It’s more cloudy than blue sky today, on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Portland, Oregon.
Apparently just one thing today, and I quite like how it meandered around.
(Not Boring) Habits was a winner at this year’s Apple Design Awards in the Delight and Fun category. Here I am, trying to not roll my eyes at the phrase Delight and Fun, which Apple says is intended to recognize “memorable, engaging, and satisfying experiences [that are enhanced by Apple technologies]”.
The most important thing, the most interesting thing, and the thing that I most like about Habits is not that it is playful, even though it is that and it does look very nice and touchable and, well, play-with-able, but that this copy on how the app handles streaks is fantastic:
Streaks work for some people, but every streak is broken eventually, and having to start over is a major demotivator right when you need it most. Games solved this decades ago by saving your progress. We know things happen and days will be missed. Don’t worry about it. Pick up right where you left off and keep going. As Confucius said, “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” (my emphasis)
If you’ve been reading along, then you’ll know that one of my bugbears is that streaks aren’t for everyone and that they’re absolutely demotivators for some people. They’ve been the subject over so many years with my therapist as part of what I think is my temperament and also how my brain grew up: that one single failure is a big failure, and that it wipes out and invalidates all previous progress. But if you’re dealing with, say, a chronic illness, then what you want is consistency over time and a sustained practice. It’s less important to have 45 days of exercise as a streak in a year, then fall off and get to a total of, say, 60, than it is to have 100 or more days, but broken up into much smaller streaks.
Streaks are all-or-nothing thinking, which can in the worst case be fatal to someone who has, say, major depressive disorder. Imagine this: you’ve been doing so well and then you miss one day, and you might feel like a complete failure.
What I really appreciate about ANDY WORKS (that is, Andy Allen, and Mark Dawson) is what I bolded:
Games solved this decades ago by saving your progress.
In one fell swoop what I’ve been trying to advocate for is made clear and compelling with just one sentence. At least it is if you play videogames. Games that don’t let you save your progress and pause and come back are now seen as purposefully difficult, which is fine because that’s the point of the game. But for a habit-building app (or even something like Duolingo, for example), why punish?
This is one of the reasons why I dislike naive gamification so much; I call it naive because it’s checkboxism – someone’s put forward an approach and if you implement all the stuff on the list, then you achieve the objective. And gamification has for so long (and since its inception, really) been about engagement, whatever godawful empty term that’s supposed to be. So there you go, you read something like Nir Eyal’s Hooked, on how to build habit-forming products and… I kind of don’t like it? I mean, I’m just personally and morally opposed to even using that language. It’d be interesting reading the reviews and blurbs from Eyal’s 2014 book and seeing if anyone who breathlessly recommended it back then now has had a change of belief along the lines of humane technology or ethical technology, when really it had nothing to do with technology and more about being humane, which you could’ve been at any point. What was the giveaway? Was it the goddamn title, Hooked?
But I digress. I like this whole positioning of something that is on your side and is on your team, in a kind way, in a sympathetic, compassionate way. Part of this is why I’m still waiting for Apple to include a way of looking at behavior that isn’t streak-based.
The less-interesting part of this is the whole playful approach that ANDY WORKS takes, which is more like fully interactive toys and objects – like desk toys, I guess – that are both functional and also encourage you to pick them up and touch them and play with them. I think it’s more apparent in their Weather app, that throws all those GPU flops at particle simulation systems, procedurally generated clouds and so on to make an app more of a snowglobe. The snowglobe aesthetic. There you go. There’s an idea. How would you make your app like a snowglobe? Not your entire app, obviously. That probably wouldn’t work. But are there snowglobe-able bits? Snowglobes and mobiles and responsive, reactive toys that also model data and convey clear information first. Perhaps weather is the easiest to access and snowglobe-ify.
Perhaps snowglobeing is a better way to think about translating existing applications and tasks to augmented reality. I was watching Paycheck, the 2003 John Woo adaptation of a wonderful Philip K. Dick story, last night and there’s another example of a 3D, floating interface where someone – Ben Affleck, in this case – is an engineer and needs to do some complicated systems work, so he uses a light pen to move stuff around, in a manner that’s very close to Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man (funny, I would’ve thought the dates would’ve been the other way around), and again it’s representation of data and systems as a pseudo physical model, a puzzle box you can take apart and put together again. Which, you know, may not work for your Microsoft Dynamics Business Intelligence dashboard? Or double-you-know, has probably already been shown in a Future Visions Video for Microsoft’s vision of the future.
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How are you today? I am doing better than I was at the beginning of this week.