Sunday Jun 03, 2012

Gamification: Oracle Well and Truly Engaged

Here is a quick roundup of Oracle gamification events and activities. But first, some admissions to a mis-spent youth from Oracle vice presidents Jeremy Ashley, Nigel King, Mike Rulf, Dave Stephens, and Clive Swan, (the video was used as an introduction to the Oracle Applications User Experience Gamification Design Jam):

Other videos from that day are available, including the event teaser A History of Games, and some gamification unplugged. On to the specifics:

If you know of more Oracle gamification events or articles of interest, then find the comments.

Saturday May 26, 2012

Oracle Applications UX Gamification Worldwide All Hands Day

The Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) group recently hosted the #gamifyOracle Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide User Experience Design Jam at the Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores, California. This was a big, fun-filled innovation day for all Applications UX members, other invited Oracle contributors (from Oracle's Education and Research Industry Business Unit, Oracle Product Support, Oracle Technology Network, and so on) and external guests from our Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) program. And this firestarter (as I was the one inspired to provoke him into attending through @gamifyOracle, I take responsibility for him entering into the spirit of things in such style).

Hello World developer expertise badge used during event

Would be af:HelloWorld ADF component developer expertise badge used during the gamification process. Teams obtained this badge when they had sufficient technical nous in evidence at the jam.

The event itself started with introduction to gamification--nuanced and positioned for the world of work--and then a design jam. Teams (named after various well-know game characters) of participants with mixed backgrounds and expertise were each given a business flow or task and challenged to gamify it to maximize user engagement, participation, and productivity. Tasks from the CRM, Financials, HCM, Projects and Portfolio Management, and SCM worlds of work in the office, and on the go, received the best of the insight and science treatment that Applications UX brings to Oracle, and the results were stunning. Design deliverables were UX designs (wireframes and prototypes).

The process itself was gamified using an Applications UX-developed web app made up of a team management dashboard, a leaderboard, an information board, and a UI used by event administrators to monitor and reward each team's performance (see, even the gamification is gamified in Oracle).

Admins (I was one) scored teams on their use of game principles and game components throughout the day, resulting in earned points and badges, while extra kudos could be gained by teams themselves by checking in, going the extra mile, showing out of the box style thinking, and bringing their expertise to life in their design.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam. Photograph: Martin Taylor (@theothermartin).

A fun but productive day, as all entered into the spirit, as I went around I was impressed by the earnest nature of the UX design efforts, the sparkling output, and the eagerness of teams to compete with each other. The day was punctuated by a cool set of videos with thumping sound tracks, featuring Oracle folks talking about the role of gamification in the enterprise, and what gamification is and isn’t.

Hammering home the point about the market relevance of gamification, the final stage of the team was a Dragons Den-type scenario where each team demonstrated their concept to the collective gathering who then played the role of crowdsourced venture capitalists, using another Applications UX-developed web app to invest virtual currency (did you see what we just did there?) in each design.

Showing off gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present

Showing off a gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present. Photograph: Ultan O’Broin.

The winning team? An inspired effort from the Bowser team. And of course, it had an external member, Oracle ACE Director Edward Roske (@eroske), who had a double celebration as it was also his birthday. Proves the point about the FXA program bringing something fresh to our table (kudos to Misha Vaughan for invitations): a fresh energy, a fresh set of ideas, and a fresh perspective.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy. Photograph: Edward Roske (@eroske).

In all, a great way to learn about gamification, build team spirit, and create an innovative, contemporary user experience in a very agile way. Don’t be surprised if some of these eventually come to life on your desktop or mobile device soon.

Badges to Laurie Pattison (@lsptahoe), Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), and everyone who organized the event, and especially to the attendees, travelling from all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to gamify Oracle applications.

Friday May 18, 2012

#gamifyOracle: Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide #UX Design Jam

Yes, a worlwide apps user experience (UX) gamification event happening, by invite, in Oracle's HQ in Redwood Shores, California. I'll be there...

GamifyOracle badge

Follow the #gamifyOracle hashtag on Twitter for more details, and stay tuned to this blog for more news.

For now, check out the AppsLab blog "Next Tour Stop: An Apps UX Design Jam" by Jake Kuramoto (@jkuramot) for more reveals...

Some Background

Sunday May 13, 2012

Mobile Geolocation Check-in Apps Text Style Notes

My research notes on the language style used by mobile geolocation-based check-in 'n' challenge apps, foursquare, Google Latitude, SCVNGR, and Yelp are available for download. Based on my field usage of the apps, this technical communications research brain dump is for you to make of it what you will and go in peace.

foursquare, Yelp, SCVNGR

Left to right: foursquare, Yelp, and SCVNGR screens

It’s apparent from this little distraction that, with the notable exception of the active voice and references to “you”, most of the remaining styles would fail the checks in operation by enterprise applications QA teams.

For such an informal, casual, or conversational style to ‘work’ for apps users, the context of use (who, what, where, when, with) is critical. This style of language, with a little bit of common sense applied, is acceptable to a range of user profiles in the enterprise world performing mobile tasks in CRM, for example. Enterprise apps users now navigate their world of work with a user experience (UX) influenced by the demands of BYOD, Facebook-driven globalization, Globish, and the consumerization of information technology.

What is listed in my document require some nuance to be acceptable to a wider range of users, as personal appeal, energy and edge leverages users’ motivations and goals while delighting them during use. Some of the more outré messages and cultural references would need changing, sure, but there is nothing in the source that could not be customized or localized. Consider it another form of affective or "emotional" user assistance.

I had the opportunity to write some such text for a check-in and challenge app recently. It’s not easy. What did I learn?

  • Research language style and grammar in context (use the mobile apps yourself in a sort of self-reflecting ethnography similar to the "going native" work done by the Oracle Applications Mobile UX team). My research was done in the Starbucks on the streets and airport terminals of Atlanta, Dublin, Geneva, and London, using Google Nexus S and iPhone devices with multiple user accounts.
  • Design with real text and not lorem ipsum text placeholders. To begin, write something, anything, that reflects the required UX, and revise it after some review and testing. Read Getting Real about this (a thoroughly recommend book all over for web apps UX).
  • When writing text you need to have context, such as a description of the check-in, when it happens, and what happens around it (do you need to congratulate on this achievement and extort to the next one too?, for example), a visual of the check-in badge or challenge details, and so on. Access to design materials, wireframes, prototypes, or beta versions makes writing a lot easier and innovation cycles shorter.
  • Throw your existing style guide out the window. Write a user conversation instead.

Comments welcome.

Gamification, Schamification: Reality Isn't Broken. Your User Experience Is

Gamification. Dontcha hate that word! Along with controlled authoring and machine translation, gamification is a self-sabotaging handle ready-made to alienate stakeholders; a sure-fire inoculation against viral acceptance of the obvious, and another obstacle thrown in the way of winning over the masses.

Who wants to be 'gamed' in work? What CIO buys very expensive enterprise applications that overtly claim to do just that to its employees?

Gamification is immediately conflated with play and gaming concepts; problematic in the enterprise applications domain. From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification” (Deterding et al 2011) explains the origin of gamification and proposes a new definition: “The use of game design elements in non-game contexts.”

In the applications user experience (UX) world, I'd prefer to think of gamification as matching how users think as they work with the best design that will achieve task goals and business objectives. It’s not about how users play games with applications. It's about knowing user roles, tasks, goals and giving users a self-motivating experience that takes engagement and participation to a higher level, making application usage more satisfying. Sounds familiar now, huh?

Deterding et al (2011) are on board with this:

It is not possible to determine whether a given empirical system ‘is’ a “gamified application” or a “game” without taking recourse to either the designer’s intentions or the user experiences and enactments.

Without this user centered insight, gamifying an existing flow or application with an already rubbish user experience is a case of putting lipstick on the pig of work, and guaranteed to redline the BS meter.

Could I come up with a definition for gamification? No, but I can't define an elephant either. I’d avoid using the term altogether where possible.

Beyond the definition issue, of practical UX significance in Deterding et al (2011) is this table about levels of game design:

Levels of Game Design Elements table

Reproduced from Deterding et al (2011)

There is potential for a strong (UX) methodology there. Acknowledgement of the place of patterns, mechanics, heuristics, and so on, means UX professionals can construct reusable design solutions to common software problems. Such solutions are no different to what we have already published, for example, the Oracle Applications UX Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition design patterns or the Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) Rich Client User Interface guidance. These solutions readily leverage what is provided by Oracle ADF and Oracle Fusion Middleware to deliver scalable, easily developed out of the box, and extensible user experiences. Except that this time, those artefacts reflect the motivations of the user and how they think about themselves performing, engaging with, and participating in work.

By the way, to read more about gamification heuristics (albeit in the mobile space), I recommend Playability heuristics for mobile games (Korhonen and Koivisto 2006). However, it needs to be carefully nuanced for the enterprise applications world, especially the notion of “playability”.

So, if you’re done with all that literature, and want to play along, find the comments.


Deterding, S., Dixon D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. From game design elements to gamefulness: defining "gamification" (2011). Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, ACM, New York.

Korhonen, H. and Koivisto, E, M. (2006). Playability heuristics for mobile games. MobileHCI '06 Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, ACM, New York.

Tuesday Nov 15, 2011

Games at Work Part 2: Gamification and Enterprise Applications

Gamification and Enterprise Applications

In part 1 of this article, we explored why people are motivated to play games so much. Now, let's think about what that means for Oracle applications user experience.

(Even the coffee is gamified. Acknowledgement @noelruane. Check out the Guardian article Dublin's Frothing with Tech Fever. Game development is big business in Ireland too.)

Applying game dynamics (gamification) effectively in the enterprise applications space to reflect business objectives is now a hot user experience topic. Consider, for example, how such dynamics could solve applications users’ problems such as:

  • Becoming familiar or expert with an application or process
  • Building loyalty, customer satisfaction, and branding relationships
  • Collaborating effectively and populating content in the community
  • Completing tasks or solving problems on time
  • Encouraging teamwork to achieve goals
  • Improving data accuracy and completeness of entry
  • Locating and managing the correct resources or information
  • Managing changes and exceptions
  • Setting and reaching targets, quotas, or objectives

Games’ Incentives, Motivation, and Behavior

I asked Julian Orr, Senior Usability Engineer, in the Oracle Fusion Applications CRM User Experience (UX) team for his thoughts on what potential gamification might offer Oracle Fusion Applications. Julian pointed to the powerful incentives offered by games as the starting place: “The biggest potential for gamification in enterprise apps is as an intrinsic motivator. Mechanisms include fun, social interaction, teamwork, primal wiring, adrenaline, financial, closed-loop feedback, locus of control, flow state, and so on. But we need to know what works best for a given work situation.”

For example, in CRM service applications, we might look at the motivations of typical service applications users (see figure 1) and then determine how we can 'gamify' these motivations with techniques to optimize the desired work behavior for the role (see figure 2).

Typical motivators, description follows

Description of Figure 1

Desired behavior of role, description follows
Description of Figure 2

Involving Our Users
Online game players are skilled collaborators as well as problem solvers. Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), Oracle Fusion Applications UX Manager, has run gamification events for Oracle, including one on collaboration and gamification in Oracle online communities that involved Oracle customers and partners. Read more...

However, let’s be clear: gamifying a user interface that’s poorly designed is merely putting the lipstick of gamification on the pig of work. Gamification cannot replace good design and killer content based on understanding how applications users really work and what motivates them.

So, Let the Games Begin!

Gamification has tremendous potential for the enterprise application user experience. The Oracle Fusion Applications UX team is innovating fast and hard in this area, researching with our users how gamification can make work more satisfying and enterprises more productive.

If you’re interested in knowing more about our gamification research, sign up for more information or check out how your company can get involved through the Oracle Usability Advisory Board. Your thoughts? Find those comments.

Games at Work Part 1: Introduction to Gamification and Applications

Games Are Everywhere

How many of you (will admit to) remember playing Pong? OK then, do you play Angry Birds on your phone during work hours? Thought about why we keep playing online, video, and mobile games and what this "gamification" business we're hearing about means for the enterprise applications user experience?

Pong, image available as WikiMedia Commons

In Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal says that playing computer and online games now provides more rewards for people than their real lives do. Games offer intrinsic rewards and happiness to the players as they pursue more satisfying work and the success, social connection, and meaning that goes with it.

Yep, Gran Turismo, Dungeons & Dragons, Guitar Hero, Mario Kart, Wii Boxing, and the rest are all forms of work it seems. Games are, in fact, work taken so seriously that governments now move to limit the impact of virtual gaming currencies on the real financial system.

Anyone who spends hours harvesting crops on FarmVille realizes it’s hard work too. Yet games evoke a positive emotion in players who voluntarily stay engaged with games for hours, day after day. Some 183 million active gamers in the United States play on average 13 hours per week. Weekly, 5 million of those gamers play for longer than a working week (45 hours). So why not harness the work put into games to solve real-world problems? Or, in the case of our applications users, real-world work problems?

What’s a Game?

Jane explains that all games have four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. We need to look at what motivational ideas behind the dynamics of the game—what we call gamification—are appropriate for our users. Typically, these motivators are achievement, altruism, competition, reward, self-expression, and status). Common game techniques for leveraging these motivations include:

  • Badging and avatars
  • Points and awards
  • Leader boards
  • Progress charts
  • Virtual currencies or goods
  • Gifting and giving
  • Challenges and quests

Some technology commentators argue for a game layer on top of everything, but this layer is already part of our daily lives in many instances.

OTN Discussion Forums: E-Business Suite leader board

We see gamification working around us already: the badging and kudos offered on My Oracle Support or other Oracle community forums, becoming a Dragon Slayer implementor of Atlassian applications, being made duke of your favorite coffee shop on Yelp, sharing your workout details with Nike+, or donating to Japanese earthquake relief through FarmVille, for example.

And what does all this mean for the applications that you use in your work? Read on in part two...


Oracle Apps Cloud UX assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps dev community, helping them to design and deliver usable apps using PaaS4SaaS.


Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog on product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), PaaS, SaaS, design patterns, tailoring, Cloud, dev productivity, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW, and a lot more.


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