Are Google News Badges another sign of digital laziness?

This morning Google announced a new feature in Google News - Badges. The badges (as explained in the video above) are earned through reading around your topics of interest on Google News - i.e. the more you read on one subject the more likely you are to earn a badge - or add more "Stars" (Google love their stars) to that badge. These can then be shared through social networks (of course) and you can "connect" with others who read similar stuff.

This is yet another example of digital life that is being influenced by the "gamification" trend - the concept of turning previously private activities into to gaming experience where people are either rewarded socially or physically with a some kind of "capital" (If you are playing buzz-word-bingo whilst reading this post then you are likely doing very well by this point).

The question that this development has to beg of course, is do we really need to be incentivised in such a way to consume the world around us? As a world of fairly advanced adults with access to  a rich and diverse media landscape, do we need the digital equivalent of being given a cookie for doing our homework? As much as I am pleased to say that this is another example of the "recommendation economy" at work - I do sometimes wonder if this is encouraging a culture of digital laziness - a condition of the millennial generation that is actively promoting the suspension of discernment, making us all follow the breadcrumbs of "Likes", +'s and RT's.

3 Digital trends driving the recommendation economy in 2011

You may well be thinking I am a month late to writing a trends for 11" post - and you are right, I am, for good reason. When everyone else jumped on the new years prediction bandwagon we got a lot of interesting perspectives, but it's kind of hard to see the wood for the trees when that happens, so after settling in nicely to 2011, February brings with it some clarity, and a better position to think about the year ahead - because if you Jan was anything like mine, I am sure you are still wondering where it went! As you would expect if you have been to my blog before I am pretty sure that 2011 will be the year when the Recommendation Economy (read more about that by clicking on the tab above) will graduate into something far more tangible, and I think it will manifest itself in a number of ways:

Deals, Deals and more Deals

Facebook Places and Gap

With the launch of Facebook Deals now in the UK and rolling out across Europe we may just see social commerce and social recommendation of offers, deals, coupons and discounts become the next big movement not just by brands but in society in general. We are on the cusp of sites like Groupon becoming truly mainstream and particularly with the economic situation here in the UK still looking fairly bleak who wouldn't appreciate a discounted Spa treatment once in a while.

Check out checking in

The "Check In" - A curious little beast, but one, very much coupled with deals and social commerce is set to become yet another social norm, mostly popularised by Facebook. Of course to many of us who have been avid Foursquare fans for some time (or you few Gowalla nuts out there) the concept of broadcasting to your friends and colleagues where you are has been a novel, and for the most part quite a self gratifying little addition to our online lifestyle. However now with the ability to check in to a spot in the pockets of the 30 million UK Facebook, 2011 may be the year where the concept of saying "here I am" to your friends becomes just another daily activity for the online crowd.

Gamification galore

Gamification is something that has been creeping in through the backdoor of our daily lives for nearly a decade now, but is beginning to rear it's head as we enter 2011. A trend that has come out of the online gaming world where nearly 3 generations have been acutely trained and prepped to understand the concept - perform digital actions, get digital rewards. Whether you are the Frogger, Super Mario Bros 2, Halo or Call of Duty Black Ops generation - this will probably come as no surprise to you. The sense of elation and satisfaction rolled into one as you spend those hard earned points from fragging Spetznas operatives on upgrades and content that too all intents and purposes do not really exist. For all of you who may not be console nuts I just have to say the word FARMVILLE and you will get the picture.

SCVNGR | How To Build from SCVNGR on Vimeo.

However 2011 looks to be the year where we will see the ideas of digital redemption and virtual currencies come far more mainstream. The likes of "EpicWin" the iPhone app that rewards you with characters in a virtual game for completing your every day to do list, through to the collection of SuperSwarm badges on Foursquare or completing routes and treasure trails on the location based game SVCNGR (yes that's Scavenger) - the gamification of your life is well on it's way.