For the brief time I was a Boy Scout, I loved merit badges above all else. The very idea that I would get these tangible pieces of evidence that I had done something — be it learning something or accomplishing something and it was of sufficient significance to award said badge — I loved it. I cherished those badges, though sadly not enough to put them somewhere I could continue to see them now if I wished to do so — I probably disposed of them when removing clutter from my possessions. I suppose if those badges had been recorded in some kind of database, you would now be able to look it up by my name on the Boy Scouts of America web site. Perhaps it is better that it is in the past.

Now and again I see companies coming up with new and exciting ways to reward people for their loyalty and efforts in using the company products. For example, a great number of game companies (Microsoft, Valve, and others) offer badges to game players who purchase their games and then perform certain actions in the game itself. A person might get a particular badge for reaching a certain level in a game or for beating a game — or even finding a certain hidden spot in the game.

All of this being said, I was just a bit bewildered when I read an announcement from Google News — private, share-able Google News badges. The gist of the new system is that if you have web history turned on and you opt into badges, you can collect badges that you can show off to your friends. The more news articles you read about cloud computing, for example, the better the badge you get for cloud computing. Really, Google News? You feel like people need an incentive to read the news and you think that badges are going to be it?

How about the mere importance of being well informed? Shouldn’t that be enough of a reason for people to read the news these days? When I buy a copy of the New York Times on Sunday from a newsagent and read the Travel section in its entirety, I do not expect a representative from the Times to come over to my apartment with a handshake and a shiny badge for me. I really thought perhaps this was the latest in a series of jokes from Google except that it’s not April and it wasn’t April when they announced it, either.

I suppose at the end of the day people at Google have to have some fun too in between making some of the best products that you can find online and Google Badges is one of them. Now they just have to fix some of the issues people are already having with it. An easy way to go to a page and display your current badges, for example. In researching this article I became addicted to getting badges. Google wins again!


  1. I, too, thought these news badges were “un-Google” in that they seemed to copy too much from Foursquare. I guess this is an early attempt by Google to “socialize” it’s propagation of the news for integration in Google+.

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