Monday, November 29, 2010

Online Reviews for Local Businesses Becoming More Visible

It's no secret that satisfied customers bring you more sales, while unhappy customers can prevent sales. People who feel strongly about a service they receíved or a product they purchased are likely to tell others about their experience.

Before the internet, this effect was limited to word of mouth. A customer could tell his family, friends and co-workers about his great or terrible experience with your company. It took some effort on the customer's part to get the word out, though, and many of them wouldn't take the time. Very few of them took the time to write a letter to the business or even tell friends about it more than a few days after their interaction with a business. Only if they were extremely pleased or displeased would the word get out.

The growth of the internet has made it much easier to praise or complain about a company in a public place. There are many online directories that allow anyone to post a comment about a business. Not only does this allow a customer to make their opinion of your products and services known to many more people, it also opens the door to abuse. Business owners pretending to be customers can post positive reviews. Disgruntled employees can post negative reviews. There is no verification that the information posted is true.

All of those reviews are about to become ten times more visible to potential customers who are looking for a local business. Google Places, formerly Google Local Business Listings, has displayed reviews entered by users on their site and a number of other directories. Now Google is integrating information from the Google Places listing into the organic search. That's right. You've worked hard to make sure that you are one of the first few listings that shows up when customers are looking for the services you provide in your area. Now, right next to the organic listing is a link to customer reviews. Immediately below your URL is your address and phone number from your Google Places listing. Often a snippet of a review is there too. If this happens to be a negative review, the potential customer will almost certainly click on a different listing. It's the online equivalent of someone standing in front of your business with a sign telling people not to shop there.
What can you do about it? Google won't remóve a negative review just because you ask them to. And they won't take the time to find out whether the information is accurate. You must encourage positive reviews and address negative ones - with the customer and/or online.

Encourage Good Reviews

If there are more positive reviews than negative, there's a better chance that a review that shows within the body of your listing will be good. Also, if a customer takes the time to look at several reviews, they may be swayed by the happy customers. You could encourage all of your customers to write an online review, but that will result in more negative reviews as well as positive. How can you approach only the satisfied customers with a request for an online review? Here are a few ideas.

Many businesses already have a system in place to solicit customer feedback, often in the form of a telephone follow-up or written questionnaire. You could sort out those who have responded favorably and send them a request for an online review. If your request is in the form of an email, you could provide links to your business's listings on various sites that accept user reviews. You could provide something to your customer in return for taking the time to post a review. A free ice cream, 10% off their next purchase from you, or some other prize could entice them to make the effort and make them feel good about your business at the same time
Address Damaging Reviews

If you can contact the unhappy customer and solve whatever problem he had, he may be willing to remove the negative review. Whether or not you think his complaint is valid, it's in your best interest to fix it. This may cost you money, but not doing so could cost you even more. Think about how much you spend to bring in new customers. Don't let a relatively small amount of money get in your way, even if the customer is wrong and you're right.

Sometimes it will be impossible to get the customer to rescind his post. You can still mitigate the damage by responding to the complaint online. Post yóur own comment explaining the situation or apologizing to the reviewer and stating your offer to fix the problem. If a potential customer takes the time to read the whole story, they'll see that you are trying to make your customers happy.

Occasionally, a review will violate the terms established by the review site, for example using foul language. If this is the case, you can flag the review and it may be removed.

Other Tips

Don't enter multiple positive reviews yourself. Online directories try to prevent fraudulent reviews because they make their site less useful to their visitors.

Google Places displays reviews from sites such as Insider Pages and Yelp, as well as reviews posted directly to Google. If you ask your customers for positive reviews, give them links to a variety of review sites. It will look more natural if reviews come from more than one site.

It has always been important for a business to cultivate a good reputation, but not ever before has a dissatisfied customer been able to reach the public right alongside your advertisement. More and more consumers are bypassing the yellow pages and turning to their favorite search engine to find a business instead. You can no longer afford not to know what reviews are out there or to ignore dissatisfied customers. They have more power than ever before.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Three Easy Ways to Fix Broken Links and Stop Unneccessary Visitor Loss

In business, it's well known that it requires less of a financial investment to keep a customer than it does to acquire a new one. Your website is no different. Once you get a visitor on your site, or get them wanting to be on your site, it takes less investment to keep them there than it does to go bring in another new visitor. Therefore it is important to do whatever you can to keep acquired visitors on your site helping them move through the conversion process. Everything, that is, short of hijacking their web browser!
One of the easiest ways to lose visitors from your site is through broken or invalid links. You've been there before... going through a website, looking for things that interest you only to click on a link that brings you to something like this:
Generic 404 Redirect Page
What did you do when you hit that page? Hit the browser back button? Close the browser? Go to a different site? Perform a different search? Turn your computer off and go outside?
Most people will automatically hit the browser back button. If they hit that page from within your own site, that back button will do OK in keeping them there. Except, since they can't find the information they want from you, they'll likely leave to find a site where they can.
But what if they came from a search engine? Or a link from another website? Or an old bookmark?
In these instances you just lost the visit, and quite possibly the sale or lead.
What causes broken links?
Here are some common ways broken links are created:
  • You rename a page and forget to change all your internal links
  • Another site links to the old page not knowing it's been moved or removed
  • A search engine ranks a deleted page and hasn't yet removed it from the index
  • Someone has bookmarked a deleted or moved page in their browser or bookmarking service
  • Someone links to your page but screws up the link URL
When the broken links are internal, within your own site, those are easy to prevent and correct. But when broken links are external, from other sites or bookmarks, you are only left with a few options short of contacting the linking site owners and asking them to fix the links. And then hoping they do.
No matter what, you can't always prevent people from linking to you incorrectly. So the onus is on you to do what you can to keep the visitor on your site despite the broken link.

Three ways to stop losing visitors from broken links:

Create a custom 404-error page
This is a catch-all solution that every site should do. If you don't have a custom 404-error page then you need to create one ASAP.
The idea here is to prevent visitors from getting the white page shown above, in favor of a customized page that keeps the visitor engaged with your site. Below is the custom 404 page from my site own site:
A good 404-error page will look and feel just like any other page on your site. The only difference is it let's the visitor know the page is gone, missing or moved. This allows you to present some options for the visitor by providing links to follow, helping them get to their intended destination.
Keep it clean and simple. Don't burden your visitors with too many options. Provide links to your main areas getting them as close to their original intent as can possibly be determined (this can be done well with dynamic sites).
Creating the custom 404-error page is easy. Just take any other page on your site, gut out the content and replace it with your simple message and links. Save the file into your root director as something like 404-redirect.htm.
Now edit your .htaccess file with this line of code:
ErrorDocument 404 /404-redirect.html
That should do the trick.
A couple of things you want to keep in mind. Be sure you use all absolute links on this page, including image paths. This will ensure that if someone hits a broken link in a sub-directory such you won't have any broken links on the page that is supposed to correct your broken link problem in the first place.
You want to make sure you actually create a custom page, not just use the code above to redirect people to your home page. This can cause considerable confusion, especially if someone keeps trying a link that takes them back to the home page, when it's not the page they expect. It's polite to give them the message that something is amiss.
Implement 301 Redirects
If you are moving or renaming pages on your website then you want to implement 301 redirects. The redirect is the single best way to prevent losing visitors that may attempt to visit moved pages at the old location. By implementing the redirect, the visitor (and the search engine) is automatically transferred from the old page location to it's new permanent home. The transition is seamless and the visitor will never even know the link is broken (i.e. no thought required to keep doing what you want them to do!)
There are a number of ways to implement these redirects, but the best way is the 301 via the .htaccess file. Simply add the following code to the.htaccess file, save and upload and you should see the redirect work:
Redirect permanent /page.htm
Redirect 301 /page.htm
Either of those will work. The 301 is a permanent redirect, but you can also implement a 302 temporary redirect if you're making only temporary changes.
If you don't implement 301 redirects on a page to page basis, then you'll have to rely on your custom 404 to keep the visitors on the site. But why show a "page not found" message when you can deliver the visitor directly to the page they hoped to land on? The 301 redirect simply helps you provide a better, seamless experience for your visitors.
Perform a broken link check regularly
In addition to the implementation of the strategies above, I highly recommend performing regular broken link checks. We do this once per month on all of the sites we manage. While many of the sites show no broken links month to month, it's not uncommon to uncover new broken links with each monthly check. Programs such as Xenu make checking for broken links relatively easy.
Xenu Broken Links
But just checking for broken links doesn't mean anything if you don't get in there and fix them too!
By using these three strategies you'll pretty much have all your bases covered regarding broken links. This will ensure that you keep your site free of these errors, but when links are outside of your control, you can keep visitors on and engaged with your site and moving closer to that conversion.

Redirect All (Broken) Links from any Domain via HTAccess

Here’s the scene: you have been noticing a large number of 404 requests coming from a particular domain. You check it out and realize that the domain in question has a number of misdirected links to your site. The links may resemble legitimate URLs, but because of typographical errors, markup errors, or outdated references, they are broken, leading to nowhere on your site and producing a nice 404 error for every request. Ugh. Or, another painful scenario would be a single broken link on a highly popular site. For example, you may have one of your best posts mentioned in the SitePoint forums, but the person leaving the link completely botched the job:
(Read it here: http://domain.tld/path/popular-post/)
Ugh. Thanks for the hundred-thousand 404 errors, moron.
Fortunately, fixing either of these scenarios is relatively easy using a little HTAccess magic. All you need is an Apache-powered server with the powerful mod_rewrite module installed, and of course the ability to edit either your server configuration file or the root HTAccess file for your domain. Once you have that, here’s the code you need to redirect those pathetic broken links to the target of your choice:
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} .*
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)?problem-domain\. [NC]
 RewriteRule (.*) http://redirected-domain.tld/target.html [R=301,L]
 # RewriteRule (.*) - [F,L]
Place this code into your root HTAccess file and edit the “problem-domain” and “http://redirected-domain.tld/target.html” with the problem domain and the redirect resource, respectively. The redirect resource may be anything — a web page, your home page, a different domain, a script, whatever. To deliver a “403 Forbidden” error for all such requests (instead of redirecting to an alternate resource), comment out the penultimate line and uncomment the last line. No other editing is required. Upload to your server and verify the results by clicking on one (or more) of the broken links on the problem domain. For the record, this method functions as follows:
  1. check for the required Apache module
  2. apply the rewrite to all file requests
  3. apply the rewrite to all requests from the problem domain
  4. perform the rewrite by redirecting all request to specified resource
  5. alternate rewrite rule for delivering a forbidden error message
  6. close the module-check container
I use this method all the time. Here is a working example that I recently removed because the site was taken offline:
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} .*
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)?spinfeed\. [NC]
 RewriteRule (.*) [R=301,L]
 # RewriteRule (.*) - [F,L]
Apparently, the now defunct site, had installed one of my free WordPress themesbut didn’t bother editing the required code. My mistake was using URL examples from my own domain. Long story short, I was seeing frequent 404 errors resulting from the site, and I wanted to resolve the issue. After several unsuccessful attempts at contacting the webmaster of the site, I eventually turned to HTAccess to deliver the message that dude needed to fix his links. So I uploaded the previous example and then created a file called “note.txt
with the following message:
The Webmaster at needs to update the current WordPress theme in order to resolve this issue.
Please contact me via for further assistance.
Thanks and regards,
This seemed like a good idea, although I never did hear anything from the spinfeed webmaster. Oh well, the site no longer exists, so the problem was solved nonetheless. :)
And that’s a wrap for this post. Keep in mind that the method described in this article will redirect all URL requests from a specific domain, not just the 404 requests. To redirect only a few broken links instead of everything, use Apache’s excellent Redirect directive instead:
Redirect 301 /blog/old-post-01/ http://domain.tld/new-post-01/
Redirect 301 /blog/old-post-02/ http://domain.tld/new-post-02/
Redirect 301 /blog/old-post-03/ http://domain.tld/new-post-03/
That will suit you much better when dealing with only a handful of broken links. Otherwise, if the problems are severe, just nuke ‘em with teh heavy stuff! :)

301 redirect

301 redirect is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for webpage redirection. It's not that hard to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page. If you have to change file names or move pages around, it's the safest option. The code "301" is interpreted as "moved permanently".
You can Test your redirection with Search Engine Friendly Redirect Checker
Below are a Couple of methods to implement URL Redirection

IIS Redirect

  • In internet services manager, right click on the file or folder you wish to redirect
  • Select the radio titled "a redirection to a URL".
  • Enter the redirection page
  • Check "The exact url entered above" and the "A permanent redirection for this resource"
  • Click on 'Apply'

ColdFusion Redirect

<.cfheader statuscode="301" statustext="Moved permanently">
<.cfheader name="Location" value=""> 

PHP Redirect

Header( "HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently" );
Header( "Location:" );

ASP Redirect

<%@ Language=VBScript %>
Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
Response.AddHeader "Location",""

ASP .NET Redirect

<script runat="server">
private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
Response.Status = "301 Moved Permanently";

JSP (Java) Redirect

response.setHeader( "Location", "" );
response.setHeader( "Connection", "close" );

CGI PERL Redirect

$q = new CGI;
print $q->redirect(""); 

Ruby on Rails Redirect

def old_action
headers["Status"] = "301 Moved Permanently"
redirect_to ""

Redirect Old domain to New domain (htaccess redirect)

Create a .htaccess file with the below code, it will ensure that all your directories and pages of your old domain will get correctly redirected to your new domain.
The .htaccess file needs to be placed in the root directory of your old website (i.e the same directory where your index file is placed)
Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]
Please REPLACE in the above code with your actual domain name.
In addition to the redirect I would suggest that you contact every backlinking site to modify their backlink to point to your new website.
Note* This .htaccess method of redirection works ONLY on Linux servers having the Apache Mod-Rewrite moduled enabled.

Redirect to www (htaccess redirect)

Create a .htaccess file with the below code, it will ensure that all requests coming in to will get redirected to
The .htaccess file needs to be placed in the root directory of your old website (i.e the same directory where your index file is placed)
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^ [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$$1 [r=301,nc]
Please REPLACE and with your actual domain name.
Note* This .htaccess method of redirection works ONLY on Linux servers having the Apache Mod-Rewrite moduled enabled.

How to Redirect HTML

Please refer to section titled 'How to Redirect with htaccess', if your site is hosted on a Linux Server and 'IIS Redirect', if your site is hosted on a Windows Server.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SEARCH WORLD HAPPENINGS: Search and Social Media Marketing Strategies for Decade of Deflation

Even in mid-November, many marketers are still preparing their marketing budgets for next year -- which will probably be revised in three months -- which is why virturally no one prepares a five-year plan anymore. But what if you were asked to come up with some smart search and social media marketing strategies for a decade of deflation?
Ain't gonna happen, right?
Well, A. Gary Shilling, an award-winning economic forecaster, told Minyanville today that the global economy is going through a long period of deleveraging and weak growth -- which makes deflation far more likely and a far greater threat than inflation.
Shilling is the author of The Age of Deleveraging: Investment Strategies for a Decade of Slow Growth and Deflation. He has an incredible forecasting track record -- including the recent housing and financial bubbles.
You can read Josh Lipton's wide-ranging discussion with Shilling atQ&A With Gary Shilling: Investing in the Age of Deleveraging, Part 1, and Q&A With Gary Shilling: Investing in the Age of Deleveraging, Part 2. Or, just watch the first part of the video interview on Minyanville's channel on YouTube.

Gary Shilling On How to Invest In the Age of Deleveraging and Deflation, Part I
If you've never heard of Minyanville before, Annie Stickney, the General Manager of Online Marketing and Development for Minyanville Media, spoke at SES Chicago 2010 in the session entitled, "Update on Real Time Search: I Want it Now!" Following the session, Matt Bailey, the president and founder of SiteLogic, interviewed Stickney about Emmy Award-winning content and community platform.

Real Time search tips for publishers with Annie Stickney, Minyanville, at SES Chicago 2010
Now, you've gotta love a financial and business destination that features Hoofy & Boo's News & Views, the first ever animated business television show. Hosted by Minyanville's Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear, it offers a topical and timely look at the week's big stories, market conditions and the world we live in.
And with the addition of human staff writers like Lipton, who joined Minyanville in August 2009 from, is quickly becoming the go-to destination for people who want to know what's happening in business and finance before it happens.
This brings me back to Lipton's video interview with Shilling. If the United States and world economy will struggle for several more years, then what impact will this have of your search and social media marketing strategies?
For starters, marketing strategies that have worked for the last 25 years will not work in the next 10.
It's also worth dusting off the SEMPO State of Search Engine Marketing Report 2010, published in March by Econsultancy, and re-reading the research that shows companies are continuing to shift money from other marketing and IT activity into search engine marketing.
Of the companies re-allocating budgets to search engine marketing, around half (49%) are moving it from print advertising. More than a third (36%) are shifting money from direct mail, and almost a quarter are moving budgets from web display advertising (23%).
According to the report, measurement of return on investment (ROI) is the biggest challenge faced by marketers seeking to improve their search marketing and social media efforts. For SEO, 42% of respondents say ROI measurement is one of their three biggest challenges, while 43% cite this problem for paid search.
For social media marketing, this problem is particularly evident, with 63% saying this is one of their biggest three challenges. The next biggest challenge for those carrying out social media marketing is "making the business case for investment‟ with 38% of companies saying this is a major issue.
So, if you go to SES London 2011, then make sure you attend sessions like Basic Analytics, Meaningful SEO Metrics, and Deep Dive into Analytics on Tuesday, Feb. 22; Update on Real Time Search: I Want it Now!, Why Does Search Get All the Credit?, and Is Search Remarketing/Retargeting Right for You? on Wednesday, Feb. 23; as well as Making Money with Affiliate Programs, Speaking Geek: How Marketers Can Work with Web Developers to Achieve Business Goals, and Conversion Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Why? If you are asked to come up with some smart search and social media marketing strategies for a decade of deflation, then you'll know what to do.
I should disclose that SES is a client of my agency, but trust me on Boo the Bear.
Posted by Greg Jarboe on November 15, 2010 2:54 PM

Deja Vu Facebook Email Address Selling On eBay

I remember when Gmail accounts were hot items being sold on eBay and now it seems Facebook mail accounts may be next. - the Unofficial Facebook Resource - is offering an account for sale. Money from the sale will be donated to charity.
"Don't want to wait for Facebook to send you an invite to Facebook email? We have one invite available. Rather than having to choose who gets it, we're auctioning off the invite. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to charity.
I wanted to auction off for Charity:Water, however I wasn't able to select that when creating the auction! As such, the proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization which is working on developing a cure for breast cancer. You can bid on an email invite now by clicking this link. You'll get your own email address and access to Facebook's brand-spanking-new Social Inbox product," the site states.
Now who else will be offering them prior to their public release is yet to be determined. The longer it takes to roll out the product the hotter the items will become.
At the time of writing this the price was up to $71

Monday, November 15, 2010

Social Interaction Design By Adrian ChanBetter social media engagement through user experience and social practices RSS Feed Follow me on twitter. Facebook I just killed a social game mechanic

Social gaming is indeed hot these days. But there’s some confusion around game mechanics and social gaming dynamics. I don’t see any social in the playdeck provided below. So I’ve added my own commentary to each of the deck’s 47 points.
My apologies to its author, but the descriptions completely and entirely miss the socio-logical factors that make social gaming what it is. The deck, instead, describes individiual game play and spectacularly misinterprets connections between game play and player behavior. It reads as a Pavlovian exercise in attributing behaviors directly to a small number of game design elements, expanded here unnecessarily into distinctions that are redundant, disorganized (in fact they’re alphabetical), anti-social, illogical, and hopelessly blind.
In fact the disclosure of a deck such as this one might cause one to wonder just who the hell designs our social tools — and whether they are even qualified to execute on the subtleties of social interaction and shared online practices. A deck such as this one demonstrates quite clearly the inadequacies in social thinking and is a testament to the object and reward paradigm that seems to have taken over many game-like social platforms. These are nearing mythical status now as game-ification is installed as the new organizing principle for the design of social tools. A welcome counterpoint to which is the recent revelation from Foursquare that tips and recommendations will feature more prominently in their redesign (at last, we may have a real reason to checkin!).
Where, in this document, is presence? Where is reputation? Where is credibility? Where is there any sensitivity to the many different types of users, whose motives and motivations vary by personality and whose styles and habits of using social tools are distinct? Where is the recognition that social tools are embedded in real social practices? In fact, where’s the user-centric appreciation of experience that has served us so well in the past? At what point did we become so invested in design that began to view user behaviors (and presumably social outcomes) as a direct response to product features? But I digress. I’ll let you be the judge.
From SCVNGR’s Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck, with my commentary added.

1. Achievement

Definition: A virtual or physical representation of having accomplished something. These are often viewed as rewards in and of themselves.
Example: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be a reward.
My commentary: Achievement is but one of the relations users form to reward representations. In fact, achievement-reward is tautological. It belongs to the very definition of reward that it proves achievement.
At stake is how does the user relate to the representation. Note that these involve relations not captured as achievement, but having meaning for the user nonetheless. Also note that the meaning of these for users may be social: they are a reflection of the user’s sense of his/her social position, status, rank, membership, etc — all of which are validating but which bestow meaning not just for reasons of achievement. In fact some of the highest forms of validation result from receiving gifts, from recognition by peers, and other attributions obtained not from direct achievement but from indirect acknowledgment by community.
  • The user may identify with it: user is a winner, a mayor, an expert, number 1.
  • The user may feel s/he possesses it: the representation is a thing, a quality, an attribute of personality, a sign of social status, a symbol of membership, etc.
  • The user may identify with the group the representation symbolizes: the user now feels a sense of membership and belonging, as in a fan-team insignia relation.
  • The user may want it or aspire to it: the user relates to a reward because it represents an image of what the user wishes for, including wishes to be perceived as. Luxury goods represent social status to individuals, allowing them to feel “rich” even if they are not.
Achievement is an accurate description of one type of activity-response relation, but only one. It misses the social dimensions of partnered and social play (two or more players). It misses the motivations associated with beating an opponent, and fails to distinguish between the “reward” of beating one’s own game play vs beating the game. It assigns too much of the experience to a linear and direct outcome of individual activity, where in social gaming much of the pleasure and motivation comes from activity mediated by social perceptions and dynamically changing social orders.

2. Appointment Dynamic

Definition: A dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take some action. Appointment dynamics are often deeply related to interval based reward schedules or avoidance dyanmics.
Example: Cafe World and Farmville where if you return at a set time to do something you get something good, and if you don’t something bad happens.
My commentary: This is not a dynamic, but a basic form of episodic framing. It states, simply, that in framed activities, some actions may be coupled to temporal intervals or to episodic markers. “Time” as mentioned here actually should be subdivided: time as in a specific point in time (friday, noon) and time as in sequence (after steps 1, 2, 3 have been completed). (All games are an experiential frame: they are structured and organized, have rules constraining behavior, enabling participation, and shaping both imagined, real, and expected outcomes.)
There is no social dynamic suggested here. Nor is there a behavioral dynamic, such that there’s no motivation explained or observed. Just a user’s necessary response to a temporal or sequential contingency. All games take time and all game events happen in order as set by game rules and design.

3. Avoidance

Definition: The act of inducing player behavior not by giving a reward, but by not instituting a punishment. Produces consistent level of activity, timed around the schedule.
Example: Press a lever every 30 seconds to not get shocked.
My commentary: I take umbrage at the claim that behavior is induced by the withholding of game rewards and punishments. Player behavior is sustained by user interest and that interest belongs to the user. In social games, activity levels of other users can be as compelling to users as the provision of game rewards. Among many other factors that may explain why a player plays, and with what degree of conscious and subconscious interest. Avoidance is a non-rule and explains nothing.

4. Behavioral Contrast

Definition: The theory defining how behavior can shift greatly based on changed expectations.
Example: A monkey presses a lever and is given lettuce. The monkey is happy and continues to press the lever. Then it gets a grape one time. The monkey is delighted. The next time it presses the lever it gets lettuce again. Rather than being happy, as it was before, it goes ballistic throwing the lettuce at the experimenter. (In some experiments, a second monkey is placed in the cage, but tied to a rope so it can’t access the lettuce or lever. After the grape reward is removed, the first monkey beats up the second monkey even though it obviously had nothing to do with the removal. The anger is truly irrational.)
My commentary: This one is also tautological. Behavior is the manifestation of psychology. Behavior is expectations. To say that behavior changes with changed expectations is making up a rule where there’s nothing but what’s already perfectly obvious. It’s like saying that people make new choices when they change their minds.

5. Behavioral Momentum

Definition: The tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.
Example: From Jesse Schell’s awesome Dice talk: “I have spent ten hours playing Farmville. I am a smart person and wouldn’t spend 10 hours on something unless it was useful. Therefore this must be useful, so I can keep doing it.”
My commentary: Again, a platitude of a rule. There’s no game rule in the observation that sometimes people continue to do what they’ve been doing. Habit would be a better term, and would permit one to at least account for game playing habit, social habit and pastime, routine, addiction, and distraction. Those, at least, are behaviorally differentiated and user-centric.

6. Blissful Productivity

Definition: The idea that playing in a game makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Essentially, we’re optimized as human beings by working hard, and doing meaningful and rewarding work.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk wherein she discusses how World of Warcraft players play on average 22 hours / week (a part time job), often after a full days work. They’re willing to work hard, perhaps harder than in real life, because of their blissful productivity in the game world.
My commentary: Who says we are optimized by working hard? Are we then confused by distraction? How about when we get lost in distraction? And can’t distraction be unproductively compelling? This makes no sense to me at all, and worse, makes a grand claim to human psychology that is at once deeply biased, culturally insensitive, non-specific (to psychological and personality differences), assigns personal motives to game participation, and even manages to establish a contradiction between what is work and what is play.

7. Cascading Information Theory

Definition: The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.
Example: showing basic actions first, unlocking more as you progress through levels. Making building on SCVNGR a simple but staged process to avoid information overload.
My commentary: Ridiculous, and ignores everything we have learned from narrative/story theory, besides which it also insults learning theory, learning modes, and conflates all game events to “snippets of information.” Information provided to a game player that s/he has leveled, has been awarded points, has a new team role, is being attacked are each meaningful only in context. Context, not information, frames the meaning of information, and defines what and how much information serves the purpose of sustaining game involvement. Information provided within a game is a game event.

8. Chain Schedules

Definition: the practice of linking a reward to a series of contingencies. Players tend to treat these as simply the individual contingencies. Unlocking one step in the contingency is often viewed as an individual reward by the player.
Example: Kill 10 orcs to get into the dragons cave, every 30 minutes the dragon appears.
My commentary: Besides being redundant (both “chain” and “schedule” imply serialized activity or events), this rule seems to say that players understand game play sequences. I think we got that when we were toddlers. All game play engages users in serialized activity for which there are proximate actions and contingent events. That’s the nature of a game — it’s a fiction understood. Game players may like to know what happens, or may welcome surprises. In social gaming, the involvement of others, especially when their communication is part of the play, adds to the experience. And communication cannot be accounted for by scheduling.

9. Communal Discovery

Definition: The game dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge. Immensely viral and very fun.
Example: DARPA balloon challenge, the cottage industries that appear around McDonalds monopoly to find “Boardwalk”
My commentary: Episodic involvement of an audience, or part of an audience, is explained best on sociological grounds, not by means of the discovery concept. What is discovery for some is mob rule, action, suspense, or teamwork to others.

10. Companion Gaming

Definition: Games that can be played across multiple platforms
Example: Games that be played on iphone, facebook, xbox with completely seamless cross platform gameplay.
My commentary: No comment but that it’s poorly named, since “companion” suggests partnered play. In either case this is a product feature, not a dynamic.

11. Contingency

Definition: The problem that the player must overcome in the three part paradigm of reward schedules.
Example: 10 orcs block your path
My commentary: All activity that hasn’t finished is contingent. Better would be to differentiate among contingencies. Those would include coupling (of user action to response); proximate contingency (what’s next); distant contingency (what happens later); social contingency (change affecting all players); etc.

12. Countdown

Definition: The dynamic in which players are only given a certain amount of time to do something. This will create an activity graph that causes increased initial activity increasing frenetically until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.
Example: Bejeweled Blitz with 30 seconds to get as many points as you can. Bonus rounds. Timed levels
My commentary: Time constraint. That players behave increasingly frenetically is a supposition suggesting a relation between user experience (frenetic) and activity intensity (speed of activity). I don’t think we all experience time constraints in the same way. Some potential players may in fact avoid games because of the stress-inducing panic that comes at the end; others may live for it. Again, not a dynamic, just a game design choice to involve a clock and to constrain the play to a set time frame.

13. Cross Situational Leader-boards

Definition: This occurs when one ranking mechanism is applied across multiple (unequal and isolated) gaming scenarios. Players often perceive that these ranking scenarios are unfair as not all players were presented with an “equal” opportunity to win.
Example: Players are arbitrarily sent into one of three paths. The winner is determined by the top scorer overall (i.e. across the paths). Since the players can only do one path (and can’t pick), they will perceive inequity in the game scenario and get upset.
My commentary: Awkwardly phrased but accurately observed. Perhaps the perceived or experienced social inequality could be captured in the dynamic as intentional unfairness. Still, this is less a dynamic than a reporting problem: game state or status can be reported equitably to its players, or not. At issue is whether design or reporting creates advantage. Advantage can itself be structured into game play as a form of reward (as in qualifying rounds in many sports that reward players with advantageous starting positions).

14. Disincentives

Definition: a game element that uses a penalty (or altered situation) to induce behavioral shift
Example: losing health points, amazon’s checkout line removing all links to tunnel the buyer to purchase, speeding traps
My commentary: Disincentives are used in game mechanics, but are not the same as punishments. Punishments would be better called “penalties.” What matters more than the disincentive (what happens if you’re bad) is the rule that articulates the right and wrong ways to play. These rules should accommodate individual experience of play as well as game design and also the society of players. Red cards for tackling in soccer protect players from injury as well as disincentivize hacking tackles as well as improve play for soccer players and fans overall. Ask what function the disincentive plays and at what level of game play.

15. Endless Games

Definition: Games that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual games that can refresh their content or games where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.
Example: Farmville (static state is its own victory), SCVNGR (challenges constantly are being built by the community to refresh content)
My commentary: I prefer the term “open” to describe frames that are open ended. Endless suggests a tedium. This dynamic risks missing the user experience, wherein “endless” may just be a fun personal habit. (I’m playing again. I like it.)

16. Envy

Definition: The desire to have what others have. In order for this to be effective seeing what other people have (voyeurism) must be employed.
Example: my friend has this item and I want it!
My commentary: Envy is undifferentiated here. Envy is the relation of Subject : Subject (Attribute). Voyeurism is entirely different and not needed here. All that’s needed is a value system that attributes value to the Attribute which gives envy its pitch and tone. In this way we become envious of wealth, looks, power, ability, and what have you. All are different and all are explained as much by what the observer relates to (desires) as by what the perceived possesses. I do not envy political power and a politician does not make me envious. Voyeurism is a distinctly different social relation comprising parts anonymity, privacy, ethical norms, fantasy, and image.

17. Epic Meaning

Definition: players will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk where she discusses Warcraft’s ongoing story line and “epic meaning” that involves each individual has motivated players to participate outside the game and create the second largest wiki in the world to help them achieve their individual quests and collectively their epic meanings.
My commentary: I like the term and I have a lot of respect for McGonigal (misspelled above). But this could be differentiated further. There is no epic meaning. There may be situations in which players are highly motivated by a higher cause or calling; or by crowd psychology (action, thrill, spectacle, synchronicity); or by abstract principles (doing right, being good, giving back); and so on.
Meaning may be meaningful because it is spontaneous, or because it responds to a situation. The concept of epic as grand narrative arc normally involves a situation that calls an individual to exceed him/herself in their response as action. But may also be the emergence of higher power within the individual. This is epic as England winning the world cup in 66 or epic as in Gandhi.

18. Extinction

Definition: Extinction is the term used to refer to the action of stopping providing a reward. This tends to create anger in players as they feel betrayed by no longer receiving the reward they have come to expect. It generally induces negative behavioral momentum.
Example: killing 10 orcs no longer gets you a level up
My commentary: Woah. I think this one describes what happens when players quit. That players quit is obvious, but hopefully we’re a bit more sophisticated than the Pavlovian description here suggests. Some try again. Some create new accounts and user name and play even harder next time. I guess they’d have to be described by the Lazarus dynamic. Also known as the Resurrection dynamic, and not to be confused with the Easter Egg.

19. Fixed Interval Reward Schedules

Definition: Fixed interval schedules provide a reward after a fixed amount of time, say 30 minutes. This tends to create a low engagement after a reward, and then gradually increasing activity until a reward is given, followed by another lull in engagement.
Example: Farmville, wait 30 minutes, crops have appeared
My commentary: Why not cal them timed rewards and scratch the part that tries to explain rhythm as a directly-induced behavioral response to timed game intervals.

20. Fixed Ratio Reward Schedule

Definition: A fixed ratio schedule provides rewards after a fixed number of actions. This creates cyclical nadirs of engagement (because the first action will not create any reward so incentive is low) and then bursts of activity as the reward gets closer and closer.
Example: kill 20 ships, get a level up, visit five locations, get a badge
My commentary: I’m beginning to wonder if the author of these game mechanics is OCD, ADD, or both.

21. Free Lunch

Definition: A dynamic in which a player feels that they are getting something for free due to someone else having done work. It’s critical that work is perceived to have been done (just not by the player in question) to avoid breaching trust in the scenario. The player must feel that they’ve “lucked” into something.
Example: Groupon. By virtue of 100 other people having bought the deal, you get it for cheap. There is no sketchiness b/c you recognize work has been done (100 people are spending money) but you yourself didn’t have to do it.
My commentary: This one could be differentiated further. There are serendipitous events which may be well described as a free lunch. But there are also gifts. There are also shared benefits. There are targets achieved by means of collaboration (in which work is often not equally shared and results not equally deserved). The dynamic seems to want to identify a relation between effort and conscience, but if this is the case then social factors have to be considered.

22. Fun Once, Fun Always

Definition: The concept that an action in enjoyable to repeat all the time. Generally this has to do with simple actions. There is often also a limitation to the total level of enjoyment of the action.
Example: the theory behind the check-in everywhere and the check-in and the default challenges on SCVNGR.
My commentary: I’m thinking OCD. But the focus on simple actions still has me wondering if it’s ADD. The somewhat poignant remark at the end about a limited total level of enjoyment has me thinking OCD. Possibly a game tester.

23. Interval Reward Schedules

Definition: Interval based reward schedules provide a reward after a certain amount of time. There are two flavors: variable and fixed.
Example: wait N minutes, collect rent
My commentary: I’m beginning to sense a real problem with this author’s experience of time. But it does seem that he or she has figured out when the rewards come. That’s good. Because apparently these games are completely lacking in content and other people.

24. Lottery

Definition: A game dynamic in which the winner is determined solely by chance. This creates a high level of anticipation. The fairness is often suspect, however winners will generally continue to play indefinitely while losers will quickly abandon the game, despite the random nature of the distinction between the two.
Example: many forms of gambling, scratch tickets.
My commentary: Oops I spoke too soon. Add to fixed and variable: surprising. And there are other people now, too. It’s nice to know that their behaviors predictably group them into winners and losers (those being people who play and those who quit). I have to agree that fairness is suspect. Nothing’s fair. You’re playing and playing and it’s regular and timed and then it gets a bit more rhythmic and suddenly BLAMO the lottery rule delivers a punishing blow. Sigh.

25. Loyalty

Definition: The concept of feeling a positive sustained connection to an entity leading to a feeling of partial ownership. Often reinforced with a visual representation.
Example: fealty in WOW, achieving status at physical places (mayorship, being on the wall of favorite customers)
My commentary: Loyalty is not related to ownership any more than betrayal is an attribute of the dispossessed. If loyalty is reinforced with a graphic or icon then something is represented. If something is represented it must have been achieved (rule 1). If it was achieved, there is no loyalty, but only an individual sense of achievement (rule 1) owing probably to extended bouts of serialized game play sustained by varying levels of intense anticipation of fixed and/or variable rewards obtained by the successful selection of contingencies. The word “addict” as substitute for loyalty comes to mind.

26. Meta Game

Definition: a game which exists layered within another game. These generally are discovered rather than explained (lest they cause confusion) and tend to appeal to ~2% of the total game-playing audience. They are dangerous as they can induce confusion (if made too overt) but are powerful as they’re greatly satisfying to those who find them.
Example: hidden questions / achievements within world of warcraft that require you to do special (and hard to discover) activities as you go through other quests
My commentary: It’s the trap door in LOST. He’s down there pushing the button every 108 minutes. Here’s a meta game for you. Sports on tv are played by players whose skill playing the game is required by their teams to play the game which is watched by fans for whom it’s a game and by tv audiences at home, who listen to the game play narrated by commentators who often play games with their analyses. About 98% of the people who enjoy sports get this. Any frame can be embedded in other frames. Re-framing is what makes social games fun to play with friends: the game is played as a game (player against himself/herself and the game) as well as against others as well as having meta social meaning for its being a social pastime.

27. Micro Leader-boards

Definition: The rankings of all individuals in a micro-set. Often great for distributed game dynamics where you want many micro-competitions or desire to induce loyalty.
Example: Be the top scorers at Joe’s bar this week and get a free appetizer
My commentary: Micro is unnecessary but I like the idea of sets.

28. Modifiers

Definition: An item that when used affects other actions. Generally modifiers are earned after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.
Example: A X2 modifier that doubles the points on the next action you take.
My commentary: Not a dynamic but a game rule.

29. Moral Hazard of Game Play

Definition: The risk that by rewarding people manipulatively in a game you remove the actual moral value of the action and replace it with an ersatz game-based reward. The risk that by providing too many incentives to take an action, the incentive of actually enjoying the action taken is lost. The corollary to this is that if the points or rewards are taken away, then the person loses all motivation to take the (initially fun on its own) action.
Example: Paraphrased from Jesse Schell “If I give you points every time you brush your teeth, you’ll stop brushing your teeth b/c it’s good for you and then only do it for the points. If the points stop flowing, your teeth will decay.”
My commentary: Some confusion here manifest in whether players play for the game play, or for the outcomes of game play. Both are always worth taking into account. But I fail to see how this becomes moral hazard.

30. Ownership

Definition: The act of controlling something, having it be *your* property.
Example: Ownership is interesting on a number of levels, from taking over places, to controlling a slot, to simply owning popularity by having a digital representation of many friends.
My commentary: You guys with me on this? *One ring to rule them all*? Yes? I’m glad to see it finally confirmed that Wall St is a game.

31. Pride

Definition: the feeling of ownership and joy at an accomplishment
Example: I have ten badges. I own them. They are mine. There are many like them, but these are mine. Hooray.
My commentary: Three things that are themselves distinct, two of which are already defined here as dynamics (rule 1, rule 30), inversely related to rule 16, possibly as precondition for rule 25? Completely ignores the social recognition conventionally associated with pride. But perhaps that social recognition is mediated by means of rewards and representations. In which case we would have a nice attachment theory of mediated social recognition, achieved not through interaction but through substitutes: socially visible representations and awards.

32. Privacy

Definition: The concept that certain information is private, not for public distribution. This can be a demotivator (I won’t take an action because I don’t want to share this) or a motivator (by sharing this I reinforce my own actions).
Example: Scales the publish your daily weight onto Twitter (these are real and are proven positive motivator for staying on your diet). Or having your location publicly broadcast anytime you do anything (which is invasive and can should be avoided).
My commentary: Not a dynamic, but a system constraint. Visibility of players and play is a product choice. Its influence on player experience and play will be explained by the user’s personal and social investments. In either case, the act of sharing one’s play socially is not for the reinforcement of one’s own actions. That would be anti-social.

33. Progression Dynamic

Definition: a dynamic in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks.
Example: a progress bar, leveling up from paladin level 1 to paladin level 60
My commentary: not a dynamic but a design choice.

34. Ratio Reward Schedules

Definition: Ratio schedules provide a reward after a number of actions. There are two flavors: variable and fixed.
Example: kill 10 orcs, get a power up.
My commentary: I’m beginning to think that instead of variable and fixed we just say regular/irregular. Either way we’ve got temporality covered here. More than covered. Completely nailed to the floor.

35. Real-time v. Delayed Mechanics

Definition: Realtime information flow is uninhibited by delay. Delayed information is only released after a certain interval.
Example: Realtime scores cause instant reaction (gratification or demotivation). Delayed causes ambiguity which can incent more action due to the lack of certainty of ranking.
My commentary: See prior comment.

36. Reinforcer

Definition: The reward given if the expected action is carried out in the three part paradigm of reward schedules.
Example: receiving a level up after killing 10 orcs.
My commentary: See prior comment on rule 31.

37. Response

Definition: The expected action from the player in the three part paradigm of reward schedules.
Example: the player takes the action to kill 10 orcs
My commentary: Ditto.

38. Reward Schedules

Definition: the timeframe and delivery mechanisms through which rewards (points, prizes, level ups) are delivered. Three main parts exist in a reward schedule; contingency, response and reinforcer.
Example: getting a level up for killing 10 orcs, clearing a row in Tetris, getting fresh crops in Farmville
My commentary: Help me, I’m melting.

39. Rolling Physical Goods

Definition: A physical good (one with real value) that can be won by anyone on an ongoing basis as long as they meet some characteristic. However, that characteristic rolls from player to player.
Example: top scorer deals, mayor deals
My commentary: Complete mental paralysis threatens as I try to distinguish between goods and rewards, and between the pride of ownership and the reward structure of having an actual physical good (real value).

40. Shell Game

Definition: a game in which the player is presented with the illusion of choice but is actually in a situation that guides them to the desired outcome of the operator.
Example: 3 Card Monty, lotteries, gambling
My commentary: Not a dynamic, but basic game design. The game player will always experience choice as choosing. The designer has designed the game’s play, its rules, and outcomes. Illusion doesn’t enter the picture because we’re talking here about playing games.

41. Social Fabric of Games

Definition: the idea that people like one another better after they’ve played games with them, have a higher level of trust and a great willingness to work together.
Example: From Jane McGonicgal’s TED talk where she suggests that it takes a lot of trust to play a game with someone because you need them to spend their time with you, play by the same rules, shoot for the same goals.
My commentary: Games are a social pastime. Glad to see that noted, even if it took 40 preceding rules to get to it. It should be noted that in 1969 El Salvador and Honduras went to war for 106 hours after playing each other in a soccer match. It is known as the soccer war.

42. Status

Definition: The rank or level of a player. Players are often motivated by trying to reach a higher level or status.
Example: white paladin level 20 in WOW.
My commentary: Rank is fine. “Status” is unnecessary and in the day and age of status updates, confusing. Possibly explained by rule 31.

43. Urgent Optimism

Definition: Extreme self motivation. The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s TED talk. The idea that in proper games an “epic win” or just “win” is possible and therefore always worth acting for.
My commentary: Neither a dynamic nor an accurate description of human affect. Cautious optimism better modifies optimism. Urgency is useful in characterizing need. Would be difficult to distinguish from “desperately hopeful.”

44. Variable Interval Reward Schedules

Definition: Variable interval reward schedules provide a reward after a roughly consistent amount of time. This tends to create a reasonably high level of activity over time, as the player could receive a reward at any time but never the burst as created under a fixed schedule. This system is also more immune to the nadir right after the receiving of a reward, but also lacks the zenith of activity before a reward in unlocked due to high levels of ambiguity.
Example: Wait roughly 30 minutes, a new weapon appears. Check back as often as you want but that won’t speed it up. Generally players are bad at realizing that.
My commentary: Totally redundant with rule 23, and conflates the two kinds of time: duration and sequential (time it takes for Z to happen, and sequential ordering of X,Y,Z).

45. Variable Ratio Reward Schedule

Definition: A variable ratio reward schedule provides rewards after a roughly consistent but unknown amount of actions. This creates a relatively high consistent rate of activity (as there could always be a reward after the next action) with a slight increase as the expected reward threshold is reached, but never the huge burst of a fixed ratio schedule. It’s also more immune to nadirs in engagement after a reward is acheived.
Example: kill something like 20 ships, get a level up. Visit a couple locations (roughly five) get a badge
My commentary: Again, conflates the two kinds of time. An “unknown amount of actions” simply states that the sequence is unknown. Is a again a game rule.

46. Viral Game Mechanics

Definition: A game element that requires multiple people to play (or that can be played better with multiple people)
Example: Farmville making you more successful in the game if you invite your friends, the social check-in
My commentary: Completely misses viral distribution dynamics, which are part distribution system, part communication, and part social graph.

47. Virtual Items

Definition: Digital prizes, rewards, objects found or taken within the course of a game. Often these can be traded or given away.
Example: Gowalla’s items, Facebook gifts, badges
My commentary: And I think we’re back to rule 1.