tasks, teams, transparency, mapping, micro-metrics and motivation (TM x3)

I had a discussion recently about small-scale, grass roots community building and how to motivate collaborative, social and even selfless behaviour. It began with noting how a 1970’s large-scale urban block of flats may differ in terms of community and knowing your neighbours from say, houses around a village green. It reminded me of a book I bought a few years ago, full of tips and actions to make your local and wider world a better place.

“It is an ingeniously executed book aimed at galvanising alienated Britons to do something for a society devoid of fellow feeling and good neighbourliness.” – The Guardian

All well and lovely, but beyond smiling and nodding in agreement, it’s hard to find the time to actually do it. Whilst I could have been enriching my life, the lives of others and the general universe, I’ve been doing other things like watching rubbish films or mucking about on my iPhone. In fact, a Solitaire application has an horrific function on it which tells you how many games you have won (very depressing once you hit 100) and more alarmingly, how much time you have spent in a social coma, transfixed on a 4×3″ screen.

shameful…and I can’t believe I lost that many times!

Motivation and incentivising is the key to service design, as services simply don’t exist without users and providers being engaged. It’s crucial to create value and benefits for everyone involved, as well as ensuring the service as a whole is sustainable. Now If I had a widget that could use the power of such a metric positively to help make me more productive…

In fact, many services are now harnessing this power, from Nike+ visualising your athletic progress to learningtoloveyoumore and wearewhatwedo’s websites featuring to-do lists that you can create and join to collaborate on your do-gooding.

They also go a long way to allowing the user to personalise and evolve their own experience of a service, with their actions and input affecting a larger system or network of people or generating visual feedback.

The balance is difficult, but I think the title of this article can be used as a guide (and is by no means a definitive list) of how to encourage user participation.

tasks – find a way of visualising or organising things to be done
teams – allow people to network, share their successes and even compete
transparency – put the users in control by giving them all the information
mapping – use location, time, speed, efficiency, happiness…anything!
micro-metrics – visualise progress and present data in compelling ways
motivation – should come naturally in a user-centred or co-designed system!

And while I await the iPhone SortYourLifeOut App, I’ll begin with Google Calendar and some more detailed and frequent blogs.