Monday, 15 December 2014

Raising your skill levels

There seems to haves been a recent trend in the gamification of learning and personal improvement. By that I mean more and more websites and apps related to improving yourself have taken an influence from gaming and role play.

The gain from any personal improvement has generally always been the improvement itself, eg getting fitter, learning a language or being more productive. Now however that doesn't seem to be enough, in our short attention span world where more and more things are competing for our valuable free time these services have had to resort to other means to keep our interest.

Most of these services now feature a combination of points and level based achievements. Some even have additional challenges and tasks to unlock and raise your profile. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, in fact its probably the opposite as they do manage to sustain your attention where you may otherwise had drifted away after the initial burst of interest has gone.

Health and fitness apps such as Map my ride, Strava or Fitocracy  are some of the most popular examples. These log your distance travelled (ran/walked/cycled etc), let you compare against others, set personal bests and compete in local challenges. 

Learning or lifestyle apps like Duolingo the popular language learning tool, or brain training apps like Lumosity offer a similar service. Here you can score points as you learn and level up as your knowledge grows.

Another category are the productivity apps like Todoist or Wunderlist. Both of which allow you to create and manage tasks lists. Again you are rewarded with points for logging in, creating or completing your tasks. 

Are these an example of our constant need for stimulus, or the advantage of smartphone culture and how it can improve our life experiences? Is it another example of our need for peer approval as we share these achievements on social media? Some think the opposite however, as the community aspect of these apps often help users stick with it or overcome challenges when their motivation is failing.  

Perhaps this is one of the main benefits over traditional go-it-alone self improvement. It can be the extra boost needed when struggling to go the extra distance or stick in for another lesson. Instead of the solitary run where it doesn't matter if you turn back early for home. Or stepping away from the learning zone to watch TV. Knowing you have a group behind you sharing advice, giving you praise on your achievements, or getting that next badge may be what you need to keep going.

What do you think? Are these useful tools of our smartphone world, or an example of our short attention spans? Have I missed any good examples of similar apps that make a difference in your life? Let me know in the comments.