Gamification at work?

As someone who has spent countless hours on games, I can attest to the fact that nothing beats the immersion and intricate reward systems, a sentiment, I’m sure that the gamer community strongly resonates with. Whether you are Dota 2 person, or answer to the Call of Duty with your buddies or are a serious Candy Crushing force to reckon with, there’s no denying that the in-game mechanics work deviously well in luring us into playing in a repetitive loop, although with changing environments and difficulty levels, but essentially reaching for the same end goal — all for some good ol’ emotional satisfaction.

For those who are not too familiar with building a specific skill set that involves strategic game play and fun in equal proportions, I wouldn’t say you’re missing out exactly, but many of these games have extremely good community following, with people competing with each other at global level, gaming conventions and meetups, there’s an entire ecosystem which keeps on growing in volume. All this, while being a great way to pass time, are and have a way to make money from it (hello Youtubers, and game designers, devs!) at the same time, has a mass attraction appeal to those of us, who count gaming among the simple pleasures of life.

So what is Gamification? It is the application of typical elements of game play like point scoring, competition with others, rules of play, to other areas of one’s existence to encourage engagement with our fellow beings.

Like everything, one could argue about whether or not Gamification principles can be successfully applied to other areas of our life. Here are 3 crucial things you need to know and understand to be able to build a successful model:

  1. Know the player and the mission: Most attempts at Gamification fail because the system is not thought through well enough to consider what truly motivates the player. Delve into the player’s psyche, not just the daily routine but think ahead — what would still motivate you to keep playing the game after months.
  2. Replace force with reinforcements : Focus on the habit you want to reinforce and reward it with level ups, badges or power-up. So the players do the thing again, and again, to be rewarded again and again. classical conditioning #101. As long as you don’t force their hand to obtain a reinforcement, your game plan looks good.
  3. Last but surely the most important, Design. everything will fail if the model fails to keep people interested with immersion and augmentation of physical with virtual reward systems. These have to be designed to drive productivity, always keep the eyes on the prize, and should not be so complex as to deter/distract the players from following the rule book.

Nike+ app wins with its idea to extend workouts into a social activity, with the opportunity to challenge friends, and showcase your prowess in the community leader boards. Pokemon Go on the other hand, started with a big bang of the pokeball, but couldn’t master the art of retention. Such things have to be thought out well, from long term and then backwards from there, instead of the other way around.

Gartner in its November 2012 press release predicted that “by 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. But at the same time, they forecasted that “by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design”.

After taking over e-learning (like Duolingo and Codecademy), one can say that the future of gamification is in employee engagement, where the system ties considerable rewards for employees with measurable business return-on-investment. This becomes as good as it sounds by creating an environment where the motivation for them to excel is no longer just extrinsic (traditional appreciation) but intrinsic too (where they want to get to that elusive next level, or win that boss fight).

This is a topic which I will be exploring in greater detail over the span of the next few weeks and sharing my experiences and journey along the way, but here is something you won’t often hear — it is actually a high-risk choice. The stakes are too high to have a creative vision and put in efforts into setting the whole thing up, only to end up with mediocrity that fails to inspire any kind of enthusiasm.

Break of light

For one last time he locked himself in, determined to never get out

Caved into depths to hide all the pain, or maybe it was just the shame

Still fresh with the cuts from his last escape, hiding it all behind his face

Then something happened out of the blue, the monster had no clue

A maiden walked through the deserted plains, shining her light into his cage

In the lit night he could see a face, telling a story far greater than fame

Made of strength, strong of will, forged by the beats on the great anvil

Shaped through time, moulded to hold, all the stories she never told

For he could see his past and future in a blink, in the eyes of the teller he now dreamed to behold

The efforts may go in vain, but he still gathered the muscle and broke the chains

While the maiden slowly disappears into the night, he charges towards her light

Never will the beast be chained, set free by the elusive Dame

Google I/O 2017: What you need to know

Google I/O 2017 (17th-19th May) has come to a close and the internet giant has yet again blown away our minds with their adventurous yet futuristic vision.

The predominant theme for this year’s event was AI — Google is adding AI to anything and everything and it is, to be honest, pretty damn cool!

In case you missed the event, we’ve got you covered. Here are the key announcements which we, at PRDXN, are very excited about:

  • Google.ai — Research and tools from Google and its Brain Team are made available to everyone. This is AI done the right way!
  • Kotlin + Android — Now you can code your Android apps in Kotlin instead of Java, adds more features, more options for developers.
  • Daydream 2.0 — You won’t need a PC or phone to experience VR. It will track virtual space with “WorldSense” powered by its Tango augmented reality system. Google is partnering up with HTC and Lenovo to build these standalone VR headsets.
Standalone VR headsets with Daydream
  • Google Assistant — Started from Pixel, this has made its way to millions of Android AND — wait for it — iOS devices! It now adds third-party apps support, allowing you to do more with such integrations.
  • Android O — This was one of the most anticipated news with 2 Billion people using Android devices, 800 million monthly active users. Now available in beta, Android O (still not named) adds in features like picture-in-picture, notification dots and lots more.

No, that’s not all, by no means. Here are some of the other things that Google is showcased in its annual developer conference:

  • Google Home v2 — Stepping up the game, adds proactive assistance — nudges when Google thinks you need it. Have an upcoming appointment? It can alert you to traffic delays in advance for the event, and more.
  • Google Lens — Point the camera at something and it will figure out what that is. Whoa! (Coming soon)

With all the buzz this year around AI and VR/AR, it is an exhilarating time for us here at PRDXN (and developers everywhere) as we take steps toward embracing these into our products and services.

Something Phishy? Here’s how to catch them

Anyone who has been around the internet for a while has come across some kind of phishing scam attempting to lure you into giving away some information.

Not sure what what these phishing scams could be like? Well, read on for tips on how to spot these out:

  • They often try to fake the names of important institutions like Banks, Govt. Agencies, Email service providers. The giveaway here is the lack of a valid domain (stanchartstat@yourscbank.com is obviously a suspicious source).
  • Before clicking any links in an email, hover over a link to preview the redirecting URL. If you don’t recognize the domain, DO NOT click it.

Check for the domain (not sub-domain) to validate the source. For Google’s Play Store, play.google..xyz.com (fake) is not the same as play.google.com (authentic).

Keep your eyes open!
  • Strange looking or misspelled URLs — especially with missing or extra alphabets or numbers in place of certain alphabets are another red flag (eg: yotube.com, yahpp.com paypa1.com). A secure website always starts with “https”.
  • Click baits: Emails or web pages that tell you that you have won an iPhone/latest Samsung phone are — with utter certainty -blatantly lying to you. No one is going around giving free iPhones!
  • The same applies to emails which claim that someone left you an inheritance/ your account security is compromised (which you don’t even remember making)/ check out this “viral video” or asks you for any kind of personal details. Just don’t bother.

Lowdown on the highs from F8 2017

Facebook’s F8 2017 conference (April 18/19th) is over now and there is a lot to takeaway from it. Here are some of the things that we, at PRDXN, are HYPED about:

React VR

  • Anybody with experience in building React apps should be able to build React VR apps pretty easily
  • React VR allows developers to build 360-degree virtual reality experiences with the help of JavaScript
  • Sweet! React combined with Virtual Reality! We (PRDXN) have been working with React for about 2 years now. So we’re damn excited that Facebook is using React to build Virtual Reality experiences. Woot woot!

Facebook Spaces (VR — Virtual Reality)

  • Oculus Rift + Facebook = 3D virtual hangout with friends
  • More than chat messages; it brings voice and avatar body language
  • WILL expand to other VR platforms

What we (PRDXN) love about this…Facebook’s cracked the “human experience” again without any (?!?) warning. Firstly, they brought us a social platform we didn’t even know we wanted or would enjoy. Now there’s this…

As humans, part of what we love about being with each other is observing things together, and sharing our observations, impressions, analysis, etc. on what we’ve jointly observed — i.e., seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time with your best bud, etc. This is what Facebook Spaces is all about.

Camera Effects Platform (AR — Augmented Reality)

  • Facebook copying Snapchat? No, they’re just getting started
  • Opens up Facebook’s “AR Studio” to the developer community, unlike Snapchat (come on, share!)
  • Wearables still need time to evolve/reach customers; cameras are already there!
  • Facebook: ‘We want to make cameras the first augmented reality platform’

…Got to this point and confused as to how Augmented Reality differs from Virtual Reality? Then check this out.

React Fiber

  • Incoming React 16, will be a rewrite of React based on their learnings with emphasis on extensibility
  • “We wanted to start with a new foundation that could power everything we do going forward” says Ben Alpert
  • Designed to improve React’s suitability in areas such as animation, layout and gestures
  • Fully backwards compatible with existing React-based applications and Facebook is confident that this would not be a problem; still something for Developers to keep an eye out for

Relay Modern

  • New version of Relay, used for building data-heavy applications
  • Rewritten for performance and extensibility, same as React Fiber
  • Simplifies the API, adds features and improves performance; more here

Other highlights:

  • Litho — declarative UI framework for Android, already in use in Facebook’s Android app
  • 360-degree Cameras: Paving the way for future of VR by enabling content creators
  • Bots for Facebook Workplace, adds file integration, partners its way into enterprise-grade compliance
  • Brain-computer interfaceDetects you speaking silently in your head, and translates it into text; all this without invasive implants
  • If Brain-computer interface sounds too futuristic, here comes skin-hearing(!?) — ability to hear through the skin
  • Instagram gets offline mode for Android, coming soon for iOS
  • Updates to Facebook Analytics, Facebook Login and Facebook Account Kit

A Monster Calls

Couple of days back (after being tilted during a Dota 2 game), I thought of watching a movie. It had been a while since I watched any, especially with all the TV series that keep me more than occupied. Choosing a movie wasn’t really difficult with the name Liam Neeson in the cast popping up.

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness.

A Monster Calls‘ isn’t exactly the most riveting title and frankly, despite the cast, I did not expect much from this nearly 2-hour movie but I was in for a surprise.

Based on the book by Patrick Ness, it is a story about a young boy named Conor living with his single mom. It is the journey of Conor through a tough period in school with bullies to his terminally ill mother suffering from cancer, and how he creates this imaginary ‘monster’ to help find his strength in such a time.

The movie does remarkably well to capture the pain and the ceaseless cycle of hope that your loved one would recover – both emotionally as well as visually. A tearjerker.

 

Forgotten

The worst feeling isn’t being lonely. It’s being forgotten by someone you would never forget.

It just seemed like a good quote to ponder over until it actually hit me in reality a few months back.

I was not happy being surrounded by people who once were the closest to me and now had just seamlessly forgotten me. While I would try and come up with something to talk about, do together, it was rarely replicated – even worse is that I would only be remembered when they needed some help. Every day became a reminder of how miserable it is to have lost those people. I had recently quit my job (reason for which deserves a separate post) and thought that this can also be a ‘test’ (whether I’m out of sight out of mind?) – it proved what I already feared.

Now don’t get me wrong, some did (and still) care and I have let then down by isolating myself completely over the last month; and I’m sorry, I would try to make things better.

But what this break showed me was, after everything, all you ever have is yourself and nothing more. Everything, everyone else just comes and goes.

Loosing yourself and others

You ever thought you meant more to a person than they actually did about you? To an extent when you are sure they aren’t even thinking about you? And everytime you try to fix/confront the issue – it just gets worse.

It hurts, it breaks you from the inside and all you want to do is get away from absolutely everyone. That’s what I am feeling right now. I thought we knew each other well, understood, cared – much more than acquaintances. Maybe we did, until recently. To be honest, it is not the first time this has happened; that said, it doesn’t get any easier even the second or third time around.

I have been sensing this for under a year now, and had gone through an array of emotions – from feeling left out, trying to decipher, holding on to the past, of course jealousy (yes, I accept that), and ultimately resorting to reclusion (but failed at it several times). While, admittedly, these do seem childish and scream of insecurities, these are reactions but the underlying cause is something I have been giving a thought to.

Once misunderstanding, twice mistake but third time surely a habit. How could you let/force so many people away from you but all under the same circumstamces? I can’t blame them. Deep down I think that I was designed this way – to be able to understand everyone but not have a single person get what I think.

I used to be fine with this, few years back. Somethings changed, and maybe I tried to change as well – and failed. I would just take one thing away from all of this, i.e., I have to find myself, the part of me which I gave it away too easily. Maybe it takes me weeks or month, but that is a journey I have to make.

Thoughts, ramblings, food adventures, occasional song shares, tech stuff and some Liverpool talk.