Posted on December 29, 2011 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Want to absolutely kill my productivity? Introduce me to a timeboxed game on pattern recognition (Bejeweled, Tetris) or bubble stacking (Bubble Island). Facebook is very dangerous for these. One of my favourite is Diamond Dash by Wooga — which happens to have a number of other games too.

A week or two ago I was playing Diamond Dash while babysitting a script run a little monster appeared on the screen saying something like “Get to level 5 on Monster World and earn a special bonus gem”. Ooooo! Bonus gem! So like a good little pawn I got to level 5 and unlocked my gem.

But now I started thinking. If these two games are integrated, what about the other ones? And so I leveled a couple more times in Monster World and soon a Raccoon showed up in the corner. Play 10 levels of Bubble Island and get a unlockable plant (Monster World is one of this silly ‘farming’ games). I’m more than happy to play 10 games of Bubble Island and so got my plant.

Is it integrated with the other games? Not yet, or at least not so far that I have discovered.

This got me thinking though that this is exactly the right strategy for creating multiple properties on a social platform like Facebook. I would go so far as to suggest that part of the product roadmap for an additional property is the integrations with the existing ones. Taking the Wooga games as the example I would likely do the following (just off the top of my head).

  • Bubble Island -> Monster Island (existing) – Play 10 games and get a plant (Bubble Bush); though the plant should be integrated into the gameplay. So far none of the ‘quests’ have required it.
  • Monster World -> Bubble Island – Plant a Bubble Bush and get 3 fireball special shots; available once a day
  • Monster World -> Diamond Dash (existing) – Get to level 5 and unlock the Plasma Gem
  • Monster World -> Diamond Dash (existing) – Plant a Heart Flower and get an extra heart; available once a day
  • Diamond Dash -> Monster World – Once you get the spellbook, collect certain amount of diamonds to add new Arabian Knights themed decorations
  • Diamond Dash -> Bubble Island – Once you get the spellbook, collect certain amount of diamonds to add new level in the Adventure mode appears

And that doesn’t even include the Happy Hospital and Magic Land games (which I think are the Monster World engine with Pets and Knights respectively) which I would likely do at the higher levels of Monster World since the quests there take a while to compete so while they are churning away you could be doing the lower level, quicker ones of a different game.

The point being that social networking works best when the network effect kicks into overdrive. That process can be given a boost by incentivizing your existing audience to try other things that they have already shown that they keep coming back to.

Oh. And I would make sure a list like this was published somewhere reputable that was highly SEO’ed. Discovering during gameplay is one thing, but making it know that you can get these things if you play just a bit more could have value too.

Posted on December 24, 2011 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

The internets were ablaze this week with SOPA stuff, and in near-inferno around GoDaddy supporting (but that is a different post altogether). And while it is nice that the geek community is up in arms, its a bit concerning how little mainstream media attention it is receiving. Even more so from the media up here since Canada is in ARIN and so [apparently] falls under the US government’s jurisdiction. Not to mention the the copycat law that will be introduced using the American one as ‘proof’ of its good-idea-ness

But even if (when) the beast that is SOPA gets enacted there will be ways to get around it. Heck, there already are a couple plugins for Firefox that do just that. Which leads me to an idea.

We Believe in an Open Web. And we’re dedicated to keeping it free, open and accessible to all

This is the main text on the Mozilla website. What if they just included these plugins, or the tricks that they do in the Firefox browser. The day that it gets presidential assent is when it should should go into Aurora.

But this post isn’t to call out [just] Mozilla and put them in political bind (since they are incorporated in the US). Google has been just as strong in their opposition and they control the Chromium/Chrome browser. And apparently Microsoft opposes it too, and of course they control Internet Explorer.

Of course, Google and Microsoft could give a damn about the Open Web…

Posted on December 17, 2011 in Uncategorized by adam2 Comments »

There seems to be two growing schools of thought about badges forming (or at least becoming more visible.). Not surprisingly, I think the origins of these have to do with who has what in the game. For instance, the StackOverflow folks have from the beginning talked up using points and badges as a recruiting tool. Oh, and they have a for-money job board…

What is really concerning to me though is an increase in the number mentions of badges being used as a stick. Case in point is an email on the Open Badges mailing list this morning.

Obviously we can all see the benefits of having such a badge system that is supplemental to formal education. In the workplace, specific skill badges can be connected to increased salaries. Right now at my workplace we are dealing with secretaries who are untrained in newer technologies and they are unable to assist faculty and administrators in their departments. Now if we accept and link specific badges with salary raises or promotions, now we have intrinsic value for them to actually pursue more training.

No. What you have is another stick to beat people with. Horrible corporate training has always existed only now you might get a badge rather than a certificate you print at the end. Yes, some will try for the badge the same way some would put the certificate saying they completed the corporate ergonomics training on their cube wall.

Now, with the whole gamification trend, I expect corporate training management systems to grow badges, if they haven’t already, as a way to tracking who has done what. That’s not really using badges though, that’s just replacing checkboxes with graphics. Kinda like how a lot of teams transition to Agile by calling the Project Manager a Scrum Master…

Another risk that comes from using badges as a stick is invasion of corporate interests that have nothing to do with the improvement of the badge holder, but of the badge issuer. Certified Tester badge anyone? You know there will be dozens of those if the idea of badges takes off. And like the certificates they supplement you’ll be able to buy them rather than earn them rather than earn them.

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2011: The Higher Education Bubble talks about badges supplementing formal education — in what feels kinda stick-like. It is a good article on the whole though. Yes, we (society) need to rethink credentialing and accreditation — tried to cross a border for work recently only having a highschool diploma? Saying you need to have certain badges from certain issuers for a job or raise however is just replacing one broken system with another.

Badges, to me, should be not forced upon someone but the carrot that inspires learning. Learning that would likely happen anyways actually, but just provide an indicator of having done it. Again, I fall back onto the example of Cubs. There are around 45 badges a Cub could earn during their three years, but they don’t have to. Yes, they’ll get some just by showing up and doing the activities we (the leaders) plan, but a lot more need them to show their own initiative. Some will, and some won’t. And that’s ok.

And know what? They’ll all be allowed to move up to Scouts. If badges were being used as a stick there wouldn’t be nearly as much enthusiasm around them or the programs. Actually, it would look at lot like a corporate environment.

Posted on December 7, 2011 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Shockingly, companies don’t just cede control of their roadmaps to me so I’m left to just blog about what I would do if I did wrest control of them. To continue a recent topic series, I’m tackling Mozilla.

Mozilla appears to be downplaying Firefox as the only thing it does and is emphasizing its mission of creating a Internet that is open. Firefox is currently its largest tool in order to achieve that mission, and likely will be for some time, but I suspect we will continue to see play more of a supporting role and/or means-of-financing other work.

In the place of Firefox the Web Maker meme will become more broadly spread. If I was creating schemes for 2012 and beyond I would look to badges to drive this. In fact, I would make them central. For every project that Mozilla undertakes, the question of integration into the badges idea should be asked.

What spurred this idea was the weekly Community Call yesterday. About 1/3 of it was a discussion around Drone Journalism which is the use of unmanned drones (mini helicopters, etc.) to capture footage for film or citizen journalism. This is kinda interesting for a make-your-own-drone perspective and from being able to capture/disseminate information when it is being controlled by ‘official’ sources, but I’m not seeing how it fits into the Mozilla mission. Sure, it could be a consumer of Popcorn.js, but that’s really about the limits I can see in terms of Open Web and Web Makers.

Let’s go with the notion that the linkage to Popcorn.js is the correct one. If so then there could be a badge series for Drone Journalism:

  • Created a Popcorn video using a commercial drone
  • Created a Popcorn video using a home-made drone
  • Report on a Community event using a drone

Or something similar. Certainly something like the MoJo (Mozilla Journalism) stuff could have a badge sequence, School Of Webcraft already has one, the HTML5 evangelists inside Mozilla also have something I think. Last week Mitchell Baker (Chief Lizard Wrangler at Mozilla) said in a talk at the Toronto offices that Mozilla is not going to be political organization, but even some of its grassroots Open Web/Privacy stuff could have a badge system; Defender of the Internets! badge anyone?

The ideas of Open Web and Web Makers are powerful, and absolutely is where I would point Mozilla towards (not as if Google or someone else is going to do it; ‘evil’ is relative it seems). But without a framework to hang initiatives around they risk being just a collection of independent projects under a large umbrella. Badges, which is also part of the Web Maker idea, could provide an ideal structure to connect all these things.

Posted on December 4, 2011 in Uncategorized by adam1 Comment »

David Christiansen runs TroopTrack and posted a bit of an analysis of your conversion rates; powered largely by a couple graphs. Its an interesting analysis, but what is really good from a startup perspective is the findings in the Correlation or causation? section.

  • Customers who have a good experience with a support ticket during their trial have a higher likelihood of purchasing a subscription
  • Customers who see an improvement made during their trial period have a higher likelihood of purchasing a subscription

That is an important finding, and one that in my gut I think is more true for more products than people give credit.

When I was at HP we pretty much knew who was considering buying our product because the Support group had contract with them. Right now I have a similar interaction with people who start to use Saunter — though that is because I need to update the docs.

SaaS products are easy to capture this information and interaction; an opensource product that you sell service and support around is much harder. And a problem I need to figure out at some point in the near future.

Disclaimer: David is a friend and I want TroopTrack to succeed — even if it is so he can add Canadian stuff to it.

Posted on December 2, 2011 in Uncategorized by adam2 Comments »

And so I continue to think aloud Badges and Web Makers.

If you look at the badges at p2pu which is pilot project for the open badges stuff at Mozilla one thing stands out. They’re just text, and frankly, kinda boring. This might be enough for people who are used to static badges like those on StackOverflow but I think it completely fails to capture the attention of the next generation of Web Makers.

I have no information to back up that claim other than what I observe around ‘real’ badges at Cubs with the kids looking at them, guessing what they are, etc.

Two years ago, George Dinwiddle awarded me an ‘Agile Merit Badge’ at the Agile Conference. While cleaning up the basement from a partial flood I found it again and it clicked a few more things in place in my brain.

First, the they need to be image driven, not text based. Not the least bit because the world does not communicate in only one language. (Hurray for the arrogance of the English speaking world!) Secondly, through the use of steganography the information about issuer, what was done to earn, repudiation authority (thinking something like OCSP — OBSP?) and such could be embedded in it.

But more importantly, an image can be turned into something tangible; like a real badge. Something that could be stitched onto a physical backback or blanket.

Of course this badge thinking also lines up well with one of Mozilla’s goals around the Web Maker stuff I think. How do we get the next generation to learn about how the Internet is built so they can make it their own? Well, there is a global organization for youth that already has an established tradition of badges; Scouting.

One thing I would like to see MoFo do is work with Scouting to create a ‘World Wide Web’ badge. Here is the requirements for the closest thing that Scouts Canada has to this; the Computer Badge. It is very dated and desperately needs a refresh. Or better still, replacement by something else that is relevant to the kids in the program now and in the next decade or so.

I realize the Internet is more than just the web, but let’s face it, that is the mechanism for 90% of people’s interaction with it.

Off the top of my head, the requirements could be something like

  1. Explain what the following HTML elements do: …
  2. Explain the role of HTML, CSS, JS
  3. What are the dangers around Phishing, Pharming, Spam?
  4. Something about privacy
  5. Something about online bullying
  6. Create a simple homepage for yourself or your pack

That would give the basics of both Web Safety and Web Makerism to kids earning the badge. (It would also be an easy badge to complete in an evening at the local library or similar with lots of computers and X-Ray Goggles).

Badges for Scouts and Venturers could require higher levels of sophistication; CSS, Canvas, Video, etc.

There is actually precedent for organizations working with Scouts (well Canada at least) with the new Scuba badge (Scouts, Venturers) that was done in conjunction with PADI. That organization for that badge makes perfect sense. I think Mozilla makes perfect sense for something about the Web. And how awesome would a Mozilla head badge be?!?!

They know how to contact me; in the meanwhile I need to figure out who to contact in Scouts Canada about this. This idea could have legs.

Posted on December 1, 2011 in Uncategorized by adam3 Comments »

Yesterday Scott Barber tweeted a link to The Certification Experience to which I responded (without reading it; and it is a good read)

i’m now thinking something like the lovechild or open badges and entaggle is the route forward

If you are not aware of it yes, Entaggle is site for ‘tagging’ people as a form of peer credentialing created by Elisabeth Hendrickson. In a follow-up to her I flushed out what I think the differences are between ‘tags’ and ‘badges’ which she allowed me to make public.

So here is my thinking of tags vs. badges. Tags themselves seem to be more about the relationships between the tagger and the taggee (‘someone I know in person’, ‘someone I look up to’) whereas a badge is something that is earned and/or has requirements of demonstration of skills. Badges also have a more formal issuing authority and repudiation scheme (the tag ‘someone I look up to’ was removed from taggee by tagger, how is that made visible?).

In the Mozilla context of badges, there could be an HTML badge that you get by live-editing an existing page to submit a form to some ‘secret’ place that registered that you have ‘completed’ the badge (though X-Ray Goggles or Firebug or whatever).

(I also have badges on the brain from Cubs and have been looking at Red Star type pages the for the last week plotting the second half of the year.)

What would an Agile Tester badge look like?

  • Would need an Issuing Authority (Entaggle?)
  • Likely have a list of Tags that that included both mandatory and optional ones (Exploratory Tester, Lives in the spirit of the Agile are mandatory, Performance Tester is optional)
  • When the requirements are ‘met’ they get the badge added to their backpack
  • Repudiation happens automatically when the requisite tags are removed from the person

I think too the Mozilla badge vision has the notion of levelling so could have Bronze/Silver/Gold which require a greater set of tags to earn (and keep).

Badges from a ‘game’ perspective is a pretty easy way to motivate ‘kids’ but there is nothing inherently motivating (at least for me) in trying to earn a ‘tag’. A badge, maybe. Especially if the badge gets some clout behind it. (Though yes, a tag could and should also get clout behind it as well.)

Badges could also, in the Entaggle context, become an aggregate of tags distributed by a number of people. Hmmm. More feature requests!