Case Study

Mahara UK Conference 2014

MaharaUK14 Leaderboard

The MaharaUK14 leaderboard on


A leaderboard was implemented at the 2 day Mahara UK14 conference that was designed to encourage socialisation amongst delegates. The leaderboard tracked delegates engagement with a series of challenges based around the use of Twitter and an online quiz. The game generated high levels of engagement (27% of delegates participated in the challenges beyond merely tweeting about the conference), received positive feedback and achieved a high levels of amplification for the event through social media (the conference hashtag trended on UK Twitter).

Key lessons learned were to:

  • Integrate the game closely into the conference agenda and events to achieve increased participation rates.
  • Retain the motivation of participants and eliminate unwanted gaming behaviours by modifying the scoring metrics as the game progresses.
  • Ensure the rules and scores are transparent and regularly reiterated to participants.
  • Manage the timing of game updates and activities to create anticipation, and to allow participants to concentrate on the content of the conference during presentations and break out sessions.

The Event:

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Earning points in the photo challenge

This case study reports on the use of gamification at the annual Mahara conference, held in 2014 on 17th and 18th July at the University of Brighton. The conference committee decided to add a gamification element to the conference as it was currently in vogue at similar conferences, and the committee wanted to add some playful elements to the event to make it stand out.

The Gamification activity:

The activity was based around a leaderboard, provided by Leaderboarded. Players primarily earned points by tweeting, being retweeted and replies received to their tweets using the conference hashtag #maharauk14.

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Photo challenge entry – photo with a Birthday Boy (or two)

In addition to tweets there were four photo challenges to complete and a ‘Super Tricky’ quiz.

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The game challenge webpage

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Leaderboarded software tracking the scores

Katie Piatt, the game organiser, had prior experience gamifying events and using the Leaderboarded software. Leaderboarded automatically calculates the points and leaderboard positions based on selected weightings for each criteria. Twitter scores can be polled on demand and challenge scores are manually added through the software. A student helper was recruited in order to assist with the manual elements such as confirming if a photo challenge had been met.

Updates to the leaderboard were released at each break in the conference (morning coffee, lunch etc) which provided anticipation and removed distractions during the presentations. The quiz was made available several days before the conference began, but the quiz scores were not added in until the morning of the second day allowing more time for completion and a sudden jump in scores.

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The final winner receiving his prize 


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Engagement was unusually high at this event. The research shows that typically 10% of participants get partially involved in gamification activities such as this and 1% get fully involved. For MaharaUK14 we saw over 10% getting fully involved (doing every challenge, 13 out of 120 delegates) and 27% getting partially involved (doing at least one ‘challenge’ over and above tweeting).

The high level of participation resulted in successful amplification of the event on social media and the Twitter hashtag trended on UK Twitter on the 2nd day of the conference.

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Tweet demonstrating anticipation

It was observed that the delegates seemed particularly responsive to the game activity. Many delegates knew each other and saw the conference as an enjoyable networking event in Brighton already, so were in the right frame of mind to take part. It was also important that the game was integral to the event, introduced at the beginning as updates frequently provided so it was more than an ancillary activity.

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Example tweets demonstrating the buzz around the game

Lessons and Tips:

1. Part of the event. As mentioned above, promoting the game and making it part of the conference was seen as a key reason for the high engagement rates. The welcome to the delegates included the game introduction. Leaderboarded provides many display options making it easy to embed the leaderboard on the website, link to it, project on the main stage etc. which gave it high visibility.

Katie Piatt updating the delegates on the scores

Katie Piatt updating the delegates on the scores

2. Managing the metrics. In order to keep everyone interested we wanted to ensure the players at the top of the leaderboard changed regularly. Using the different weightings on each of the metrics we were measuring allowed this kind of manipulation. Approaching the conference tweets counted heavily, during day 1 the photo challenges were weighted more heavily, on day 2 the quiz was weighted and then for the final release the metrics were more balanced out to provide an overall winner.

Managing the metrics in Leaderboarded

Managing the metrics in Leaderboarded

Players can see their scores on each of the challenges, but they cannot see the weightings of the metrics. This did not cause any issues but did create a strong sense of anticipation at each break in order to see their new position on the leaderboard.

3. Transparency and fun. A lesson learned from previous events is that the perception of fairness is all important. eg At times during the conference players asked to confirm their photo challenge points had been logged correctly, and as these points were visible it enabled them to be sure their scores were correct.

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The ‘small print’ making the rules transparent

4. Anticipation. It is tempting to want to make the leaderboard ‘live’ ie constantly updated, but this just distracts delegates from the conference and encourages them to ‘game’ the event by making pointless tweets just to watch themselves move up the rankings. We announced when the updates would be to avoid this issue. The only ‘gaming’ we saw was a few attempts to use multiple twitter accounts to retweet their own tweets, using the weightings to reduce the value of retweets and increasing the value of the challenges soon stopped this behaviour.

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Anticipating the next leaderboard release

Further Information and Links:


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