On the side of hectic Gamification work, my friends and I have been working on an iOS app that I really needed, and I felt that more people in the world could benefit from.
Since while I’m driving, I’m often in meetings on my phone, and at the end of the meetings, I often don’t remember where I parked (yes, this is one of my handicaps), and need to waste precious time finding my car.
For years, the debate on video games and their impacts on the psyches of players has dominated social and political discourse, especially around industry regulations. The question of whether or not video games cause violence is certainly controversial and its fierce debate particularly arises in the aftermath of school shootings and mass murders. Naturally, people seek reasons to explain why these events occur and look for ways our society can stop them from happening again. What fuels these debates is that In many cases, investigations reveal that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes spent enormous amounts of time playing violent video games.
For some, it is clear that video game violence contributed to these tragedies. Yet research shows that the incidence of youth violence in particular, is at an all time low, falling by half between 1994 and 2010 while video game sales have more than doubled in this since 1996.
Some politicians are convinced that pervasive violence in video games contribute to real acts of violence. Last month, Business Insider reported on a tax reform presented by the House GOP which sought to prevent creators of violent video games from receiving an R&D tax credit for research and experimentation.
Despite the strong anti-violent video game rhetoric and biases of the federal government, the Supreme Court ruled (in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants, 2011) that video game content is protected under the First Amendment and can’t be regulated by government. The Court also dismissed psychology research as unpersuasive as some studies seem to support a causal relationship between violence in video games and aggressive behavior in real life while others support no clear link.
In an age when violence in video games is more vivid and graphic than ever before, it is natural for parents and educators to question if their kids and young adults should be left to play and watch what they want.
Peer-reviewed research is looked to as a source of objective truth but, as it stands now, the findings have not pointed to any clear answers. Though lack of clarity continues to dominate the debate, here are a few notable studies that can help guide your own thinking on this issue.
Many women and children in developing countries have very limited opportunities to shape their futures. Their are countless tragic stories of abuse, intolerance, oppression, and suffering that because of their diminished voice go unnoticed by the rest of the world. Half the Sky Movement is a transmedia initiative that was created to shed light on the struggles of mothers, young girls and their families in countries like Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. The project has received the support of celebrities like Diana Lane, America Ferrara and Olivia Wilde. What makes this initiative so appealing and powerful is how it combines different forms of media to share stories, raise awareness, and find solutions to a host of serious gender-based injustices.
Why the Half the Sky Movement Exists
Women in many parts of the world face specific abuse and crimes that continue to impact the daily lives of them and their children. In some of the countries mentioned previously, women often do not have equitable opportunities for real education nor security in a stable economic future- Women perform two thirds of the world’s total working hours but only earn 10% of wages. Statistics on school dropout rates are also dismal (according to Half the Sky, 1 out of every 5 primary school-age girls around the globe are not in school) This ultimately contributes to a cycle of illiteracy and poor career opportunities.
Without access to proper medical care, women often face a high risk of dying from complications related to pregnancy. Women are also victims to severe gender-based crimes such as rape and other forms of social, mental, and physical abuse. The exploitation of women as prostitutes by sex trafficking rings continues to be a growing global problem and in many cases, the laws in their countries fail to protect them from harm and often work against their interests.
Without resources and opportunities to change their own circumstances, the direct and indirect oppression of women continues to be a systematic and cyclical gross injustice.
To combat this and transform lives, The Half the Sky Movement aims to cut “… across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time (Half the Sky Movement).”
As many of you are well aware, the potential of gamification extends far beyond recreational fun. And 2013 was the year that a new book was published exploring this exact topic. It’s calledPlay at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking by Adam Penenberg, a professor of journalism at New York University. He is also the assistant director at NYU’s business and economic program. As a media contributor, he has written for Fast Company, New York Times, Washington Post. He as also appeared on the Today Show, American Morning on CNN, ABC’s World News and Money Line.
Penenberg reminds us that games are everywhere. They are no longer thought of as being just for children and computer geeks. There is an endless array of mobile game apps for kids of all ages. Twitter can be considered a game where interesting tweets can grow the number of RT’s and followers. There are also lottery games like Powerball, Take Five and Mega Millions. Nissan has even incorporated a game within their newest models to encourage drivers to compete for the best efficiency levels.
Traditional forms of teaching seek to inspire learning, creativity, divergent thought processes, personal productivity and smart problem solving. As much as parents and teachers want to impart these lessons, they feel like obligatory lists of shoulds and to-do’s for most people. But when these objectives are integrated with thoughtful game design, they can be met quite easily and effortlessly. This dynamic has led to the development of highly innovative and practical applications for learning and productivity, particularly for business organizations, science, medicine, technology and culture.
The use of game mechanics within the workplace and other fields which depend on innovation has led to phenomenal results. Not only is information being easily assimilated and remembered, but also being applied effectively in real situations. And through quality game design, purposeful ideas and solutions are being generated at a faster rate than ever before.
Penenberg feels that mundane tasks can turn into fun activities that employees would actually be motivated to play. But this is not to say that games should be designed as efforts to squeeze more productivity out of them. Instead, the objective of the game design should be to cultivate a sense of fulfillment, engagement and satisfaction. With this intent, games can be designed to truly provide enriching and rewarding growth experiences, instead of bribing players with points.
Play at Work cites examples such as Google, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Loreal, Canon, Wells Fargo, Lexus, FedEx, UPS and IBM.
This is a special post mostly for my awesome regular readers. I was thinking about just suddenly one-day update my blog with a new look and surprise a lot of people, but at the end, I decided to go with the lean-startup way of getting user feedback and adjusting towards a final good product.
I’ve been thinking about updating the design of my blog for a while now. This theme has been around for 5 years and it’s not completely SEOed up. I also wanted something that stands out more and is more memorable, more immersive and game-like. I wanted something that people can explore too.
So I ran some analysis of my own blog. I’ll write about this later, but for every gamified campaign, the first thing I tell my clients to do is to define the following (I call this the Strategy Dashboard):
Business Metrics -> Game Objectives
Users -> Players
Desired Actions -> Win-State
User Metrics -> Stats
Incentives -> Carrots
For my own blog analysis, I won’t boggle you down with the details, but for two of the items above, I determined
Business Metrics for my Gamification Blog (based on order of importance)
Consulting and Speaker Engagements
Contact Form Submissions
Go to Octalysis Post
Share on Social Networks
Unique Serious Visitors
Desired Actions for my Gamification Blog (Based on Chronological Order)
Go onto site through interesting content
Comment on the blog
Get to Octalysis Post
Get to Video Guides
Get to About Me Page and Consulting Page
Signup to the Captain Up widget on the right
Click on Contact Form
Complete Contact Form
Thinking behind new Gamified Blog
My new blog had a few goals. The first goal is to get people to go onto my Octalysis post. From my Google Analytics, I see that anyone who goes onto my Octalysis post has by far lower bounce rates, higher time-on-site, and higher return chances. This basically means that if I wanted engaged users, I need to pipe them into my Octalysis as much as possible. As you can see, I’m also incorporating more of that into my current design.
The second goal is to get people to start watching my Beginner’s Guide to Gamification Video Series. At the beginning, this started off as a hobby project (and I had no idea how busy I would be these days so I gave myself an ambitious goal), and even though it was fun to show friends and colleagues, I’ve been a bit self-conscious about it, as it may be too non-serious/goofy to show potential enterprise clients.
If you have been following the series, you know that in the episodes where I’m getting beat up by alien lobster creators, I’m going down a snow slope while trying to teach gamification, and there’s even an episode where I sing a cover song that is entirely about how awesome I am (lyrics goes: “Yu-kai Chou – he’s my hero! Gonna take boringness down to zero!” And yes, great for laughs between friends, but I’d always thought this would deter me from getting new clients.
So for a while, I hid my videos on my site so average visitors won’t find them.
However, after a while, I noticed that even though less than 5% of my site visitors watched my video, more than 50% of the people who reached out to me for consulting have watched the videos, which shows that, if anything, they do not hurt my chances of getting consulting gigs (and may even help!). As a result, I want my new users to see my video.
The third goal is to make sure people recognize who the author of the site is. More often than not, people would browse through a bunch of content, learn from it, and not realize who the author is. Since part of my goal for my site is personal branding, I think it’s crucial that people recognize who I am. Perhaps, that’s also the reason why my videos convert well – I ascend from pure information into a personality.
Implementation Plan for the Gamification Blog
So the idea I had was to do a few things:
Create an immersive experience through a futuristic city (sort of like being in a game)
Every element should be something relevant to the city
My main blog content should be an LED screen on a building (sort of like New York Times Square)
My video should be a TV Screen or billboard in the city, and it either will show the latest video, or perhaps a live show I’m putting on at the moment.
The Octalysis post should be the sun on top (and is the most abstract shape/concept in the chart) so people would want to click on it.
The sidebar should also be a side building with a variety of content on it
My picture and bio should be another object in the city, primarily a blimp that is pulling a big banner ad.
I’m experimenting with icon-based navigation menus to add a bit of fun into the process. You won’t know exactly what it is at the beginning, but eventually you might get curious 😉
Instead of having a box that talks about my Twitter followers, it would be cool if the twitter bird sits on top of the screen and talks to the reader. Sometimes I can even put in messages like, “Yu-kai’s new book is coming out!” or “Live show happening in 9:29)
Original concept design work for the Gamified Blog
A lot of people ask me what I actually do for clients. Well, besides helping them define the 5 things mentioned above in the Strategy Dashboard, run an Octalysis audit through the Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame Phase, adding improvements/suggestions based on the 8 Core Drives, refining everything down to a feature list based on the effectiveness and difficulty scores, I also help clients create concept wireframes so their designers/engineers know exactly what to build.
Below is a “concept” wireframe I made for myself. I passed the below as the original concept to my designer, and after 7 reiterations, we finally reach to what you see above.
Personal Blindspots for the Gamification Blog
I’ll be honest, when it comes to designing my own stuff, especially when it’s something so personal with my face all over the place, it’s hard to be objective. I feel like I have a lot of blindspots because I want a very vibrant and rich world where users can explore and enjoy the experience of browsing through a variety of content (I have a lot of interesting/cool ideas coming up…)
However, I also often tell my clients that they need to be very clear on the “desired actions” towards the users’ “win-state.” If a user CAN do 20 things, they end up feeling decision paralysis and end up doing nothing. I had a feeling I was straying away from my own advice, so I made some tough decisions to cut out some really cool but complex ideas.
Still I feel that the new design might be too complex for someone newly on the site. At the same time, my own credentials are very small. I feel like a new user who has not seen this a thousand times would feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that they can interact with. This is usually fine in a virtual world, but I have not tested this in a content website.
Fresh-Eyes Feedback Please?
I would love to get some feedback from all of you before I commit resources to engineers to build this out. I also might take this post down once I have decided and the development work starts (so hopefully for some other readers this will still have some element of surprised 😉 ). Please let me know if you have any concrete advice and suggestions that I can take before having a developer build it.
You may have heard of it in the media. Bitcoin is the new, hot “virtual currency” that is not only attracting the attention of millions of individuals, but banks, the federal government, state governments, and a number of national governments. And importantly, the attention of venture firms – companies like Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Union Square Ventures, which have all recently invested in Bitcoin-based start-ups.
Oh yea, some of you are busy. Before continuing with the hype of Bitcoin, here is a summary of the things you should know about It.
Bitcoin is a secure digital currency, created by computers “mining” complex mathematical problems.
There is a mathematical limit of 21 Million Bitcoins that can EVER exist
Even though there are already over 11M Bitcoins mined in the last few years, there is diminishing marginal return on mining, and so experts expect it will take another 100 years before all 21 Million of then are mined out.
Because Bitcoins can be permanently lost, hence destroyed, (and it happens regularly on accident), the existing Bitcoins will never be close to the 21 Million max.
Almost ALL kinds of businesses are trading with Bitcoins now, online and offline: from gambling sites to your local barber or dentist.
Due to true scarcity, diminishing marginal returns on mining, and a growing sense of trade ubiquity, it is quite possible for a Bitcoin to be worth $10,000s or $100,000s in value. (Of course, it is also possible for it to drop to $0)
Okay, back to the hype story of Bitcoin
In April Tim Draper, founder of Silicon Valley’s Draper Fisher Jurvetson, led a seed-funded investment in CoinLab, itself a Bitcoin business incubator. Shortly after it secured a series A round of $6.11M. Winklevoss Capital Management (yes, the twins from the Facebook story), submitted a filing with the SEC in July, in a bold step to launch the first Bitcoin ETF (exchange traded fund). Estimated to own 1% of all Bitcoins, the twins plan to commit the entire stash to the fund, establishing a roughly $13,000,000 base. And now, even Google Ventures has entered the fray with its small seed investment in OpenCoin, the developer of an open source payment system for virtual currencies.
Bitcoin promises to be the democratic currency for the common man, yet a great investment vehicle (not without unpredicted risks) for those “smart” VC’s in the Valley and other investors around the world. At the same time Bitcoin millionaires have been created, who are naturally interested because their accounts cannot be frozen or seized, at least for now.
So, What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual (digital) currency network, though more specifically a “cryptocurrency” network, where the creation and transfer of value is based on an open-source cryptographic protocol that is independent of any central authority. The term “bitcoin” also refers to the basic unit of currency within this system. Born in 2009, the network is global – allowing currency to be moved between countries almost instantaneously without involving government regulation or control by traditional banking systems.
Bitcoins are generated from a process of mathematical mining, which is used to secure the network. However, instead of yielding a unit of gold or silver, this process yields an encrypted string of data, known as a hash, equal to a unit of virtual currency. All bitcoins are generated (mined) and all transactions are tracked (secured) by a global network of peer-to-peer computers using standard Internet protocol.
Why Bitcoin is special.
There are a number of fundamental features which make bitcoins and the Bitcoin network attractive to users. Some reflect the characteristic qualities of the more traditional “quality” currencies, while others are distinctive to cryptocurrencies. Here are some of the more compelling features which make Bitcoin unique:
Instead of traditional government oversight and banking control, the Bitcoin economy is monitored and maintained by its global network. This global network provides a means to support, verify and secure the comprehensive public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions. No government, company, or organization runs the Bitcoin network – it is fully distributed among its users.
Though all transactions are public, they are not tied to one’s identity. Therefore, each and every transaction is not only secure but anonymous – the user controls anonymity and traceability. They protect their privacy.
The system is highly encrypted and secured by a global network of computers which check every transaction for uniqueness, to insure that no coin is reproduced or double spent. This essentially makes bitcoins impossible to counterfeit.
There is a comprehensive public ledger which tracks all transactions – the “block chain”. While this enables every transaction to be viewed in public, the parties involved remain undisclosed.
The supply of bitcoins is predetermined and coded into the encrypted network. This prevents the random or indiscreet “printing” of money into the system. This makes Bitcoin more attractive as a long term store of value, or eventual investment vehicle.
Bitcoins are carried in a digital wallet. These wallets can be located on your computer, smart phone, an iPod Touch, or in the cloud. The amount of bitcoin is not restricted by physical size. You can carry thousands of dollars worth of bitcoins onto a plane or dining out without a problem. And they are invisible.
Point to point transactions are, in general, free of any charges. Individuals can use Bitcoins in direct exchange for products and services – no transaction fees or bank charges. In this sense it’s like cash. For large transfers, online retail purchases, or exchange services – such as purchasing dollars with bitcoins, the service fees are normally a small fraction of what banks and money handling institutions would change for Fiat currencies. In these cases, bitcoin is essentially frictionless.
Market Growth –
Last but not least, Bitcoin has exploded in the past year, from a market cap of some $50M in 2012 to over $1.4B in 2013. Exchanges rates for bitcoins were as little as a few cents per coin in 2011 to $20 in 2012, and are now hovering around $120 in 2013. Though the future is still unpredictable, the bitcoin has shown increased price stability with time.
What makes Bitcoin special among virtual currencies.
(Warning: this post is NOT about gamification, but just more about me. You will not gain in intellectual capability by reading this post, so please decide if you think this would be worth your time. But after all, the name of this site is YukaiChou.com, so I think this post would still be appropriate, regardless of how egotistical it may seem)
I almost had a heart attack
So I was greedy.
Every once in a while I get invited to go do some workshops, panels, or keynotes that require extensive traveling. Even though some are not the best paid and have extremely high opportunity costs (working with my clients, or just family time), my personal agenda is to make sure the world does gamfication properly instead of just slapping on PBLs on everything, so I tend to say yes when I can as long as the organization’s offer seems fair and sincere.
In mid-April I was invited to two separate Keynote opportunities, one in Atlanta, Georgia and the other in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The one in Atlanta was a private conference for a couple dozen Chief Learning Officers of Fortune 500s gathering up to learn about the latest trends in employee training and compliance within the enterprise space (by the way, I feel that the employees of these particular companies should feel especially fortunate because these companies truly care about the growth of employees…to the point they have C-Level Officers dedicated to that).
The one in Denmark was co-hosted by the Denmark Innovation Center (funded by the Denmark government) and Innovation Labs, a great knowledge technology center in Denmark. They have a conference on Gamification that attracted close to 100 of the most forward-thinking executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals in Denmark – awesome people in an awesome country.
The Rude Awakening
Since I more often than not check my emails with my iPhone on the go, I didn’t get a chance to go through my calendar carefully (checking surrounding dates) before I told both events that I was interested and available (of course, we also had other conversations about potential topics, length, etc.) But when I later went back and checked my calendar, I was in for a shock.
The Atlanta talk was the afternoon of June 19th, and the Denmark talk was first thing in the morning on June 20th.
Oh crap. What did I get myself into.
At that point, the wise (but faint) voice in my head said I should probably email the event organizer of one of the events and cancel my commitment in order to ensure that I don’t end up being a major disappointment to anyone. The greedy (and somehow more charismatic) voice in my head said, “But is there really no way to make this work out?”
Before anything, I did email both event organizers and transparently shared that I was facing this dilemma, that I “may” end up canceling if I couldn’t work out the details, just so that they would have some heads up.
The Poetic Monologue
I was thinking that perhaps one of them would help me solve this dilemma by responding, “No problem. We have a few other speakers that have confirmed their attendance and they could do the Keynote instead. Enjoy your other talk!”
Very sly, Yu-kai. Delegating the moral decision on someone else’s time. I also like how those two words rhyme, and for that, maybe you should reward me with a dime on top of some lime. Alright, I’m sorry. I’m done. I promise.
Thinking about this entire thing was making me anxious. If I went for both, it would really be a hit-or-miss. If I could pull this off, I would feel like a hippopotamus – full of bliss. But if something went wrong with the airline service, I’d be seen as a complete conference menace. Of course, I’m not ready to take that type of diss, as It would be worse than drinking cow piss.
And even if I did pull it off, I would probably be delirious and people would think I had been remiss. Or perhaps I would be so awesome that people wouldn’t even notice…but that just sounds like a naive practice without a sound basis. And despite being consumed by this foolishness, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about this with a bad premise. There’s so much potential in gamification that the world can harness, and all I really wanted is to show up and make it surface.
So if it has to come to this, which one should I dismiss?
With all the Fortune 500’s, going to Atlanta could really help my business. And because of my parents, I was just in Geneva last Christmas. But a chance to visit Europe is hardly something one should just miss, especially when I heard that the other keynote is Deterding, who besides being a respected pundit, is often a doubting Thomas when he sees things amiss. I could also go and visit William Baeyens (you can kind of think of him as my apprentice), whom I believe is based in Paris.