This is something I have been waiting for: a combination of social networks, gaming, and saving the world. YupGrade, a Silicon Valley-based start-up does all that.
YupGrade hosts user's activity related to a particular topic related to learning. YupGrade filters metadata from sharing networks Twitter and Facebook.
This is not unique: topic-related streams can be filtered also in other services. More interesting in YupGrade is its rewarding feature, which means that an activity related to a specified topic can be rewarded.
Let's take an example: I am a student on a class focused on foreign politics, and the class is set up to use YupGrade. I shared a news story on Twitter related to foreign politics. Because of that sharing activity, I earn a reward or a virtual badge, that can improve my grade.
The rewarding feature is in full action when YupGrade launches today its alpha version with the Hunger in America Challenge for the SXSW Interactive conference. After sharing a news story on Twitter or on Facebook, a can of food will be donated to people suffering from hunger in the US. The shared news stories should be related to hunger, malnutrition, or obesity in the US.
Hunger In America is a part of WeCanEndThis.com, which is a year-long project to eliminate hunger in the US led by CauseShift, a company dedicated to solving problems.
After the SXSW, YupGrade will offer more challenges, says James Levy, a recent journalism graduate from Northwestern University who is the creator of YupGrade.
He also expects to partner with educators with a YupGrade Class feature, which will launch later in March. The Class Feature is similar to a Twitter list, but it filters activity by a specific class topic, whereas Twitter lists show all activity from listed users.
But why not to just use sharing on Facebook for learning? Because learning-related activity needs its own space, says Levy. Based on his interviews with high school students, Levy says students don't want to share all their Facebook or Twitter activity in an educational context, such a class. The students want to separate their more private sharing activity from activity related to learning.
YupGrade is in its early stage, but I see great potential in its concept. Apart from the useful feature to stream activity for groups arranged arounds certain topics, the rewarding feature is fascinating.
If by sharing news related to good causes I can help donate and feel better, I'll more likely share more often news about that specific topic. As a result, I'll learn more about the topic, so do my friends that follow my sharing activity. I'll start to take more action over the cause, and make a bigger effort to save the world - Well, that might happen in the ideal world. For now, I'll just start with sharing hunger-related stories on YupGrade.