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April 15 2011

Do We Need an Online Trophy Case For Our Digital Achievements?

This post is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark as a new part of the Spark of Genius series that focuses on a new and innovative startup each day. Every Thursday, the program focuses on startups within the BizSpark program and what they’re doing to grow.

In the digital realm, achievements take the shape of badges, pins, points, stamps and other paraphernalia that startups and games dole out to users who check in at locations, complete tasks or repeat some form of “good” behavior.

To some, these achievements are meaningless baubles. To others, they are trophies to be celebrated with friends. For the latter group there exists Score.ly, a fledgling startup.

Score.ly aggregates badges and activities via APIs from 12 different social media and entertainment sites. On Score.ly, users connect accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, GetGlue, Flickr, XBox Live, Netflix and so forth, and Score.ly grabs their earned achievements, awards badges of its own and then houses them all in user “Folios,” short for portfolios.

“It’s an online trophy case,” founder Elizabeth Fuller explains.

An Online Trophy Case

Fuller, ever-curious about the way in which people choose to represent themselves, has been thinking about the discrepancies between real-world achievements and online accomplishments for years.

She, along with business partner David Leibowitz, started to think specifically around the idea of an online trophy case as a place to collect and share achievements in the summer of 2010. The idea grew into a business after the pair pitched the startup at a Startup Weekend event in New York city and won $10,000 in seed money from AOL Ventures.

Score.ly then launched an alpha version of the site in September and has since go on to receive a tempered response for online denizens. The startup isn’t publicly releasing the exact size of its user base, but the number is in the tens of thousands.

Are These Collectors Items?

Not all trophies are created equal. An honorable mention is far less memorable than a first place or grand supreme showing. Does the same stratification exist for digital awards, and which, if any, have lasting value?

And will our children and children’s children one day see our online trophies as testaments of real achievement? Will they say, grandma, “I can’t believe you unlocked the Douchebag badge on Foursquare? Tell me how you did it!”

Perhaps not. Still, Fuller insists that Score.ly’s small user base is actively engaged. “We’ve noticed that people linger on, and get excited about, the LeaderMap,” she says.

The LeaderMap is a portion of the site where Score.ly users can sort a leaderboard of friends by achievements, kudos (Score.ly’s answer to the “like”), Twitter followers, Foursquare badges and the rest.

But, Fuller sounds uncertain about what the startup can realistically do with the achievements it aggregates in the long run. Her answer to the question, “What’s the point of collecting these things?” is barely tangible. “We’re looking at new ways to aggregate and spread this information,” she says.

The young startup has plenty of time to explore the “So, what?” question, and it even has a few ideas around monetization that Fuller’s not ready to disclose.

So, is this a give-it-time-to-mature startup or a service that celebrates a temporary fad in internet culture? That’s for you to decide.

Image courtesy of confidence, comely, Flickr

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, bizspark, foursquare badges, gamification, score.ly, spark-of-genius, startup

For more Startups coverage:

January 06 2011

“Jersey Shore”-Themed Badge Hits Foursquare

GTL Badge

MTV and Foursquare have teamed up once again to launch a new Jersey Shore-themed badge. The new “GTL” badge — for Gym/Tan/Laundry — is designed for those who check in to facilities offering the aforementioned services during a 7-day period. The badge has arrived just in time for the show’s third season premiere Thursday night.

The “Gym/Tan/Laundry” motto was coined by one of show’s stars — Mike Sorrentino, otherwise best known as “The Situation.” The badge, pictured right, features an illustration of a fist pump, while its unlock text provides promotional information about the program:

“Fresh to death! You’ve checked in for the GTL. Don’t miss the new season of the Jersey Shore – Thursdays at 10P/9C on MTV. Now pump that fist and dodge those grenades!”

In order to unlock the badge, Foursquare users just have to follow MTV, and then check into a gym, tanning salon or beach, and laundry location during the course of a week.

This is just the next in a series of varied partnerships MTV has had with Foursquare. The network previously teamed up with the service during the 2010 Video Music Awards and a for STD testing campaign.

More About: foursquare, foursquare badges, jersey shore, mtv

For more Entertainment coverage:

December 03 2010

HOW TO: Cheat at Foursquare [COMIC]

In response to fervent demands for justice in the badge-eat-badge world of Foursquare, the location network decreed last April that checkins without GPS verification would be precluded from points, badges and mayorships. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get crafty in your ruthless quest for (imaginary) world domination.

This comic was illustrated by Kiersten Essenpreis, a New York-based artist who draws and blogs at YouFail.com. For more laughs, check out our previous Mashable Comics.

Also, I hear the mayor of Mt. Everest gets 25% off snow cones.*

*With purchase of five regularly priced snow cones of equal or lesser value, subject to the terms and conditions of your very survival.

More Comics from Mashable:

- We Hold These Tweets To Be Self-Evident [COMIC]
- Cats: They’re On the Internet [COMIC]
- The Future of Social Media Parenting [COMIC]
- The Evolution of Mobile [COMIC]
- 15 Great Geeky Web Comic Strips [PICS]

More About: cheaters, cheating, checkin, checkins, comic, comics, foursquare, foursquare badges, iphone, location, mashable comics, Mobile 2.0, mobile apps, social media

For more Mobile coverage:

November 16 2010

Foursquare Fills Out Its Trophy Case

Foursquare has just introduced a new section of its site to help users keep track of (and show off) the various badges they have earned from Foursquare or its new partners.

The new repository — aptly named Trophy Case — shows off all your unlocked Foursquare badges, and lets you navigate your digital kudos by “Foursquare” or “partner” sections. Clicking on a badge brings up its description, how you earned the badge and which of your other friends also unlocked the same badge.

Users can access their Trophy Case by clicking on the “Badges” navigation bar. On its official blog, Foursquare also noted that it has just launched a new Partner Badge program to help companies and organizations create even more badges for Foursquare users.

This is actually a pretty big deal because the partnership aspect of Foursquare has traditionally required companies, brands or events to contact and work out deals with Foursquare directly. Interested parties can fill out this form to get started. In the future, the Partner Badge program will be more streamlined.

Foursquare has also introduced some new Partner Badges for some new brands and organizations, including The Ellen Show, Radio Shack, People Magazine and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Foursquare can be credited with bringing the digital merit badge to the masses, a conceit that many other location-based and checkin based services have also adopted. It’s great to see badges get their own space on the site. We’re also excited that Foursquare is embracing its partnership opportunities and potentially making it easier for brands and organizations to get their own badges.

More About: foursquare, foursquare badges, geolocation, partner badge program

For more Social Media coverage:

October 29 2010

Foursquare Introduces Super Duper Swarm and Epic Swarm Badges

Foursquare “Super Swarms” of 250 people or more are now so frequent that the location-based startup is rolling out new badges to award users who convene in more massive quantities.

Beginning today, when 500 or more Foursquare members are gathered together at the same venue (and checked in, of course), those users will be rewarded with a Super Duper Swarm badge. There’s also an Epic Swarm badge to commemorate events where attendance on Foursquare pushes past the 1,000 mark.

“When we made the original Swarm badge we thought, ‘What are the odds of ever getting 50 Foursquare users together?’ And then we did the same with Super Swarm for SXSW. ‘Will anyone ever even unlock these?’” explains Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley. “And now they are unlocked on a regular basis — baseball games, concerts etc. So we needed bigger.”

So what happens when 500-and-1,000-person swarms become commonplace? That’s a question even Foursquare is not prepared to answer. “In our internal badge meetings, we’re thinking, ‘What’s after this?’ We have no idea,” says Crowley.

Though the badges themselves are pure novelty, they do represent the ballooning growth of Foursquare’s user base and highlight just how much activity the startup is capable of generating around offline venues.

More About: foursquare, foursquare badges

For more Social Media coverage:

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