fellowship, prayer, fasting & other spiritual practices, and communal Christian activities) will certainly help.
How C.SE can be better by leveraging SE features?
Christianity.SE can then be seen as theological self-support site with various denominations as the product to be supported, if someone doesn't have access or reluctant to engage their paid pastors. This question invites discussion specifically on the gamification aspect of C.SE.
Recent C.SE meta questions by Luke Hill and by Hold To The Rod brought thoughtful concerns to the surface by asking what are the best practices for NOT turning new C.SE users away or discouraging existing users. I wonder whether part of the strategy can be through leveraging the gamification, chat, or other features of Stack Exchange?