We have toyed with the idea of gamification for various infrastructure, especially our development tools, to encourage contribution and collaboration. The biggest problem we came across is to come up meaningful rewards. There is a lot of research about gamification that suggests that “extrinsic” rewards (like badges, prices, leader boards, money) only gets you that far if you’re trying to encourage complicated tasks that require creativity, that’s what others have described as badge fatigue here.
I think what you want to encourage in a FOSS community is intrinsic motivation that comes from within yourself. Like the feeling that you are getting better at something, that you control the progress you make, that what you achieve is matching your values. Also that you belong to something bigger, more important than yourself.
And here is where gamification for communities gets complicated. To reward people’s intrinsic motivations you have to make your automated (software driven) rewards appear human and unexpected and they need to include direct feedback to what you issue them for, personalized for the individual that receives them. That’s hard to do.
There is also a lot of research that using extrinsic motivators like badges, prizes and leader boards discourages the weakest part of your FOSS community: Beginners. Most beginners are shy and think their contribution isn’t worth much compared to your communities rock stars. Of course extrinsic motivators amplify this feeling. Another group of people where research shows that extrinsic motivators are hurtful are Women, most Women are just to social-intelligent to be show-offs
And motivation is even the very beginning of things you have to consider before you go ahead and implement gamification features for communities. Implementation wise, for instance, you have to offer rewards that matter to the action you reward them for (e.g. compulsion loops). If you don’t they are meaningless to the recipient. Watch Stephanie Morgan’s talk Gamification Sucks for a nice summary about this.
So in the end @openSUSE we all liked the idea but failed to come up with meaningful rewards for the actions we wanted to encourage. But that might have only be us being unimaginative…