Entering the Forest to train for the First Gamification Competition

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At the centre of the forest is the white fortress and on the 1st September 2013, its wide gates will swing open for the first time. It will welcome in competitors from far and wide, trumpets will sound and Webland will witness the world’s largest gamification challenge ever.

So how do I, the average Joey with no real experience in this field, get there?

I walk to the edge of the forest and the ground is thick with the roots of the trees and bushes. I pick my way through the undergrowth, my steps clearing a short trail that is swallowed up immediately again behind me. As I search for sight of the white walls in the gaps between the trees, every nook seems to hold what might be the distant light of a clearing. I have no idea if I’m going in the right direction.

I close my eyes and picture again the tall walls and towers of the fortress. I see the four squared towers draped with multi-coloured flags fluttering in the breeze and the fortress shakes as if alive. But when I open my eyes again, the forest is dark and still around me and I know I must find someone to guide me.

A journey towards a challenge, to compete and a chance to learn from the masters in a field. I’ve heard the tale before in different ways old and new. It is a martial arts story.

For me, the one that still captures it best in Western films anyway is The Karate Kid. This 80s film follows the story of a bullied young boy as he learns from the loveable and quirky Mr Miyagi, handyman and secret karate master. Filled with clever quips and so many memorable scenes, it all culminates in one ridiculous, but wholly awesome karate bird kick.

Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?

Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?

Deep in the forest lies the dojos, temples or training rings of these masters and students of gamification. I seek out the voices that I hope will teach, challenge and inspire me. I wander to their doorways and here is who I choose to follow.

Cue the inspirational training montage.

So, progress towards my Follow 150 goals: 28 Gamification people and 9 organisations.

Why my Follow150 Quest stopped being fun: Discovering Gamification

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I skid down one of rocky paths that lie between the mountainous ranges of Webland onto a wide ridge. A few blossom trees are dotted along the ridge, their roots gripping the shallow earth and branches splayed across the face of the mountain. The smell of fresh blossoms reaches me and I look down at the small pink garland twisted around my wrist. The thirty hand-picked blossoms are connected together by a thin silver strand and when I bring it to my nose, I still smell the fainter musky sweetness coming from it.

On each of the blossoms is the name of someone, a stranger in Webland whose words made me want to reach out and follow them. But in my 2nd week on the follow 150 quest, I have not been so successful.

The excitement and drive I felt whilst discovering those first people follow has fizzled out. I know those inspiring and interesting writers, bloggers and speakers are still out there, so why has it become so boring to seek them out when just a week ago it was invigorating.

I decided to to delve deeper into why this may have changed and my searches led me to the field of gamification.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems.

Definition: Wikipedia

Below were two slides about the setting of incremental goals in games. Its taken from the excellent Meaningful Play. Getting »Gamification« Right presentation and Google Talk from Sebastian Deterding.

slide-84-728       slide-86-728

I compare this to the weekly goals I set on Follow 150 and you can spot the problem straight away.

Week 1: 30 Follows –> Week 2: 36 Follows –> Week 3: 42 Follows –> Week 4: 42 Follows

Not much depth, variety or complexity. So I’ve attempted to apply these and revise the Follow 150 quest:

  • Goal 1: Total 30 Follows
  • Goal 2: Total 80 Follows, follow 40 of the most influential people in one chosen area
  • Goal 3: Total 115 Follows, follow 35 based only on new recommendations of existing follows
  • Goal 4: Sort all followed people into categories, Total 150 Follows

If you’re inspired to take up this digital quest too, I’d love to know to what you think of these revised goals. Feel free to start this with your own timetable and let me know how you get on in the comments.

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On the ridge of the mountain, I walk to the shade of the nearest tree with its trunk and branches curving out over the edge. I pull myself up into its arms and when I lean my body into the rough bark a small flurry of blossoms begin to fall. I reach out a hand to catch one, but then between the swaying branches, I see it.

A dense forest fills the valley so there is no ground in sight, but there at its centre looms four white towers and walls. The gleaming fortress holds within it the secrets and masters for the area I’ve picked to follow; Gamification.

I jump down from the tree and start to skip my way down towards the forest. The image of the fortress still fresh in my mind, I know with growing certainty that I must try to reach it. I do not know how I will do it, but I feel the impatience of my thoughts stirred by the beginnings of another quest.

To compete in Gammify 2013:  The World’s Largest Gamification Challenge.

 

Talking to Strangers

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It’s the end of the first week in the follow 150 challenge and I have successfully found 30 strangers to follow. Yeah.

I kicked off my online connections with these people to a grand total of…1 comment left. Hmm.

This is harder than I thought it would be. I’d like to excuse my lagging on the commenting as being pressed for time, but I don’t have to dig very deep to know this isn’t entirely true. I’ve never found talking to new people easy. Making those connections to a stranger at a party or event brings out my own special brand of awkwardness. So no big surprise, another introverted blogger.

I was standing in a room at one of those networking events recently. You know, where everyone is meant to just introduce yourself, ask something insightful, answer interestingly, repeat.

Instead I stood in the corner forming an opening line in my head until the room would clear, repeat.  I would check my thirst levels, bladder levels or overwhelming need for another little triangle sandwich, and then would walk across the room looking purposeful, repeat.

Its ok I’m not speaking to you because look, I need to pee or make tea! Preferably not at the same time.

I feel my alternative digital existence wrapped around me at these times. Like a safe cocoon I let it surround me.  I create and write the flowing words in my head and this I think excuses the lack of them in that moment. I don’t have to fully engage in this real world because my digital one is what matters. I turn my internet adventure on its head and imagine myself as the explorer thrown instead into an alien visceral world.  I catalogue my observations of these strange beings and interactions, but must leave the local ecosystem undisturbed.

Here in the internet, I assumed it would be easier to talk to strangers. I thought perhaps I would finally shed my cocoon and transform into a social media butterfly.

Wasn’t that the point of the challenge, wasn’t that the trick I tried to play on myself? To force myself to not only follow along with the conversation and observe, but to actually make a connection to people.

The gap between online and offline is not so easily divided though. I carry my phobias with me in my digital self and the blank space at the bottom of a post seems to challenge me with the same expectant stare. Here in webland, I realise I am still tightly wrapped in the webbing of my cocoon.

I imagine people as blossoms, stars in the sky or pebbles on the road. Everything except what they really are because then there is no chance of judgement or rejection. If they are not real people, then there is no risk that they will disappoint or worse, I will. I emerge not as a butterfly, but the same pondering shy caterpillar faced was the same challenges in another guise.