Monthly Archives: March 2011

FitBit

How you can exercise, write and communicate more by making it a game.

The word “gamification” is popping up all over the Internet and business world.  The idea is that if you can make a process into a game with rewards and detailed stats, you can make that process more compelling.  If it is more compelling you will keep coming back to it, and then it becomes a habit.

Unsurprisingly, actual games do gamifying best; game makers have years of experience consuming and creating games.  But gamification can apply to a number of different areas.  Social check-in services use the idea of points and badges to keep people using their applications.  SalesForce.com has actually implement game like elements in their software to keep workers focused on getting “next steps” done.  Many web sites employ a progress meter to encourage new users to complete a number of steps so they will explore and gets the most out of a product.

Some would say that if you have to turn something into a game, then it likely isn’t worth doing on its own.  While there might be some truth to that, gamification can actually be used to get people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t, and those actions can provide real value to themselves and others.

Turning activity and fitness into a game.

FitBit sitting on its charger stand.One area I have explored gamification for my own life is weight loss and exercise.  Experts for years have recommended writing down what you eat, how much you exercise and how much you weigh.  If you are more advanced, they also recommend body fat measurement.  Not surprising if you track these things on a regular basis, they become a great part of your consciousness, and you also see the improvements based on your actions.

It isn’t easy to find time to chart all of these things, so it is great that technology is allowing us to find easier ways to accomplish this.  In terms of activity and sleep, FitBit is a small pager like device that you simply clip to your clothing.  It uses a Wii-like sensor to track your movement throughout the day and even at night.  Your daytime activity is tracked like a pedometer.  So you can see how active you are and how much you moved on any given day.  At night, the FitBit tracks how you sleep, how much you move and can provide suggestions based on the data it accumulates.

Even better, you don’t have to plug the FitBit into your computer every day.  As part of the package you get a wireless receiver that plugs into your computer and whenever the FitBit is in range, it transfers the data.  You do have to charge the FitBit every three to four days, but this is a huge improvement over plugging a device in daily.

We know Foursquare has game elements. How about Twitter?

Example @ mentions (i.e. rewards) from my LLSocial Twitter account.Another area that gamification has been helpful is in social media.  Something doesn’t even have to be designed as a game to create the characteristics of one.

When I first got started using Twitter (my favorite form of social media), I kept using it early on because I kept getting followers.  Some of those followers were undoubtedly bots or completely random, but some of them were real people in my community.  I didn’t know if they were actually reading what I was saying, but this was a tiny bit of positive feedback (a reward if you will) that kept me posting thoughts and links I found interesting.

As I continued to use Twitter, I got additional feedback in the form of @ mentions and retweets.  That meant that at least a few people were actually reading what I was saying and found it useful or interesting enough to take action on.

Twitter isn’t a game per say, but it mimicks a game because it slowly provided rewards based on positive actions.  The rewards built up over time as I read what people I followed posted, engaged them on their content and appreciated when they did the same.

I think Twitter is valuable enough that I would have kept using it without all these little rewards, but I am not 100% on that.  Those who know me well, will tell you that my inquisitive nature makes it so I can jump from idea to idea without following through.  I am happy to say that everything in my life doesn’t have to be a game, and that I have enough discipline to work on projects that aren’t fun.  But having some type of loop that provides positive feedback, is useful for me. This is especially true when accomplishing more difficult and multi-step tasks like weight loss, writing and even exploring unfamiliar situations and applications.

Want to write more? Gamify it.

A look at just some of the stats 750 Words provides.In addition to FitBit one additional “product” I would like to share is a website that gamifies writing.  It is called 750 Words.  The basis of this free “game” is that you are asked to write 750 words a day.  Their interface is simple and easy to use.  You get badges for consistently meeting your goals, and like many good games, it provides tons of stats so you can see your progress in great details.

I know I can write without turning it into a game.  But how powerful is it to turn something so important into a daily habit with small rewards thrown in.

If you have written in the past, write now or just want to write more consistently, I recommend checking out 750 Words.  And yes, this blog post was origionally created using 750 Words.

Gamification is a buzz word for good reasons.

Maybe Fitbit and 750 Words aren’t the right fit for you, but if you want to tackle a difficult task or a part of your life where you have had occasional or minimal success in the past, considering typing in to Google what you want to accomplish along with “gamification”.  Games aren’t just kids play if they actually help accomplish your goals.

Do you have examples where a game like system helped you accomplish a goal?  Do you think gamification is meaningful or just another fad?  I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Twitter Monetization

If Twitter is worth billions, will the ads to achieve that number ruin the experience?

The issue of monetization should be near and dear to the hearts of anyone who loves a certain social media platform.  If you are taking the time to actually read a blog about social media, you likely already understand the value social media has to you and perhaps your business.

One of the reasons that I love Twitter is that I choose who to follow and thus I choose who I give attention to.  If a product or person is interesting or useful, I opt in to giving that brand or person my attention.


But how does Twitter, the company itself, make money?  The application is so big now and the evaluations of what the company are worth are so high (5, 7, 10 or even 20 billion), that Twitter has to be able to find a way to make a significant profit off of its users.

Twitter’s new iPhone app, is providing us, Twitter users, with a view into the future of what Twitter will be.  And I am concerned it will become too commerical.

Most of the controversy about the new app is a result of the “Quick Bar” that Twitter installed across the top of the app this past week.  It is billed as being useful because, as Twitter puts it, “it shows trends and other important things.”  Most people just found it annoying.

In response, Twitter made it so the this “Quick Bar” only appeared at the top of the the application and didn’t sit on top of all the user’s Tweets as they scroll.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal either way, so why does it matter for the future of Twitter?

It matters, because much of Twitter’s early revenue has come from promoted trends, promoted tweets and promoted accounts. 

In the past, these “ads” haven’t seen so noticable as to be distracting.  They are usually highlighted with a yellow “Promoted” icon, that while catching the eye, isn’t that intrusive.  I personally don’t find trends that interesting, whether promoted or not, so I rarely look at them.  But when I do, I usually see a movie, TV show or some event specific campaign by a brand.  If this is all it took for Twitter to make money, I would be fine with it, but it won’t be enough to achieve these billion dollar evaluations that Twitter is currently receiving.

The Quick Bar highlights promoted trends in a way that is more intrusive, and it forshadows the introducation of actually advertising tweets into our timeline.
This spring, I know it is scary, but ads will start to show up in your timeline.

And while the Quick Bar might affect early adoptors who rushed to get the newest Twitter app, actual ads showing up in the timeline, will affect everyone who uses the service, no matter what app or platform they use.

I am not happy about having ads show up in the timeline, but I am willing to live with it, if it doesn’t decrease my user experience too much and if it allows Twitter to keep going.

How Twitter walks this fine line is important to millions of users who have given their attention over to Twitter and who will have to decide, as ads start to become part of everyday use, if that attention is warranted.