I’ll see your badges and raise you some karma

One of the more interesting things about having been in the tech business for a long time is that you see ideas come and go only to see them resurface with some new name and hype. So as we get ourselves all caught up with Social Media it is interesting to see just how much of this so-called new way of communicating is really just more of what we have seen in the past – just with a new shade of lipstick.

I was reminded of this when I read a quote from McKinsey Quarterly in a blog post by Alan Patrick at Broadstuff

The power of importance

An effective way for a brand to be useful in the context of social networks is to make people who originate a word-of-mouth conversation seem important within their own social environment. Recognition by peers is a powerful motivator, and brands that allow users to gain it deliver real perceived value. When users publicize that recognition, it translates into word of mouth. Companies can confer this kind of importance—for example, by issuing achievement “badges” that users can post to their Facebook profiles or by deploying leader boards or achievement scores of all types. As Web sites evolve to become increasingly dynamic experiences that let people interact in real time, the value to core users of being recognized for their prominence in a community will only increase.

Here’s the thing. These badges that everyone is trying so hard to collect as some way to increase their social value, and trust me that is exactly what this boils down to, isn’t anything new. Sure the term might be new because we all know that for the hype to work new terms have to be created but the fact is that this idea is as old as forums, and before them. Think not .. well think again because all you have to do is go to web forums like slashdot and see how you can add karma to a person’s profile by voting on their posts.

Even back in the newsgroup days there were ways that “value” could be conferred onto members of specific groups. The most famous of these was the original Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Person) program but even smaller and more private newsgroups had the same sort of things. The one I know of personally, because I was one, was Chris Pirillo’s MVG (Most Valuable Gnome) program in his Lockergnome newsgroups.

I think this is why I have such a hard time with all this social media crap because it’s proponents and evangelists try and convince everyone, especially businesses, that this is all new and different. The thing is it isn’t. Sure the tools and services might be new but the fact is that the Web has been social since the very beginning.

Just as it has always been social there has always been ways that importance or value have been added to people who have been heavily involved in the Web.

However there is one big difference between the two generations of social. This version of social is more blatantly driven by marketing, in fact it is built around marketing to its users.

None of this social media crap is new. Badges aren’t new. Peer recognition is nothing new.

It’s all a case of BTDT.