Gamifying a service is one thing, but can you persuade people to play?

Earlier this year, Speedtest.net, the Ookla-owned site that offers some of the most accurate free broadband speed tests around, announced a new innovation. It was called Speed Wave and it turned Speedtest social.

The idea was that, at the least, the sort of groups who would otherwise compare broadband speeds while whining about their provider’s traffic management policy in their favorite forum, would have somewhere to keep track of their tests over time.

As an added sweetner, and appropriately for those groups, the new speed wave function also includes badges for the most improved and fastest speeds as well as less prestigious awards such as the near death experience badge, for those who find their broadband flatlining during tests.

At best, Speedtest suggested, the social function would bring businesses and bigger enterprises to the site. “If a city council wanted to collect broadband info on their community, they could create a wave for the city and all the results would be crunched in real time,” said Doug Suttles, co-founder of Ookla.

“Speed Wave is a perfect way for us to foster and promote the importance of broadband performance testing to the entire global broadband user base, by combining it with social interaction and fun for the everyday speed tester,” added Mike Apgar, the other co-founder.

Has it worked?

So, four months on, has it worked? As expected, those who already contribute speed tests to forums have taken to the gamifyed new service most readily.

Plusnet’s community form has a large group comparing their ongoing speeds, for example, and there’s also a large group comparing the higher speed Virgin Media broadband deals.

It also seems to have proved fairly popular with the community groups comparing the actual speeds of different providers at one exchange, which is a good idea given the variation in line quality in different areas.

But, as far as I can see, there’s been no huge movement to the social service from businesses. That’s unlikely to distress Ookla too much. It’s a huge international company taking 2 million individual speed tests a day and much more if you count the many companies using the site’s data to run their own applications.

The moral? Gamifying a service is one thing but persuading people to play who aren’t doing so already is quite another.

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Julia Kukiewicz is editor of consumer information site Choose. The site offers market research and debate into the home media and mobile and personal finance industries, as well as covering rights issues for consumers. Follow Choose for more on twitter at @choosenet.