Octalysis – complete Gamification framework

This post is a high-level introduction to Octalysis, the Gamification Framework I created after more than 10 years of Gamification research and study. Within a year of publication, Octalysis was organically translated into 9 languages and became required literature in Gamfication instruction worldwide.

Click the “Continue reading –>” link below to learn about Octalysis.

Continue reading Octalysis – complete Gamification framework

Why Social Podcast Players Are Next: True Discovery in Overcast and Tung


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Yu-kai Chou and Jun Loayza.

Have you noticed yourself listening to more podcasts lately? Compared to five years ago, I definitely listen to more audio content.

It’s easy to understand why. With improvements in the production and consumption infrastructure, more and more quality podcasts are being created.

There are also more ways to listen and access to better curations.

In this article, I’m taking a close look at how and where I listen to audio content, of any kind. Then, I’ll transition into a side-by-side analysis of two podcast-focused apps on my iPhone’s home screen: Overcast and Tung. I want to understand if they will help me discover podcasts I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered through friend or family or coworker recommendations.

As always, I’ll use the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis in my breakdown.

What to Listen To and How to Listen To It

If you could listen to anything in the world, what would it be?

I’ve monitored my listening behavior lately, and here are some things I’ve listened to:

  • A Wise Man’s Fear on Audible
  • Ready Player One on Scribd
  • Sam Harris’s podcast on his website
  • A Way with Words podcast on Overcast.fm
  • This video on YouTube from Simon Sinek
  • This podcast featuring Sierra DeMulder on Soundcloud
  • 99% Invisible on Tung.fm

So, we have podcasts, audiobooks, and some audio from video-centric content ranging from fiction to interviews. (I’m a fiction writer, so I view it as part of my work to read or listen to at least a book a week–this means Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity are in play.)

Then I asked myself this: How did I discover this? (By the way, if you’d like to get the details about product Discovery, check out Yu-kai’s article on the Discovery phase of Octalysis Level II.)


In summary, a combination of family/friend recommendations and algorithms, with a major lean toward family/friend recommendations when we factor the length of my committed attention to audiobooks and a small number of podcasts.

Notice that I didn’t just decide to listen to any of these from “first principles”. Even discovery is a recommendation of a sort.

I suggest doing this short exercise yourself to help you understand where you are getting your recommendations from. It’s easy to believe we are making decisions–but are you really making a decision when your options are already vastly filtered and reduced?

Next, I wanted to take a look at Overcast.fm and Tung.fm, two podcast player apps, to understand if their social features might help me discover podcasts I wouldn’t have otherwise found through algorithmic recommendations.


Marco Arment started working on Overcast in 2013 with the overarching goal of supporting creators and improving the podcast-listening experience. He entered a crowded app marketplace in 2014 and has steadily grown his userbase. When deciding what app to use, Marco’s story is actually pretty convincing.

But since we are focusing on Discovery, I want to look at the features. One useful note from the YouTube video above: Marco’s intentions and design will likely continue to supporting the creators and listeners over advertisers. This is a good thing for relevant podcast discovery on his platform.


2016-09-26-17-40-56Here we see that I’m given recommendations from Twitter, Most Recommended, then Category-specific recommendations. I do quite like the Twitter recommendations because I should get somewhat relevant recommendations. This is a good use of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. Then again, I may have to improve my twitter followers :).

These are simple Top Charts and Leaderboards.

From a Discovery standpoint, by choosing these I know others have recommended them or that they are somehow popular. I have to dig deeper into the descriptions to get a sense of whether they actually would be interesting to me.

Choosing New Podcasts

2016-09-26-17-43-01In the second image, we can see I’ve clicked through into a specific podcast. Here I can find info on individual episodes by clicking on the info icon.

It’s taking me quite a bit of time to figure out if this is something for me or not.

I kind of just want to sample an episode, you know?

Otherwise, the UI is very clean. But remember, we’re talking about discovering new podcasts in this article.





Tung’s homepage describes what it is trying to be: a social podcast player.

I spoke to Jamie, founder of Tung.fm, over the phone to understand what his vision was in building Tung.

The Vision

It was simple. He thought: Why isn’t there an app that you can see and listen to what your friends are listening to?

And so he set out to build Tung in 2015.

He wanted an app that gives the user the ability to see and listen to what her friends are listening to.

In my experience with the app, I was pleasantly surprised not to be asked what my favorite categories were. Instead, it was up to me to discover them for myself. (Of course, I do have some subscribed-to podcasts I added right away.)

Jamie backed up this first impression. He talked about how–counter-intuitively–algorithms can actually reduce discovery. Let’s imagine that during Onboarding I choose several categories, like Science and Technology or Storytelling. In this pre-selection I’m already limiting the types of podcasts I’m exposing myself to later.

Focusing on Social

2016-09-26-18-25-57Jamie described a few other features. I’ll focus on the social aspect which leads to discovery (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness).

  • Share clip: gives you the chance to taste the podcast instead of investing a 20-minute listen [CD7]
  • Make comments: interaction with other users on a specific episode of the podcast with timestamps [CD5]
  • Follow user: the chance to view other listeners’ activity feeds [CD5]
    • Jump between episodes: better navigation [CD3, CD4]
    • Save for offline playback: improving usability [CD4]
    • Position remembered: improving usability [CD4]
    • Reminders for new episodes: pings user when episodes release of subscribed podcasts [CD2/4]
    • @ mentions: the ability to interact with other users more easily through comments or recommendations [CD5, CD7 for recipient]


2016-09-26-18-28-48Some features he still wants to add:

  • Share profile link: to improve social connection [CD5]
  • Create playlists: and sharing them [CD3, CD5 when you share them]


I also asked Jamie what he’s going to build next, and how he decides what to build next. Since he built Tung.fm solo, he has to think carefully about how to use his time. He said the next step is building an Android version–you can get in touch with Jamie if you’re a developer.

As for me, I’m enjoying using the comment features and interacting a bit with other listeners (CD5).

I use the activity feeds to browse what my friends and influencers are actually listening to in real time (CD5 and CD7).

I also like the ability to clip and share (this isn’t possible on Overcast). I can embed clips, tweet them with twitter card support and they will play instantly. I can also play a podcast from a timestamp. For example, I can long-press on a clip or comment in the feed, and then have the option to play it from that timestamp.

Is Social Next?

The real question is how much do users really want social embedded in their podcast experience?

It’s true we’re getting recommendations from many places. Why not simply add this in to the experience, as Tung is doing?

The user will decide.





Clinton Trump Presidential Debate: Yu-kai Chou views and comments on Persuasive Tactics

Clinton Trump Presidential Debate: Yu-kai Chou views and comments on Persuasive Tactics

As some of you know, I JUST became a United States Citizens after living in the US for 16 years. I generally don’t participate much in politics because I like to focus on things I can change more – the rest are just the landscape challenges that I need to overcome.

However, I thought it would be very interesting to watch the debate to understand how the process goes, but more importantly share with my audience in case there are valuable lessons in persuasion and crowd influence in it.

Check it out!

Trello vs Pivotal Tracker: How Potential Use Cases Attracts Users

This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Jun Loayza and Yu-kai Chou. 

A Wide versus Narrow Lens

Talk to anyone you know who uses a non-phone camera. She’ll likely talk about what she’s trying to accomplish first, then explain the type of camera, the lens, and other features helping her accomplish the goal.

The camera metaphor was useful in examining my own use of Trello and Pivotal Tracker. (A broader metaphor could be the decision between using Instagram and Snapchat to share a story with friends and customers.)

Pivotal Tracker can be used for anything–I use it to track progress on my novel writing–but Trello is arguably better for a wider set of use cases and has more users (over 16 million). In this post, we’ll discover why I chose Pivotal Tracker over Trello to push myself to novel completion.

As always, I’ll use the Core Drives of Octalysis throughout the analysis. Both Trello and Pivotal Tracker do well in Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Trello: Productivity, Collaboration, Communication

I’ll take Trello and Pivotal Tracker one by one, then compare.

Trello feels light and fun and has a wolf mascot named Taco. This makes it approachable during Onboarding. Through Scaffolding and Endgame, Trello gives individuals and teams a sense of progress and achievement (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) and the flexibility and customization leading to long-term productivity (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback). I’ve used Trello to break down movies like Moneyball and dissect interesting novel plots like Cloud Atlas’s.

Here’s my first shot at the Octalysis tool for Trello:


The adjustments I’d add are these:

  1. Keyboard shortcuts should fall under CD2 (thanks Jun!)
  2. Team member ownership of tasks (CD4 and CD5)

What would you add? Let me know in the comments! Let’s continue, focusing on Core Drives 2 and 3.

(Trello) Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Cards are powerful productivity engines. They enable collaboration toward goals in workflows. Trello has consistently improved these one-view snapshots of a particular task/story/project.


Notice the checklist feature and associated progress bar. By subscribing, a team member can attain updates from this specific Card.

If we draw back to a view of columns of Cards, we see titled columns, custom labels, Card membership, and deadlines. At a glance, a manager or team member involved in multiple pieces of a project or company can see it all.


At one step higher, we see Collections and filters, each of which reward a user for logically curating his work and team and projects. Organizing this view with collections and custom labels makes the user feel smart, a reward which repays itself because of the efficiency gains achieved.


(Trello) Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Trello enables the freedom to design workflows for many scenarios.

Design-wise, Trello offers Power-Ups (integrations) to wherever an individual or company is likely to actually do some of their work. Again, notice how Trello allows for teams, say, with technical and non-technical teams to exist in the same ecosystem (the software teams can work in GitHub while the sales team may live in Salesforce).

Power-Ups is a great name for integrations. It feels slightly better “powering up” versus “integrating”. The word power-up is associated for any gamer with leveling up. Once your team levels up, it also gains the Milestone Unlock (the ability to do better things once unlocking something new).

Templates are another useful way to double-down on successful Cards or Workflows.


Pivotal Tracker: Standard in Agile Software Development

Pivotal Tracker is built for agile development and isn’t shy about it. To an extent it has grown to something of an industry standard, though it far from monopolized this space.

Here’s my first go at the Octalysis tool for Pivotal Tracker.


The adjustments I’d add are these:

  1. Analytics for story/epic velocity (CD2) — the user or manager sees progress over time
  2. Removal of choice (early wins) (CD2) — the opening (Onboarding) state is fixed, so users are encouraged to begin their first project

What would you add? Let me know in the comments!

(Pivotal Tracker) Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Pivotal Tracker is most often used for agile software development. But I use it for tracking my novel writing progress. I like assigning points (effort) to stories arranged in Epics. Every story (or chore or bug) is organized or prioritized in the Icebox, Backlog, or Current work.

Here’s I am opening a new story/task (see image below). In the third column (an epic name “Armis”), I’m creating a story/task about a flashback scene. As of this screenshot, I haven’t estimated the Points/effort for the task, but I have started to provide a description of the task:


If we step back, I can see what I’m currently working on, in yellow highlight:


And stepping back further, I can review progress over time:


(Pivotal Tracker) Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Pivotal Tracker doesn’t allow for too much grand scale creativity, but as most competitors to it and Trello (there are many, just search Trello competitor), it functionally provides a place for individual and team project development and completion with a specific focus on agile software development.

It does, however, give feedback through progress analytics:


Since I spend about half my time writing, and half reading, a 22-point velocity (every point requires between 1 and 1.5 hours of attention/effort), I’m satisfied with my writing/editing output and trend in the last four weeks, kicked off by some writing-heavy weeks to end July and start August.

Wide or Narrow Lens?

Why did I choose Pivotal Tracker to track my novel?

I think it came down to this: I knew I wanted to complete my novel, and I simply needed an easy way to do that with a calibration for effort and prioritization (I can show my analytics to a friend who can see which parts of the book I’m working on).

Keen readers and makers and developers might object that estimation is inherently tricky and even counter-productive, but the ability to set point/effort on my work helps understand what I want to accomplish in a three- or four-hour writing session. Of course, if something takes longer, I can alter the effort input after the fact.

Trello, though, seems to offer a better Endgame for more use cases. Here’s just a few I’ve made:

Moneyball scene by scene:


While watching Moneyball, I used the Trello iPhone app to create the scene-by-scene analysis with comments. I reviewed again after completing the film, adding comments where needed.

Cloud Atlas analysis:


Cloud Atlas is a novel with an intricate structure. I used Trello to keep notes and plan for a podcast on the novel’s structure.

And more:


I’ve used Trello for reunions, story ideas, podcasts, and reading lists.

Your Story:

Are you using Trello and/or Pivotal Tracker and/or a competitor? Why? Let me know in the comments. Let’s try to understand our behavior and aim for global maximums!

5 Gamification Examples Changing the World of Learning

Why Epic Meaning and Calling Matters in Learning


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Yu-kai Chou and Jun Loayza. 

It’s easy to get behind products, projects, and people that are changing the world of learning. Previously, Yu-kai wrote about contemporary social gamification examples. This article will continue the ongoing discussion as it seems likely for human-focused design (and gamification) to continue driving world-changing products, projects, and people for some time to come.

Today’s examples will focus on knowledge and learning. Because education is a major part of maintaining and improving culture, these products and services have the potential to change the world.

Since products like Wikipedia, Quora, Edudemy, Skillshare, and Coursera are very well known, we won’t focus on them for this article. Instead, we’ll take a look at some products and services you might not have noticed (or that have made big strides).

As we move forward, consider the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis and this previous article by Yu-kai about intrinsic/extrinsic motivation in education. Recognize that in the first place, each of the following examples plays on Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Continue reading 5 Gamification Examples Changing the World of Learning

What E3 2016 Told Us About Where Games Are Headed

(This post is written by guest blogger Cassie. Cassie is a technology writer at Secure Thoughts who enjoys all things technology and gaming related. She loves seeing how shifts in technology and culture affect the gaming industry.)

E3 2016 has now passed us by and we can take a closer look at exactly what happened. While The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild might have attracted the most attention, there were also several budding trends that gave the gaming enthusiasts a taste of what is to come in the near future.

More Diversity in Gaming

One very positive movement in gaming is that minorities are playing more key roles developing video games as well as being within them.

Many women took center stage at many E3 panels such as Electronic Art’s Jade Raymond and Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis. These women aren’t new to the scene, either. Raymond formerly worked as a producer at Ubisoft and created Assassin’s Creed. Loftis has worked in the gaming department of Microsoft for over 20 years, having started as a producer to climb up to General Manager in 2014. That being said, there still were hardly any people of color speaking in front of crowds besides comedian and actress Aisha Tyler during Ubisoft’s presentation. It’s clear the gaming industry still has a long way to go, but this E3 showed some positive changes.

In terms of diversity in games themselves, there was also some progress. Three AAA games – Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and FIFA 17 – all featured African-American men in leading roles. Microsoft highlighted female characters within games such as ReCore and Horzion: Zero Dawn while Fullbright introduced an Indian-American female lead in their upcoming game Tacoma.

Virtual Reality is Not Just a Gimmick

Considering the buzz surrounding virtual reality and the releases of the highly anticipated Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, VR has captured everyone’s imagination. It’s no surprise that many developers featured an upcoming VR game. Sony itself announced the release of their own VR headset on October 13, 2016 as well as over 100 games. Some of the top games include Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission and Final Fantasy VR Experience.

Unfortunately, there’s currently a lot of fragmentation regarding the VR hardware. The cost of entry to the market might end up being too expensive for most gamers. The headsets themselves cost quite a bit of money ranging from $399 for the PlayStation VR to $799 for the HTC Vive. The headset isn’t the only cost, however, as PC gamers will need a powerful rig to play anything at an acceptable level of quality. As for the PlayStation VR, it requires a PS4 to use.

Despite this, the future of VR seems bright as consumers and studios alike are starting to pay more attention to it. While the market is still in a more experimental phase, the growing trend seems to be pointing to VR as a solid gaming market in the near future.

E-Sports Will Continue to Grow

Ten years ago the idea of playing video games professionally was a pipe dream for many gaming enthusiasts. Today, it has taken game industry professionals by surprise with its meteoric rise and now attracts large sponsorships from companies like Geico and Nissan. What started in South Korea grew to an international craze with the introduction of streaming services such as Twitch and Hitbox. ESPN further legitimized professional video gaming by airing competitions on ESPN3 live.

As the demand grows into a more recognized sport, advertisers and sponsors are now willing to put more money into marketing. This trend has led many publishers and developers to focus on competitive gaming. For example, Bethesda rolled out a new first-person shooter titled Quake Champions, which is an online arena style game based on their popular Quake series. Microsoft plans on releasing a feature on Xbox Live to manage tournaments of all sizes.

It’s possible that as the sport grows it will be harder for people to join teams and rise to the top. That being said, it’s still possible for regular gamers to join local competitions and tournaments. Increasing your skill at a game to a competitive requires a lot more practice than some would think.

The world of gaming continues to change and evolve with new technology. The demands of gamers change with the times, and so studios and publishers must adapt. What important trends did you notice at E3 2016? Is there anything else you noticed about the convention? Tell us in the comments below.