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Gamification Predictions for 2011

December 22, 2010

Introduction

At Mashable, Gabe Zichermann (@gzicherm) provided his 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011.  Gabe’s article inspired me to provide my own predictions.

A New Name in 2011

In the second half of 2010, the term “gamification” became bi-polar: you either loved it or hated it.  People on the “love” side see it as the future of engagement and marketing.  People on the “hate” side see it as a gimmick.

Gabe provides his thoughts in an article at Huffington Post.  While the term is effective in capturing the essence, it’s not perfect.  As a result, “gamification” will be used less and less in 2011.  In its place will be a set of new terms, based on its specific applications (e.g. game-based marketing, game-based social initiatives, etc.).

A Sub-Industry Develops


This is more an observation, rather than a prediction (since it’s already happening): an industry has developed around “gamification”.  When folks convene for a conference or summit, that’s my measuring stick to tell me that an industry is emerging.  In the virtual events space, that happened in 2009 with the Virtual Edge Summit (which, by the way, has its third annual conference, also in January 2011).

If you look at the sponsor and speaker lists for this event, you’ll see a number of start-ups who built their business around gamification.  In 2011, we’ll see some “bubble like” behavior (perhaps we’re already seeing it now), where entrepreneurs look to build the next great gamification companies.  In the second half of 2011, however, the bubble settles and the early winners emerge.

Related: Gamification gets its own conference (VentureBeat)

Game Mechanics for The Greater Good

Jane McGonigal of Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future once said, “Any time I consider a new project, I ask myself, is this pushing the state of gaming toward Nobel Prizes? If it’s not, then it’s not doing anything important enough to spend my time.” (source: Salon.com article from 2007).

In 2011, we’ll see game mechanics applied increasingly to the “greater good” – initiatives that can change the world.

Armchair Revolutionary is a great example – consider one of their slogans, “shape the future by playing a game”.  In 2011, lots of “revolutionaries” emerge to rally those who can, to provide help to those in need.

Game Mechanics Go Mainstream – But Consumers Don’t Know It

Game mechanics are going mainstream, but the typical user won’t know that they’re participating in them.  They simply know that they’re engaging in enjoyable activities (side note: there will be similar growth in Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., but users, of course, won’t know that they’re using “location based services”).

For example, Universal Studios announced successful sales of their “Despicable Me” DVD – their press release attributes some of the success to a “Minions Madness” promotion, “a points-based reward and social media program spotlighting the film’s beloved mischief-makers, the Minions.” This promotion was powered by Bunchball, a game mechanics start-up.

Bunchball (and related companies) has built a nice client list of broadcast networks, cable networks and film studios.  In 2011, additional media outlets come on board.  Game mechanics  go more and more mainstream, even though the typical mainstream user doesn’t know it.  Watch out in 2012, however, as consumer-based game mechanics suffer some fatigue (as consumers then see “much too much” of it).

Established Web Players Incorporate Game Mechanics

2011 sees established players incorporate game mechanics to increase engagement (e.g. “time on site”, clicks, e-commerce sales, etc.).

Google adopts game mechanics as a means for bridging their search business and social services (e.g. adding game mechanics to Google Me). Others who add game mechanics include Netflix, eBay and Groupon.  Of course, it’s natural to expect that more and more virtual event experiences will add game mechanics, too.

Conclusion

2010 has been an interesting year for gamification. 2011 will kick off with an industry event and where we go from there will be exciting to watch.  I’ll check back mid-year with a report card on these predictions. Here’s hoping I attain the “crystal ball badge”.

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The Future Of Book Publishing

December 11, 2010

Introduction

I recently published a book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events“.  I wrote a prior blog posting that described the process of self-publishing the book.

Like other industries (e.g. newspapers, music, entertainment, etc.), the web will have a transformative impact on book publishing.  In fact, my belief is that the coming 2 years will see dramatic shifts – the book publishing industry will never be the same.

Production / Printing

Self-publishing has arrived and it’s here to stay.  Moving the book publishing process into the cloud significantly empowers the author.  Now, authors “prepare the print run” via the web, making tweaks and edits as they see fit.  The cloud has ushered in an era of on-demand printing – or, what I call “agile printing“.  With traditional book publishing, the Second Edition of a book may come out a year later.  With agile printing, it’s possible for the Second Edition to be published the next day.

This does not mean that traditional book publishers will face complete disintermediation.  Instead, I believe savvy publishers will incorporate “cloud technologies” into their publishing process, streamlining the process for editors and authors.  Publishers will rightly conclude that the publishing process could leverage a lot of the same convenience of blog publishing.

Crowd-based Editing

You can put the power of the crowd to work for you and sustain results as good as a single expert. That’s just what Facebook did to enable Facebook.com to be available in 64 languages.  You can add the Facebook Translations application and “join our community of translators and make Facebook available in your language”.

I see a similar opportunity for basic copy editing.  Authors can tap into crowdsourcing providers to have a network of hundreds (or thousands) of “workers” collectively provide copy editing of their manuscript.  To cut costs, traditional book publishers may look to crowdsource copy editing, with a smaller staff of editors in place to “quality check” the resulting work.

Collaborative Writing


What’s better than one author?  Two or more authors.  The beauty of “publishing from the cloud” is that your social graph can be invited directly into the manuscript.  I published my book via FastPencil and it gave me the option of inviting in project managers, co-authors, editors and reviewers to collaborate on my project.

I believe that authors will increasingly bring their social graph into the publishing process.  Survey the suitability of your book to a prior generation by inviting your aunt to review Chapter 2 and then invite past business partners in to write a few chapters.  With self-publishing, we’ll see more “chapter books”, where a collection of experts each write one chapter.

Migration to Digital Readers


While some will insist on sticking to the printed format, we’ll be reading more and more books via digital form.  The combination of digital plus “online” will dramatically change the reading experience in the coming years.  Already, the Amazon Kindle 3 allows readers to copy a selection from the book and share it on Twitter or Facebook.  With digital devices, the reading experience moves from solitary to social.

In the early days of Facebook, I interacted with friends, but it was asynchronous.  I’d post, then an hour later, they’d respond. With Facebook Chat, I’m now noticing that certain friends want to interact in real-time, directly on Facebook.

Book reading will take on similar dynamics. I’ll carry my social graph onto my device (if I choose to) and see which friends are reading the same book as me – right now.  I can start a chat with my friend to discuss Chapter 3.  Or, I can perform a “scan” to see a list of other online users who are reading the same book right now.  The “book of the month club” becomes virtual and global.

Subcription (Rental) Model

On college campuses, Chegg is innovating with a textbook rental business.  With digital books, someone will come along soon (Netflix more likely than Amazon) to disrupt the market with a cloud-based subscription model.  I think the days of “purchasing to own” digital books are numbered.  I think of a digital book like a DVD – I consume it, I enjoy it, I move on.  I don’t need to own it.

With a subscription model, I may get up to 10 digital books per month.  The book content is served up from the cloud, which means I can read it from any device – and I can bookmark the page and move from my laptop to my smartphone.

When I’m done, I “return” the book and can access my next book.  Of course, the challenge will be in the licensing agreements with book publishers – something Netflix has been working through with movie studios for their streaming service.  And, we’ll need an “offline reading mode” for times when users are not connected to the net.

Conclusion

As a new author, I’m excited to see what lies ahead for book publishing.  Based on the web, the cloud and social media, it’s never been a better time to be an author.


For Virtual Event Platforms, User Experience Is Key

May 22, 2009

Source: Wolfram|Alpha

Source: Wolfram|Alpha

Heard of this new web site?  It’s Wolfram|Alpha, whose “long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone”.  Unveiled with much media coverage (and drawing some comparisons to Google), the Wolfram|Alpha web site is exceedingly easy to use.  Other than the insiders at the company, we’re all first-time users of this service – and Wolfram|Alpha incorporates a lot of noble elements in User Experience (UE) – for one, the main page is prescriptive.

Not sure how the service works?  Well, click on any of the links in the “A few things to try” area and you’re off and running.  A left-click on any of the listed examples inserts the search term into the search box and the page dynamically updates to instruct you on what to do next [e.g. “Click here (or press enter) to get the result”].  Here’s a closer view of the “A few things to try” area:

Source: Wolfram|Alpha

Source: Wolfram|Alpha

How does this relate to virtual events?  Well, in 2009, virtual events have witnessed a dramatic surge in both interest and attendance.  The surge in attendance means that many users of virtual events have been first timers.  In fact, I’d estimate that of all virtual event attendees in 2009, one third (33%) were first time attendees.  Since first impressions are critical, this means that virtual event platforms need to nail the User Experience factor in order to have first time users return for more virtual events.

For first time users, it’s important for the platform to have the following attributes:

  1. Be prescriptive where needed – the last thing a virtual event platform provider wants to hear is a user who says that the environment is “hard to navigate”.  Especially for the first time user, virtual event platforms should add prescriptive features to the user experience – such that booth visits, search, chat, etc. leverage visual indicators similar to Wolfram|Alpha.
  2. Use examples – why not mirror the Wolfram|Alpha approach of  “A few things to try” – use that as a title in a navigational area of the virtual event and you’re sure to have users leverage it to get acclimated.  In a virtual event, a few things to try include: private chat, group chat, private webcam chat, view a Webcast, visit a booth, etc.  By providing these examples – and walking the first time visitor through each activity, you’re allowing these new users to take off their training wheels – and they’ll thank you for it.
  3. Be intuitive and easy to grasp – easier said than done, but the example I’ll use here is Netflix.  When I first joined a few years back, I immediately found the Netflix web site to exceedingly intuitive, with a savvy use of AJAX in just the right places.  Finding movies and managing the Queue were so easy and convenient.
Source: Netflix

Source: Netflix

It would be silly to think that attendees of a physical event partake in “training” in order to navigate and participate.  This holds true in a virtual event – if the platform handles UE properly, the first time user should be up and running as a virtual veteran within the first 30 minutes of that first session.


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