Yesterday’s Dilbert, in which Dilbert confronts his pointy-headed boss:
I’m sorry to say that gamification (a verbing in -ify from the noun game) is not some twisted invention of Scott Adams’s. And then there’s the question of what counts as garbage.
On gamification, from Wikipedia (with an awkwardly jargony first paragraph):
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, Return on Investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning. The word was coined [around 2002] by Nick Pelling.
Gamification techniques leverage people’s natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure.
A core strategy for gamifying is to provide rewards for players for accomplishing desired tasks. Types of rewards include points, achievement badges or levels, the filling of a progress bar, and providing the user with virtual currency.
Dilbert objects that these rewards have no value and are therefore garbage. The boss admits that “in the narrow sense” garbage is something without value, but shifts to the sense of “something you throw away” — prompting Dilbert to threaten to demonstrate that the rewards are garbage in that sense as well.
Waste words. NOAD2 on garbage:
wasted or spoiled food and other refuse, as from a kitchen or household.
• a thing that is considered worthless or meaningless: a store full of overpriced garbage.
• Computing unwanted data in a computer’s memory.
This captures the centrality (in North America, at any rate) of food waste to the category labeled garbage. (Note that a garbage disposal handles (certain sorts of) food wastes.)
Then there’s trash, where the idea of discarding things is central:
discarded matter; refuse.
• cultural items, ideas, or objects of poor quality: if they read at all, they read trash.
• a person or people regarded as being of very low social standing: she would have been considered trash.
In some contexts, garbage and trash are virtually interchangeable; for many North Americans, trash can and garbage can are close to synonymous (and refer to what’s called a rubbish bin in the UK). But many municipalities have chosen to use garbage and trash as distinct technical terms in the domain of waste management — with, unfortunately, different distinctions in different places: garbage as only food waste vs. trash as everything else, trash as compostable plant waste vs. garbage as everything else, and several definitions in between.
(The Palo Alto waste program has a curbside collection program for (separate categories) garbage, composting, and recyclables (defined on a website); a hazardous waste disposal facility; and a Clean Up Day for pickup of “unwanted items”, especially bulky things.)
In North America, rubbish is indeed used, but when contrasted to garbage and trash, it tends to be reserved for material that’s more substantial than garbage or trash — broken furniture and the like (see junk, below). Still, it has other uses. From NOAD2:
waste material; refuse or litter: an alleyway high with rubbish.
• material that is considered unimportant or valueless: she had to sift through the rubbish in every drawer.
• absurd, nonsensical, or worthless talk or ideas: I suppose you believe that rubbish about vampires.
This definition employs three more terms: waste, refuse, and litter.
Waste has come to be used as the most general technical term for unwanted materials (as in waste management, waste collection, etc.). From NOAD2:
material that is not wanted; the unusable remains or byproducts of something: bodily waste | (wastes): hazardous industrial wastes.
refuse matter thrown away or rejected as worthless; trash: heaps of refuse | refuse collection.
litter trash, such as paper, cans, and bottles, that is left lying in an open or public place: fines for dropping litter.
• [in sing.] an untidy collection of things lying about: a litter of sleeping bags on the floor.
Finally, two more waste terms:
junk informal old or discarded articles that are considered useless or of little value.
• worthless writing, talk, or ideas: I can’t write this kind of junk.
• Finance junk bonds.
debris scattered fragments, typically of something wrecked or destroyed: the bomb hits it, showering debris from all sides.
• loose natural material consisting esp. of broken pieces of rock: a stable arrangement of planets, comets, and debris orbiting the sun.
• dirt or refuse: clean away any collected dust or debris.
(Construction waste is often called debris.)
So the pointy-headed boss’s gamification rewards count as garbage, trash, and rubbish, maybe junk as well, and are on their way to becoming waste and refuse.