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)