The planning phase
Developing new features always requires several iterations of planning and design sketches before anything comes into fruition. This week has been very design-heavy for the proposed "following" system, tagging, and badges. Luckily, we've got some great new members to the Looking Glass team for the summer with some good insights as to what these new features should look like.
The feature I really plan to focus on this summer is following, or "role modeling" as we also refer to it. Following will allow a new Community member to be put on the fast track for developing the Looking Glass skills and know-how of a senior member that they admire. Designing how to mechanically and visually introduce role modeling into the system has been tricky. Can a user follow one member, or many? Do they choose who they follow, or do we choose for them? If I follow someone, what feedback do I receive, and how does my user experience change?
We have several initial ideas. When a role model does something noteworthy within the Community, such as share a new world or create a challenge, his or her followers will be notified. Relevant news for that role model will be displayed throughout the follower's news feed. Behind the scenes, setting someone as a user's role model will automatically make that followed user show up more often on the site for the following user. For example, (s)he will appear higher on the users list (using "magic" sort, as Mary calls it); his or her worlds may appear more often in the featured column; the list of recommended worlds to remix to earn a new badge will filter the followed users' badge-earning worlds to the top. Basically, a followed user will magically appear everywhere.
At its core, we believe that following will probably tie heavily into the badge-earning and remix system. To really develop new skills through modeling, a user will have to be exposed to that role model's programs, or - at the very least - the same programming constructs that the role model implements. Skill badges are earned through creating worlds that implement advanced programming constructs, such as count loops (that make an action repeat a specified number of times) or a do together (which allows more than one action to happen at the same time). If a role model earns a simple "do together" skills badge, then the follower should be notified, and they should be encouraged attempt to earn that badge as well (assuming they are deemed to be at an advanced enough level to try for it). Furthermore, the follower should perhaps try to earn an initial preliminary badge using the same methods that his or her role model did. To simulate this, we propose encouraging the user to remix the very world that earned the role model the badge, earning the user a preliminary "remix" skills badge.