Thursday, November 27, 2014

ZTEP's New Member and More - Zombie Technology Elimination Project

ZTEP is the Zombie Technology Elimination Project: Gamifying The Destruction of Old Software ( link). Now that it's live, many of the details have changed. Regardless, activity is picking up and the future looks bright.

ZTEP Welcomes A New Member
Trey, a talented software developer, has just joined our group of ZTEP leaders.  

So our list of ZTEP Leaders are now as follows:
  • Brad C., Developer - graphics design
  • Mike B., Developer - front end 
  • Mike F. (me), Founder / Product Owner / Chairperson 
  • Sean F., Writer - Zombie narrative content creator 
  • Thomas D., Developer - back end server / database work and some front end
  • Trey G., - Developer - front end
Trey will be diving into the front end work for our new ZTEP Radiator for Players. A radiator is a large monitor displayed in our work area. Thomas has already done the backend work which is great! Why have a screen that focuses on the players, you ask? Players want to see on the overhead monitor a brief summary of easy to see accomplishments displayed in our department's working environment.

Another Zombie Technology Type is Coming!
There is a 4th zombie technology type (ZT) that is coming soon. Brad and Sean are working together to make sure the images and narrative surrounding this ZT is ready to go. Without giving anything away, this next zombie type might meow.

Open Sourcing ZTEP is Getting Closer
On another note, there is serious interest in open sourcing our ZTEP system. We're pretty close to being able to do that. There are some technical challenges that we need to overcome first. Thomas will be investigating those challenges. To his credit, Thomas has been spearheading this effort since it was first discussed.

Which Comes First, The Chicken or the Egg?
If the egg is data, it comes first. Before our next set of ZTEP can be released, some database changes must be promoted. Thomas and Mike B. are communicating about this now. Thomas will promote the changes when he can. Thanksgiving has kept the database changes from going out right away. In this case, the turkey leg stopped the egg for a little while. 

Reaching Out To The Hunters
In hopes of stirring up even more interest, I will point out to the players and candidate players that some zombies have been killed by anonymous people. Thomas has already made sure we have the needed data for this. From a user friction point of view, the only thing an anonymous person will have to do is claim the kills.

Brainstorm Session
As part of a brainstorm session, Thomas brought up that editor plugins could be created which scan whatever project is open for zombie technologies. It's a neat idea. If someone knows how to create editor plugins which do such a thing that is something we can jump on.

The Future
The future looks bright! Beyond motivating people to replace old technologies, we're celebrating good deeds through this program. What better time to ramp up our activities as we enter December, a time of celebration and good deeds? 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

KISS The Zombie Technology Elimination Project

When designing a Gamified system, it's important to keep the design as simple as possible. In other words, KISS aka Keep It Simple Student of life. This helps get a release done sooner and communicating the concepts to the players an easier task.

So, what happened? In the initial design of the Zombie Technology Elimination Project (ZTEP) system, there was a concept called WIP points. It was there to combat a potential behavioral side-effect. You might ask, what's a behavior side-effect?

The best example of a system which promoted a behavior side-effect is the Bay Bridge toll example where people paid less toll money if they waited to cross it after a certain time period. Unfortunately, people will do dangerous things to pay less money. Slides 10 and 11 below are the things to see related to the bridge and also are shown in the article written by Nicole Lazzaro titled Gamification Can Kill.

With that toll bridge design tragedy in mind, I decided that my ZTEP system would avoid such unintended side effects.

In order to give people a sense of progress, I designed in WIP points for changing code and Zombie Points for releasing the code into production. The WIP points followed by the Zombie Points were in place to encourage software developers to change the code and then release those code changes into production. Hypothetically, the worst case situation is where a code defect could be inserted and another person much later would push the defective code into production. Picture someone stepping into another person's gum and you get the picture. It turns out the WIP points were not needed.

Professional software developers pride themselves on writing code that works and is used by people. If you will pardon the expression, the WIP points were overkill.

We are in the process of removing the WIP points from the system. This frees up webpage screen real estate and the backend system can also made be simpler. So, its removal is a win.

If I had it all over again, I would have had the WIP points as something to add later if it was proven to be needed. At least the cost of the lesson learned was not too high; live and learn. As Mahatma Gandhi said "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

Mahatma Gandhi Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever
(Photo by BK on Flickr)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mentor Program's Best Quarter Ever At 120 Hours!

This last quarter (March, April, May 2014), about 120 hours of awesome knowledge was shared through the Mentor Program. To be exact, it earned 4790 points which is a new high score. In order to make it more fun for all, the program is gamified where 10 points equals 15 minutes.

Looking at the activity in the program, I see many more presentations were given. Many of these presentations are the same presentations that will be given later at conferences all over. This includes presentations about Gamification, Data Science / Big Data, and possibly even Rails.

I appreciate all of those who took the time to share and/or receive knowledge essential to the company. We’re all stronger and happier as a result. So, good job and thanks!

update: For those of you who were curious, check out the blog post about the program that I wrote last year.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Gamification Definition

Inspired by Yu-kai Chou, Nir Eyal, Gabe Zichermann, and a discussion on Facebook led by Andrzej Marczewski, I created this definition of Gamification:
Gamification is taking fun and habit-forming elements found in games and applying them to productive activities.
If you wish to go deeper, see "Human-Focused Design” by Yu-kai Chou.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hook Model Presentation Today

I am giving a presentation today about the Hook Model. With Nir's permission, I will be showing a large subset of these slides.

For sure, I am going to show the slide with his great book called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

 If you like, you can ask me how it went at our Facebook Hook Model community or go to and click on "Join The Discussion" in the upper right of the screen. See you there!

Update: I had a great interactive audience! It made all the difference.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Mentor Program Viewed Through Octalysis

As it exists today, I am the founder and Product Owner of our company's Mentor Program. The mission of the Mentor Program is to empower people to share knowledge essential to the company such as technology knowledge.

The program has an internal web app which displays the names of people who have participated by either sharing or receiving knowledge. Without getting into the details about how to earn levels, those who have participated heavily receive a digital and an in-real-life badge reflecting how they participated and when.

A Sample of the Dashboard Screen
A player can see the web app either through a browser or in the software developer lab on a large monitor screen in the corner.

Meaning, Accomplishment and Loss

On the monitor, we showed the same thing that the browser version showed for about two weeks. It couldn't show everything which was a problem. So, we had two key changes made to the monitor version of the web app:
  1. Sort names by most recent activity 
  2. Show only those who have contributed to the current quarter, our Current Mentor Heroes

Sorting the names by the most recent activity, is a newsfeed inspired approach. It helps deal with the issue of having too many names to show on the monitor. It also highlights the accomplishment and meaningful contribution just made by the players for their recent participation.

Showing only active participants as Current Mentor Heroes got interesting results. Doing this introduces into the program a feeling of loss. Can you imagine what happened when the new fiscal quarter came in March and everyone saw a blank page that said nothing more than "Current Mentor Heroes"?

One of the key developers in the program asked me if I wanted to revert it back to showing the normal dashboard. I responded with a "nope" and a smile. Sure, it bothered me to see nothing up there. It bothered everyone and that's the point! We were all used to seeing those colorful accomplishments and names. We were now feeling loss which was instilling a sense of urgency to get something up there.

In less than a week, I had a helpful person email me saying they wanted to help us out. They let me know about some recordable participation. That person understood the program vision and wanted to contribute to our cause in a meaningful way. Other people followed up in that same week and we had over 13 hours worth of knowledge sharing!

Similar to Octalysis Core Drives

The decisions recently made are similar to pieces of the Octalysis Gamification framework. The framework is centered on Human-Focused Design and created by Yu-kai Chou. Having watched all the Octalysis videos available, I see Octalysis Core Drive #8, Loss & Avoidance which instills some urgency. Urgency does overcome a problem we've had in the past. These changes also highlight what could be called Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment. FYI, the Octalysis community discusses these drives at If you like, you may join our friendly Facebook group.

What's Next?

Although I have ideas, what is next will come out of a discussion with my Mentor Program team. They are wonderfully insightful people with a variety of skills. Undoubtedly, one of two things will be worked on. We may focus on a progress bar approach or reduce the friction of getting knowledge seekers hooked up with knowledge givers. These ideas came from members of the team who are passionate about empowering others with sharing and receiving knowledge. If you're not surrounded by awesome people and ideas such as I am then I highly recommend you seek some now!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stormy Habit Weather

In the USA this winter, Mother Nature has thrown snow into many peoples’ lives. Schedules and internalized daily habits were disrupted through imposed external forces. New opportunities and habits took shape. Some people embraced the moment as a time to create a snow shark.

Glancing at Amazon, I see others read and commented on the Hooked book written by Nir Eyal with contributions from Ryan Hoover.

The recent snow event got me thinking about habits extinguishing and habit competition. Do more people habitually check the weather now? What are they not doing anymore? If a mobile app provided the weather as a side feature during a snow storm, would people use it more? 

The Argus iPhone app has the weather as a daily integrated feature of its personal dashboard of your life. So, I wake up and look at the temperature high/low for the day on Argus while seeing other things like how much sleep I got.

Although it seems much of the focus is currently on building products that form long term habits, I think exploring how to keep people using their products even through stormy habit-disruption times will serve well too.

I invite us all to discuss this in the Facebook Hook Model community.