A Virtual Economy for Forums?

While I was in China the forum engineers pointed us at some of the more popular forums.  These forums had an interesting Virtual economy.  Rather than simply rewarding points for participation users could also exchange their reputation between one another.  One example of this is http://iask.com/.  Our friends in Shanghai translated their rules for us for consideration on Microsoft communities…

Earn Points By…

  • Register and get +20
  • Activate email box successfully +20
  • Any time you sign in +5 each day
  • Submit question or reply +1 for each post
  • Marking an answer +1 each time
  • Reply marked as an answer +10+the question’s offered reward point
  • vote or submit comment successfully +1 points each time (10 per day at most)
  • Your question becomes popular +10

Spend or Lose Points By…

  • set “offered reward” points bounty when asking questions -offered reward points
  • don’t set question status when it expires -20
  • cancel the question when it has answer already -20
  • exchange small gift -gift’s points

Other Notes…

  • Vote: when there are multiple answers, you may set a vote to let other participants to select the best answer for you
  • The question expire time is 15 days by default
  • If there is no answers, you can increase your “offered reward” points and get another 15 days expire time.
  • When a question expires, you can still handle it such as set answer, and etc.

What other non-paid membership communities have you seen successfully implement this sort of system?  Do you like this sort of system?

Comments (9)

  1. Peter Ritchie says:

    There’s been some successful Western-based forums that have used a reward-based system.  None that I know of that have the diversity that you describe.  www.Experts-Exchange.com is one that comes to mind.

    The problem with that type of system is that people new to the forum have a hard time getting the answers they need.  Answerers tend to favour the questions with the higher points and the new members just don’t have any.  It ends up turning into a bit of a clique.

    I like the idea of subtracting points to favour socially-accepted behaviour.  -10 for posting to the wrong forum, for example; would make for better discoverability and inevitably better answer rates and quality.

  2. Beyond | IT says:

    It’s an interesting idea that Josh Ledgard learned is being used in China, and blogged about here . I

  3. jon says:

    Although it’s not a support forum, one of the largest forums in the world, Gaia Online, also uses a rewards based virtual economy system.  You get "gold" for logging in, reading threads, creating threads, and writing posts.  This gold can be used to buy alterations to your avatar from stores or other players.  They also have some mini-games that allow you to win gold, and you can just give it away if you want.


  4. jon says:

    Here’s a page describing the Gaia currency system:


  5. Aayush Puri says:

    http://www.experts-exchange.com — Has been around of a long time and many of its sub-forums are pretty useful for developers.

  6. Will Sullivan says:

    I used to be all into that kind of micromanagement of users.  Lately, however, I’ve gone the exact opposite route.  I’m digging on the anonymous thing.  Boards that specifically prevent you from creating an identity for yourself; you are forced to enter the hive as an indestinct entity.  

    You might think that trolling would be a bigger problem;  the cloak of anonymity does gives rise to the Internet Tough Guy.  Conversely, it also brings users closer together as they share one collective identity.  

    There are a number of boards like this out there already (most prominent being the *chan.org varieties).  But they are pretty much like the wild west–if you aren’t careful you might find yourself getting shot in the face (or seeing pics of somebody who has been).  If an anonymous board could be crafted to avoid the pitfalls and nurture the benefits of anonymity it’d definitely rock.

  7. MSDNArchive says:

    Peter: The difference with Experts Exchange is that money is changing hands… that makes hording points even more valuable.  You could always give some sort of "allowence" to newbies whereby you inject new points into the system on a regular basis. Then they can always ask questions worth points.  

    Jon: Thanks for the links to gaionline!

    Aayush: How quickly do you find you get your answers on experts online?

    Will: I’m not sure we’d want to move into the annon direction. That was a strengh of the older public NNTP feeds. The Asp.Net site, however, does have some forums that allow annon posts. But, as you said, it’s the wild west there.

  8. Peter Ritchie says:

    @Josh.  I took the "Reward points" and the "Bounty" to be "money changing hands", similar to the way Experts-Exchange.  I assumed a user couldn’t offer reward points they didn’t have.

    @Will/Josh.  To a certain extent requiring users to be "logged in" in order to add content to the community doesn’t really guard against anonymity.  You’re still able to enter any pseudonym you want and not make your email public.  Even if forum admins could get access to a member’s email, it’s trivial to make it "untraceable".

    I wouldn’t go so far as to allow people to reply/ask questions without being "logged in"; but it could be made easier to register to log in.  The whole Passport route is a bit convoluted.  I imagine that will change slightly with new releases of Live ID.

  9. Feels like this concept is more tested than I imagined. There are some good comments from the post I