Oracle Social Network Developer Challenge: Bezzotech

I’ve covered all the entries we had for the Oracle Social Network Developer Challenge, the winners, Dimitri and Martin, HarQen, TEAM Informatics and John Sim from Fishbowl Solutions, and today, I’m giving you bonus coverage.

Friend of the ‘Lab, Bex Huff (@bex) from Bezzotech (@bezzotech), had an interesting OpenWorld. He rebounded from an allergic reaction to finish his entry, Honey Badger, only to have his other OpenWorld commitments make him unable to present his work.

Still, he did a bunch of work, and I want to make sure everyone knows about the Honey Badger. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s a meme; “honey badger don’t care.”

Bex tackled a common problem with social tools by adding game mechanics to create an incentive for people to keep their profiles updated. He used a Hot-or-Not style comparison app that poses expertise questions and awards a badge to the winner. Questions are based on whatever attributes the business wants to emphasize.

The goal is to find the mavens in an organization, give them praise and recognition, ideally creating incentive for everyone to raise their games.

In his own words:

There is a real information quality problem in social networks. In last year’s keynote, Larry Elison demonstrated how to use the social network to track down resources that have the skill sets needed for specific projects. But how well would that work in real life? People usually update that information with the basic profile information, but they rarely update their profiles with latest news items, projects, customers, or skills. It’s a pain.

Or, put another way, when was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile?

Enter the Honey Badger! This is a example of a comparator app that gamifies the way people keep their profiles updated, which ensures higher quality data in the social network. An administrator comes up with a series of important questions: Who is a better communicator? Who is a better Java programmer? Who is a better team player? And people would have a space in their profile to give a justification as to why they have these skills.

The second part of the app is the comparator. It randomly shows two people, their names, and their justification for why they have these skills. You will click on one of them to “vote” for them, then on the next page you will see the results from the previous match, and get 2 new people to vote on. Anybody with a winning score wins a “Honey Badge” to be displayed on their profile page, which proudly states that their peers agree that this person has those skills.

Once a badge is won, it will be jealously guarded. The longer your go without updating your profile, the more likely it is that you will lose your badge. This “loss aversion” is well known in psychology, and is a strong incentive for people to keep their profiles up to date. If a user sees their rank drop from 90% to 60%, they will find the time to update their justification!

Unfortunately, during the hackathon we were not allowed to modify the schema to allow for additional fields such as “justification.” So this hack is limited to just the one basic question: who is the bigger Honey Badger?

Here are some shots of the Honey Badger application:

Thanks to Bex and everyone for participating in our challenge. Despite very little time to promote this event, we had a great turnout and creative and useful entries. The amount of work required to put together these final entries was significant, especially during a conference, and the judges and all of us involved were impressed at how much work everyone was able to do.

Congrats to everyone, pat yourselves on the back.

Stay tuned if you’re interested in challenges like these. We’ll likely be running similar events in the not-so-distant future.




  1. “higher quality data in the social network”

    As a computer jock wearing tight slacks, I’ll be meditating upon this virtual reality as I munch on jumbo shrimp fried in extra virgin olive oil with fresh cheese, and drink hard liquor with ice water responsibly at a young adult slumber party during the beaver moon, then have some wicked good white chocolate for desert.

  2. You may be accepting a narrow definition of social network. Bex isn’t referring to consumer networks; he’s talking about those within an enterprise. Believe it or not (sure you won’t), there are useful data in social apps inside the firewall, e.g. Connect, OraTweet, and unfortunately, they are hard to find.

  3. Well, of course I was making an attempt to be humorous, but I do understand what you are doing as far as adding gamification to private cloud social intra networks, or whatever they are going to be called. My point is really that it suffers from the same kind of information loss as any other programmed process: it forces categorization into boxes that don’t reflect (what should be) actual priorities. It might even be worse, by allowing extra incorrect flexibility in the categories, as well as stimulating people to put in the work when they don’t even know why.

    To give an example: HR is trying to decide who to hire from a big stack of resumes who they should interview. They use this badgering (sorry!) to crowdsource compare each, eventually bubbling up the top candidates, much as a tennis competition goes to the finals. You have two main sources of loss: first, each comparator interprets the administrators questions in a different way; and more fundamentally, the administrators questions may strongly bias the results towards normalization. In other words, the best person for the job may be an outlier, but they get eliminated early and you’ve implemented the peter principle.

    I used to see this a lot when I judged car shows. Looking at each little detail, the winner would often be some automotive equivalent of the Milquetoast of the group. That’s why they would have a “people’s choice” award to see the most popular among the entire crowd, ignoring the details.

    Now, hiring someone for a job, how likely is the best person going to be the most popular? You might ask that question the next time someone advocates getting rid of the electoral college in favor of direct popular vote for president, especially when they come up with the idea of a gamified app to get people to vote.

    Aside from all that, I do think Bex came up with something cool. It’s the application of the application where the problems arise. That becomes important when you get away from consumer and into enterprise.

  4. Oh I got the humor bit and appreciated it, as always 🙂 I think snark is probably more accurate than humor, but still.

    We’ve never met IRL, but I’m not the cheerleading type. I like the application of game mechanics to work, but only in the good ways. /me smirks. Your reference to the information loss problem is true, but an underlying problem is that technology is moving far too fast for humans.

    In the enterprise, we haven’t even replicated Google’s success in search yet. Not even Google has done that. So, even if we make the assumption that consumer web has it right (which it doesn’t universally), enterprises lag well behind when taken as a whole.

    Why? Because business practices vary wildly, as do the people who do work.

    Combine the two, and there’s no one social app that is guaranteed to work for every enterprise. Similarly, there’s no gamified app that’s guaranteed to work, no one mobile strategy.

    We’re really throwing darts. Study of each enterprise could work, but that’s not scalable, not necessarily replicable.

    Even so, as you say, an app that’s been tailored to fit one HR department perfectly could fail when the Director of HR leaves.

    Users are people, which makes building software enormously difficult.

    The important thing here is you judged car shows? That sounds fun.

  5. Perhaps there are other ways in which comparator logic can be used with a body of enterprise data.
    As for Bex’s problem (the need to update profiles), I was recently reminded that this is a continuous concern at both the enterprise and the consumer level. I recently received a reminder of my father’s birthday, but there were two problems with the reminder. First, the birthday date in the reminder was a day off – I’ve seen this in other reminders from the same contacts list, so I suspect that something is broken here. Second, my father passed away a year and a half ago – obviously I never took the time to remove him from my contact list.
    I’ll grant that my example is extreme, but there is clearly a need to update personal contact lists – people move, change jobs, have babies, etc. This is compounded when I look at the contacts on my Android phone, which takes its contacts from several different sources. If I see errors on my phone, it takes me time to figure out where the original error lies. (And, as you have probably already guessed, I don’t bother to correct it.)
    Maybe there’s another solution other than to keep one’s personal contact list that can be easily outdated. Perhaps an employee’s “contact list” could consist of links to external data (LinkedIn profiles are a candidate, but not everyone is on LinkedIn). Then the need to update the information moves away from you and to the contact him/herself.
    I know nothing about cars.

  6. Keeping contacts updated and consolidated is a big pain point for sure. The problem is that service-based standards require adoption, and unfortunately, none of the companies that store (or own, depending on your perspective) have an incentive to free that data.

    FWIW, a lot of people do point to their LinkedIn profiles and Twitter handles, fewer to Facebook. It’s more likely that we’ll simply gravitate to one standard than a standard will be adopted.

    I doubt we’ll ever see a single source.

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