Leaderboards are evil. They create competition in environments that may not benefit from competition. They make more losers than winners and only engage the top 10 players on the board. Right? (out of context quotes ahoy!)
Well, yes and no.
In reality it is not quite as simple as that. It all comes down to intent, presentation and interpretation. If the point of your leaderboard is to create unnatural competition between groups of people, then you may find you don’t get the results you expect. Not everyone wants to compete, so if that is your intent you will often find very short lived engagement. As soon as people find they are not in the top ten, you tend to find they lose interest. The competition then revolves around the top players, leaving the rest actually disengaged from the process.
The example above is from the Gamification Gurus Leaderboard run by Leaderboarded. The intent of this leaderboard is to show people who is active in the world of gamification. It is also a bit of fun for a group of naturally competitive people! More on this later though!
However, competition does not have to be the be all and end all of leaderboards, they can be used in a non competitive way – if you focus on other aspects of them.
Take the numbers off a leaderboard and forget the order in which they are displayed for a moment. What are you left with? A group of people who have are all involved in the same thing. At the end of the day, they are just a representation of certain data. If you present it slightly differently you can move away from the competition side of them and start to see them as a social discovery tool. It is a safe bet that if someone is shown on the board, they are active in the topic and are worth following / talking to.
The above image is the Wearables1K leaderboard, again using the Leaderboarded platform. You can see that whilst there are numbers, they are less obvious and the appearance is more of a wall of names and faces. This way it has a much more social feel!
Back to the Gamification Gurus board for a moment. Whilst this is displayed as a competitive leaderboard, it is also the central resource I use to find out who is being particularly active in the gamification world on social media. Each month, I make sure I am following the top 100 people – it is the main reason I know so many people in the industry! The position on the leaderboard is generally secondary for me (although I won’t lie, even being pretty non-competitive myself, it is nice to be at the top!).
As I say, it comes down to intent, presentation and interpretation. Certain groups are naturally competitive, so you don’t need to worry about using a pure leaderboard, but should you find that you are not getting the expected response from yours, consider making it non-competitive and see if you get better engagement that way – bring people together, rather than drive a wedge between them!
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