Thursday, 9 September 2010

Monsters and Points: Squidoo Just Got Fun

Finally today (well, yesterday now - my internet crashed halfway through this post and I gave up and went to bed) the new Squidoo points system arrived. I've had the joy of being a beta tester for the last couple of weeks and was amused to see the predicted outbreak in the forums. Luckily most people enjoy them. Sadly, the huge rush of people playing around (I woke up to over a dozen lovely comments where I usually might get one) seems to have broken it for now, and no points are being (apparently) recorded. So I tore myself away and came to write about my new toy instead!

How does it work?
The new system adds a behind-the-scenes additional feedback and earning system. It's primarily aimed at increasing community engagement, teaching new lensmasters (and I think it will do this very well) and rewarding 'good' lenses. It does this by granting points as you make lenses and interact on Squidoo. You can also read an introduction from Megan here

What do you get points for?
Initially, you get points for pretty much everything. The amounts can be random, and they start to become rarer as you get higher.

You get points for leaving comments, voting in polls, 'liking' a lens, adding various modules (e.g. first time Amazon module), adding an introduction image, publishing a lens, publishing a certain number of lenses, publishing a certain type of lens (for the first time), rating a certain number of lenses or leaving a lot of comments, and when people rate, comment and vote on your lenses, as well as when you are blessed by an angel, you share on Facebook... pretty much 'proceed as normal and explore any options you don't normally take'.

Getting points for different modules, the first, or random, time you add them (or most times in the case of things like the intro photo, I think) encourages people to explore and learn. It also makes the occasionally tedious process of putting a lens together a bit more interesting. You can add and delete modules to get the points, but you generally stop getting them anyway after a certain number of uses.

Everytime you get points for something, it turns up in your notifications. And they can be entirely passive (other people commenting, liking), or wholly generated by you!

As a comparison, poll votes tend to be 2 points, comments about 5 points, modules around 25 points and new lenses in the region of a hundred. Angel Blessings are 20 points (and no, the Angel doesn't get any!) You also get more points from 'higher' Squids (e.g. Giants, official HQ people) liking your lenses (around 10 or 50).

Squidoo is constantly tweaking this as they figure out what works and what doesn't - in October 2010 they brought in points (and therefore a notification) for sales!

As you get more points, you level up. Giants started at level 20, Giant 100's at level 25 and everyone else at level 10. Any new people start from scratch. There's an explanatory lens from HQ here.

You unlock and are awarded various things as you go - these turn up in the My Items tab. All existing lensmasters get to keep everything they already had, however, the notices still appear automatically.

For example, different themes (which I always forget to explore properly!), an awesome Lensrank Turbo boost (one lens gets a nice jump) at level 21 and 26. Also, Quests (further down for talking about these)

Levels are initially quite fast to gain - once you've made a couple of lenses you should probably have upgraded a couple of times (guessing here ^_^ ). A lot of the stuff that's unlocked at higher levels isn't actually very far out of reach - by the time most new people have a handle on Squidoo and are ready to explore further options (such as themes and forums and LOTD and yet more confusing modules!) they've probably levelled up enough that those things are being pointed out to them and unlocked anyway.

You will probably (unless you get a ridiculous number of visits from people) level up fastest simply by making more lenses. They get harder to achieve as you get higher - much like any levelling game, it will all be a big rush initially, then slow down as you get used to it and 'the next level is just too far away to worry about right now'.

How do I keep track of my points?
You get a new points tab and a My items tab in your dashboard, which keep track of your history. You also get three little tiny tabs on the top right, which stay there as you browse - your current points, your current level, and your trophies. When you hover over them, you get a little drop down box which tells you how many points to the next level, what you recently got points for, and what your latest trophies are.

You also get notifications popping up in the right hand corner, which you should be able to close easily and keep working - if this doesn't happen, you've got a bug on your hands.


These turn up in the Items tab as well, as you unlock them. Mostly they're pretty simple - find so many lenses on these topics, refer a new lensmaster, add links and submit... and get points.

I'm still a little uncertain over these - not sure if I should go back and fill them in retroactively as they're designed to encourage new lenses, new discoveries, that sort of thing.

One flaw right now is that you have to fill them out in one go - there's no 'save' option. You can come back to them, easily - and compile a list elsewhere to copy and paste - that's just a bit annoying and slightly daunting.

Currently the answers are being hand-checked, while they're new, but Squidoo lans to switch to auto-approval.


For regular events and special occasions, we get trophies displayed on our profile - like the
weird Squiddy guy on the left, he's for making it to Giant Squid (I thought the little S was a $ sign
initially!). They're quite distinctive, and are awarded for timeline events (e.g. six months or a year on Squidoo); publishing certain numbers of lenses; special statuses and achievements (such as Giant Squid, Lens of the Day). I've also got a Beta Tester one and a Pioneer (i.e. here from the beginning of the new system) trophy. There's already at least one lens collecting them.

As you 'level up' your trophy badge upgrades as well, so you don't have a clutter of different badges chronicling the fact you have 1, 2, 5, 10 and 100 lenses!

They're part of a new consistent 'monster' theme. Apparently they are cute *edges away*

Pros: It's nice to get little badges, and it's easy to lose track of things like anniversaries. It's also a nice quick, visual, way of summing up a bit about a lensmaster.

Cons: They're going to get quite gaudy! And some people do dislike the designs. They may seem a bit amateurish. The old Squid was just as cartoonish though, so I reckon it's partly what people are used to.

What about spam?

Anything that rewards interaction will attract spammers. This is a given. Allowing comments of any kind means that people will comment simply to be noticed, or to leave links. This will still happen, and obviously a few people will go on 'point harvesting frenzies'.

But. Out of the rush of comments I got, only one - ONE - in the last day was not interesting, genuine, and talking about my lens. And that one was an attempt at spreading a self-serving link, and that would have happened anyway.

People will be more likely to comment. This is a good thing. If you don't like comments, why do you even have a guestbook?

And the points are only awarded when the comment is approved. If it's meaningless, or spam, by your guidelines, delete it or don't approve it as you would have done anyway.

On gaining points through likes, voting in polls and so forth: these are all good for your lenses. You get interaction and you both (may) get points.

And it means more visits to your lenses. And frankly? it isn't worth trying to level up through 'likes'. The point payoff is simply too small.

How can I opt out of the Squidoo points system?
You can and you can't. You can turn it off in your profile settings (broken initially, because we never beta tested NOT beta testing it! but they'll fix it soon)
You're still part of Squidoo, so the points are still 'there' and people still get them for doing things to your lenses, but you're not constantly bothered by notifications and so forth.

Gaming Settings

Rockstar Mode

Rockstar Mode: Keep Rockstar Mode turned ON if you want to see alert bubbles when you earn points for doing something awesome! If you turn Rockstar Mode OFF, you will see points in your Squidoo toolbar only, party pooper. (Milestone achievements like trophies will still appear as special alerts).

Hide Trophies

Set this to on to hide any trophies on your bio page.

Finally, your name is attached to your actions. At last we can do hit-and-run likes and the lensmaster knows about it (and I would be notorious for this... if anyone actually knew I'd visited!) . People can vote in polls, and you know it's happened without having to constantly check the lens. We're getting points for everything right now, because it's the first time we've performed a lot of actions under the new system - they'll slow down, get more reasonable, less predictable. The 'might get points' and 'nearly levelled up' motivations can be very powerful.
And best of all, it's a brilliant teaching tool, which can only be good for improving the site! As someone who keeps trying to refer people, only to have most of them get bored and wander off... well, I'm much happier about trying to get them started again now.

And I recognise the way it feels - it's just like a lot of games, and it works for the same reasons they do.

Also, the current top 40 most active accounts show up here

More lenses from people:

(heh. Just realised what the monsters look like to me. Finger puppets.)

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