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For my 200th review, in the absence of any more inspirational ideas, I've decided to follow the round-number tradition and write an inward-looking review about Ciao itself. My subject is an aspect of Ciao some members feel strongly about: the community points system and the related scale of coloured dots. I'm not one of those members. I don't feel strongly about it, neither for nor against, though on balance I am mildly in favour for reasons explained below. Apart from that, it seems worth writing about because I find its effect on the behaviour of the Ciao community, myself included, very interesting.
For my text today, I am indebted to Charlotte (Tartlette83), who recently posted the following as her About Me:
"Woohoo! Purple! Silly isn't it but there is something addictive about those little dots!"
This strikes me as an excellent summary of most things worth mentioning about the points/dots system, but if I leave it at that you're not likely to rate this review very highly and I won't earn any community points to advance my dot colour (okay, not right away, but ultimately - in about three years' time at my current rate of progress) to the next level. So I'd better elaborate.
In doing so I don't propose to reiterate the mechanics of how points and dots are allocated. In the unlikely event that you, assuming you to be a Ciao member, don't already know, look at http://www.ciao.co.uk/faq.php/Id/2/Idx/4/Idy/12#answer_2 for a general description of the system and at your own Statistics page for the current tariff of community points. As a rough generalisation, the rate at which you earn community points reflects your degree of active involvement in the site and your dot colour reflects how long you've kept up that level of activity.
But to return to the gospel according to Tartlette83:
* "Woohoo!" *
Yes, there's an excitement of sorts to be had from earning community points and advancing up the dotted ladder. It's a muted excitement, not the stuff to set the pulse racing or the heart thumping against the ribcage, but it's a pleasurable excitement all the same. The pleasure comes from a sense of making progress, even of achievement and of having that achievement publicly recognised. Some people may be truly indifferent to it, but I'm not one of them and, from the reactions I observe around the site, neither are many others. Or maybe it's simply that those who are truly indifferent to it don't stick around on Ciao.
A critic would say that any sense of achievement is wholly spurious. If all that's required is to be active around the site, anyone can do it just by applying a bit of time and effort and where's the achievement in that? Against this one could argue that quality of review-writing and peer recognition of said quality also come into the equation in that they accelerate point accumulation, but in my view this is a side-issue, in that progress can be made irrespective of quality.
In general, I don't disagree with the criticism. It just doesn't change my attitude to points and dots. I don't need to feel that the sense of achievement is related to any objective measure of what constitutes valid or worthwhile achievement (even assuming such a concept to be meaningful) in order to enjoy it. And the enjoyment is the only thing that matters, because pursuit of enjoyment is why I'm here in the first place.
* "Purple!" *
Yes, again. It's a lovely colour, even if Ciao do insist on calling it Violet. Personally, I feel Ciao have their colours in the wrong order, with the most beautiful being ascribed the lowest values. This is only a matter of taste, though I'm yet to come across anyone who likes the highly-rated shade euphemistically know as bronze.
In any case, the precise shade is not of course the point. The point is that there is a sequence of ascending value, up which one climbs.
* "Silly, isn't it?" *
Yes, it's very silly. There is literally no value in community points. They don't translate into hard cash or into any other tangible reward.
Even if - as I don't - you look on Ciao as a competitive sport, they still have no value. They don't advance you up any league table, since no ranking by community points is published. They do, of course, advance you up the ascending scale of dot colours, but so what? Having a more advanced dot colour doesn't make you a better person, or even a more successful person, than someone sporting a less rarefied shade. As we've noted, it mostly means that you've spent more time around the site, hardly the mark of great virtue or distinction. Indeed, it might only signify that the acquisition of a life is overdue.
So why do we set any store by them at all, or even bother to notice what they are? That we do so is undeniable, in the case of most of us at least. We drop congratulatory messages in each others' guestbooks when colours change, and no one seems to think this strange. Silly, perhaps, if we stop to think about it, but not strange. There seems to be something innate in human nature to which scoring and grading our activities appears to be a natural thing to do, and if a body like Ciao can present us with a pre-determined scoring and grading system, we tend to relate to it. We may quibble at the precise scale of values (e.g. disagree with minus points for lower ratings, or the relative value of being read and being trusted). Some of us may thunder that Ciao would be better off without the system on the grounds that it encourages competitiveness and cheating (though why non-financial rewards should be supposed to encourage cheating more than financial ones is beyond me). But having a scoring system is still something that human beings seem to find normal.
* "There is something addictive about those little dots!" *
Yes, or sort of yes, at least. Personally, I'm not sure it's the dots that are addictive; if they were, we poor addicts would have to wait an unbearably long time for our next fix and would probably give up in despair. I think it's the points that are addictive. They click up regularly, and you can keep them doing so by your own activity even if no one's reading your reviews, thus giving yourself the feeling that you're making progress. Of course the feeling may be illusory, in that the progress isn't towards any worthwhile goal, but the feeling's there just the same, because the number is on the increase. No one said it had to be rational.
I would never spend time on Ciao just to clock up community points, but given that I am often on Ciao for other reasons - to write reviews, to read those of other members and to chat with them - I always like to observe how my points are accumulating. It simply adds to the interest of the thing. And if, for example, I notice, as I'm about to log off, that I'm just a few points shy of the next round hundred or thousand points total, I might stay on for a while longer and read, rate and comment on a few more reviews so as to reach that milestone. I can't justify this behaviour - even to me it makes little sense - but I suspect I am not alone in doing so.
One can easily see how productive this is from Ciao's viewpoint. They have more members spending longer on the site and thereby generating higher hit levels for them to sell to advertisers. Fair enough, as far as I'm concerned. I don't feel in the least exploited; after all, my participation in this process is entirely voluntary.
Feeding one's addiction apart, though, is it productive from the member's viewpoint? Strangely, I believe it is. To discover what Ciao would be like without the community point and dot system is not difficult. One need only spend time over on "the other side", alias Dooyoo. There are things to be said in favour of Dooyoo: reward rates per read/rate tend to be higher than here, and the site's management are more responsive to members' concerns.
But participation in Dooyoo has always seemed to me a much less engaging process than participation in Ciao. For the statistically-minded, it's less stimulating. You log in and note that your number of ratings received and "Dooyoo miles" have changed, and that's about it. On Ciao there's a whole page of figures to pore over, and they change all the time during a session on the site, in a way that doesn't apply on Dooyoo.
Much more importantly, Dooyoo is impersonal by comparison with Ciao - almost soulless sometimes. This stems partly from the absence of public guestbooks, which the recent introduction of a messaging system over there has only partly rectified. But I think it also stems from the absence of points and dots.
There are fewer comments made per rating on Dooyoo than on Ciao, and it's not hard to spot the reason. Points for commenting encourages commenting, and commenting encourages response and subsequent discussion. Similarly, "congrats on the new colour" messages can lead to striking up a conversation with another member. Simply answering enquiries from newcomers as to what the dots and points mean can help to break the ice. Soon, you're talking often, and getting to know the people behind the pseudonyms. It all makes the site more human, fostering the sense of community and making participation a more rewarding experience.
* "Woohoo!" *
Yes, woohoo once more; a slightly ironic and half-hearted expression of delight. Two cheers for Ciao's dotty dot system, in fact. I can't pretend it merits more, even though on balance I like it and think that it's worthwhile.
Could it be improved up to a three-cheer standard? No, I don't think so; that would be to take it all too seriously. Of course, some improvements are possible. The points tariff could probably be productively fine-tuned. I am, for example, one of those who feel that deducting points for a Somewhat Helpful rating is overly harsh and likely to demotivate people, the opposite effect to that the system is intended to produce. But that's a detail.
I also think that by the time people reach the upper echelons of the dotted scale, the gaps between colour changes become too big to have any noticeable incentive effect. When you're faced with hundred of thousands of points and several years between you and the next milestone, you really cease to think about it much. In particular, it seems to me Ciao have been a bit ridiculous in introducing a new top-of-the-range black dot for 5,000,000+ points, which even the most avid and assiduous point-chasers with nothing better to do with their lives would be unlikely to reach in fewer than about thirty years. Merely doing the calculation makes one think that it can't possibly be worth bothering, and reminds one of the artificiality of the whole idea.
Yes, it's all very artificial and more than a bit silly. Nevertheless, I still like to see the points ticking up. Don't ask me why.
not utterly pointless at all.. its very interesting..could even be used as research material for human behaviorial studies and another topis for my jurisprudence lecturer to waffle abt!! hehe interesting waffle tho..
- sarima aka green dot