I'm suddenly seeing badges everywhere.
Location-aware apps like Foursquare and Gowalla award them for things like visiting more than four venues in one night (the "crunked" badge) or checking into the kind of venue known for a particular personality type (the "douchebag" badge).
And now I'm getting badges in nearly every game and entertainment app I use, often with oddly low standards and notifications like "Award: Launching-the-App-for-the-First-Time Badge!"
This goes back - as all good things do - to video games; badges act like little food pellets that help keep you motivated in between levelling up and winning extra lives.
But there's no question they work, so don't be surprised when they start popping up in more mainstream applications. The Inbox Zero merit badge could well be built into the next version of Outlook; PowerPoint users (at least the ones I've been seeing lately) could be unlocking the "20 bullet points and 16 fonts in one slide!" badge.
Those badges seem to fill some deep-seated craving from our inner Brownies and Cub Scouts. All that's missing is a proud virtual parent to sew them onto a digital sash for us... and I'm pretty sure that's coming, too.