Category Archives: Criticize

How Angry Birds Can Change the World

How do we make creating change more fun and engaging?Yes, social innovators are jumping on the gamification bandwagon too. Like entrepreneurs and educators who are venturing into this field, we’re trying to figure out how to engage people more effectively at a time when they are becoming increasingly more distracted by the tsunami of information and content generated by everyone.

Young people, especially, are distracted by online games that are the very definition of addiction. (As I wrote this last sentence, I was notified by Farmville that I had to harvest my pumpkins, which forced me to take a 10 minute break.)But social innovators are also turning to gamification — the application of game elements to non-game settings — to address an age-old problem.

It’s a problem described succinctly by some as the “knowing-doing gap” — the unfortunate reality that there’s a gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do.

We know we should be eating more healthful foods but we gorge ourselves with hamburgers and french fries. We know we should be reducing our use of plastic bags and bottles but we rarely carry reusables with us. We know we should all reduce our carbon footprint but we _________ (fill in your own excuse).

There’s a limit to how much we can appeal to logic and reason to get people to “do the right thing.” The upper limit for recycling (of municipal waste) seems to be 30 percent, even after decades of promoting such practice. For greater success, we have no choice but to appeal to other motivations.

Games, especially video games like Angry Birds and online games like Farmville, teach us what humans are motivated by.We’re motivated by feedback that’s frequent and rapid, challenges that are not too easy or too hard, rewards that are both expected and unexpected, a real sense of purpose or epic meaning, mastery of skills, productivity, accomplishment, involvement of other people, and some degree of autonomy. Those are just a few of the more popular game dynamics.

I’ve created a social innovation competition called Fun for A Change to invite youth to create social change solutions that are more fun and engaging. And I’ve been testing this approach at conferences in Asia, working mostly with university students but also with children as young as 10.Seeing with my own eyes how engaged young people can be in this type of design process, I’ve come to believe that fun is the most powerful way to invite young people into the social change space.

I’m especially encouraged by the pilot just completed at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, British Columbia. The school’s chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) held its own Fun for A Change competition and some great ideas emerged.

The runner-up, Lotto Globe, proposed a way to recycle millions of train tickets printed each year by creating a special lottery that you enter by recycling your tickets after you’re done. The prizes can come from local businesses, which allows the lottery to promote the local economy. It also sends an important message that recycling small pieces of paper can add up.

The winning idea, Image Garden, went after a more ambitious behavior change. It’s a game inspired installation that invites children to express themselves creatively in a public space and take ownership of the public spaces they occupy.

We plan to demonstrate both ideas in the coming months to measure their effectiveness.Starting in October, Fun for A Change will also be held at 16 universities in Taiwan, one in India, and a few other schools that are not yet confirmed.

Youth who are not at a participating school can also take part in the online challenge at Fun for A Change. Designed to be game-like, “players” design their social change solutions (powered by game dynamics) by completing seven simple missions.

Gamification is not a panacea. In some cases, it may even do more harm than good. But if much of social change involves behavior change, then we need to start taking cues from Angry Birds.

If webOS is the perfect mobile OS, why can’t it succeed?

It’s a bit amusing to read on Twitter and around the web all of the people stating that webOS is the best mobile operating system and yet we see that HP is giving up on the hardware and leaving the OS in uncertainty. I understand that there are strong feelings about HP’s strategy and agree with many that HP is giving in too soon. While I think webOS does have many strengths, I am not sold that it is the best mobile operating system and think if it really was then we would have seen some success with it over the last couple of years.

We were all quite enthusiastic back during CES 2009 when Palm announced webOS and the Palm Pre, but Palm took their time getting their first Pre out to consumers and then just released it on Sprint to start. Palm only released a few webOS-powered phones and in my opinion the hardware was sub-par and did not match the power and fluidity of the OS.

I think webOS is awesome for the Synergy support with multiple cloud and online service integration, is killer at multi-tasking (unless you get too many cards open when it crashes), has an excellent universal search client in Just Type, makes enjoying photos easy with service integration (such as Facebook), is a messaging powerhouse, and the apps that it does have are generally of good quality.

However, Palm used to be the king of personal information management (PIM) and took a few steps back with webOS when they left their roots and just provided basic calendar, contacts, and task support with no Office editing or creation support. I wrote a post on the weakness of the Palm webOS Calendar app in 2009 and unfortunately those same issues are present today in the Calendar. I can’t believe we still don’t see an Agenda view on webOS devices and it is discouraging to see Palm/HP do so well with service integration and then leave the basics behind.

I also found webOS to lag at times and as James pointed out new users need to understand the device will likely be slow and unresponsive for a couple of days as all of the cloud services sync up and get configured on the TouchPad. This should have been fixed by Palm/HP or a notice made to new users during the setup process.

We see something near 7,000 apps for webOS after 2+ years while Windows Phone 7 is nearing 30,000 and even RIM has 15,000+ for BlackBerry smartphones. webOS had a LOT of potential, but after 2+ years this potential was never fully realized and may be left to the enthusiast community to carry the torch. Palm/HP never even really registered on any smartphone market share data, except to fall into the Other category. There was quite a community for the Newton back in the day and the TouchPad may suffer the same fate now that HP dropped it.

I will keep my TouchPad around (I paid $325 for it from a Craigslist seller back when that was a steal right before the prices dropped like a rock) and likely give it to my daughters to use for web browsing, Facebook usage, and Angry Birds since that is just about all it is good for now that HP is backing down from the platform.

Meet ‘Mini Mao’, the 12-year-old star of Chinese communism

Eyebrows were no doubt raised in Washington when a rising star in the Chinese political scene said recently that he wished “to revive the Chinese nation and resume the heyday of the Han and Tang dynasties”. But Pentagon officials needn’t worry just yet, for the political heavyweight in question is still in primary school.

Twelve-year-old Huang Yibo has already achieved high office in the Young Pioneers of China (a primary school branch of the Communist Youth League), and his blog – named Qiankun Ruxiu, Chinese for “the breadth of mind is as wide as heaven and earth” – has received a reported 1.2 million visitors in the past few days.

His progress has been the subject of a great deal of attention in the Chinese press. Newspapers have reported that the boy eschewed cartoons at the age of two in favour of the China Central Television’s evening news, and at seven years old he began reading the People’s Daily newspaper.

According to the local Wuhan Evening News, Huang was named as one of “The Country’s 100 Outstanding Juveniles” and “10 Filial Piety Stars of Wuhan”.

There are a number of subtle indicators that distinguish Huang from his classmates. The five stripes displayed on his arm denote a high rank in Young Pioneers – to have three is rare.

Photographs recently released by the Pioneers are not dissimilar to publicity shots for a politician showing a smartly dressed child signing autographs, giving speeches to fellow classmates, and shuffling through reams of documents. In one picture, Huang bends down to hold the hand of an elderly lady in a hospital bed.

Comments from Chinese readers on Huan’s blog give a mixed reaction. “I’ve never heard of five stripes before,” wrote one reader from Sichuan province in comments translated by the blog chinaSMACK. “I only know that having stripes all over your body is the outfit of mental patients!” Another commenter labelled him “Mini Mao”.

It remains unclear whether the precocious politician is a creation of propaganda, or simply of pushy parents. “If this had happened 15 years ago, I would say it was probably entirely the creation of the party,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. “It is now conceivable that the parents have played a significant role in making him prominent.”

Huang’s father told a local newspaper that his son was “just doing what he likes”.

Microsoft and Nokia vow to challenge Apple and Google

Microsoft and Nokia have vowed to take on Apple and Google in the fast-growing smartphone market by being the “most friendly” to mobile operators.

The chief executives of the world’s largest software company and the world’s largest mobile phone maker said operators were “very excited” about Microsoft and Nokia’s new “alliance” to create a third smartphone “ecosytem” to challenge Apple and Google.

“The world is shifting from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems,” Stephen Elop, Nokia’s new chief executive said at the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona yesterday. “Microsoft and Nokia together represent a natural partnership.”

Mr Elop said the world’s biggest mobile operators were “all smiles” about the tie-up because Nokia has traditionally been more amiable to telecoms providers than Apple or Google. “This is good news for operators,” he said. “We are in a position to create a third ecosystem. We know what it means to be the most friendly to the operators.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said: “Windows Phone will be the most operator friendly”.

Apple has long-angered operators, particularly in Europe, by demanding a cut of ongoing customer revenues. Apple also invoked the wrath of operators last year by proposing to bypass operators by removing the need for operator SIM cards in the next version of its iPhone. Apple is understood to have since backtracked from the plan after operators complained.