After 3 weeks of Health Factors, I guess (from the fact that my last post received no kudos) you are probably a little fed up with it. So let's take a break!
It's been a while since we talk about rank design, so this is a good time to revisit the topic. This is the 4th article in the miniseries on designing the optimal ranking structure for your community. Previous blog articles from this miniseries can be found here:
Part of the fun and the challenge in gaming is the unpredictable elements in games. The player can never truly know the outcome of his play. When the gamer has just figured out the game, he moves into the control state. When he is able to predict the outcome, the game is probably too easy for him. And soon he will find the game boring and move onto something more challenging. Likewise, a fun and challenging ranking ladder should be cryptic, and it is best when there are some elements of surprise built in. In a previous post, I talked about switching after year 2 to a very regular and predictable arithmetic progression (a.k.a. linear progression) for our ranking ladder. The problem is that your smart superusers will most likely figure out this ranking scheme.
So, how do you keep the superusers engaged under such a predictable (boring) ranking criteria? I will describe 4 things that you can do to spice up your ranking ladder even when it is a predictable and boring arithmetic progression.
1. Name your ranks creatively.
It is inevitable that some superusers will eventually figure out the post requirement for promotion, and will expect a promotion at the right time. But if you name your ranks cleverly, they still won't know what they are going to get next. So, don't name your ranks in any obvious progression. For example, a terrible choice of rank names would be bronze, silver, etc. Without even writing it down, it is blatantly obvious that the one after silver is going to be gold, then probably platinum, titanium, and then diamond. Give your superusers some serendipitous joy when they get promoted and use your imagination when naming your ranks.
2. Make some noise.
For statisticians, there is a simple trick to make things less predictable. Just add some noise (or randomness)! Rather than following any formula strictly, you just need to randomly jitter the number a little bit. For example, it is very easy for anyone to figure out the pattern in the following linear progression: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, etc. By add some random noise, the sequence becomes much harder to predict: 11, 18, 32, 41, 49, 63, 74, etc. Notice that the challenges between the ranks will remain roughly the same (compare the figure of the jagged ranking criteria here with the figure of the smooth ranking criteria from my previous blog post). The shape is virtually the same, but this one is much harder to figure out. You can start jittering the post criteria from the first rank if you wish, but please be sure to "make some noise" when you switch over to the highly regular linear progression.
3. Privileges do matter.
Even with added noise and the most humorous and interesting rank names, superusers may still get tired of the routine rank changes without other incentives. This is especially true after you switch the ranking criteria over to the highly predictable linear progressions to avoid over challenging your superusers. If you follow the recommendation in this miniseries of blogs, this should happen roughly 2 years after the superuser first participated in the community. After 2 years, don't you think it is time to show your superusers that you recognize how special they are? So tell them (it only takes an email) and grant them access and customization privileges that are not available to others. Start with something simple, such as allowing your superusers to use a personalized icon. Then as they move up the rather boring rank ladder, they will be intermittently rewarded with different privileges that are totally unpredictable.
Attaching special privileges to a rank through our permission system is an extremely effective way to engaging your superusers. However, you might want to let time test their loyalty and goodwill before giving out too many privileges. Therefore the perfect time to give out special privileges is after the superusers have moved through the first 24 ranks. However, if you really trust your superusers, you may do this earlier on your ranking ladder. This also applies when switching your superusers into a MVP program.
4. Show your trust.
An important reason to give special permissions to your superusers is to establish trust. A deep relationship built on trust is likely to be more lasting than a superficial relationship that is built on other incentives. So show your superusers that you trust them. Invite them to beta test programs in private boards and treat them as your most valuable assets. Give them power to take action in the community, such as moving posts and perhaps deleting inappropriate content. Let them help you moderate your community. Can you really trust the superusers with that much power? I believe that you should. Because it is highly improbable that a superuser would just throw away all the reputations and privileges they've earned through hard work over long period of time. The more they have invested, the more they will treasure their unique social status.
Now that your rank ladder is all spiced up, you should be able to keep your superusers engaged "indefinitely" (contrast the above figure with the figure from my previous blog post). Next time we'll wrap up with the grand finale: synthesizing all the rank design principles we've explored to build a complete ranking structure. Stay tuned at mich8elwu.