Strategic Synergy on Alltop

24 08 2011

Alltop has added Strategic Synergy to their Social Media section!  We haven’t had an opportunity to post recently because we’ve been building a new product called Carddit.  I plan to share the story and evolution of this product in upcoming posts, as well as other interesting examples of game mechanics in UX design.  Please stay tuned, and thanks for adding us Alltop!





Why Both Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators Matter in Gamification

17 10 2010

Dan Ariely, a Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University wrote a book titled Predictably Irrational where he describes the difference between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators and how these affect management decisions in driving employee behavior .   Ariely suggests that moving from extrinsic motivators or rewards such as money, points or schedules, to intrinsic motivators or internal needs including friendship, commitments , and loyalty, is in essence making a move from a market relationship to a social relationship.

An extrinsic or market relationship in this case is defined by the exchange of monetary currency for a product or service.  An Intrinsic or social relationship is the exchange of an intangible for a product or service.  Ariely illustrates this differentiation in his book with a Thanksgiving dinner scenario, also retold by Jeff Monday in the video below:

Imagine you are at your in-laws house for Thanksgiving. At the end of the fantastic meal you walk over to your mother-in-law and instead of giving her the customary social payment of a big hug and thank you, you pull out your wallet and ask her how much she wants for the meal. Here is where the behavioral economics get interesting. Even if you were to offer her $1000 for the meal, a meal that only cost her only a couple hundred dollars and a few hours of her time, she and everyone else at the table will be offended because they will feel you cheapened the day.

Why? Well behavioral economics show us that the intangibles like love, gratitude, trust, and community that we receive in a social exchange are difficult to put a value on, so difficult in fact, that we can’t calculate them and value them as priceless. By offering the $1000 to your mother in law for the Thanksgiving dinner you are putting a cheap value on something that is priceless in her mind. This inequity is caused by trying to blend a social exchange with a market exchange and it is an important lesson for managers who are moving to a management style with greater intrinsic motivators.

Jeff Monday’s video discussing Ariely’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (approx 5 minutes):

The Thanksgiving dinner example can be described within a gaming context, as Sebastian Deterding presents in his slideshow Pawned. Gamification and its Discontents.  Deterding shares a similar scenario where an extrinsic motivator interfered with intrinsic needs:

…adding explicit rule systems to a given conduct can mess with the implicit social rules, norms and meanings governing it. Take akoha, a service that tries to promote random acts of kindness by casting them as “missions” you collect awards and gifts for. Now a befriended game designer of mine tried this with another game designer friend of his and invited him for a coffee, as the mission required. When the friend curiously asked why he was invited, my friend replied in explaining the service and mission he was on. To which the friend furiously answered:

“Have you any idea how degrading that is, being invited not because you care about me, but because you want to progress in some game?”

We have learned that game rewards or points can cause conflict when it is the primary motivator in exchange for a friend’s intrinsic social needs.  But what would happen if the motivations in this scenario were instead presented in this fashion:

“Would you like to meet for coffee and play this social game together?”

So rather than suggesting the points are the primary reward, the player presents an opportunity to build upon a social relationship as the main motivator.  This is a similar positioning to the popular social game “Words with Friends”, where players can “catch up with friends as you kick their butts in a word game”.   Taking it a step further and offering both parties added synergies in game play will enforce the link, emphasizing the importance of the relationship.  The Washington Post reported on social bonds created in online games:

The most popular social games are collaborations. To progress quickly through the games, you need to help other players, and they need to help you. Such collaborations, according to game designers and users, foster a sense of community in an often-splintered world.

In our examples, shifting focus to an intrinsic value would probably have produced a stronger relationship, even when external motivators are part of the system.  However, that doesn’t mean we ignore extrinsic motivators altogether, as Steven Reiss, a Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University argues,

“Individuals differ enormously in what makes them happy – for some competition, winning and wealth are the greatest sources of happiness, but for others, feeling competent or socializing may be more satisfying. The point is that you can’t say some motivations, like money, are inherently inferior.”

The illustration above offers a perspective where intrinsically positioned game mechanics can act as facilitators for social activity and exchanges.  Games give us an effective framework to bond with others.  Interestingly enough, as soon as we try to measure those intrinsic mechanics we move them into the realm of external motivators.   That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the number of Twitter followers or friends on Facebook influence us in different ways.  But we want to try to build systems where externals aren’t the only things available.  Internationally-known metagame expert and social game designer  Amy Jo Kim describes game mechanics as the sauce or seasoning on the meat of the core game. Designers need a great core game and should use game mechanics to help improve it. Game mechanics as extrinsic tools like experience bars or achievements will push the player to reach the next goal.  But things of intrinsic value will always provide greater incentive for the player.

Dan Ariely’s video discussing experiments in motivation:

Another part of Ariely’s discussion, Motivation in the Knowledge Economy:





Multiplayer Relationships, Interdependence, and Synergy in Gamification Design

7 10 2010

What attributes keep people engaged in, and committed to playing a multiplayer game?

Tom Bollich, an early Zynga investor and former lead engineer says today’s social games have a challenge.  He described the problem in a recent interview:

“You can’t make the cheap little viral games like you used to.  These games, it’s like pouring water into a bucket with holes in it. You can get a lot of people, but they don’t stick around.”

Game mechanics in social games have been effective at getting people’s attention, but how do you design a system that keeps players engaged and involved?  We may find some clues when examining another form of social games, the MMORPG and it’s industry leader World of Warcraft (WoW).  WoW has managed to keep players entertained for almost 6 years, attracting over 11.5 million players worldwide.  Nielsen shared numbers from 2009 that ranked WoW first in PC games most played, averaging 653 minutes per week.

Typing “/played” in World of Warcraft displays how long a character has been played and the numbers surprise most people.  So the question becomes, what game mechanics or features are keeping so many people interested for such a long period of time?  What attributes can transform a simple game into a lasting community?

People tend to be more engaged within a community when they feel a sense of belonging and can contribute towards a hot topic or goal within the community.   The “Tribalization of Business” study conducted by Beeline Labs, Deloitte and the Society for New Communications Research (2008) cited key features contributing most to community effectiveness:

Most Facebook games involve asynchronous multi-player game play, or experiences that are presented in discrete chunks at different times for each player, so players can interact and perform exchanges without the need of being simultaneously online.

Oftentimes the social game is so focused on the need for asynchronous game-play, that they bypass the importance of building relationships and interdependencies between players and the game becomes almost a single player activity.   As seen in the Tribalization study, engaged social players want to be able to help others and contribute towards a common goal.   They want to develop a reputation and grow in status.  Adding a way for players to feel needed increases their desire to stay within the community.  The stronger the community, the more important status becomes. The opposite is also true: without a community, there is no status.

Interdependence, or the dynamic of being mutually responsible to each other,  is an important aspect in designing longer lasting communities. Providing interdependent subtasks allow players an opportunity to create relationships and to personalize their experiences as they explore the system.

Interdependence is also an element of effective social groups, where groups evolve beyond just a collection of people and become functional teams.  Muzafer Sherif formulated a technical definition of social groups listing the following elements:

A social group is a unit consisting of a number of individuals interacting with each other with respect to:

1.  Common motives and goals;

2.  An accepted division of labor, i.e. roles,

3.  Established status (social rank, dominance) relationships;

4.  Accepted norms and values with reference to matters relevant to the group;

5.  Development of accepted sanctions (praise and punishment) if and when norms were respected or violated.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_group)

Here we see that a group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his or her strengths and minimize his or her weaknesses. Effective team members learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team)

This dynamic is found in WoW, where each class has a function in gameplay. By working together, the team players synergize -becoming more powerful, or gaining in game advantages.

Missing one of the functional character types leads to slower progress or potential failure in quests and dungeons.

Most MMO’s utilize what is called the “holy trinity”- Tank, Healer and DPS.  A “Tank” function is the player who has armor and is the focus of a monster’s attacks – they take the brunt of the beating but in exchange do very little damage to the monster.  A “healer” is someone who can replenish health, but is generally very fragile.  “DPS” is the Damage class which has power, but little armor.  Each class relies on and enhances the other in order to maximize performance.

If one function is missing, the group feels a significant impact.  For example, a Tank and healer without DPS means the monsters don’t die.  A tank and DPS without healer means the group takes too much damage.  Each player is needed for the team to succeed.

Unlike most Facebook games, WoW sits on the other end of the spectrum, and is designed to encourage synchronous play.  Players feel obligated to work with others because of established responsibilities and expectations to the team. Peer pressure and in-game social commitments are implicit in the system’s design.  So one may ask, will these social features work in an asynchronous environment?  A few social games have adapted casual variations of this:

  • FarmVille requires players to fertilize each other’s crops
  • Happy Aquarium requires another player to open mystery crates in their fish tanks
  • Yoville has “Friend actions” that require friends to complete

Promoting interesting and longterm interdependent activities may increase the chances of a user staying active in the community.

An important aspect in the design of a system, the social group (2 players to many players) can be implemented in many creative ways:

Roles, or a division of labor, gives players a specialized function and presents an opportunity for designers to tap into player motivations and personality types.  For example with respect to the Myers-Briggs personalities:

The key is to offer an equally enjoyable experience for each role or personality type, which requires paying particular attention to balancing fun for each class.  Any function a user chooses to adopt should offer the same amount of fun and content.

World of Warcraft Looking for Group Screen

Make it easy to find the roles you are missing. Interdependencies can backfire if a particular class is too necessary to progress, too hard to find (rare), or unavailable for the team.  To address this, Blizzard built an innovative “Looking for Group” option making it easier to randomly fill parties.

Class homogenization can become boring.  Creating diverse and challenging jobs for players to master allows them a choice in how to contribute to the community.  And by leveraging a system of player interdependence you amplify the importance of relationships within a community.  Once meaningful relationships are established, there is little motivation for a player to leave the game.





Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley on Using Game Mechanics for Good

2 10 2010

Foursquare is a one of the first successful products in using game mechanics within a non-traditional gaming application to drive user engagement.  It is a mobile application that adds interest to real world locations within a engaging framework of badges and leader boards.  Users “check in” to places they visit, find friends, share comments and encourage exploration.

Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, spoke at the Web 2.0 Expo 2010 in New York to share a Foursquare thesis the company sought to prove:

Thesis #1: Can you use game mechanics to change behavior in the real world?

Crowley explains that game mechanics in this sense, can be used for good.  Foursquare hopes to motivate people to change in a positive way, by building real world social experiences that reward people for their actions.  From working out at the local gym to volunteering and philanthropy, game mechanics are a great way to recognize accomplishments and encourage behavior.

The presentation supports an earlier post where we discussed the benefits of using game mechanics to promote positive community behavior. The video below demonstrates new features in Foursquare:





Using Gamification to Minimize Community Management Costs

28 09 2010

How much does it cost you to moderate your online community?

For World of Warcraft and its 11 million players, those costs include over 2,056 game masters and 66 community forum managers, and probably would have cost much more, if not for game mechanics to prevent conflict and manage community interactions.

Gamification is an innovative way to reduce coordination costs, decrease moderation requirements, and promote positive social behavior.  But before looking at examples of implementations, we first examine how our online infrastructures have evolved.

New York University professor of New Media Clay Shirky spoke at a TED conference in 2005 about the subject of Institutions and Collaborations.  (Video linked below) In it, he defines the coordination costs of a company as “all of the financial or institutional difficulties in arranging group output”.  He shared some of his insights:

…Because the cost of letting groups communicate with each other has fallen through the floor, and communication costs are one of the big inputs to coordination, [an alternative to starting an institution] is to put the cooperation into the infrastructure, to design systems that coordinate the output of the group as a byproduct of the operating of the system without regard to institutional models.

….When you build cooperation into the infrastructure…you can leave the people where they are, and you take the problem to the individuals, rather than moving the individuals to the problem.  You arrange the coordination in the group, and by doing that you get the same outcome without the institutional difficulties.  You lose the institutional imperative, you lose the right to shape people’s work when it’s volunteer effort, but you also shed the institutional cost which gives you greater flexibility.

Build the system so that anybody can contribute at any amount.

Here Shirky presents the power of a cooperative community; the ability to surpass any amount of effort an institution could do on their own.  And tapping into this resource brings it’s own unique benefits – in this case, previously undiscovered photography. But he warns that the power of broad-reaching communication comes with some side effects:

 

…(in reference to a teenaged pro-anorexia community), We are used to support groups being beneficial,…but it turns out that the logic of the support group is value neutral.  A support group is simply a small group that wants to maintain a way of living in the context of a larger group…

The normative goals of the support  groups that we are used to came from the institutions that were framing them, and not from the infrastructure. Once the infrastructure becomes generically available, the logic of the support group has been revealed to be accessible to everyone.”

So in order to maintain some semblance of values and social protocol within an open and accessible infrastructure, companies are having to deal with high costs of moderation and community management.   And the larger the community, the more resources required.  There may be opportunities to channel this collaboration through a game-based design and allow institutions a scalable method of injecting values back into the system without the high overhead of additional personnel.

Gamification can add a persuasive framework of rules within a social online infrastructure to help guide user behaviors and actions.  By offering rewards and positive reinforcement, designers can build a foundation of acceptable social behavior within a community.

There are 2 ways to implement this:

1) Create rewards and tools for self moderation.

2) Design the environment to minimize social friction in game play.

Looking at existing MMO’s we find several examples of mechanics that minimize potential social conflict.  Mythic’s  Warhammer implemented an innovative mechanic called a Public Quest which removed the awkwardness associated with player invitations or dealing with potential rejections.

Public Quests (PQ’s) are area-based quests that trigger upon entering a zone.  They  involve a large number of players gathering together to complete the task at hand, and all rules are automatically handled by the system.  Anyone can participate, and by basing your roll, prize, and experience point gain on your contribution to the goal, they promote a fair system of reward with minimum stress.  This automated ability of giving players the chance to join teams and work together simply by being in the same area, presents a social game play mechanic that adds to the community experience.  In essence, the PQ becomes a way to bring players together and creates a sense of community pride.   (More on PQ’s are found in an article by Garrett Fuller here.)

An example of self-moderation through game mechanics is the design of eBay’s reputation system.   For every exchange on eBay, both buyer and seller are asked to post positive or negative scores to the person with whom he/she transacted.  A general score is publically displayed,  representing a user’s cumulative reputation within the system.  For the most part, buyers and sellers are honest.  And although the system can be abused, a completely open or unregulated marketplace would probably require higher moderation costs.

eBay Reputation Screen

“The 2008 Tribalization of Business” study was conducted by Beeline Labs, Deloitte and the Society for New Communications Research, where they asked what were the biggest obstacles people face to making communities work:

Beeline Labs is now Human 1.0

Not surprisingly, the top 2 results were user engagement (51%) and community management (45%).  Gamification addresses many of these obstacles by offering a structure of incentives (points, achievements, titles, based on personality and motivations) that encourage users to vote (like/dislike), moderate content,  and invite people to join.

Examples:

In essence, gamification is another way for companies to indirectly enforce value rules to a vast communications infrastructure.  And rather than penalizing users for bad behavior, the positive reinforcement rewards in gameplay may be enough to moderate the majority of participants, providing a scalable, efficient, and cost-effective system.  Ultimately some people will try gaming the system, so providing a method of constant feedback, either through analytics or surveys, will help you evolve the mechanics as necessary.

Promoting positive social interaction reduces the stress and overhead of community management, and creates a welcoming environment for your community to grow.  It can potentially transform an environment where people are reluctant to interact due to fear of negative reaction, into a more welcoming atmosphere that encourages participation.  There is a great amount of potential in the use of mechanics in this manner, and the associated savings from community management resources should appeal to most institutions.  We hope to see more of this implementation in future gamified sites.

Clay Shirky’s TED presentation: Institutions and Collaborations:

[Editted to add] Randy Farmer, an industry expert in building reputation systems spoke at Google Tech Talk where he shares challenges faced when using Gamification within a reputation system.  As always, designing for your audience is paramount, and certain aspects of Gamifiation may not apply to your users.  His comments, warnings and experiences are worth watching:

Reuters employs game mechanics to improve commentary onsite

Reuters is due to introduce a points system to its website that will manage and rate users’ comments, rewarding users with points and the ability to contribute without moderation…..Reuters’ plans will certainly encourage users to think about the way they’re commenting online if they want to continue to contribute to the community. If content and conversation improves, this will certainly have a positive impact on Reuters’ online reputation.  Read More.





Gamification Lessons from Sim’s Creator Will Wright

24 09 2010

Will Wright, one of the gaming industry’s most respected thought leaders, has been designing video games for over 25 years.  With blockbuster titles including SimCity, the Sims and Spore, Will has won numerous awards, earning Lifetime Achievement Awards by both Game Developers Choice and PC Magazine.

Will gave a insightful interview at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2009, where he shared thoughts on why his games have been successful at engaging people worldwide.   The following quote is from the video clip which is available for viewing (courtesy Fora.tv) below:

“Most people are very narcissistic.   The more you can make the game about that person, the more interesting, the more emotionally involved they will get.

(Interviewer) “Isn’t that the same thing about Amazon?”

“Yes, like the whole web thing, when you think about it, people like the idea of communicating and crafting their own identity.  Before the technology we have now came around, people did that with their choice of their wardrobe, or the kind of car they drove, or the kind of house they lived in…nowadays people are crafting more of their identity on the web and it’s a much lower friction, you don’t have to have a lot of money to create a really dense web presence or an elaborate one.

It can also say a lot more about who you are really. [For example] If you are really about protecting the endangered ring-tailed lemurs, you aren’t going to present that with your wardrobe probably. On the web though, I go to your Facebook Page and I can very clearly find out about the things you are passionately interested in very readily.

I think the intersection of these virtual identities that we’ve been crafting and experimenting with is starting to intersect and collide with kind of our real “face-to-face” identities in the real world in an interesting way.   I think games are going to be an aspect of that, they’re going to be one possible dimension of your personality .”

Will targets an important success factor in his game designs that can easily be translated into any gamified social system.  People are interested in directing their experiences, expanding on their personalities, and portraying this within online identities in the community.  Their choices are important and help define their personalities.

Personalization doesn’t necessarily mean graphical avatars and a full 3D gaming environment.  It may be presented as a simple series of attributes, levels, titles, activities and achievements.  From selecting virtual gifts to acquiring a specific title of status, to selecting a challenge out of a list of player-vs-player encounters, personalization is  one of the strongest catalysts for game-based engagement.

An example of how a title  (status  mechanic) can achieve this personalization is found in many massively multiplayer online (MMO) games today.  A title is the text found before or after a player’s character name.  MMO enthusiasts have been known to work outrageous hours across many months towards obtaining a title.

Interesting, fun titles in various MMOs are:

  • “God Walking Amongst Mere Mortals”  – GuildWars
  • “L33t Skills” – GuildWars
  • “Pie Eater” – Lord of the Rings Online
  • “Legendary”-  Star Trek Online
  • “Treasure Hunter” – Guild Wars
  • “Love Fool” – World of Warcraft
  • “The Insane” – World of Warcraft

If presented within a well designed UX, a gamified system that offers many choices and many paths to success can truly engage a user.  And by tailoring the mechanics to accommodate various personality types, people are thrilled to work and win in their own ways.

The complete 30 minute interview video is (well worth watching) found at Fora.tv





The Power of Virtual Gifts in a Gamified World

23 09 2010

Question:  If you had the choice between a real rose and a virtual rose, which would you choose?

Before answering, let’s take that virtual rose, and present it in some context.  Perhaps the virtual gift is an invitation, hinting at fun and social entertainment with friends.  Now make that virtual rose persistent, so the flower is available at every visit to your site.  Display the rose in a public environment, where others see the gift from a friend.  And lastly, add functionality to the rose, perhaps the rose completes a collection, unlocks new content, or provides new status within the community.

Virtual Gifts are experiences that can be used as positive and powerful social exchanges.  They make a message stand out.  Gift-giving involves an expectation of reciprocity, and the more valued the experience, the more resources in time, effort, or money people are willing to invest.

Rarity (scarcity) increases a virtual gift’s value, and time-limited offers create urgency.

A virtual gift can also represent status in level, price, or value.

Gifts can refer to anything that makes the receiver happier, and may be creatively interpreted to  include invitations, thank you’s, compliments, thoughtfulness, and kindness.  It is an effective and encouraging way to get the user to involve their social graph, and should be one of the first game mechanics a designer considers for their gamified site.

Examples from Facebook:

Entire products can be completely based on the gifting mechanic, as in the case of Facebook’s successful iHeart app.  This simple game quickly amassed over 29 Million Monthly Active Users just by giving and receiving hearts.  With over 170 different hearts to choose from, users gauge their status through an animated “beats per minute” heart rate.

Google implemented a gifting strategy for Gmail, inviting 1,000 industry thought leaders, and allowing them to invite their friends and family members as beta testers.  At regular intervals, Google offered more invitations for these Gmail users to distribute.  They also created a scarcity that caused the aftermarket price of Gmail invitations to skyrocket, some selling on eBay for as much as US$150.

(Source: Wikipedia History of Gmail)

Gifts, as we have seen in most game mechanics, can be presented from the perspective of personality types and motivaions:

 

Because virtual gifts are experiences, the actual implementation and design of the user experience for both giving and receiving are very important.  Small details such as wrapping paper and personalization transforms the virtual good from advertising to gift.  Design the UX for convenience, offering a fast, easy way to select friends.

Some interesting options for gift-giving features:

–  Keep track of who the user has sent gifts to, and remind users to send gifts often, especially to those who may have been overlooked.

– Offer a special group of items that may only be received as gifts.

– Personalizing gifts and wrapping paper as an added experience or upgrade.

– Depending on the cultural background, public gifts may be more valued. For example, how many Valentines or birthday wishes have you received?

– Be aware that any social interaction within your community is a potential for gifting, and should be studied.

Many cultures put strong emphasis in gift-giving.  When building virtual gifts, it may be useful to note some cultural differences.  The following list is compiled from various online sources:

International Gift – Giving

Chinese:

– Symbolism is important, with colors and numbers having special meaning. For instance, at Chinese New Year, Money may be given in a red envelope; it must be an even amount, using an even number of “new” bills.

– Red is a lucky color; pink and yellow represent happiness; and the number 8 is the luckiest number.

– The colors black, white and blue and the #4, or four of anything, are negatively associated with death or funerals. Also included in this category are clocks, handkerchiefs, and straw sandals.

– Another example of the importance of color is if a man wears a green hat it indicates his wife has been unfaithful to him.

– Sharp objects like knives or scissors represent a ‘severing of a friendship or relationship

– Always wrap the gifts you give. The paper should be appropriate to the occasion. Never use a combination of white and black paper.

– Avoid clocks.  In many Chinese dialects, the phrase “give clock” sounds the same as “see off into death”

– Handkerchiefs are associated with crying and funerals.

– Avoid packaging Items in sets of 4 unless it is a set of two pairs.

– Avoid using white chrysanthemum because it is a funeral flower in Korea and in China.

Vietnamese:

– Avoid giving towels as gifts because they symbolize bad luck and might bring the receiver hardships in the future. 

Japanese:

– The act of giving itself is as important as the gift.  If gifting with avatars, both hands are utilized for giving and this should be accompanied by a bow.

– Gift giving is an art form, representing friendship, respect, and gratitude. The ceremony is important; the gift is always in a gift box, or beautifully wrapped in quality paper, and given with great respect. The symbolism is what’s important.

– In Japan symbolism is important. A gift with a pair of items is considered lucky, but sets of four or nine are unlucky.

– The number 4 also means death;

– The color red is associated with funerals, so don’t give a pen with red ink, and don’t write out a card using red.

– Books aren’t appropriate

– Sharp objects like knives, scissors, and letter openers symbolize ‘severing a relationship’.

Latin Culture:

– Personalized gifts are highly valued in Latin culture.

– Symbolism in this culture will also influence the choices you make for gifts and wrapping paper.  Black or purple paper isn’t used because it’s used during Holy Week.

– Items associated with death or funerals that wouldn’t be used include handkerchiefs, and yellow, red or white flowers.

– As in other cultures, sharp objects such as knives or scissors should never be given, since they represent a ‘severing of a relationship’.

Brazilian Culture:

– People in Brazil don’t give purple flowers as gifts because it is unlucky.

Mexican Culture:

– People in Mexico don’t give a handkerchief as a present because it might turn friends into enemies.

Muslim Culture:

– The Koran forbids alcohol.

– Also forbidden are products that come from scavengers. For example, both pork and pigskin items are not allowed.

– Do not give personal clothing items.

– Dogs are considered unclean, so any dog item, even something with a picture of a dog would not be given

– An ideal gift is a compass so he can find the direction in which Mecca lies.

– Always give gifts with the right hand, or both hands. The left hand is never used alone to hand someone a gift, as it’s considered unclean.

– Knives because they have a sharp edge – severing relationships- are not appropriate.

– Artwork that consisted of sculptures, drawings or photos showing the human body, especially a nude or partially nude female body, is not acceptable as a gift.

Jewish Culture:

– Orthodox Jews are not allowed to eat pork and shellfish.

Hindu Culture:

– The cow is sacred in the Hindu culture. It is safer not to give anything related to animals at all.

– Most Hindus also do not drink alcohol.

– Once again, use your right hand or both hand to offer the gift.

– Fish and all animal products except milk or butter are shunned. Therefore, you would never select any leather or food product from these categories.

India

–  Do not give frangipani flowers, which are for funerals

–  Wrap Gifts in colors that are considered auspicious such as green, red, or yellow.

Avoid gifts that appear to be leather or made from other animals

– Avoid gifts wrapped in black or white paper, colors that are considered inauspicious

– Avoid Images or figures of dogs to Muslims. These are considered unclean.

Ukraine:

– People in Ukraine avoid giving a clock or a watch as a gift to young couples because it might cause the breakup of their relationships in the future.

Source for Cultural Gift giving:

http://imarketingsolutions.com/diversityresources/rc_sample/gift_giving.htm

http://www.international-business-etiquette.com/besite/international_gift_giving.htm