Atlanta, ruby, startups, Technology

Why I created Badgy

Saturday afternoon, I announced the creation of Badgy at http://bad.gy/.  Simply put, Badgy is intended to be a social game for Twitter (@BadgyApp) that fits naturally with how people already use Twitter.  I’ve referred to it as a “native” app, which means that it’s written around the capabilities of Twitter, not copied from some other game that worked on Facebook.

If you haven’t used Badgy yet, just mention “badgy” on Twitter to get started and get some context for the rest of this post.

Initial feedback has been somewhat mixed but overall encouraging.  Some users disagreed with the retweet required to earn the second badge.  Some people just don’t get it.

It seems helpful at this moment to reflect on why I created Badgy, and why it’s built the way it is:

  • Fred Wilson wants gamesin a recent blog post, New York VC and Twitter investor Fred Wilson reflected on the state of the Twitter platform and what sort of apps might succeed on Twitter.  Many of these areas, such as enterprise, discovery, and analytics represent areas where Twitter could either create or acquire a single company to cover the gap, but he also mentioned social games.  The problem with social games on Twitter is that…
  • Current Twitter Games Suck – “popular” games like Spymaster motivate you to follow people you aren’t friends with and tweet things your friends don’t care about.  In essence, they are Mafia Wars clones that are too invasive and render your Twitter account useless.  Fun!  A proper Twitter game should be compatible with how people already use Twitter.  (FourSquare doesn’t count as a Twitter game – it is a mobile app game that uses Twitter as a promo channel.)  Although ever so slightly intrusive, asking users to mention “badgy” on Twitter to begin playing is totally native and much less awkward than going to a web site to join a Twitter game.
  • People Love Badges – Look at FourSquare badges, Facebook game bragging opportunities, or achievement systems in console games and you’ll see that people LOVE to feel like they’ve earned something and can brag about it.  Using badges as the basis of a Twitter game seemed totally natural.  Someone I follow on Twitter once said that they wished Twitter would give them some recognition for tweeting exactly 140 characters.  I’ve often felt the same way.  Something like Badgy can do that, and recognize many other interesting Twitter actions that are totally natural to Twitter but still fun to recognize.
  • Twitter Integration – I wanted to learn how to integrate with Twitter.  The combination of the tweetstream and twitter Ruby gems made this easy.  The ease and power of Twittter’s APIs gives me new respect for Twitter’s platform team.  It takes literally 3 lines of Ruby code to receive near real-time notification of every Tweet matching a set of keywords, leading to a fast…
  • Fast Minimum Viable Product – it was relatively easy to find people who mentioned “badgy” and reply to them, giving them a badge.  It was not easy to check the Tweets of a bunch of individual users and see what else they said, which is why the Square One badge is given when you retweet the message giving you the Badgy badge.  Sure, the retweet promotes badgy, but it was also easy to search for that unique phrase, retweeted, rather than starting to follow individual users.  The badge requiring a retweet is a bit intrusive, and will not be a key pattern for future Badgy badges.
  • To learn – Game mechanics and basic motivation tactics aren’t just part of games, they are a useful ingredient for almost any software.  Badgy itself may become a vibrant game, or it may serve to teach lessons that make other games and applications I write better.  If nothing else, Badgy provides an avenue to rapidly test and measure theories about what does and does not work in social games on Twitter.
  • Fun – It’s fun to make games and watch people react to them
  • Potential Business – on top of all of the other reasons, there are actually some interesting applications of the technology that would be needed to fully build out Badgy.  Time will tell.

A couple of obvious questions have been asked:

  • Why nag people to retweet their first badge? – This decision was part technical compromise, part promotional decision, and part social experiment.  It’s difficult to rapidly scale following individual users.  It’s easy to track keywords.  This decision helped launch Badgy sooner.  I was also curious what types of Twitter user would be willing to retweet our Tweets to their audience to get a virtual badge.
  • Why only 2 badges? – It’s enough to prove the idea.  Get people to “sign up” by mentioning the fairly unique keyword “Badgy” on Twitter, and see how many people would respond to a request to retweet to earn another badge.  Some people are willing to incorporate Badgy into their Twitter behavior.  Badge #3 will be less obtrusive.

I hope that you will give Badgy a try and give feedback and suggestions on what you’d like to see next.  I hope we see more Twitter games that don’t suck.

General, Technology

Syncing my online life – New Blog Domain and Blog Bling

https://blog.kischuk.com/ is the new web address, http://feeds.feedburner.com/rkischuk is the new Feed URL. Existing links and feed subscriptions should work fine for the foreseeable future.

I’ve been on a mission lately to sync my online presences, initiated when I started using Twitter. I didn’t like maintaining different statuses on Facebook and Twitter, so I started using TwitterSync to push my Twitter status into Facebook – works like a champ. I wanted to bring my blog and flickr activity in too, so I fired up FriendFeed, and that worked and let me bring in my GTalk status, Google Reader, last.fm, and LinkedIn activity as well. Added the FriendFeed app and now all of that activity is pulled into Facebook. They need better controls so I can tell FF not to push my twitter activity into my feed (TwitterSync already updates my status directly), but I suspect this feature is coming.

Rhapsody listening history proved to be an interesting challenge, since Rhapsody’s plugin support is pretty sparse – Last.fm doesn’t have a Rhapsody scrobbler. I had to make my Rhapsody listening history feed public on Rhapsody.com, and am using RhapsodyScrobbler to push my listening activity to Last.fm. It’s a bit of a hack, but works nicely.
Giving this blog a facelift proved challenging. I’ve been happy using a wordpress.com hosted blog, except for the theme selection, domain name, and poor widget support. But there are no hosting, scaling, or software upgrade headaches. I paid $10 each for the Custom CSS and custom domain upgrades, and was able to tweak a new theme to something I’m pretty happy with (still some room for improvement). I’ve had kischuk.com registered for a while, free DNS with ZoneEdit, and finally added a CNAME for blog.kischuk.com to point to wordpress. The most unfortunate thing about hosted WordPress blogs is that they don’t support widgets of any variety (iFrame or embed). The best tool available for this is the RSS widget – I was able to point this to my twitter and Last.fm RSS feed to provide the pseudo-widgets you see in the right column. I also see this as the best hope for adding some semblance of Skribit support.

I am looking to add a good Flickr app to Facebook – any suggestions?