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Shall we play a game - Gamification and software


Using techniques from video games can drive usage.Games people play, you take it or you leave it
Things that they say, honor brite
If I promise you the moon and the stars, would you believe it
Games people play in the middle of the night
~Alan Parsons Project, Games People Play

We love to play games and the gamification movement, making just about everything into a game is changing the way we think about software and other services, but is this a good thing? Should everything be a game?

I wrote a post on this blog back in January called Making Programming Fun and Games, about Microsoft's ideas for making programming a game, comments on Reddit suggested it was a condescending approach. As one commenter, protonfish, put it, "I love having treats tossed in my mouth like a performing animal." In other words, programmers weren't thrilled at the idea of being subjected to gamification.

But does everyone feel this way? And what about your users? Would they like games? It probably depends on how well it's incorporated into the software and what the rewards are.

A recent post on the Randsinrepose blog suggests that it might be a good way to motivate users, but you have to be careful how you do it. As the blogger put it, "...there are a lot of folks who think gamification means pulling the worst aspects out of games and shoving them into an application. It's not. Don't think of gamification as anything other than clever strategies to motivate someone to learn so they can have fun being productive."

That's certainly a different perspective from thinking of your users, whether they are programmers or not, as trained seals, but the point is you have to be clever in your approach and not just offer some badges for generating the most code, for instance.

Neil Fox, who is vice president of strategic consulting at Ness says gamification may be the latest buzz word, but there's certainly something to it, even if it doesn't apply to all situations all the time.

"The real insight of gamification is the concepts of challenge, social and reward. That is not to say that every application needs to be a game, but software that includes a competitive social aspect with (most often not monetary) rewards will be more compelling than those applications that are pure utility in nature (read "no fun").

He says companies such as, TripAdvisor and hundreds of others have realized that by making software fun and social, you can create an amazing amount of participation, but he warns, "This is not as easy as it sounds. Creating a real social context and lasting competition is in itself a tremendous challenge."

He adds, "The good news is that gamification can be applied to nearly anything.... If you have kids then you likely know what it's like to make a game out of cleaning their room. We just need to think the same way, but with software and much more social."

So perhaps gamification, like so many concepts, can work for you too, but you have to be clever about it, rather than heavy-handed -- and just maybe you can get more people using your software or service -- which is after all the intended goal.

Photo by ShardsOfBlue on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 4-27-12

5 Cape Cod Savings Chatham, MAIt's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, Flash May Not Be Dead, But It's Not Feeling Well, please check it out now. When Adobe abandoned Mobile Flash last Fall, it was a shot across the bow for Web developers. A recent Wall Street Journal article indicated Adobe was ready to focus on marketing departments and seem to be moving on from Flash. It may be time for your company web site to do the same.

You may also want to have look at The RIM Rise and Fall infographic we published earlier this week, which traces the rise of RIM to its recent troubles, all of which can be traced directly to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Google Drive SDK announced, but APIs are only for Web apps right now | Ars Technica.

Google announced the release of the long-awaited Google Drive this week and along with it some APIs that could make the service even more interesting than it appears to be at first glance. The APIs are limited at least for now, but it's a start and it should be interesting to see how people build services on the top of Google Drive.

NY datacenter leads with the Green | ZDNet.

One Albany company shows how to be green including using solar panels to generate a vast majority of the required electricity to run the data center. Read the article to see what other techniques the company is using to be green.

Effectiveness of Teams - .NET Code Geeks

This article looks at the importance of teams in the Agile development process. Overall, when you have multiple programmers attacking a problem, of course, you are more likely to solve issues than leaving it to one person.

2 more cloud myths busted: Lock-in and locked up | InfoWorld

This article attempts to attack two persistent myths about cloud computing use. First of all, that it locks you in -- the author argues that just about any choice is locks you in on a certain level -- and that you can't be compliant in the cloud. He argues that the compliance card is being way overplayed.

End of Life Quick Sand | Genuitec Blog

What happens when your big enterprise software system reaches the End of Life? It can make your life complicated in a hurry. You've put time and effort into customizing this huge and important system. What happens now?

And this week's bonus post:

Yahoo's genius content strategy | The Oatmeal

This Oatmeal cartoon nails why Yahoo! is failing.

Photo by Tomma Henckel. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Ellison Testimony Could Leave Java Developers Confused


At the Google-Oracle trial earlier this week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was asked by the Google attorney Robert Van Nest if Java was free. According to CNET, Ellison hesitated, but when pushed by the judge, admitted he didn't know. I'm sure that answer left Java developers everywhere feeling warm and fuzzy.

iStock 000008779465XSmallAs a matter of fact, given the prevalence of Java use, it had to leave CIOs wondering just what Ellison meant, but for now it's not clear if Ellison's words will translate into wholesale changes around Java.

Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, a journalist and frequent contributor at ReadWriteWeb, who has written extensively about open source over the years, finds the statement disturbing and bizarre. "If Larry doesn't know, who does? That should be a disturbing statement on many levels coming from the CEO of the company that controls the Java process," Brockmeier said.

But Ness AVP for mobile solutions, Glenn Guber thinks this might be confined more to the trial and Google's use of Java more than anything that can be applied to Java use in general (although he's careful to point out, this is his opinion only). "I don't believe that there is any threat to web development or application development that stems from this lawsuit. But there is a big potential issue with Android as a platform if it does not go well for Google," Gruber opined.

He added, "I don't think that Oracle is saying that Java is not Open Source, but that Google did not honor the GPL license by essentially forking Java with Davlik and not appropriately licensing some the underlying APIs," Gruber explained.

Brockmeier's not sure what's going to happen, but he says Oracle can't simply un-open source Java, although it could make it more difficult to use in the future. "I'm really not sure what will happen if Oracle wins or tries to fence in what's considered open or not. They can't completely un-open Java, what's been GPL'ed stays open," Brockmeier said.

Brockmeier worries though that Ellison's statement could cause confusion -- although for now at least, Java is alive and doing better than ever. "It would introduce some uncertainty in the process, but how much impact that will have is unclear. Oracle's suit against Google hasn't - so far - had much of an impact on Java's popularity. Oddly enough, it seems like Java is on the upswing," he said.

As Alex Armstrong pointed out on the I Programmer blog, when Oracle bought Sun (and along with it Java) there was much hand wringing in the developer community. This simple statement at a trial couldn't be making those same programmers feel much better about Java's future.

As Brockmeier said, it's a bit too late for companies to simply give up on Java given the significant investment many have made already. "Too much money has been invested in Java, too many companies have too much code written in Java to just chuck it all," he said.

That means that Ellison could be sitting in the catbird seat when it comes to Java -- and that's not a position that can make Java developers feel very confident at this point.

Still, it's hard to know if this was an isolated statement, answered honestly under pressure or a shot across the bow that perhaps Oracle has other plans for Java down the road. Only time will tell.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 1-20-12

5 1 20 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, Kindle Fire Could Pose New Challengers for Developers, which looks at how Kindle's Android fork could effectively create a new operating system for developers where they create one app for Android and another for Kindle Fire, please check it out now.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And here we go with this week's links:

Big Business, Big Linux - ZDNet

Linux is making big gains in the enterprise Data Center as companies dealing with issues from cloud computing to Big Data look to Linux as the solution.

Three Aspects of DevOps: What’s in a word  - Cuddletech

You want to learn about DevOps and the cloud? Well this post attempts to lay it out in three seemingly simple phases.

Football and Weekend Data Warriors - Input Output

Maybe your company is having a a hard time integrating analytics into the business. Have a look at Fantasy Football, the layman's data analysis and you'll find that there are plenty of people who get statistics-based analysis (or at least they think they do) working inside your company and perhaps you can put that to work for you.

Making It in IT - Readers Buoy Ed's Outlook for 2012

One writer asked his IT readers about the prospects for 2012 and he was pleasantly surprised by what he found.

The coding game: Microsoft’s Visual Studio gets badges, achievements and leaderboard - GeekWire

As the gamefication of just about everything marches on relentlessly, Microsoft Visual Studio turns programming into a game (and it just might work).

Photo by Tomma Henckel Used under Creative Commons License.

Kindle Fire Could Pose New Challenges for Android Developers

describe the imageWhen Amazon made the decision to create a fairly radical fork of Android to create its Kindle Fire, it left open the possibility of a big challenge for developers.

Since it's introduction, the Fire, priced at just $199, has been selling very well. Amazon reported that sold millions of Kindles in the month leading up to the holiday shopping season in December -- many of which were no doubt Kindle Fires. That means because of its low price and the marketing clout of Amazon itself, the Kindle Fire and its customized version of Android is going to be impossible to ignore.

Todd Anglin, Chief Technology Evangelist at Telerik, an end-to-end provider of software application lifecycle and content management solutions, whom we interviewed for last week's post, Android Fragmentation Debate May Be a Red Herring, says one exception to that is the Kindle Fire, which could be a force on its own.

"The Kindle Fire is a new challenge for Android. No fork of any technical significance has had this much support from a big company. Amazon is in a position with the Kindle Fire to effectively introduce a new operating system, even though the roots are based on Android," Anglin explained.

He added that it wasn't unlike when Apple started OSX from the roots of BSD Unix.

The problem for developers is that it will be like developing for an entirely different operating system, which means you have to create one Android app for every other device and one for Kindle Fire. 

"If the Kindle Fire gains significant market traction, and all signs are that it will, developers will be forced to address it as a unique device," Anglin said. He adds, "Already, Amazon limits apps on the Fire to those available in the Amazon App Store (instead of granting access to the general Google Android Market)."

What this means is developers will be forced to develop for the device as opposed to the operating system. "Ultimately, the implications are no different than another new tablet entering the device space. The fact that Amazon started from Android is a good reference point, but the Kindle Fire adds another distinct option to a list that include Microsoft's Windows Phone (and soon Windows 8) platform, Apple's iOS, BlackBerry's QNX and Blackberry OS, and, of course, "normal" Android devices."

He points out that there is some cross-over for now, but has Android evolves that is likely to change. "Fortunately, it seems many apps designed to work with Android 2.3 can work with the Fire (which forked this version of Android), but as the Fire fork and Android diverge, this compatibility may not survive."

But Anglin says one way out of this device/operating system morass is to develop once on a system like HTML5. And as more devices with different operating system or different developer requirements enter the market, it's entirely likely that developers will choose to develop once with a universal approach, then many times across platforms.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 1-6-12

5 1 6 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, Group to Launch Mobile Developer Alliance, please check it out. It looks at a new group that is forming this month at the Consumer Electronics show geared toward mobile developers and their needs.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And here we go with this week's links:

Why Ice Cream Sandwich won't be able to save Android tablets - ZDNet

One writer tries some pre-release versions of the upcoming release of Android on his Motorola Xoom and concludes that while it's a huge improvement over the previous version, it's still lacking in many ways and won't be the version that propels Android tablets into the big time (except perhaps the Kindle Fire).

Could coding be the next mass profession? - Also Blog

Coding could be the next big jobs source -- if schools start providing the early training that's needed. The fact is there are jobs and a huge demand for programmers out there. As the author points out, it's a lot better than low-end jobs with lousy pay and no career path.

Analytics' Real Issues for 2012 - Internet Evolution

While many believe analytics is the next big thing, especially in light of the rise of Big Data, the social web and a desire to understand customers and competitors better, this author thinks ultimately the enterprise will proceed as it always has: slowly and cautiously.

The Top 5 Reasons Your App Isn't Selling - Sourcebits Blog
You put all that time and effort into developing a mobile app and it's not going anywhere. The question is why? It could be as simple as bad marketing or it could by your app just sucks.

IT pros lament: Low pay, no perks - Networkworld

Why is the turnover so high among young IT and developer pros? Well, the answer is fairly obvious, they are moving to companies that offer better pay and benefits (duh!). The lesson here is if you want to keep your people, the days of getting them cheap and working them to the bone could be over. Time to pay up.

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons License.

Group to Launch Mobile Developer Alliance

iStock 000014946021XSmallAs we start the new year, mobile developers probably are feeling more than a bit squeezed. There are so many directions to go, so many platforms to support and so many new things to learn all the time. That's why one man decided to form a professional association for mobile developers.

According an article on InfoWorld, the group will be launching at the Consumer Electronics Show this month with the goal of providing a place where mobile developers can band together and collaborate in an online network. Since there are plenty of developer collaboration venues including dZone, this isn't that great in itself.

Where it gets more interesting is a product testing facility, which will offer members access to multiple platforms and tools. What this means exactly in practice isn't quite clear yet, but if it provides tools for testing on multiple devices, that could be useful to developers who want to see what their apps look like across different devices, screen sizes and so forth.

Members will also have access to training resources, which could also prove useful in helping to expand your skill set. Finally, the group plans to offer discounts on cloud services and storage on Rackspace, perhaps giving the ability to sand box projects for less than what you might be paying for it now.

In terms of industry backing, Google and RIM might be on board, but Apple and Microsoft definitely won't be, according to the Infoworld article. That would be two key players who aren't involved, and which wouldn't be giving you any goodies in terms of tutorials and learning resources.
There's also the element of having an industry association to go to bat for you in the legislature, and it's fairly obvious right now that most legislators are clueless when it comes to technology issues. What's more, developers probably aren't going to be typically highly political, so having an organization that goes to bat for the issues you find important does have some appeal.

On it's face, an industry association sounds like a good idea. What's not to like about banding together and using the power of big numbers to your advantage, but a lot depends on the cost of joining. It also depends on the quality of the services of course and if the discount you get on the Rackspace services is better say than the deal you might be getting from your own organization, depending on the size of course.

For individual developers who are not necessarily affiliated with an organization, this could be useful. For enterprise developers with access to more and better resources, it's hard to say without knowing more.

The proof ultimately is going to be once the organization gets off the ground. Right now, a search for the term Application Developer's Alliance didn't even bring up a web site. For now, I suggest you stay tuned and see what becomes of this. Could be interesting for you as a mobile developer if it all comes together in the coming months.
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How Will Adobe Flash Decision Affect Flex Developers?

by Glenn Gruber
AVP, Mobile Solutions
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In a move that was a long time coming and not terribly surprising, Adobe announced this week that they will drop all future development of Flash player on mobile devices. Instead Adobe will put most of its energy behind HTML5.

During the past year, Adobe has steadily moved towards embracing HTML5 and refocusing its efforts on continuing to create the world’s best design tools and less on propping up a legacy, proprietary technology.  Putting HTML5 first is a continutation of the path they committed themselves to last month at their MAX 2011 conference when they announced the acquistions of Nitobi (maker of the PhoneGap cross-platform mobile development framework) and TypeKit.

It’s also not surprising given the fact that for all their protestations, and pronouncements about hardware acceleration, Flash was a dog on mobile devices. Performance was poor and battery life suffered even more.

Adobe is saying that to ease the transition of Flash developers that they will still be able to leverage their skills for mobile development using the AIR framework which is approved on iOS, Android and Research in Motion platforms (BlackBerry OS and BBX née QNX).  Adobe will also continue to support Flash on the desktop into the future with a focus on “advanced gaming and premium video”.

However, the move could spell the end of Flex as a framework as noted by this tweet from Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri:
That would suggest that anyone who’s made an investment in the Flash/Flex world better start to think about how to transition to solutions that leverage the open web standard trinity of HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3.  I’m sure that Adobe’s tools will support HTML5 output making the transition easier without retraining.

So now that that’s settled, what will the Android phone makers use as a differentiator from Apple’s devices now that they can’t trot out “support for Flash Player 10.2” anymore?

What’s your point of view? Does this announcement affect your approach to mobile development or had you already moved off of Flash-based development? Please let us know in the comments below.

Photo by Lee J Haywood on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Adobe & Nitobi: A Marriage Made in HTML5 Heaven


By Glenn Gruber, AVP, Travel

In a somewhat surprising announcement one the first day of their MAX 2011, Adobe Systems announced that it was acquiring Nitobi Systems, the creator of PhoneGap.

At Ness we’re big supporters of PhoneGap and have used it for clients in some cases, so we’re happy to see this deal happen -- not at happy as the Nitobi guys are :-) -- as we think it will lead to more enhancements to an already strong platform.

There are three things that I think mobile developers should take away from the announcement:

1. Adobe is Looking Forward

With the purchase of Nitobi and Typekit, Adobe signals that it is unequivocally moving to reorient their development tools and “Write Once, Deploy Anywhere” strategy around Open Web standards of HTML5, JavaScript and CSS and moving on from the legacy of Flash. This is great news for all developers for two reasons: first from a skills development perspective it simplifies things. Secondly, all of Adobe’s energies will be to ensure that their industry-leading tools will stay there. Certainly this is part of a plan to re-engage and re-energize the developer community who on average prefers an open, rather than proprietary approach.

2. It’s a great fit

This was a surprising deal to me only because I didn’t think Adobe was shopping for one of the mobile cross-platform framework companies. But it makes a ton of sense. Now developers can create the apps in HTML5 using Adobe CS5 and then deploy that code into native binaries via the PhoneGap framework with the click of a button. Dead easy (oversimplification, but you get the idea). I expect that the integration between CS5 and PhoneGap will improve over time to make it a seamless experience.

And I expect that this is the end of Adobe’s Packager for iPhone to translate CS5/Flash files into iOS compatible code. Good. I hope they put the extra development dollars from that project right into PhoneGap.

Further Adobe also released the third public preview of Adobe Edge a HTML5 motion and interaction design tool that enables Flash-like animation to websites and mobile apps via the Open Web Holy Trinity (HTML5/JS/CSS3, not to be confused with onion/celery/carrot for you cooking fans).

This has a chance to really get devs excited about Adobe again…not that Adobe hasn’t had great products all along  – they have – but with all the posturing over Flash in their spat with Apple, they haven’t generated the excitement with the developer community that they had in years past. That should change now.

3. Adobe continues PhoneGap’s Open Source Culture

Initially I wondered whether Adobe would continue to keep PhoneGap open source and include the developer community in enhancing the platform or if it might simply make the code available as Google does with Android. But Adobe was pretty emphatic in its support of the Open Source community as the code was donated to the Apache Software Foundation.

The Open Source nature of PhoneGap is part of what made it so popular with developers.

Now if I was cynical or suspicious I’d think that the donation to ASF was the final effort of the Nitobi management to ensure its legacy is maintained. Perhaps the Nitobi founders made it a condition of the deal?  You only have to modestly parse the statements in the press release to say that Adobe endorsed the decision post the transaction, not encouraged it.  Who knows and who cares. What’s important is that it’s done.

Are you using PhoneGap already? Does this announcement make you more or less interested in it as an option for mobile development?  Let me know in the comments.

Oh, and one more thing. Do you think Samsung, Motorola and RIM will stop advertising Flash compatibility as a reason not to buy an iPad now? I hope so.

Originally published on Software Industry Insights. Connect with Glenn on Twitter: @ggruber66

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 9/30/11

5  9 30 11It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, Study Finds Freemium Model Generates Big App Store Revenue, please have a look. We look at how giving away your app, then charging for additional functionality may make you more money than simply charging more for an app up front.

If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And here we go with this week's links:

The Great Web Hope: HTML5 On Mobile Still A Work In Progress - paidContent

At a conference recently, developers batted around the  idea of an open, standards-based, HTML5-driven mobile web. Such an approach has to be pretty attractive to a developer, but there are limitations and we are probably not going to be abandoning stand-alone apps just yet.

What's With all the Cloud Paranoia - ZDNet

One writer is confused by the rabid response he gets every time he writes about the cloud and he's wondering where all this fear is coming from.

It Takes Open Source to Raise a Village - Network World

Much of the same philosophy that drives the open source community is also driving ecologists who are trying to develop an open platform on which they can build eco-friendly industrial machines.

Identifying Passionate Developers - Musings of the Bare Bones Coder

It takes more than pure coding skill to get hired at this company. It takes some passion and the desire to help your fellow developers. This article looks at ways you might be able to find people with those traits as you go through the interview process.

The Future Desktop - ReadWriteWeb

What might the future PC look like? Think holograms, molecular computing or quantum computing. Whatever comes next it's probably not going to involve silicon which could reach the end of its capacity to scale up in the next 10 years. This article explores some possible silicon chip replacements.
Photo by Tomma Henckel Used under Creative Commons License.
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