Today I read an article about the potential next step in education: badges. It seems that education is slowly moving away from the traditional degree, and adding badges of accomplishment when you learn something. In an educational setting, this is essentially recognizing every task or sub-task level skill that is learned on the way to the degree. And for those who are anxious to see progress in their studies, it gives them incremental feelings of accomplishment that can continue to motivate them to complete their degree. It also shows potential employers the level of understanding and skills accomplished both during and when the degree has been received. A granular view of skills is great for employers, as well as all other students.
But how does that work into Search engine optimization? It seems that Mozilla is working on a way to provide any website with the ability to display badges earned for resume pages. But taking it a bit further, suppose badges are awarded experts and content for their helpfulness? Enter the Google +1 and Facebook Like buttons, but that is not very telling beyond it being liked. Why was the content of the page liked? That is where badges come in.
If a badge system were developed for websites, it would allow visitors (i.e., consumers) to communicate what about the page that they liked. Was it informative, funny, designed well, or helpful? Do they like the services, the company, or just the picture? This information can then translate back to the company's design team to find out what works on their site, and therefore they can increase their focus on better badges.
So is this system likely? I think so. Google already provides badges for articles read in the Google News site based on content. It would just be another logical step to provide badges for sites based on what the user likes about the article/web page/site. Perhaps it would be too much work for the user to add a reason, though by clicking on a +1 they would just need to tick a prefilled reason why. Or, should eye tracking software mature enough to see what someone is reading, perhaps it could be automatically assigned.
The concept is there, the proof has been established. It just comes down to the wide-spread implementation. Though if Academia is moving in that direction, I don't imagine Google will be far behind. After all, the whole Page Rank system was based on academic reviews of papers.