What Would You Do for an eBay Star?

I have a confession to make:

I am addicted to eBay User ID badges.  You know, the little icons that appear next to your User ID on eBay.

It all starts with that innocuous feedback star.  You get that yellow star at 10.  It’s great, and now all of a sudden you can use Buy It Now!  But it’s really just temptation.  Temptation to get 40 more feedback to get the blue star.  Fifty more to get the turquoise star at 100.

One of my big moments in 2006 was definitely crossing the chasm of the next 400 to get my purple star, at 500.  Will I stop?  How can I when the red star is just an quick shot over to 1000…

But it’s not just feedback.  The train of icons began with my eBay Store, giving me a little Stores logo next to my name.   Then I dicovered eBay Reviews & Guides.  With a 100 helpfulness votes, I got the pencil.  I’m now a “Top 5000” reviewer, which also follows my name.

And now, today, after three months of heavy selling, I have earned, perhaps temporarily, the ultimate logo – PowerSeller.

There is a lesson in all this madness for people creating products & services based on community driven activity & content.  Badges sell.  People love to acquire them, to have a little scorecard, to reach the next level of recognition.  Tiering works in all sorts of consumer products, and eBay has it in spades.

I have seen lot of new sites and services that keep score, a record of achievement.  But I think scores are somehow too clinical, too cold.   A number.  A score.  It just doesn’t resonate as strongly as a badge.

Well, I’m still working my way to that red star… only 400 more unique positives to go until I hit 1000.

2 thoughts on “What Would You Do for an eBay Star?

  1. There is, however, a dark side to this phenomena. If you give your users incentives like this based on something that is irrelevant, it can negatively effect the way that they use your service. Case in point: every social networking site that lists your number of friends every time they show your username. This irrelevant “badge” leads people to behave in a disadvantageous way, adding anyone and everyone they see as “friends” regardless of whether or not they even know them. This unnatural behavior invalidates any data you might want to analyze about how social networks behave online, while simultaneously annoying the Hades out of everyone who consistently gets friend requests from complete strangers.

    Sorry, per peeve. I’ll shut up now. (And yes, I did kind of miss my temporary powerseller star when it went away. But at least I still have my red star to keep me company.)

  2. I totally agree, Ray. There is a double-edge to this sword – badging and rewards, even meaningless icons can and will drive activity. So you need to be careful which activities you reward.

    I’m a big fan of recency as well in the badging. It seems to me rankings like “Powerseller” are more powerful because they reflect recent activity, vs. accumulation. It will be interesting to see how the recent move of Feedback % positive to only the last 24 months will affect that “badge”.

    And stop rubbing the red star in… I’ll be there soon. Just 390 little positives left to go…

    – Adam

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