What do you think of gamification and rewards on the app?

This has come up in several topics already, mostly with the idea that we should reward and distinguish members with a badge for certain actions or accumulated credit. So I think it could be worthy of a dedicated topic.

On the forum we already have many badges (you can see all of them on the Badges page). These come by default with the forum software, Discourse. Overall I got two main impressions from the experience with rewarding features on the forum so far:

  • If we’d design badges for the platform, it’s important to have a clear guiding idea what for and how they are rewarded. Is it for community feedback users receive? For certain actions? If we decide to reward certain actions, what do we do when users act contrary to what we’d reward?

  • I’d see the best application of gamification for on-boarding new users. Badges or other rewards can introduce a playful aspect to communicate: yes, that’s a great way how to act here! Instead of referring new users to faqs or “getting started” guides only. But I think it becomes somewhat patronizing if we’d continuously reward certain actions.

How do you feel about rewards and nudges on the platform we are building? Do you think there’s certain badges that would be great to have? Do you know of or are a fan of other gamification features? Thanks for sharing your ideas!


There’s far too many rewards in terms of badges available to members at the moment without adding any more.
I see gamification for points, badges and leaderboard spots could be open to misuse. There are very clever people who know how to cheat really well!
In terms of hosting, the best reward a host can have is a long list of all positive comments and these comments can be checked against the member who made them for authenticity. I am very happy to rely on those comments when couchsurfing, especially being able to see feedback that is negative.

Personally, I don’t believe the present Discourse badge system is very accurate, let alone designing a new method of rewards that could be open to abuse.

I am a person who would like to have lots of rewards and awards, while there are others who wouldn’t be bothered trying to get any/not know how to get them/etc and this may possibly be another reason why gamification isn’t a good idea and may not work very well.

It’s best to keep things simple and leave it to members to give someone positive or negative feedback for everyone to see.

I actually really like the awards on discourse (this forum we’re using) but they are given automatically by the system – so they aren’t as valuable to me compared to an award that a human might give.

As for the Couchers.org platform:

I tend to agree, but I also see the value in having badges. Especially if the badges are qualitative and not quantitative (for example, we’d never want to show that someone has X of a particular badge; just that they received it one or more times).

For the sake of a thought experiment, are there ways that badges or trophies could be implemented without the risk of cheating?

For example; what if someone can only receive a particular badge anonymously and if X people (anonymously) nominate them for it? What about a badge for people who donate money to help cover Coucher’s operational costs? What about for founding members? (eg. anyone who joins within the first X amount of time).

In any case, a person’s “trophy case” would not necessarily be front-and-center on a person’s profile. It could be hidden as much or as little as we want.

It has to be used to incentivize hosting (hosting count?), organizing events, and user growth.

CS had the vouch count, the friend count, the reference count, etc

Yes, but I think using a “count” (quantitative rewards rather than qualitative) it made it very easy to game. For example, in Italy it quickly became a competition about who could get the most vouches (“Look, I have 300 vouches even though I only have 100 references and 120 friends!”)

If you take away the numbers and make it anonymous and non-numerical, then I think it still has the positive benefits without the negatives.


The original CS badges sounded great, but were meaningless. I didn’t get any extra information about who someone is from a profile having a “pioneer” or “vouch” badge - all it shows is that they were lucky enough to join at the right time or that they were basically popular among other users.

If we do introduce badges, they should indicate something more than luck or popularity.

Also, although badges awarded by humans sound nice and more valuable, it has more potential for misuse or favoritism; automatically awarded badges might be more useful.

Offhand I’m thinking things like milestones for types of groups hosted like “hosted solo travelers, couples, families, pets” or number of countries “hosted from/surfed in 10, 20, 100 countries” or “surfed/hosted x days in a row” or some other crazy achievements.

These kinds of automatically gifted badges would actually illustrate the person I think, and highlight their couching style :slight_smile:


I always thought the vouch count was a popularity contest as well, not particularly useful, though one could argue that popularity correlates with safety to some extent. Of course there are always outliers, I remember this popular CS ambassador who was accused of sexual assault…

About which badge or count needs to be created, I think you need to decide first which behavior you want to reward in priority. I say you because this is a rather fundamental decision for the founders of this project, which changes the culture of the community or its growth (growth similar to early CS is anything but guaranteed!)

Examples of problems that could potentially be fixed with gamification: surfing in areas where hosts don’t get any requests, or surfing in popular city centers where hosts gets 200 requests per day, organizing meetings in small towns, etc.

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I like this concept!

I absolutely agree. If we were to try something like automated milestone rewards, we’d have to balance it in such a way so as to take in account disparities between active urban areas and less active rural areas, and many other factors.


For example, I’m trying to get the hard to get the 100 day in a row badge but when I have looked at how many days I’ve visited in the Active Users all I see is the number 28 which it has been stuck on for a week.
If Discourse doesn’t work automatically, then gamification which a member could manually manipulate would be very inaccurate and it could make someone look like a real hero when they are actually just a cheat.

The words Gamifications and Badges makes me want to slam the door shut and never open it again, but maybe I´m just not used to all it implies. I did check surf to host ratio on CS for example, but much other stuff doesn´t really interest me. Is it possible to make an arrangement that allows people to step out of a gamification system, or parts of it?

Some of what you mention is relevant info when choosing a potential host, such as “hosted solo travelers, couples, families, pets”. “Surfed/hosted x days in a row” - isn´t that irrelevant? Crazy achievements are great if they are optional.

Maybe “hosted someone from my own country”?


I like it! Why not?

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On the other hand - easy to cheat.

When you look up the list of Active Users, by default you will be presented an overview of the last month. So yes, you will need to try very hard to get beyond 31 visits :wink:

You can select other time ranges from the drop down menu above the list though:

In any case, it’s nice to hear there are users that want to join the Aficionado club :nerd_face:


I think reward/points and all are great additions, but what would be essential to me would be good statistics. I think if you have a good way to keep count/visualize the past activities, it will be easy to find your own way of fulfillment, regardless of how active you can be on the site. One rewarding way to visualize hosting on CS was the global map, but other stats would also be nice. For example, infographic of trend, gender of hosted surfers, etc.

These stat can also be really useful information when you are trying to choose a host that you can trust (especially for women).


Yeah, I think so too! I have an app that keeps track of all the flights I’ve taken and I love looking at the statistics there. It’s really nice to see that info as a record of my past :slight_smile:

By the way, welcome to the forum @mukade! If you’d like to meet us “in person”, we have two weekly events you are most welcome to join!


The reason for “hosted someone from my own country” is to see if the person is interested in local people or more focused on international connections.

Reply rate - I had a high reply rate on CS, but would have had a very much lower host to request rate. I think many people wrote me because of the reply rate, not counting on the repliy “sorry, too busy”. Maybe both of them would be convenient for guests looking for potential hosts?

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Very much agree with that! Though badges don’t need to be just about rewarding activities, they can actually serve to visualize statistics in a nice and thoughtful way. On the forum that’s a case with many badges that are awarded once you reach a certain threshold (has given 20/100/500 likes…).

When you open a user’s card (click on their avatar or name), you get an immediate insight into how experienced and engaged they are on the forum, just by presenting a few numbers and their “top” badges and overall badges count:

To me, badges give better insight on the forum than would spelling out all precise numbers. In that regard, they could also work well for our app. For example we don’t want to promote some statistics as exact numbers, like the exact times someone hosted. We could still have some badges that are awarded once you hosted 1/10/50 times. That informs other users about your experience and still caps the superhost reward.


I am excited about Emiliys idea with more specific/‘fun’ badges. Maybe stuff like “this person helped do the dishes” while surfing would be cool. Or for the warmshowers-people: “showed up on a bike”.
It would help me get a sense of someone if other hosts/surfers have verified that someone has a certain trait.


There should be a distinction between statistics and badges.

Stats can be just fun, but badges as their name implies are rewards that incentivize behaviors that benefit the network as a whole: CS had ambassador badge, donator badge, vouches, pioneer, etc

IMO there’s no point in having fun badges, it would just add clutter to the interface.

Fair enough, I get that you shouldn’t get too many gimmicky badges. Ideally I would envision users being allowed to pick which ones they think matter the most, and those get shown prominently.

Perhaps some people will prefer showing that they have done some dishes for a host over being a pioneer, and others would choose not to. I think the choice of which badges you show can tell a bit about a person too.

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