Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don't be afraid to stand out

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Time and time and again I've been confronted with colleagues that prefer to stand in the background and not be differentiated from the rest. Nowadays this invariably makes me think: why the hell not?

Sometimes I think it's a clear case of lack of confidence in themselves and their know-how, which is understandable. In those cases I like to remember a common quote by Richard Branson that says "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later.". I've lost a few great opportunities for fear of failure, but now I do my best to remember this as often as I can.
Other times, people stand in the background, and I think this is the most common scenario, for fear of being in the spotlight. Yes I know, it's an obvious justification, but let me continue: it's not that they don't know their trade, they do; the thing is they don't want to get noticed by "the brass" and risk too much responsibility, aka, leaving their confort zone.
I've been there before: that state of mind where you do your job, follow the tasks laid out by your management and when the option comes for more exposure you step back and opt out. Lately though, with all my efforts directed at learning more and more about gamification and evangelizing it in my company, I've been "thrown to the lions" more times than I can count. And you know what? That's ok! It can be scary when your audience is the CEO, or even your colleagues and friends that you'll want to impress the most and make them proud. But believe me that every experience is going to make you grow, even the ones that go wrong. Especially those.
And if you're afraid of making too much of a splash start small: after all, what's life but a series of stepping stones to greater goals? But do it.
Some people say I have a knack for public speaking, but believe me, that is most certainly NOT my opinion. But I want it to be. I want to be that guy that people invite to talk about whatever theme is required. The thing is, I feel that if you don't take a step outside your confort zone, you're almost certainly not going to grow into the professional or individual that you want to become. And that requires standing out, putting your name out there and risking some misshaps. But hey, as Fernando Pessoa would say "stones in the path? I keep all of them, one day I'll build myself a castle...".
And it's really weird to translate Pessoa.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What good is being awesome if no one knows about it?

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I was wondering the other day about one or two colleagues of mine that are really good at what they do. And I mean really good. I've had the pleasure of working with quite a few amazingly competent people in my short career, but surprisingly, not that many of our colleagues knew or know right now how good these people are. And that phenomenon has been relatively constant throughout the years.
When you come to think of it, it's not that surprising: our culture is not one to encourage bragging. Let me rephrase that: our culture is one where self-advertising is considered bragging, which is seen as rude worldwide. No matter how humbly you do it. This of course generates a posture of not talking about what you did or not sharing amazing content you've created, just for the sake of keeping low and off the management's radar.
The problem is that this way of thinking only works if your plan is to sit at a computer doing the same stuff all over again for the rest of your life. And if you're ok with that, this post ends here for you, so cheers lad! :D
If you're not ok with that, let me tell you something: social networking was the best thing to happen to the internet after Google. The advent of Facebook, Twitter and all that followed, ushered a new age of global awareness and new channels for promoting yourself and your skills. Why should you do it? Because of Math of course.
Factor this in: you're in your bullpen/open-space/shared office with your colleagues. You're in a team that communicates a lot, so everybody's aware of each other's worth. You've got what, six people around you? Let's say ten. Ten people that know how good your work was in this project.
Now imagine a global community, with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people that may be aware of your digital footprint, be it directly or indirectly. Do you realize the amount of hits a post from you can get even if it's by accident? Imagine hundreds of people reading what you've said, or high-fiving an answer you gave in a forum, or sharing a link you in turn shared yourself. The networking that is generated by a minimum of action is at worst two times more widespread than what you could do by talking to your team. That is the power of going social.
And it's not about bragging, it's about sharing your thoughts, contributing to online communities, spreading the knowledge, etc. Is it scary having all that people reading your posts, probably judging or even just trolling you for the fun of it? Yeah, it can be. But we live in an age where almost everyone in your team's an ok programmer, or a good-enough analyst, so you need an upper hand.
You don't need to tell the world how good you are, but at least let them see it for themselves. Make social networking your not-so-secret weapon!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On spreading yourself too thin

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For the second time in a relatively short span, I've received the same advice from two different people: don't spread yourself too thin.

It should be noticed that I've been receiving that same advice from friends for the past 4 or 5 years, but these last two people were not my friends, as in they didn't know of my propensity to throw myself into things. They were just faced with one of my bursts of creativity and reacted according to their know-how.
I should also say that these advices were given in totally different manners as well as totally different contexts: the first began with a destructive punch to the gut followed by a careful call for regroup; the second was more of a "look that's all nice and dandy, but here's what I think you should do" moment.

The message however was the same:

I know you have a lot of ideas, that's great! And I know you want to do it all, which is also great! It shows both creativity and initiative! But when you go for all of it, you're spending a huge amount of your energy and you're probably not going to be able to do it all at once. Or at least not as well as how you intended. The End Product is going to be below your standards, you'll get frustrated and that's going to expend even more energy, which in turn will impact your next ideas... you can see where this is going right?

Yes, I could. Of course, this is all very interesting and obvious and an homage to Captain Common Sense. The problem is: how do you solve this? Do you focus on just one or two great ideas and put the others on ice so you can concentrate on making the chosen ones your shining glory? Won't the frozen ideas lose their relevance over time? Or do you maybe go around distributing ideas like a creativity santa? Can you trust others to follow up on your precious concepts and brilliant contributions? And destroy them? A really epic idea can be made useless if handled by a less-than-able person.

As it happens, in both cases the proposed solution was the same: to concentrate on that one, or those two ideas that could really shine and make them awesome. None of them however said anything about the others that aren't picked for the starting line up. And I never remembered to ask, because that's me.

I can see the merit in focusing on just two or three ideas and working them into jewels, but as you can see, in the previous paragraph I was talking about one or two, and now I'm talking about three. When I start thinking about narrowing my focus I imediately run for the hills. When I start boxing my creativity outbursts I get hampered and start losing that ability to blurt out ideas, as random as they are.
And besides that, every one of these ideas are my babies: of course you'll have your favorites, but it'll be goddamn hard to choose which one to sacrifice for the bigger brother to live in prosperity.

What I realized was that my biggest problem resided with the fact that I just couldn't let go. In all honesty, I don't know if it's "Lord of the Rings Syndrom" (mine, my own, my precious!) or if it's lack of confidence in others.
Once, in a conversation with Rui Cordeiro, a portuguese reference on gamification, I asked this question about letting go of your ideas while still claiming ownership, to which he said "isn't it all for the greater good? so what's the problem in letting go? and if you're worried about quality, make sure you hand it to the best guy (or girl) you've got and keep checking in for guidance. and if you tell everyone about it, it's going to be known whose idea it was in the first place.". I was feeling pretty childish right about then.

So, my conclusion was that, in hindsight I could focus on just two or three ideas to really make them shine (just the one is impossible for me, I'd get bored out of my mind!) and with the rest of them I decided on a mixed approach: I'd share some of them with others, not the second best ones, but still ideas worth pursuing, or ideas in which my contribution wouldn't be that essential, while keeping the second best ones on ice until I found a rockstar that I really felt could lead them to victory.
Does this mean I think of myself as a rockstar? No. What it means is that it's so hard for me to trust another person's work, that in order for me to do that, that person has to be really really good.

Fact of the matter is: despite knowing all of this, I keep needing to hear this advice. I keep having these moments of epiphany that in fact feel like deja vu because I've been here before. But the ideas keep coming, and I keep wanting to do them all, so I keep finding myself spread too thin. Creativity is a dangerous "power" if left unfocused.

Friday, July 11, 2014

GSummit 2014 @ San Francisco - Day 4

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You thought GSummit ended with Neil Degrasse Tyson? Think again! There was still some pretty awesome things missing!

First of all, I forgot to mention in my previous post a really cool session by Jake Orlowitz about how wikipedia counteracted their contributor turnover by introducing gamification. They created an onboarding experience that got new contributors up to speed in an hour, with lots of gamified elements and rapid feedback. It was an interesting case study mostly because of their user basis, but also the design techniques they used in their approach.

Another thing I forgot to mention was how Andrea Kuszewski joined #TeamPregame for a pint after the VIP Party and how we got to talk again about gamification in education and the importance of behavioral data. That and an interesting fact: I'd noticed that San Francisco's homeless population (besides being really large) was quite nuts. Yup, everytime I passed a homeless person he was normally spouting some nonsense or looking at me with some really crazy eyes stuff going on.
Now, to contextualize, I work with the homeless in my hometown of Lisbon, Portugal, and they do tend to be a bit off - it either comes with their life situation or is the cause for it. But in SF, this reached a whole new height.
When I commented on that, Andrea mentioned that some years ago, there was quite a ruckus when it was discovered that medical and psychiatric institutions had been giving bus money to their homeless patients and sending them to San Francisco... why? Because they'd supposedly have better healthcare in the state of California and apparently the SF population is regarded as extremely tolerant, and therefore they'd get to live in the streets without too much hassle. Needless to say that was kind of shocking. Specially after reading about it.

Anyhoo, yet another thing I forgot to share was the recap of Livecube's final stats. So here it is.

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Not so bad huh? That "Messages per Attendee" average is the one stat that I think is mostly incorrect because I'd say that more than 50% of messages were posted by us folks at #TeamPregame. Even still, it shows how useful it is having an online component to your conference.

So, back to day 4, it was going to be mostly two hands-on lab in the morning and that's it. It ended up being more than that, but let's get on with it.

that's most of #TeamPregame there!
"Creating Emotional Engagement Through Game Design" was the title of Jeb Havens', Product Manager and Senior Game Designer at Google/Youtube, lab. The goal was to learn some game design techniques and get some hand-on experience at designing (or redesigning) a game.
The chosen one was BridgeXtreme, a board game I haven't been able to find online but mainly consisted of having some meeples stranded on a river and getting the hero to save them while the river was both trying to drown them and collapsing the bridge that connected them to safety.

hero on the left, victims in the middle, bridge on the left
The game in its standard form was pretty fun, but the idea was to use some of the game design techniques Jeb introduced in order to come up with some changes that made the experience more personal for us, namely the MDA framework: Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics.

So we gave the hero some hit points and gave the river the ability to choose between drowning more victims or hitting the hero with some rocks. Our next round of playing had us more worried with the hero instead of the other meeples, which was fun to notice.

After this came one of the sessions I was most anticipating: a hands-on lab on Yu-kai Chou's Octalysis Framework. Sounded awesome.

It ended not being that awesome at all. First of all because there was nothing "hands-on" about it. It was an hour and a half long Yu-kai-rush (Zergs would have been great!) that consisted of him trying to shove a great deal of information on his framework into that time box when it clearly wouldn't fit.
I have to hand it to Yu-kai though: you gotta have mad presentation skills to talk at that speed in a language that is not your own and with some technical details in the mix.

So that's it on the form. Now on the content: I sincerely think that the format was not the best to present Octalysis, however I got the distinct feeling that you've got about everything you can have on gamification in that framework. Which makes sense since it was the last one to be presented so it came out like sort of a summary on everything else. The thing is I felt it was too much. The approach doesn't seem lean at all, which went against every speaker before him, and it just had too many elements to it for it to be applicable in my book. Or better: it had too many elements for it to be applicable by anyone else besides Yu-kai himself. But I must stress that this is my opinion and it is based on just this hour and a half kick in the head.

This would have ended GSummit 2014 on a beh note... if it hadn't been for this moment.

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And this one!

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Yup, #TeamPregame got together and had some lunch and then we headed to the bar (can't remember the name!) where the GSummit team would have their "after-party". We ordered some pints and we pulled out a deck of Cards Against Hummanity. If you don't know this game you should. And then you should understand that it's wrong. Really wrong. But so incredibly hilarious!

We started off at about five or six players and ended up with twelve because everyone that walked by just couldn't help but be drawn to all the laughing. And some guilty groans too!

To sum things up, some final thoughts:

  • I created myself as a Gamification Designer at GSummit 2014 and I think I've found a way to make my path in the game;
  • getting to know some of the key players in the community and know what is being done around the world really gave some perspective on where to go from here;
  • have to hand out an Epic kudos to everyone in the GSummit staff and every awesome speaker - you are what makes this community incredible - but specially to Kevin, Ivan, Natalja, "The" Gabe and Andrea Kuszewski.
  • an incredibly enormous "You Rock!" to all of #TeamPregame: Pepe, Adrian, Sascha, Stephanie, Ting, Sabrina, Dutch, Chris, Juana, Becky and of course Kevin!
  • I sincerely hope to be back next year, wherever and whenever it may be to see all of you again, and 'till then maybe some stuff will come up! ;)
So that's that for GSummit 2014, catcha later browncoats!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

GSummit 2014 @ San Francisco - Day 3

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GSummit 2014's unnoficial last day (the day after was hands-on labs in the morning and card-playing in the afternoon!) started off as usual with networking over bagels with schmear and some brown water americans call coffee but in reality it's not.
This day was somewhat unusual because after the first session, for the second and third morning slots, almost everyone in #TeamPregame was unsure of which session to attend. And not because of too much concurrent awesomeness, but mostly because they all sounded kind of meh. But I digress!

The first session of the day was dedicated to the enthusiastic Nicole Lazzaro and her 4 Keys 2 Fun. And what better way to start things off than by focusing on why things are fun and how we can make them even er... funner? Well, she introduced the matter with a certain sense of epic meaning by asking us about our dreams and how we thought we might get there. Then she introduced her 4K2F framework, as shown in the image below and detailed here.

I particulary enjoyed when she addressed the "happy chemicals" acronym: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin. DOSE. The launching point was the crazy idea of how to introduce daily doses of happiness in order to achieve your goals, or get players to achieve the goals you devised for the game and in the end, save the real world (and the cheerleader too!). This is how, according to Nicole.

Some argue that the same could be achieved through chocolate, but hey, this is way funner! (there's that word again!)

After this session (tough act to follow if I might say so myself...) I was not sure which one to go to, but ended up deciding on the Applebee Case Study, presented by Robin Jenkins. It was yet another Bunchball success story, this time about Applebee's effort in reducing employee turnover by driving their loyalty and engagement. This was achieved by creating an online community of their employees, showcasing their achievements and continuously challenging them to outperform one another.
I must admit that, despite this being a gamification success story, I did not stay for the whole session. On the one hand because the concept of "gamification platforms" sounds weird to me, on the other because the session as a whole was not that fascinating. And of course, I had to check out Livecube and my phone was acting up! :)


Checking Livecube payed off because I got notified that I'd won a "Secret Roundtable Session" with Andrea Kuszewski, which was kind of an awesome thing (I'd won one with Gabe too previously, so despite not having cashed that one in, I was feeling on a roll).
So, about half an hour later, I was missing the Mazda Massive Test Drive to have a great chat with Andrea and the other roundtable winners :)
We spent the next 45 minutes talking about using the science of behavior and motivation in education, I had to throw that in because of my role as Cub Scout leader, and we were even lucky enough to have a Neuroscience major join us so we got to watch him throw some technical terms around too. There was no doubt to either one of us that using gamification and leveraging this scientific information in education made all kinds of sense.

At some point, we had to run to see if we could all catch the end of Stella Grizont's presentation on the loss of the sense of community and how we could and should make a difference and revert the tendency. Apparently, despite the continuously growing interconnectivity of society as a whole, there is a creeping sense of loneliness from the outliers. A previous speaker (can't remember who) had mentioned that we should start focusing on the Linebackers instead of just the Quarterback.
How can this be achieved? By creating a community-wide sense of meaning. Something that is not just a set of isolated boosts of happiness, but an instead an overall dot-connecting sensation that you belong to something bigger.
She talked about grading people on effort, instead of absolute ratings, she talked about perfection being the enemy of success. It was another really positive presentation (despite just catching the end) that left us all refreshed, both in mind and in our sense of epic meaning.

After the morning break we were treated to another great presentation, this time by Matt Danna. His set of slides should be handed out to UX Designers worlwide, or event if you're just devising a simple interface, this should be one of your bibles. The amount of design patterns included (with examples too!) was just astounding.
Also interesting to see was his 101 on persuasive design and how it fit with most of the approaches presented at GSummit: know your users, know your product, make it fun! :)

At noon, my roundtable session with Gabe got merged into a  "Play for a Cause" session that turned out to be both a learning experience, a very interesting networking moment as well as a good exercise in gamestorming.

Our "cause" was how to reduce gun violence in the U.S., which for americans I believe is a matter that is really close to the heart, and for the rest of us a good opportunity to weigh in on the subject from an outsider's perspective. We used a Gamestorming dynamic called 3-12-3 where we had 3 minutes to individually detail several aspects of the problem, then in pairs and for 12 minutes work on a gamified solution, and then again for 3 minutes to vote on the top idea in each 10 person team. A lot of interesting stuff came up at the end, with the top idea being a required community service with gun violence victims prior to acquiring a weapon's license.
My pair's idea came up second if I'm not mistaken, and it was about making gun violence part of the school curriculum from an early age, as well as creating a social networking plaftform where you promoted a different concept of hero - the one that helps the most people while hurting the less. It involved karma points for good deeds and progressing down different skill trees towards becoming a type of hero :)

After lunch (and I just realized this blog post is becoming really big, but I have a hard time keeping stuff to myself!), Michael Wu had the tough nap-time presentation slot, but not only was he not deterred by it, he kept us all awake after explaining in a clear way his framework for tailoring gamification approaches to various sizes of gamification efforts.

In this slide you can clearly see his suggestion of decomposing the usage of certain gamification mechanics over time and how you can combine successive gamification efforts to drive better ROI. It all made perfect sense, it was exposed in a clear yet very humble manner, and I think most of us got out of there thinking: wow, that's how you take down a mountain :)

Next came Dopamine's own Ankit Shah and his talk about gamification as a strategy in enterprises. It was a very motivational presentation, full of encouragement on being the drivers of transformation in our companies and the finer concepts of building a community, communicating and experimenting. These, Ankit states, are the pillars of any long-term transformation in companies.
I really loved the fact that one of my Livecube posts was caught by one of the sponsors, MJV Innovation, and highlighted on their twitter feed :)

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I wonder if Ghandi was still alive he'd have a Twitter profile. Even still, hope you got that notification Mahatma :)

Amy Jo Kim was one of the speakers I wanted to see the most. Her concept of Player Journey is a core foundation of gamification learning today and her good natured manner of presenting and motivation towards a community of gamers focused on overall success is something I deeply admire.
She began by explaining the concept of Zero-Sum emotions in games, i.e. "I win, you lose" situations, and how players are more and more running away from these types of games, and looking for community wide wins.

The above image directs designing for Non-Zero emotions by comparing Non-Zero mechanics with Zero-Sum ones. She then went into some detail explaining her 7 Rules for Coop Game Design, as seen below.

I really enjoyed the overall mindset of community driven accomplishments and felt it really fit in with the mindset of GSummit as a whole. If there's one thing I love about the gamification community is the sense of "everyone's contributing for the greater good".

During the afternoon break I had the chance to catch up with Jane Macgonigal during a book signing session and tell her that her call-to-arms in this TED talk was a pivotal moment for me in getting into the whole subject of gamification. So I got to say thank you. And that was awesome.

Ok, so done with the core speakers and the personal gushy moments, it was time to close things up with four big wows.
First, it was Gabe's closing note. Another GSummit inspirational moment, focused on Jane Mcgonigal's concept of reality being broken and establishing some pretty ambitious goals for all of the gamification community: to combat boredom and design for maximum fun. No biggie!

Second, came the handing out of the Gamification Awards, listed in this presentation by Gabe himself. Special kudos on my regard to the XPrize Foundation, you guys are doing one hell of a job.

Third, Ivan Kuo's on-stage one-on-one chat with Jane Mcgonigal herself. He started things off with a honest "Oh Jane", which says pretty much a lot.
She talked about Tetris' birthday and how it can help with coping with PTSD, about how Call of Duty can develop a lot of skills in gamers, but only at the right time, and planted the seeds for her second book on SuperBetter. Plus, a lot of praise for Minecraft and it's community driven success, a constant during the whole summit.
Her final question to the audience was therefore simple: what's the Minecraft of gamification? No small challenges at this year's GSummit!

And fourth and finally, the moment of the entire GSummit: Neil Degrasse Tyson, one of the smartest people in the world, was on stage. A lot of fans in the audience were pinching themselves.
After some technical issues that got solved just after the picture below, Neil scrapped his initial presentation title and ventured into a simply beautiful dissertation on science in pop culture.

"Is this thing on?" yup, this happened.

There were comics, movie references, there was dancing, we played bingo, and mostly we laughed our pants off. Seriously. I don't remember laughing so hard in a really long time. This gentleman is perhaps the best public speaker I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

Oh and there was of course the Pluto issue that introduced the angriest letter I've ever read from a tiny child.

As you can see, it was a beautiful moment.

After this, how could we top it? Well, maybe in a VIP Party, hearing Neil talk about his iPhone's playlist for 15 minutes and discovering he's got a really weird taste for "Amazing Grace", Enya, Kenny G and musicals. Eclectic indeed! That and this picture too.

Sorry about the long post folks, but it was a huge day and I couldn't save on the words required to describe what happened. It was amazing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GSummit 2014 @ San Francisco - Day 2

How to explain what happened on GSummit's Day 2 in not that many words... wow that's hard! There were a lot of really good talks, even a couple of mind blowing ones and the chance to get our hands dirty. Also, you could say that Day 2 really focused on behavior: the science behind it and the small nuances that we, as gamification designers should be aware. And one thing I've learned from GSummit is to call myself a gamification designer.

But let's start from the top.

It all began with the usual stuff: Kevin Shane, Director of Gamification Co, welcoming us to GSummit and introducing Gabe Zichermann, the "one man show". He then proceeded to mentally prepare us for the awesomeness of the day in front of us and welcomed the oh-so-sharply dressed Aaron Price, responsible for the Livecube app that's fueling the social side of GSummit.

It's a really awesome tweet-driven web app that adds an entire layer of social engagement to events by taking out all the twitter noise and keeping users focused on the chatter of the session at hand. Plus, it allows attendees to interact with the speakers (they almost always get back to you after the session) and it rewards the most active users with really cool prizes (like roundtable sessions with speakers, or a Google Glass(!)), adding that competition factor! :)

After Aaron came Gartner's Brian Burke. I got the sense he was not a particularly well loved guy, especially with the less enterprise-inclined crowd. His presentation included some discouragement on using PBL, which sounded strange after having defined them as key elements in gamification, as well as a continued focus on the digital aspects of gamification as core drives for the "movement". I get what he's trying to say, the tech-part of gamification is a big part of its current driving force, but I think, and many concur, that it's truth mainly for the enterprises and for product-oriented gamification. Real, change behavior gamification, is agnostic to it's media. And many share this opinion.
This made for a almost non-engaging presentation that at times sounded like he was saving face for the controversy he started with his redefinition of the term.

Bill Hanifin's talk on loyalty marketing started to recapture everyone's attention, but I think it was a consensus that he could have concluded with something more. He talked about how loyalty marketing is facing all these obstacles and about its potencial but I believe he really could have closed the circle and stress gamification's importance as one of the ways to bridge some of the gaps he mentioned. In reality, I think he was a good stepping stone for one of the best presentations of the summit 'til that moment.

Eileen Bartholomew took the stage to talk about the X Prize competition. With conviction she began talking about the Spirit of St Louis' epic voyage across the sea to Paris and from there she took off on an inspiring presentation about humanity's ability to innovate. She talked about the power of big prize competitions and how the purse itself didn't matter, the epic meaning of the competition did. It was a really emotional moment, with her voice quavering at times. I felt it moved a lot of us in attendance.

After a moment of respite to restock on coffee, Robert Tercek talked about the advent of a game-based society and the power of the internet of things - creating more and more points of entry for gamified experiences. Not a bad presentation, one more reference to the Internet of Things, but not as good as what followed.

Andrea Kuscewski is an old favourite of mine. I really enjoy her scientific yet non-jargon filled approach to behavioral science. She talked about some of the principles of the subject, particularly about when and why rules don't always work when you're dealing with human behavior. I really liked this interesting graph mapping Meaning and Happiness.

Apparently I'm a Meaningful Masochist. If you're interested (and you should be!), her presentation can be seen here.

Next came another great presentation from the head of the Serious Game program at IBM, Phaedra Boinodiris. It's amazing the type of things IBM managed to accomplish using their serious games strategy. It all started with the Innov8 game, created to drive process model innovation in IT and now City One is teaching players worldwide how to solve real-world business, environmental and logistical problems.

And to end the morning sessions came the great Dr. BJ Fogg. In about half-hour he managed to give a Human Behavior 101 and explained in some detail his behavioral model: Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger. Basically he focused on why sometimes Motivation and Ability are not enough, and why sometimes you need a trigger even for a highly motivated and capable person. That trigger can be something as simple as "hey you, go do it!".

He also approached the power of tiny habits, the concept of decomposing your objectives into the smallest achievable task, and presented is now current work on how to change existing behaviors.

After a network-filled lunch came another great presentation, this time from Nir Eyal. He expanded on the work he did for his book, mainly concerning the popular Hook Model. His instance is called the Hook Canvas and is shown below.

It is perhaps a very marketing-oriented methodology, but the fact is that the biggest metric for mobile apps for example is retention, and according to reports such as this by Fred Wilson, it could be better. And what drives retention? Better engagement. So this hook model is great when you're designing a gamification application that is looking for serious retention rates. And let's face it: who isn't?

Bron Stuckey followed with a presentation focused on education that consisted mainly of case studies with a localized audience. It could have merited perhaps from a more globalized case study, something that demonstrated worldwide applicability or instead some more practical conclusions.

Finally, to end GSummit's day 2, came a double dose of the amazingly energized, low-tech driven Monica Cornetti. First came the presentation on her no-nonsense approach to gamification: start small and cheap, get results quickly, go for seconds! Her call to arms on low-tech gamification was mainly driven by two factors: first of all Gartner's prediction of 80% failure for gamification projects by 2014 and how you could justify to your management that you wanted to use a methodology that Gartner predicts most likely will fail; second, that all gamification efforts should start small and re-iterate quickly, 'cause chances are you're not going to get the results you want on first try. Or second. Her answer was: go cheap to get your results, go low-tech.

And her presentation had this slide - make it addictive.

Her second dose of energy came after the afternoon break in a one and a half hour hands-on lab on how to do low-tech gamification. It consisted of a game called "Game the System" where you and your team are pirates and in a ropes and ladders style board you take your team's token through several stages of her gamification process. If you're interested, it can be accessed here.
It was a really fun-filled session, with Monica sticking to her loud and engaging style of presenting (as could be stated by folks in sessions in another room!), and we were able to take some useful insights on the process. Plus it had great moments like this.

Photo: @monicamouse13 #gamification #gsummit

And so ended the sessions component of GSummit 2014's day 2, followed by an on-site after-party sponsored by Bunchball. Networking fueled by nice beer. Awesome.

On a last note, for most of #TeamPregame (the tight group that came out of the pregame livecube experience) the day ended with a nice thai dinner and some more networking and children gushing. Awesomness over 9000.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

GSummit 2014 @ San Francisco - Day 1


So, Day 1 of GSummit promised to be an exciting one with Gabe Zichermann's Advanced Gamification Workshop on my schedule. After taking the online Udemy courses for levels 1 and 2, I was really curious to see what would the presence-is-required level 3 entail.

I must admit that anticipation was probably the main enemy of this experience. It was unfair of me to expect Gabe to provide a clearly defined framework and a set of techniques to create gamified solutions. It just wasn't going to happen.
Instead, what he did was talk about the process itself, stress the importance of it being an agile process and take us through a series of exercises that would help us along the several development stages.

As was to be expected (and should always be!), content was really focused on human-centric design, i.e. understanding the players and their journey, considering points earned and progression to mastery.

Really good content, event better delivery, but could maybe benefit from dissecting the template for a Gamification Architecture, instead of just stating it exists and should be analyzed.

Based on past experience, I could clearly recognize the Design Thinking methodology, something that is also present in other Gamification Design approaches. This is a good thing, because in companies where Design Thinking is already a common practice, evangelizing an approach that takes much from it is easier.

After this workshop I got a chance to talk to Gabe about my project and was pleased with his suggestions. All in all, this experience made me a better gamification designer, so results will exist.

Overall, there was a lot of added value on the networking side of the conference  looks like everyone I meet is terribly interesting. And it was interesting to discover the faces behind the #pregame @livecube app players, all cool people.

Afterwards, I was really eager for the Scavenger Hunt, but jet lag got to me and I decided to rest up, gather my thoughts, email my online business card to people I met during breaks and on my team at the workshop and look at my schedule for tomorrow.

Other impressions, mainly on San Francisco itself:

  • gotta love the fact that there's a lot of bikes around, it's a really positive mindset;
  • so many friggin' homeless people everywhere you look... don't know if it has to do with the neighborhood, but there are really a lot of homeless people around;
  • I still can't wrap my head around the fact that most of the people I've met so far in San Francisco aren't even americans, which is good, but weird;
  • oh and the best oven baked vegan sauced chips ever are at 3Potato4!

I guess that's it about Day 1, cya tomorrow!