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The Math of Gamification

Anonymous Coward writes | about 10 months ago


An anonymous reader writes "The Foursquare blog has an interesting post about some of the math they use to evaluate and verify the massive amount of user-generated data that enters their database. They need to figure out the likelihood that any given datapoint accurately represents reality, so they've worked out a complicated formula that will minimize abuse. Quoting: 'By choosing the points based on a user’s accuracy, we can intelligently accrue certainty about a proposed update and stop the voting process as soon as the math guarantees the required certainty. .. The parameters are automatically trained and can adapt to changes in the behavior of the userbase. No more long meetings debating how many points to grant to a narrow use case.
So far, we’ve taken a very user-centric view of p-sub-k (this is the accuracy of user k). But we can go well beyond that. For example, p-sub-k could be “the accuracy of user k’s vote given that they have been to the venue three times before and work nearby.” These clauses can be arbitrarily complicated and estimated from a (logistic) regression of the honeypot performance. The point is that these changes will be based on data and not subjective judgments of how many “points” a user or situation should get."

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More detail than I expected (1)

Ellie K (1804464) | about 10 months ago | (#45868501)

The submission emphasized how FourSquare uses honeypots to validate good users, and prevent "bad actors" from corrupting the data. The actual post is much more readable than the excerpt, no offense intended to a harried (or lazy :o) Anonymous Coward. At least he took the time to submit it! Anyway, it lays out some of the math that FourSquare uses, mostly logistic regression, and then itemizes problems and workarounds. For example, FourSquare users like integers. Don't we all! FourSquare describes how they try to deal with that, without loss of accuracy due to repeatedly rounding. So, the details are cool to read about. I don't recall seeing anything as detailed and specific written up elsewhere e.g. by Yelp or MyWOT.

Yet FourSquare is based on these premises, set forth in the very beginning of the post, about how FourSquare maintains its database of places, both geographic accuracy and being up to date:

changes are voted upon by our loyal Superusers (SUs) who vigilantly maintain a watchful eye over our data for their city or neighborhood...we assign users points or votes based on their tenure, reputation, and the actions they take. Superusers like points and gamification. It rewards diligent, hard-working SUs...

Ignoring any resemblance to Slashdot (coincidental or otherwise ;o) the phrase, diligent, hard-working SUs caught my attention. What is the motivation for Superusers to vigilantly maintain a watchful eye over FourSquare's data? Gamification for its own sake isn't going to be enough, not for long. The novelty will wear off. The honeypots are a nice idea, especially done programmatically. But it all rests on human effort, doing tedious piecework without any reward other than a badge that non-users esteem about as highly as spam. There are other things like this online, a phpBB or forum, however, the motivations are different than with FourSquare. Also, the most active participants have ownership and control of the website or forum, unlike FourSquare.

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