Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mindfulness Alpha Testing!!!

Great news, everyone! We've gotten permission to allow some (limited) amount of alpha testing on non-Proteus employees! See below:

Proteus Biomedical invites the self-experimentation community to alpha test our consumer health & wellness technology. Selected experimenters will receive supplies to run a four-week experiment.

Proteus makes a torso-worn patch that characterizes activity, sleep and other metrics via accelerometery, heart rate, and surface temperature.. Additionally, a safe, ingestible sensor shaped like a tablet communicates the time of ingestion when swallowed.


The power of suggestion is real. Our own early experiments suggest that labeling ingestible sensors – Mindfulness Pills – with different attributes and taking them per self-defined guidelines can prompt positive behavior change through increased mindfulness and automatic correlation of ingestion and behavior. To learn more about mindfulness, visit:

Your proposal should include:

- Your mindfulness goals

- A description of your mindfulness experiment and required supplies

Questions & Proposals

Please contact Nancy Dougherty at


09.11.2011, 11:59pm

Submit mindfulness experiment proposal


Accepted proposals announced on the mindfulness blog


Materials distributed and experiments start


Experiments reported on the mindfulness blog

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Real Power of Scheduling?

Not a single conversation on gamification goes by without a mention of a Zynga blockbuster. Entrepreneurs all over the world are salivating at the thought of their product, service, or site getting the time, money, and word of mouth that Mafia Wars and Farmville get. And the success of these games is becoming a gold standard for how to "gamify"- appointment-based dynamics, the "wither" effect, probabilistic rewards, social-network based gaming, badges, statuses- and most importantly, the recipe that uses those ingredients to make a viral and addictive product.

Of course, knowing what elements work isn’t as important as knowing WHY they work. And the best way to understand how game elements interlock to create engagement and addiction is to play (see this Extra Credits on how to play a game like a game designer)

After a few weeks of playing Zynga games, I found that overwhelmingly, the factor that kept me coming back was the scheduling, coupled with the well-recognized intoxication of leveling up (and oh, the cool new powers that leveling up unlocks!). The "wither effect" was a small factor- especially in Mafia Wars where it has little presence. But that wasn't where the powerful addiction came from. In fact, it came from something that was brought up in a habit design meetup in SF outside the context of gamification. It was enforced RESTRAINT.

When you finish a "round" of actions in a Zynga game, you exhaust your resources- energy, stamina, field space- you're out, and all you can do is wait patiently for the chance to play again several hours later. At the time, you don't WANT to wait- you want to get to that next status NOW- the status bar is so close to being at the end!!! AARGH! The magic is that they force you to stop gameplay before you want to. As a result, you don't binge and burn out. Instead, you constantly have the mindset of "I can't wait for the privilege of playing again". Having restricted resources is not a new feature in games, but Zynga is a rare specimen in that once your resources are gone, rather than diverting you to a new task or quest within the game, your gameplay is over.

This is exactly what is considered in habit design- if you are trying to form a new habit and "binge" on it (crash diet, or try to start stretching an hour a day right away), when the initial wave of resolve washes over in a week or so, you're burned out on your goal. One way to train yourself better is to start in small doses- never get to the point of satiation with your habit; take baby steps and keep yourself craving more.

One more clever Zynga twist: if you simply CAN'T wait patiently, counting down the hours until your next engagement with bated breath, there's 2 ways to keep playing!

1. Extreme social interaction- loop more and more people in on the game, and get gifts and unlock bonuses to extend your continuous game play. You get immersion, Zynga gets customers

2. Real world money!!!


So before you start adding scheduling and withering to all of your widgets, consider all the aspects of why this works for Zynga- it’s not just the "hey, come back in 12 hours- but less than 14 hours!". A big motivator is the fact that you're booted off against your will, planting the thought in the back of your head, "I can't WAIT to play again!" in a sustainable, lucrative manner.

Well done, Zynga! The rest of us- let's put it in our "Save the World" toolbox.