I was poking around in E2 Tools and Toys and discovered a bunch of stuff I never knew existed. One of them is Site Trajectory 2, which gives a visualization of the number of people who participate in the site each month.

It's ... not good, folks. I certainly had the sense that the site was much less visited than when I first began as a noder here, but I didn't realize how much things had fallen off until I used that tool.

There were three things that hooked me on the site way back when: the gamification of writing, the sense that I was contributing to a useful resource, and the community.

Today, you can find writers'/coders' communities everywhere. Heck, I could list off a dozen communities just on Facebook. There are endless places to make online acquaintances and chat about writing (or whatever it is you'd want to call what you do here if you don't identify as a writer.)

And as for contributing to a useful database? Wikipedia has clearly wooed away a lot of noders. It's the user-contributable database to rule them all. For a while, I was spending more time editing at Wikipedia than I was at E2, even though I don't identify as a Wikipedian. We aren't Wikipedia, and we can't be.

So, that leaves us with the gamification aspects of this site. Which I think still makes E2 unique, in flavor if not feature.

So I wonder: can we make that aspect of the site better, and in making it better, encourage more people (new and old) to stick around?

For instance: digital badges are a big thing in higher education now, often as an intermediate step (or compromise) in class settings where the administrators are skeptical of gamification because they feel that actual educational games are too expensive or too frivolous to implement.

People respond to badges and ribbons and medals, from gold-biting Olympic athletes to brass-bedecked generals to Girl Scouts sewing their first patches onto their uniform sashes.

And we have the capability for that; take a look at My Achievements. (Did you know those were a thing? I didn't, until I stumbled across them).

Would it be possible to turn My Achievements into real homenode badges? And by "badges" I mean real color graphics, not another line of text. (ETA: And, as Jet-Poop suggests, make them easily shareable via social media.) Would it be difficult? Something as basic as having colorful achievement badges on homenodes might be worth the extra coding because it would help people feel more invested in playing here.

We need to brighten this place up a little, put a little something pretty on the walls. I love text as much as the next writerly type, but it's not 1999 anymore.


9/18/2014 addendum: we already have a loose RPG style here. Why not play that up with a homenode graphic? I mean, great, I'm a Grand Vizier. Does anyone know what that looks like? Even the crappiest, most addictive junk social media game on Facebook would give me a picture of what my Grand Vizier persona is, and probably let me modify it provided I unlocked certain achievements. Like Fish Wrangler: every time I went up a level I got a new, wacky-looking cartoon fishing rod on my user page, something with a ridiculous number of hooks and rocket launchers and stuff. So stupid, and yet so motivational! We're better than Fish Wrangler, dammit.

We already have a weak version of the virtual crack cocaine that makes Zynga games so damned addictive. Let's make that crack stronger.



And a messagebox conversation ensued:

alex says re September 17, 2014: Achievements were mostly my thing. I envisioned them in the style of Kingdom of Loathing trophies, which have a tongue-in-cheek quality that would fit well. "Buying" the trophies you earned would be a use for GP. Kyle and mauler did some work but I could never muster enough commitment from coding staff or get a designer on board to move forward with it. Maybe Jay will be able to. You are, of course, right about everything and it's all been evident since at least 2006.

wordnerd says re September 17, 2014: I've been thinking that stuff in my head since day one of my arrival ten years ago!! I adore what you've pondered regarding the achievement system. I'm so tempted to turn my artistry (such as it is) to this idea.

Jet-Poop says re September 17, 2014: We also need to make the badges shareable on social media.

Jet-Poop says re September 17, 2014: Actually, here's something interesting we found out recently while reading up on the upcoming post-millennials generation: Their favorite social media platforms: definitely not Facebook, and Twitter is leveling off. They prefer Instagram, Snapchat, and other visual-oriented platforms. So maybe we need to finally add visual elements to writeups?

Chord says We need to spread the name of E2 across the web. Reach out to eager writers.

etouffee says re September 17, 2014: Amen- and yes- it is time to try NEW- I am all for it. We have both been here awhile-- I want growth and change- both are necessary

artman2003 says re September 17, 2014: yes.

Pandeism Fish says re September 17, 2014: It is pretty apparent that we still get bigger draws for November (Iron Noder!!) and maybe for a few other regular contests (Halloween Horrorquest? BrevityQuest?) If we're going social we ought to have a broad array of prizes for a broad array of regular and specific contests.

moeyz says re September 17, 2014: Hallelujah! I've made several art/design suggestions that fell on deaf ears. The Quests that raise money for charities SHOULD be a major focus. Just my 2 cents.

Excalibur says re September 17, 2014: Building on what the others said, badges for quest winners (and maybe all participants) -- "I raised the dead in 2014" or the like for the Horrorquest winners, and yeah, shareable on Facebook of course. Priority one is figuring out how to market E2 on social media, b/c social media is starting to catch on with all those hip young kids.

Excalibur says re September 17, 2014: One thing all these gamification places like is "streaks". No matter how tired I am, I never miss a day on Duolingo, because I am at 165 days and counting. Not gonna lose that. We couldn't possibly expect a writeup a day, but maybe one per week, with an email/text/whatever on Thursday for those who opt in saying "Don't break your noding streak! Post a new node before midnight Sunday morning!"

The Debutante says re September 17, 2014: Heavens, where to start. I never used to think that images on E2 were important; it was all about the writing. But, hell, I write about photography, I work with social media. If a site doesn't have images now, it falls way behind. And we have to up the social media presence, desperately.

mad girl's love song says re September 17, 2014: I was JUST thinking the other day that it would be great if we had badges so we could give a "redemption" badge to those who superseded crap 3 line writeups with writeups of actual substance.

Oolong says re September 17, 2014: Yup yup yup... as you'll have gathered, most of these are ideas that have been kicking around for years, but we were largely too occupied trying to fix the definitely-broken stuff to spend the time on them. Jay's done a hell of a lot of work now on that side of things, and hopefully it's not too long now before we can start spending some coding time on making things more good, rather than just less bad!

mauler says re September 17, 2014: Perhaps others have already said this, but Jay has completely overhauled the backend of E2 in the past year or so. Completely. It doesn't look the same at all. Soon, we'll be able to start doing all sorts of stuff that we couldn't do before. But Jay needs a bit more time to finish overhauling the backend. Big things are coming, but we need to be patient. I know we've been sort of saying that for years, but it's really much closer to true this time.

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