The final challenge: Molly Tebo

Congratulations to Molly Tebo, winner of our final challenge!

Molly Tebo, eLearning Librarian at State Library of Western Australia, shares her experience of On Your Marks! with us:

I wanted to make something to show how much I got out of your gamification of Information Online and how it’s changed my approach to my work. I’d heard about gamification as a concept before but it was wonderful to be able to try it in an environment like a conference. […] It was so much fun for us and I know I’m not the only one who got a great deal out of it. There was a conference report back session last night in WA and one of the key things that was mentioned about Information Online was the gamification and how great it was!

Check out Molly’s Prezi here:

The final challenge: Ruth Baxter

Ruth Baxter, Manager Collection Access at University of Melbourne Library shares her experience of On Your Marks! with us:

I didn’t know what SCVNGR was, nor how easy it would be to set up a game myself. I loved that people added their own challenges, and that many of the challenges involved taking photos with people you hadn’t met before.

As a verbal extrovert with a short attention span, I often disengage with conferences after awhile. This game kept me interacting with the conference in different ways, and retained my engagement. I got way more from the overall conference therefore because I was still focussed. Thus the game was very important to me.

I’m hoping to talk to our information literacy people about using games such as SCVNGR and to offer alternative library tours. I’d also like to use gamfication to open up access to some of our cultural treasures that need to stay limited access. Hopefully we can create virtual pathways and viewings that offer this to more, without requiring too much ongoing staffing.

Thanks so much for the time and effort you put into this, Katya and Kate.

– It was our pleasure, Ruth!

Gamifying ALIA Information Online 2013 with SCVNGR

Warning, folks: This is a long post detailing how we used SCVNGR for On Your Marks! If you’re keen to learn more, read on.

SCVNGR: Picking up the pieces

As part of my Master of IT (Library & Information Science) studies at QUT, I recently conducted some research on gamification based on Information Programs, a unit taught and created by Kate Davis. Kate gamified the class for one week, and the results were pretty spectacular. Engagement trebled, the learning community was enhanced, students learned about gamification, and emotions ran high, still many months after the class finished.

Gamifying ALIA Information Online 2013
Kate and I thought we would ‘do different’, and submitted a proposal to gamify the ALIA Information Online conference, based on what we had learnt from Information Programs. I also looked at what others had done, both in libraries and conferences, and got in touch with Eli Neiburger of the Ann Arbor District Library, and Zac Fitz-Walter from QUT. Zac is doing his PhD on gamification and mobile apps and was involved with State Library of Queensland’s Secret SLQ. The AADL Summer Game is run on Drupal, which is open-source and can be found here: We considered using Drupal, but it was going to be too time-consuming, labour-intensive and complex for us. Secret SLQ is an iOS app that was designed specifically for State Library of Queensland, and we didn’t have the time or budget for that. We also didn’t want to exclude Android users. Information Programs had used WordPress with a number of gamification plug-ins. This, together with Twitter, was an option, but it required a lot of manual intervention, and couldn’t do everything we wanted to do for such a large conference.

So we went with SCVNGR. SCVNGR is a location-based mobile app which allows players to complete challenges, earn points, unlock badges, and receive rewards. Sounded perfect! Not quite. SCVNGR entitles you to 5 free challenges, and we wanted more. So we wrote to them and asked if we could have 10, and they said no. So I figured out something sneaky. We could use the 5 free challenges, deactivate them at the end of each day and activate 5 new challenges the following day. It was risky. We weren’t sure if SCVNGR would go for this, but it was within their terms of service, so we crossed our fingers and hoped it would work. This bit did.

The core challenges
By creating a colour-coded number for each challenge, I thought it would be clear which were the ‘officially-sanctioned’ challenges. What we didn’t realise is that any player could simply add their own challenges. We thought this could only be done in the ‘builder’ mode of the app. This was wonderful – it certainly increased engagement, but it added to the confusion. Which were the ‘real’ challenges? We put up the challenge key on the website and for Days 2 and 3 of the conference I explicitly outlined the core and bonus challenges.

The place
When initially creating the challenges we found that anyone could add challenges to any old place. As a matter of fact, anyone could just delete a place. This struck us as a bit odd, and I think it is one of the biggest flaws in the SCVNGR app. If you knew what you were doing, it would be quite easy to sabotage an event or business. This was very risky, but we didn’t think (we hoped) anyone would figure out how to do this or be inclined to do so. The rewards were also tied to the place, so if I owned a café, for example, I was entitled to offer a free coffee for anyone who earned 10 points. SCVNGR has to determine if you are entitled to offer these rewards however, and one month after contacting them, they are still to get back to me with approval for our reward, the chance to submit an entry to win that iPad mini. We got around this by creating a challenge around actually submitting the entry, and by explaining the rules on the website and video. But still players were confused.

SCVNGR Challenges
The SCVNGR app also comes with its own challenges: Check-In, Social Check-In, Say something and Snap a picture. The rules of On Your Marks! stated that the qualifying challenges appeared below these four, but many participants enjoyed completing the SCVNGR challenges also. The only problem was, when something went wrong, it was out of hands. We didn’t expect people to get so excited about earning points and getting cross when they didn’t, but experience should have told us that if there’s a competitive element on offer, some people are going to get very competitive! The SCVNGR app also allows you to complete challenges more than once, so players were confused when, having already completed a challenge, the challenge was still present. Points were sometimes added, sometimes not, and players were getting stressed out.

Don’t flag the challenges!
The biggest glitch with SCVNGR was the ability to ‘flag’ a challenge. Flagging a challenge sends an alert to SCVNGR that there is a problem, and the challenge automatically gets blocked. It is quite easy to accidentally flag a challenge and others thought that flagging meant ‘liking’. So our challenges were disappearing! Once we discovered this we were able to create new (or duplicate) core challenges, but this could not be done for those challenges created by players. Another drama occurred when someone flagged our location, thus blocking the entire event! We were able to rectify this by creating another (identical) location, adding the challenges, and informing players not to ‘flag’. This is the biggest glitch in the SCVNGR app, and was the scariest thing for us behind the scenes.

Who did what?
SCVNGR provides the capacity to score on a leaderboard, however this is ‘friend’ based, not event-based. The leaderboard shows where you rank compared to your friends. If you could get everyone participating in the event to become friends, the leaderboard would take care of the rest. We had to do it manually, recording everyone’s activity in the core and bonus challenges. We abandoned the idea of a leaderboard pretty quickly because of confusion over the points, and also because it truly did grow too big for itself! We also wanted to eliminate the competitive element and provide everyone with the opportunity to win the prize. But where there are points there is competition!

To gamify or not to gamify?
It got messy, it was extremely busy behind the scenes, and a few people got frustrated. Most who played On your marks! had a blast however, and our objectives of engaging delegates and informing them about gamification were met. It wasn’t perfect (difficult for us librarians to accept!), but it was a success.

So bear this in mind when adopting gamification in your own organisation. How competitive did you get? What motivated you? To what lengths would you go to win? Players will ‘game the game’. The competition will grow fierce, people will be disappointed. But what will they gain? Engagement, knowledge, enjoyment, community? Off you go! It’s your turn.

The final challenge

smiley face
Now it’s your turn. We want to find out what you’ve learnt from On Your Marks! Gamifying ALIA Information Online 2013. What was the experience like for you, what worked, what didn’t work? What do you now know about gamification and how might you use gamification in your workplace? We want to share your thoughts on the website, so send us a video, a blog post, prezi, slide share, an email, you name it, to You’ve got until 1 March 2013, and there’s a $50 iTunes voucher for the winner. So are you ready?

Image: Neon Smiley Face at Burning Man 1996 by Scott Beale. Retrieved from

And the winner is…


Congratulations to all our winners, and to all who played along. We hope you enjoyed On Your Marks! at ALIA Information Online 2013.

1) The winner of the iPad mini was Lisa McIntosh from the University of Woolongong.

2) The runner-up was Helen Lynch of the University of Waikato. Helen received a $100 iTunes voucher.

3) Crystal Choi of Newington College Library received a $50 State Library of Queensland Library Shop voucher for the Gettin’ Wiki With It award.

4) Damien Webb of the State Library of WA won The Great Romance award.

5) Chris Hart from Queensland University of Technology was the recipient of the Just Tweet It award.

6) Molly Tebo won the Steppin’ Out award for going above and beyond.

7) Fiona Doyle was the winner of the Dancing Queen award for her fancy dance moves.

8) Kate Freedman won the pre-conference Lemontree prize.

A special thanks to Anna Troberg also for playing along. Anna received a pirate lego pack!

Image: The smile of the matryoshka by victor_nuno. Retrieved from

Today’s challenges

Thurs challenges

Find the Future

But is it gamification?

Game designer, author of Reality is Broken and TED speaker Jane McGonigal created a game for the New York Public Library on the occasion of its 100th birthday. In May 2011, 500 people were invited to spend a night at the iconic Stephen A Schwarzman Building, discover 100 of the library’s artefacts, and collectively write a story about the history of these artefacts. An accompanying app and online game can be played by visitors to the library as well as those at home (even Australia!). Players complete challenges, go on quests, earn points, badges and level-up, however McGonigal has declared, “I don’t do gamification.” Perhaps this is what the future of gamification looks like.

A documentary about Find the Future can be viewed here:

Secret SLQ

State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland’s own Secret SLQ app uses mobile technology to engage visitors in a treasure hunt. Players scan QR codes, complete challenges and answer questions about the library’s collection as they explore SLQ’s spaces, clambering for a place on the leaderboard. Designed as a response to the growing number of school groups visiting the library, Secret SLQ represents the best of gamification, embracing narrative, personalisation, exploration, autonomy and mastery.

Click on the Secret SLQ app below to watch it in action.

Secret SLQ

Losta matrioshka


Have you seen this little lady?

1) If so, take a photo of her,
2) post it to @gamifyonline13 with hashtag #gamifyonline13 #littlelady
3) and pass her on.

For those playing at home, post a picture of your own little lady to Twitter #gamifyonline13 #littlelady

Today’s challenges are brought to you by State Library of Queensland

You can play Wednesday’s challenges on SCVNGR at ALIA Information Online, or on Twitter from home!