Wikipedia:Wikiproject Wikipedia Badges

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This project proposal is to build badge systems to help encourage participation on Wikimedia projects. Although a robust system of barnstars and personal rewards exists to reward “above and beyond” contributions to Wikipedia and its related projects, there is currently no similar way to reward participation on a less-than exceptional level. Badges could be used as a reward for contributions that may not necessarily be extraordinarily significant from a Wikimedia project’s point of view but may still be meaningful to an individual.

Research has shown that set goals and specific tasks can help encourage participation. Rewarding community members for smaller contributions could lead to significant aggregate contribution to a project. Badges could provide community members of all stages, novice to expert, with goals to work toward and feedback about whether their goals were attained. For example, badges could be given out for best new article in a given category, or badges could be given out for X number of tickets cleared on an OTRS queue. Additionally, badges could help signal to new potential participants appropriate points of entry for a project and outline the pathways they could take to grow to more advanced participants. What is a badge? What is a badge system?

A badge can be understood as a graphic packaged together with an explanation of how it is earned. It can also be combined with information on who earned the badge and how many badges were awarded. Although each badge represents a discrete accomplishment, badges can be hierarchical with some badges being earned only after certain pre-requisite badges have been earned. Depending on the context, badges can be thought of as simple rewards, as feedback of accomplishment, or as accreditation of skills earned.

A badge system is how badges are displayed to participants and how participants interact with the badges. Designing a badge system means considering the total number of badges to be created, types of badges in the system, types of goals set and accomplishments rewarded, and roles of participants within the system. Badge systems can allow participants to share their badges widely on social media sites or to display locally within the system. Badge systems can also vary based on who does the badge evaluation and assignment -- the wider community, an authority, or an automated system.

Badges v. Barnstars:

  • Barnstars and badges are similar. Badges tend to be understood as symbols of accomplishments, identity, and feedback. Barnstars are acknowledgements and “thank you’s” of exceptional work. They are like badges because they recognize accomplishment and can be used to identify contributors that are particularly active on their project. From my perspective, barnstars are actually a type of badge, just named and used in a Wikimedia context.
  • Yet, barnstars don’t accomplish all of the things that could potentially be accomplished with a robust badge system. For example, barnstars don’t tend to acknowledge work that is much less than exceptional. Barnstars don’t acknowledge someone’s first edit or first full article (though these can be great accomplishments for new editors). As pinnacles of achievement barnstars don’t show a path to becoming a better contributor and poorly recognize progress. And they are not always consistent. Barnstars may not always be given out regularly to all contributors doing equally exceptional levels of work.
  • Barnstars could be revamped and redesigned to be better as badges – barnstars could be created for small scale achievements, they could be organized into nested pathways, and they could be more consistently given out. But it also makes sense to preserve barnstars as reward and acknowledgement of exceptional work and to not cheapen or dilute them. To show new editors pathways to success, a separate class of badges could be created to recognize work done on a smaller scale. These badges could be awarded automatically once someone reached a certain level or awarded by people for doing work of a certain level of quality. Additionally, they could be the necessary prerequisites to earning a barnstar. The idea would be to create a badge system that works together with existing barnstars in a way that acknowledges achievement at all levels of engagement.


  • The aim of this pilot is to build a collection of existing barnstars and additional new badges to serve as symbols of acknowledgement and to monitor their impact on the community. Ideally, badges would provide a mechanism for participants to reward each other’s work, decrease the feeling of discouragement, and help support the editors' success in increasing constructive activity retention. A successful badge pilot would help to establish the process of identifying an appropriate barnstar/badge set and a more straightforward process for rewarding and acknowledging project work.
  • The badges should directly reflect the work done throughout the encyclopedia and align with participants’ motivations for doing the work. To ensure a good tie to appropriate accomplishments, interviews of project organizers and/or project participants will be coupled with review past qualitative data collected by the project like the Teahouse. Then, community members will be asked to submit relevant badge ideas. A good badge collection would represent acknowledgements for a diverse amount of tasks, reward accomplishments of varying difficulty, and be perceived as meaningful.
  • The presentation of badges would involve establishing a good badge aesthetic that incorporates the aesthetic of the Teahouse and the chosen barnstars. Badges should also be closely tied with their criteria, titles and descriptions, and should be presented in ways that allow for easy discovery of these meta-data elements.

Project goals:

  • Build understanding of the best practices of existing award and barnstar systems.
  • Create a badge system that builds upon and aims to improve the ideas of existing award and barnstar systems. Particularly, in terms of engaging and guiding new editors, allowing for scaling, and minimizing gaming.
  • Pilot a badge system in 2 different areas of English Wikipedia, testing for impact on editor participation and project engagement.
  • Collect findings and disseminate information on best practices based on what has been learned.

Questions the project will answer:

  • Does the introduction of badges have positive, negative, or no effect on participation and engagement in a Wikipedia project?
  • Can we create a badge system that isn’t game-able through linking of evidence?
  • How can badges interact with existing barnstars?
  • Does the addition of smaller awards for everyday achievements and activities act as an effective complement in the existing motivation/rewards system of Wikipedia?
  • Is there a simple way to encourage participants to use badges as a way to reward and acknowledge volunteer work?
  • Can we create a badge system that doesn’t work against the possibility of future OBI integration?