Publish at June 05 2015 Updated June 13 2022

Increase the value of your badges

How do you award meaningful badges?

While browsing a candidate's resume, my attention was drawn to the mention of an earned badge at "Stack Overflow," which I had never heard of.

"Gold Badge in C++"

Yet the way the badge was presented, in a prominent position, and the overall caliber of the application, suggested its importance. At the same time, this new element suggested that I needed a refresher on evaluating a resume.

Stack Overflow is a forum specializing in computer programming. How valuable can a badge awarded by a forum be? Really intriguing.

Apparently it's earned: more than 200 people have acquired it, thousands of ratings, hundreds of relevant questions asked and answered. Better yet, said candidate had 104 other earned badges (some can be earned multiple times).

Visibly, he knows C++ and programming in general, he knows how to communicate and he understands problems and their solutions. I understand why he wanted his badge considered.

All the art of the badge in 90 badges

Stack Overflow is part of the "Stack Exchange" family of forums. There are nearly 150 of them, in all fields: science, languages, photography, sales, astronomy, martial arts, etc. Each incorporates the same badge system. Badges are applied to tags associated with the questions and the participant. Thus, the system allows badges to be customized for each topic.

The badges value different actions. Stack Exchange has grouped them into 5 categories:

  • Question Badges

    Recognize the quality, relevance, effort, and popularity of questions asked. Discourage nulls.

  • Answer Badges

    Recognize the quality, relevance, effort, and popularity of the answers conveyed. Encourage self-discipline.

  • Participation Badges

  • Encourage visits, relevant comments, and general animation.

  • Tag Badges

    As each badge awards points, accumulating badges associated with a tag (a topic such as C++ or tennis or grammar) earns the title "Gold", "Silver" or "Bronze".

    These badges are really significant in terms of the work done. It is very difficult to earn them without being truly appreciated, relevant and hardworking.

  • Moderation Badges

    Vital to maintaining the quality of the forums, these badges encourage participants to be honest and active, voting, reporting, rating. Some of these badges grant privileges and recognize important qualities.

Principle of badges: appreciation and recognition of effort + accumulation

A degree is rarely earned on a single exam or course. Truly credible recognition is built on the accumulation of good grades over several courses. The same is true of badges.

The functions of these badges were originally designed to encourage participation in forums. Since they are ratings, their accumulation eventually takes on significant value, especially since they are not awarded by a single person or a small committee, but by thousands of people: the users.

In addition, several algorithms monitor their quality. For example, if two people systematically favor or belittle each other, not only will their efforts be negated but their reputation will be diminished.

Meaningful badges: a system

While the primary function of badges is to serve the site that creates them, the secondary function is to recognize the value of those who contribute to the site and knowledge. Awarding badges is a meaningful gesture, commensurate with the contribution. It would be analogous to a "credit rating" of the student or participant.

Many institutions restrict the use of badges to simple evaluation. They can represent much more than compliance with a standard or proof of passing an exam: they speak to the value of an individual. A meaningful badge is associated with a value system and the badge will be as valuable as the wealth of the system that awards it.

Finally, it was an unsolicited application for a non-existent position with us. No doubt an excellent programmer... who introduced me to an excellent badge system.


Stack Exchange -
Stack Exchange - list of forums -
Stack Exchange - French language forum -

Stack Overflow -
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Stack Overflow: reputation -

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