Category Archives: Think Technology

Gamified Road-Trips

In honor of the summer vacation months, I now turn my head to how technology emulates and influences our traditions of past and future.   I was motivated to do so one day as I was anticipating my own vaunted getaway.  I found myself repeating a practice that I thought had no connection to modern interactive marketing trends – only to realize, I was wrong. Again.

Road-Trip, What kind of truck is that?What I was repeating is a long practiced road-trip tradition of mentally inventorying road-trip games.  These various kill-time endeavors reach from the annoying to useful to truly annoying to the essential. Games like – “Name that Semi” – a game where you try and call the truck maker name of a truck before others in the car.  In my day, just answering MACK Truck would net you 80% score without fail – it’s a harder game to play these days.  Or this one – “Punch bug yellow” – my children insist on playing this game 24/7 – 365 and my arm is sick of it.  (If you couldn’t tell, this is one of the “truly annoying” and painful games.  But my favorite and a favorite of every experienced road-trip-traveled parent is:  “Who can be quietest, the longest?”  This one is always executed with the wishful thought that “if only I could have started this a 1/2 hour ago.”  If these don’t strike a cord, Susan Fox’s article, Classic Road-Trip Games of Disney Family Fun has hand-ful more classics to give you the idea.

The surprising thing is – each and every one of these arcane and inane games shares a surprising common thread of connection to our modern technical lives.  They are all classic forms of the now in-vogue marketing strategy/term – Gamification.  As Wikipedia defines it:  gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the application and become engaged with it.

I see it as a marketing effort to turn either a brand interaction from boring to fun OR provide a fun experience during those times when a user is well – bored.  Which of course – is the point of road-trip games.  They are always engaged after hitting the n-teenth mile where everyone is about to keel over.

I guess this too has become the reason technology Gamified or “funware” brand experiences have become in vogue.  Apparently, all those people constantly checking-in, FarmVilling out, earning badges and becoming the mayor are just too bored with walking, crossing-the-street or say, engaging with the friend who’s house they just walked into on a visit.

And here is where the road-trip games and our new-tech versions differ.  The first – engages, and forces the assembled mass to face and conquer an entertainment challenge together – in the here, and now.  The other – pushes us away from the immediate situation, and people – and allows us to escape with a disconnected mass of “people” in the cloud.   So, this is the life we lead, with modern portable electronic entertainment devices that keep us connected, directed and spaced-out.

As a marketer and creative – I’m intrigued and entertained by the gamification strategy – I just hope they never come up with a funwared experience of “Smell the flowers.”


Windows 8 Interface Preview

Microsoft has just shown a preview of Windows 8. As a tablet windows 7 seemed great to me for tablets but some people complained it was hard to use so now they added a title interface for those people. 

I think some Mac users will like this but many Windows users will not which is why it’s good they allow you to choose between the tile and the normal Windows interface.

Windows devices and mobile operating systems

Hybrid tablets and notebooks seem to be something of the future.

HP has an interesting idea of putting webOS on Windows computers.

For tablets, it makes sense that eventually there will be a bunch of hybrid Windows tablets that let you have the option to run either Windows or Android. There is a Windows 7 tablet by ViewSonic that has just been released that lets you run Android on it which is great, the only issue is you need to run Android from Windows but still kind of useful.

My prediction is that eventually there will be many devices that let you choose which OS to use when you turn the device on. If you can buy a tablet with Android and Windows that will defiantly make you think twice before buying a phone OS driven tablet like an Android Xoom or the iPad for around the same price.

Lenovo seems to be planning a similar concept also.

Microsoft is working on Windows 8 to be more optimized for Mobile devices but personally I don’t want a stripped down version of Windows. I would want the whole Windows OS without any limitations. So  a hybrid tablet would defiantly make sense for people like me.

Rendering Graphics in the IE9 Browser

I have been wondering why they are stripping toolbars out of browsers and now I understand why. Web sites in browsers slowly starting to become like applications on your computer. The new IE9 makes a opens up new doors on the ability to do this. The big new features is IE9 uses the graphics card to render which means it is able to render graphics 90% faster than any other browser. It basically can render graphics in the browser as your computer does in applications. This means technically you can make websites that encode videos right in the browser.

Here is a demo of IE9 rendering graphics vs Google Chrome.

If this takes off it probably will become a huge problem for Firefox because they probably don’t have the resources to add this feature. Google I can see eventually adding this features to their browsers. I would think it will take them some time though. Most people seem to prefer Chrome over Firefox once they discover it so I think IE9 and Chrome will eventually become the top two browsers. The IE9 JavaScript engine is now faster than Firefox and pretty close to Google Chrome.

How safe is your password?

passwordWhen it comes to passwords, you’d like them to be simple enough to remember. Ones that are familiar to you or series of letters and numbers that have certain significance in your life. However, organizations are forcing users to create increasingly complex passwords that are not as easy to remember.

But how safe do either dictionary words or complex patterns really keep us from hackers?

After much research, Microsoft has concluded that complex passwords are just as easily hacked and may not be as effective as other password strategies. Their new approach to online passwords eliminates complexity requirements, like “must be 14 characters long and contain two numbers and a symbol,” while still protecting against both dictionary attacks and statistical guessing. Their new online service counts how many times any user chooses a given password, and if more than a small number of users pick that password, it is banned from all other users to choose. However, this strategy is not a cure-all for hacking protection for everyone—it is intended to be used by organizations with millions of users and heavy traffic, like Microsoft’s Hotmail service.

Read more about password strategy and Microsoft’s new approach to protect its users.