Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Non-gaming-related Preparation (Defender World Record Saga - Part Three Of Five)


"If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing." - Some crazy person that I emulate for some reason
Behind the scenes

PREPARATION FOR PREPARATION
After a lot of guidance from other marathoners, I did a Defender mini-marathon a couple of weeks earlier to get ready. Read about it here. It taught me a LOT about what support I was going to need that had nothing to do with playing the game.

DO IT BIG OR GO HOME
This event was a big bucket list item for me and there was no way I was going to do it halfway. My wife was just as excited about this as I was, and my family and friends were totally behind it as well. 

Planning for and executing this Defender marathon required a lot of things to happen all at the same time: getting a referee (Josh Jones) to agree to take the journey with me, lining up time off of work, getting family support, and mechanical and technical support that ensured 80+ hours of uptime on the game machine itself. 

Old-fashioned Management Memes: No Surprises / Be the Ball

The wrong surprises
wreck everything

What do I know?

Feel free to look me up here.

meme mēm noun: an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, esp. imitation.

As a manager (and reader of a bunch of stuff) for the past 20 years, I have had requests for management tips. Some things work; some don't. Some are magical wins. Some are spectacular failures. Your mileage may vary. Whatever the case, these techniques have worked magic for me, time and time again.

Get this in your head: If you don't WANT to manage, you're pretty much gonna suck at it. Helping people succeed is a labor of love

---------------------------------------

NO SURPRISES / BE THE BALL

Probably doesn't like
negative surprises
HAS THIS HAPPENED TO YOU?
How many times has your manager called you into their office and dressed you down about an issue that happened days (weeks, or months) ago? Shouldn't they have talked to you about it instantly, when it happened, so you weren't caught off guard? 

Have you ever been told that there's some new aspect of your product that was added to the spec list a week ago, but you were never told? 

What about that time you found out that the "still in progress" product has to be demoed in two weeks?

And the worst one of all, the dreaded annual review where you have no idea what your boss is going to tell you?
Can't have one
without the others

Okay, managers, we're going to teach you how you can avoid making your staff feel lousy!

It's really quite easy. There are four simple steps?

STEP 1: TELL THE TRUTH
Employees should know as much as legally possible. Share everything. Tell them when things are due as early as you can. If it was a surprise to you, tell them that as well. 

Honesty is really the best policyReally. Tell them everything. They can take it. 

That's why you hired them. 

STEP 2: BECOME A COACH AND A GARDENER
The first thing to do is get a copy of the One Minute Manager and read it thoroughly. Don't worry; even you can finish that book in a few hours. Really. 


It takes a while to
learn how to coach
The main point of the One Minute Manager is that you should catch people doing things right. For our purposes here, we'll call that coaching

Coaching them immediately is best! If you can't tell them immediately, make a point of telling them as soon as you notice it. Example: "I saw that new feature in the last build; that was fantastic. Who worked on that?" And then go tell them they did a great job. 

Phrases like "I'd like to see more of that," "I like what you are doing," "That's exactly how we need that done," and other SPECIFIC, POSITIVE comments are great for coaching.

The second take away from that book is that you should always encourage people to correct their mistakes and never get mad or be negative. We'll call that gardening, because we're weeding out non-positive behavior.


The garden grows when
it is allowed to grow
When you are gardening, you want to say things like "Maybe we could try to (insert SPECIFIC, POSITIVE direction)," "That's good, but I'd like to see you (insert SPECIFIC, POSITIVE direction)," "Let's see if you can adjust the (insert SPECIFIC, POSITIVE direction)," and other SPECIFIC, POSITIVE comments are great for gardening. 

As a manager, your job is to be a coach and gardener; it is not to be a megalomaniacal micro manager.

Being a coach and a gardener is not easy, and your skill at this role is going to determine how well your team succeeds. It also makes performance reviews a piece of cake. Everyone knows how they are doing at any time. There are no surprises.

STEP 3: KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
There is a fundamental purpose to being a manager that drives all of your decisions. You have to know what you want. This is a challenge in itself sometimes, but it is up to YOU to get it right.

This allows you the ability to set expectations that are perfectly clear to your staff. 

What I mean by "know what you want" is that as a project leader or manager, your role is to envision the project completed. You may not know all of the details, but you should have a picture in your mind of the end goal. Your staff should know their part in the effort

That's why you hired them. 

When you set these goals appropriately, you can accurately advise your staff as they begin and continue to work on the project. 

STEP 4: "BE THE BALL"
This is where it all comes together.

When you can look over someone's shoulder, know for a fact that it matches your needs and goals for the project, and you tell them as soon as you see the alignment, you're a Master Coach.

When you look at their work product, realize that it is not up to your expectations, and you provide them with clear, actionable feedback to direct them toward the project's goals, you're a Master Gardener.

When you know what you want and have mastered both skills, you are, for all intents and purposes, the project's heart and soul. You have Become the Ball

THE RESULT? THERE ARE NO SURPRISES
Your staff wants to do a good job. The only way they know they are doing the right thing is if you tell them. 

A clearly specific goal encourages a feeling of confidence and results in their best work. 

Creating an environment where the only surprises are delightful results in amazing productivity just may surprise you with a staff that hope to work with you forever. Really. 

"It's no big deal."
Your mission is to "Avoid missing ball for high score":

  • Tell the truth.
  • Know what you want.
  • Catch people doing things correctly and tell them immediately!
  • Refocus unwanted effort toward to the needs of the project. 
  • Be the ball.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Monday, November 25, 2013

What *is* Defender? (Defender World Record Saga - Part Two Of Five)


Let's take a look at what we're talking about here. 

OVERVIEW
Defender is an arcade game made by Williams Electronics in 1980. It is, essentially, a test to see how long you can stop aliens from overtaking Earth. You "defend" 10 humans from being mutated into aliens themselves. If you lose all of your humans, you enter "space," which is incredibly difficult to exit to get back to Earth. If you lose all your ships, you die, and Earth is defeated. Game Over.  
The crazy controls

Defender is played by pressing 5 separate buttons with unique actions and an up / down lever on an arcade control panel. One token is worth 3 ships and 3 Smart Bombs, and every 10,000 points awards one ship/Smart Bomb combo.

The full article has moved to http://defendering.blogspot.com/2013/11/what-is-defender-defender-world-record.html

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's The Big Deal About Defender? (Defender World Record Saga - Part One Of Five)


When I first saw the Defender machine pop into existence in my local 7-11, I watched the flashing attract mode screens until they settled on the High Score page... The DEFENDER HALL OF FAME. It had "Todays Best" (no apostrophe - but who cares) and "All time Greatest." That spoke to me. Loudly.

You see, my hometown area of Brazosport, TX is most known for being a chemical plant. I lived in the "blue collar" support city and, well, the place was filled with people whose families were hard working and honestly didn't always have time to spend with their kids. 

The full article has moved to http://defendering.blogspot.com/2013/11/what-big-deal-about-defender-defender.html

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Defender World Record Marathon Update, 11 / 11 / 2013

RAM board - RAM to be
replaced. And the dreaded
ribbon cable at top.

Ahh. The joys of classic arcade gaming. Apparently old Williams' machines are finicky. Very much so. In fact, so much so that people that work on them have a lot of "must dos" when they give recommendations. It's been a real eye opening experience since this machine decided that it wants some more attention. No pressure. 


Well, before I go into this update, I owe some thanks to the people that are helping. I want to thank my family for their support during this event. They've put up with my late nights and the concern and being told they can't touch the machine and that they were going to have to make me food and put up with a bunch of people in the house and everything else. They're troopers. Thank you all!

The full article has moved to http://defendering.blogspot.com/2013/11/defender-world-record-marathon-update.html

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gamification Examination: The Week in Gamification, November 4-8, 2013

What the heck do I know?

Feel free to look me up here.

Two years ago I was introduced to the world of "gamification," which is using game mechanics to encourage user behavior. This is not a new technique (think Airline Miles), but with the infusion of Big Data into the picture, the ability to track and modify user experiences on a millisecond by millisecond basis became possible. 

With the experience I have had in making video games that must react to users' every whim and desire, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get into this new "field."

There are many ways to slice this onion, but one of the best ways to say it is that users that are experiencing gamified systems are more engaged and interested in what they are doing. In my opinion, it's because the people that are doing the gamification are being FORCED to listen to their users. Just like a good video game. 

But gamification is NOT a video game. As these blogs go forward, you'll see what I'm talking about. 

Let's discuss the highlights that Google brought me in my Google Alerts (which I do believe in) in this week's Gamification Examination!

Disclaimer: there are a lot of opinions thrown around in here. Consider yourself warned as well as invited to participate in a discussion through the comments below. 


T&T ROLLS OUT GAMIFICATION FOR BIZ TRAVEL

This page opens with "When Travel and Transport decided last year to develop a gamification program for corporate customers, it was making a conscious effort to focus on the carrot rather than the stick approach to travel management."

The general thinking is that Travel is one of the types of businesses that use gamification in an extrinsic manner. This is not necessarily anything to do with what you would call current-day gamification. Let's look at this article closer... 

Since this is for TRAVEL MANAGEMENT and not consumers, there is a chance they can break out of the extrinsic motivator mold. Oops! They actually lead with "Half of those customers will offer their travelers points that can be collected and redeemed for merchandise and travel rewards." Yep extrinsic. They say this is "different" because they are using it for a new part of the industry. I'm not convinced. Let's keep looking...

"[G]iving public recognition to travelers who do the most to hold down the firm’s expenses, can do wonders." Umm... not sure this is really anything new. 

They also mention leaderboards. All right, that's something basic and needed. That's good.

"What’s new is the science of using motivators to drive employees toward given objectives by creating relevance and allowing them to connect on their own terms." Science of motivators? I think this is really just a way to align the users' motivations with those of the business and using conditioning. There's simply nothing SOCIAL about it. 

Their final words: "Just do something fun and easy and see how it goes." Yep. They certainly seem to be doing that. Prizes for performance. That's not good. I predict this program will work for as long as someone can make a budget for prizes. 

Elearning! Magazine October/November Issue Focuses on Learning Gamification with Features by Game On! Learning

It's an article about a magazine with articles. Interesting angle, but you guessed it - it's a press release. Let's open it up!

Game On! Learning was called on to lead the charge. ' “Due to the ground-breaking nature of the issue, it was important to work closely with their editorial staff to provide the best possible information about learning gamification to their readers.” '

All right. This is going to be GROUND BREAKING! 

"A highlight of the issue is the gamified Pop Quiz." Umm... looking at it - what you have here is a classic case of extrinsic rewards. Not really ground-breaking. But they did do it online through a QR code. Kind of interesting, but really?

No consideration of SOCIAL, but they do make the case for the business impact. 

Badgeville Launches The Behavior Platform 5.0: the Next-Generation of Gamification Technology for the World's Largest Enterprises

Yep, another press release, but they are so big, it's worth a dissection.

The NUMBER one thing on their feature list: "Social Rewards: a new native feature to recognize users for their interactions with a brand on social networks, driving better retention and advocacy."

This is exactly what the other company offerings I've been going on about for weeks are MISSING. It is the true engine that makes gamifcation work, so that it's not just a "flash in the pan" extrinsic reward platform. 

Here's another SOCIAL-driven feature: "Platform Event Subscriptions. Notify external systems every time users earn rewards on Badgeville-powered sites and applications. For example, when a user completes a new mission, you could automatically trigger an e-mail to be sent from your E-mail Service Provider (ESP)."

This is some POWERFUL stuff. People WANT to be recognized socially for their performance and it is really meaningful when the others understand the effort that these rewards took to pull off. Ever told someone that you reached level 100 in Pac Man? What if someone told you they got a PERFECT score in Pac Man, where they collected every dot, ghost, and fruit for every level in the entire game? That would blow your mind because you have CONTEXT. And that's part of the value of social rewards. 

Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than extrinsic motivation. C'mon, people! You need to WAKE UP AND SMELL THE MOTIVATION!

Signing off for today (11/07/13)

That's it for now. I fully expect you to share your thoughts here. Tell me I'm off base. I'll listen and adapt. I'm not "right," because no one is on matters like these, because this is a growing field, and I don't have all the information you do. More than anything, a discussion will help us ALL learn more. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gamification Examination: The Week in Gamification, October 28- Nov 1, 2013

What the heck do I know?

Feel free to look me up here.


Two years ago I was introduced to the world of "gamification," which is using game mechanics to encourage user behavior. This is not a new technique (think Airline Miles), but with the infusion of Big Data into the picture, the ability to track and modify user experiences on a millisecond by millisecond basis became possible. 

With the experience I have had in making video games that must react to users' every whim and desire, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get into this new "field."

There are many ways to slice this onion, but one of the best ways to say it is that users that are experiencing gamified systems are more engaged and interested in what they are doing. In my opinion, it's because the people that are doing the gamification are being FORCED to listen to their users. Just like a good video game. 

But gamification is NOT a video game. As these blogs go forward, you'll see what I'm talking about. 

Let's discuss the highlights in this week's Gamification Examination!

Disclaimer: there are a lot of opinions thrown around in here. Consider yourself warned as well as invited to participate in a discussion through the comments below. 


Gamification – The only way to engage your audience

Reality is not enough for new consumers, gamification is needed to engage them. 

“This is a generation that will not accept the way the world is. If they are not impressed, they will leave you as a customer and go for a competitor,” Zichermann warned.


Mahindra Centuro Promotes Its Features Via Gamification On Social

While it is true that many of the behaviors that Mahindra Centuro want to see their users performing are included here, it is also just as likely that they will not receive the results they wish for. First of all, they are creating games that do not appear to people that they are primarily interested in. Secondly, they do not to appear to be creating situations that are realistic to the customers. 

They also  include an explanation of a Twitter contest. Really? I'm not convinced that this is any more than a press release, although this blogger does appear to write about different companies. 

The Role of Gamification in the Contact Center and Back Office

This seems like a real article. Let's see! 

"Why is gamification ideal for the contact center and back office? One word: millennials. They've grown up gaming. They know how to jump, punch, race, and run with a flip of their thumb on a control device, so gaming is in their DNA."

The group used as an example a company that focused on extrinsic rewards: "once the agent hits that 25th triple play, he or she wins a $50 gift card. This technique has helped this company boost triple play sales by 18 percent in the first three months of the program."

Another example: "This particular insurer's contact center gamified its add-on policy cross-sell program by awarding points for each add-on policy an agent sold, and offered prizes such as Blu-ray players and flat-screen TVs at certain point levels."

My take: while this IS gamification, it's just about the worst way to implement it. Not only does it cost the company cash, in my mind it causes sales people to do anything they can to "beat" their other co-workers instead of working on a common goal: the success of the business. Honestly it seems that they have forgotten one of the KEY aspects: the SOCIAL aspect, where they become rewarded for what they do and share those successes with the others in the company. 

I happen to agree with one of the commentors on the article: "The only thing new about [this type of] "gamification" is the name and that it's now being applied in the consumer marketplace. The often quoted Gartner study was not focused on Call Centers and has no validity when comparing gamification successes or failures within call centers. It also took the erroneous view that gamification was a new idea."

LevelEleven Executives and Customers to Present at the World's Largest Vendor-Led Technology Gathering

This is DEFINITELY a press release. Let's see what they have to say... 

They are presenting at Dreamforce 2013 and here's the pitch: "LevelEleven's lead product, Compete, is an easy-to-use app that creates competitions and leaderboards around any behavior that can be tracked in a CRM system."

Now, one thing that is VITAL in a successful gamification system is, again, the SOCIAL aspect. Where users can SEE others successes and SHARE how they are doing. This solution does not appear to have that as a key feature. And that is not a good thing.

Signing off for today (11/01/13)

To be completely honest, I didn't see too much this week that blew my mind. Even the above were pretty lame. 

That's it for now. I fully expect you to share your thoughts here. Tell me I'm off base. I'll listen and adapt. I'm not "right," because no one is on matters like these, because this is a growing field, and I don't have all the information you do. More than anything, a discussion will help us ALL learn more. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Defender Mini-marathon in a LONG time!

On November 16th, I am going to take a run at the Defender Marathon World Record. Defender is an arcade game that came out in 1980 and has been called one of the most difficult arcade games ever

It is hard. Mostly because there's not a pattern or series of button presses you have to memorize. It's you against the machine, so you don't have to compete against a human that is completely unpredictable. It took me forever to get my score up to where I could roll it at a million. (My Defender Facebook group calls it "clocking" it).

The full article has moved to http://defendering.blogspot.com/2013/11/first-defender-mini-marathon-in-long.html

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