Flow

Searching for the story…

Stain Glass Window

I’m in the middle of two books now — one finished and ready for the fifth round of editing; and one that requires me to finally write an ending. Endings are hard… even when you know how things are going to end. But here’s a few insights from the book I’m finishing right now: God of Small Affairs. (No it’s not the first title I came up with… not even the tenth. Names are hard.) The Beginning I’ve started this particular story thinking it was just a short story, 5000 words max. By the time I got to about 17,000, I knew it was a book. But that was a surprise. This is not a first time a book surprised me into making me write it. The FATOFF Conspiracy was originally a short story too… and Twin Time. Short stories are very different from novel-length works. From the structure point of view, there are fewer characters, no subplots, and a lot less description of the setting and the characters populating the story. A short story simply doesn’t have room for world building… obviously. You grab the story with the first few words and don’t let go or digress for a…

Review: Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software

gamification at work book cover

Interaction Design Foundation is about to publish Janaki Mythily Kumar’s and Mario Herger’s 2013 book: “Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software.” [reference: Kumar, Janaki Mythily and Herger, Mario (2013): Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software. Aarhus, Denmark, The Interaction Design Foundation. ISBN: 978-87-92964-06-9.] Kumar and Herger put together history and background of gamification among a broad spectrum of ventures and included a quick guide for how to apply some of the ideas and key concepts to the design of corporate dynamics for your company! Here are a few gems from the book: Figure 2.1: Player Centered Design Process. Courtesy of Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger. Copyright: CC-Att-ND (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported). Figure 3.3: Bartle Player Types. Courtesy of Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger. Copyright: CC-Att-ND (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported). If you think of these as user-types, then Kumar and Herger provide a set of ideas of how to design to meet the needs of these different player groups. They provide a great Player Persona Template. In Chapter 4, they explain how to gather the data for a particular company and develop user personas based on actual ethnographic information. Chapter 5 explores the motivational drivers and even…

Fun, Functionality, Flow: the 3 F’s of Product Design

Good product design—design that solves a real need; design that considers the strengths and weaknesses of the user; design that stands the test of time and cultural fads—always incorporates the the 3 F’s: Fun, Functionality, and Flow. It’s easy to talk about the 3 F’s in abstract, but I thought taking a concrete example of a bicycle would be more productive. A bicycle is a designed object that satisfies a real need, does so in way that brings joy to its users, and the act of riding results in flow experience for many. The old “Liberator” poster tries to communicate all 3 F’s to the potential buyers of its products: liberator means freedom to move, real functionality; the woman warrior communicates power and fun—you will feel the way she looks! It’s exhilarating! Notice the high heels and the beautiful vista (with a rough terrain) and a kid pointing at the riders with envy. These posters, old advertising ads for bicycles, try to communicate the same: it’s fun, functional, and exciting to ride a bike. Ride, and look good. Ride, and be the center of attention. Design for Fun So what makes a particular design fun? It seems that one of…

The Haptic Feel of Books versus eBooks

We’ve traveled to Rome for our family vacation this year, and aside from a few summer reading books that I couldn’t find in an eBook format, we relied on our two Kindles and 3 iPads for our family reading needs. This is the second summer we brought primarily electronic versions of books—”The Count of Monte Cristo” is much easier to read when it fits into your hand and doesn’t weigh a ton… In the days before the Kindle and iPad, we carried an extra suitcase just for books. But there are drawbacks to buying and reading eBooks. Below are some of my thoughts and experiences—the cogitations of a voracious reader. Time & Progress As I was reading my novels, I found myself repeatedly trying to figure out where in the book I was. How far along was I? When is the next natural break (chapter, section end)? How many pages are there to the end of the chapter, end of the section, end of the book? These were not idle curiosities about my reading accomplishments, although when you do finish reading the book version of “The Count of Monte Cristo”, you do have a sense of having read something. An…

Remarkable Design

How does one design a remarkable product? “Well, it depends on a product,” some would say. But couldn’t we say something general? Why do we feel passionate about some products but not others? Consider conversations: some are fun, some are boring; some engage lots of people, some not so much; some result is heated exchanges, some are more neutral. Note that you can be very passionate about a topic, but don’t consider it fun: rape, genocide. Politics engages lots of people, but the details leave most bored. Some conversations generate sustained interest, and some fizzle out without a remark. What’s required for a conversation to be remarkable? That depends on the audience. To be engaged in a discussion, you have to find the topic interesting to you. And what’s interesting to you, might not be to me. Thus the topic of conversation is a variable of the targeted audience. Even if you find the topic amusing, you might not have the time to participate in the conversation. “I would love to talk to you about quantum space time, but the plane leaves in 5 minutes.” And it is so noisy on the plane that you can only hear every other…

Multitasking Myth

I’ve been noticing a lot of praise and demand for mutlitaskers: “We are looking for a talented individual who is [insert a laundry list of qualifications here] and is also a great multitasker!” or “Women are naturally better at multitasking.” or “Not only is he gifted, but he is able to work on all these projects simultaneously. If only we had a dozen more just like him!” (—probably just to get anything done!) The interesting aspect of this increased demand for multitasking is the rise of ADHD diagnosis. So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to pin down what exactly is being praised and diagnosed. A Curious Case of ADHD Let’s start with formal diagnostic criteria for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). What are the symptoms of ADHD? Below is a list of attributes that is adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th ed. (DSM-IV). When you read this list the first time, imagine an eight year old boy trapped in an elementary classroom. On the second reading, consider an 80-year-old woman in a nursing home. On the third, visualize a soldier just back from Afghanistan. And finally, when you read the list for…

Toilet Games

If you have small children…boys, you are undoubtably familiar with things like: “My Wee Friend”; “Piddlers Toilet Targets for Potty Training”; “Potty Training Targets – Look like real targets!”; “Tinkle Targets for Boys”; “Wee Wee Pals”; or “On Target Infant Toilet Training Balls” from Amazon. Problem: boys have to learn to aim; boys attention span is shorter than the time it takes to empty their bladder; Solution: make going to the bathroom fun; design an activity that extends the attention and improves aim; The conceptual design is pretty straightforward: align the goals of the parents (teaching bathroom skills) with the goals of a toddler (have fun) to improve the toilet experience for all concern–basic goal alignment! Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t seem to go away as these boys grow up. Product design to the rescue! The Urinal Lips design uses the same product design strategy: make aiming fun! What sign on the walls of the bar’s men’s room couldn’t achieve, a playful design did–these men’s room stay clean. One Step Farther… While attention controls might lag during a long bathroom break, video games seem to have a tighter control over attention. So welcome to the future of urinals: These are the…