Gamification is a concept that has been around for awhile. The gist of the idea is that if you wish to encourage a group of people to do something, then an excellent way to do that is to give them points and/or awards of some kind for doing whatever it is that you want them to do. We do some of this at OpenStudy, and we're certainly not the first to do so. Companies like Fitocracy have seen wild success by making activities that don't give you the immediate gratification of a reward, such as working out, and giving its users points and rewards for doing those actions.
However, these sites really only work for people who get some sort of gratification from achieving those points or rewards. I am not typically one of those people. Don't get me wrong, I do find it rewarding, but it's not likely to make me feel rewarded enough to return to the site. (I'm also not much of a gamer in general. Skyrim has been sitting on my shelf, unopened, for over a week.) Yet, there is one thing that is always particularly effective at motivating people like me: money.
It would seem that there are new companies starting to pick up on this trend. 21habit, a site started by Microsoft and Amazon engineers, is designed to help you kick start life changes by guiding you through a 21 day challenge where you must report regularly about your success or failure. The service offers the traditional, no penalty, method that many Gamification structures offer. Yet for those who need some extra motivation, they've also provided a "committed" mode. Essentially, if you use the committed mode you wager $21 that you will complete your goal each of the next 21 days. For each day you succeed, you earn back $1. For each day you fail, $1 is donated to charity.
Another new-to-the-arena company named GymPact is doing something similar. Members of the service participate in a pact to go to the gym a certain number of days each week. On weeks you do not succeed, you loose some money. On weeks you do succeed, you get paid. GymPact uses the money from the pool of people who failed to meet their goal to pay those who succeeded. Overall, it is an interesting concept - but as a business model it sucks because it only works as long as there are people using the service who consistently fail. If everyone succeeds, then everyone... well, looses. I don't see money motivated people like myself being willing to "take one for the team", but I can't deny that the concept is still interesting.
I suspect we're going to see a lot more of the money-powered gamification sites pop up. Overall, sites like Fitocracy and others have had a hard time attracting users who just aren't motivated by some fictional currency. Naturally, the next logical step is to create sites that use a tangible currency to motivate its users.
So what are your thoughts? Do these sites sound like something that would appeal to you? Leave me some comment love and let me know!