Google Badges: Gamifying news

Google's news section has a new feature:  Google Badges.  Google is monitoring how much of particular types of stories you read, and you can level up in different areas by reading more stories on those topics.  So far, I've read 1 story about Google, so I've got a Google badge with no stars.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the super-positive side, I love the idea of gamifying news consumption -- putting out in public your news reading habits as a ranked icon is a solid step towards objective measures of how informed people are in various topics, and provides a nice little social kick towards reading more news, and more substantial news.

On the other hand, it's subject to some problems.  This method rewards equally following up on light reading, like the example category, basketball, as it does more in-depth categories.  Google isn't exactly encouraging getting informed as a civic duty here.

The video says you'll be able to keep your badges private, or share them with your friends.  If you want to keep secretly informed about some topics, Google offers a solution:

Sharing Badges By default, only you can see your badges. You can choose to share a specific badge in your badge collection by mousing over the badge and clicking one of the sharing icons. When you share a badge, it reveals your badge’s name and level, as well as the rough number of articles that you have read about the badge’s topic. Your friends will not see the specific articles that you have read.

This mechanism seems handled altogether quite well, but I don't know whether to hope that, in the future, Google leans towards encouraging good information consumption habits and discouraging binges on nothing but pop culture, or whether the natural tendency towards easier news will go unchecked.