Increased sales, increased participation, increased engagement. It doesn't sound like a game, but those are some of the goals, and reported achievements, of the new field of "gamification."
Gamification is the process of using game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems, "taking the best ideas from games and applying them to fields where they are not usually used," explains Gabe Zichermann, a consultant in New York. "It produces a big bump in user engagement quickly and cheaply, relative to other methods. We are also making work more fun, which leads to more and better work done by happier employees," Zichermann adds.
The key phrase is game mechanics; no one is suggesting business software be turned into mythical quests where users slay colorful monsters with flaming swords. But even traditional companies may add some common gaming techniques to keep things interesting, sources agree. These include:
- Points: Users get points for various achievements. Points can often be spent for prizes, which may be actual merchandise or services, or forms of status.
- Leveling: Points become harder to get as the user accumulates them, or masters the system.
- Badges: As with Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, badges become part of the identity of the user, and may appear on the user's "trophy page" or with any comments he or she may write.
- Leader boards: The user can see where he or she ranks (in terms of points or other achievements). The board may show the top scorers, the user and the ones immediately above and below the user, or the entire field.
- Community: This can involve collaboration tools, contests and posting comments or sharing content. Read more...
T-Platforms, a Moscow-based tech company that has built some of that nation's largest systems, is developing a 10-petaflop supercomputer for M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, the company said this week.
This large system puts it in the ballpark of similarly announced systems being developed in the major supercomputing countries, and may signal Russia's intent to become a major participant in the race to exascale.
Russia is playing catch-up in a rapidly developing race among China, Japan, the U.S. and Europe to build an exascale system in this decade. These are systems which would have 1,000 petaflops of computing power. (A petaflop is a quadrillion floating-point operations per second.)
Building an exascale system will require new approaches in microprocessors, interconnects, memory and storage. If breakthroughs happen outside the U.S., it could seed development of companies that could challenge the U.S. dominance in tech. Read more...
A U.S. Appeals Court handed down a ruling this week that, at first blush, gives the public free reign to overflow a company's public email and voicemail systems in the name of a legitimate cause, even if they are intentionally hindering the company's ability to do business in the process.
Companies would be well served to pay attention to the ruling, which continues to flesh out the arguably vague U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It means that, while they may be legally protected from such activities as malicious hacking and spamming, they can't legally prevent people from using public communications channels -- such as email and phone -- to protest a company, even if their tactics amount to a well-orchestrated DoS-style attack.
Whether the precedent set by the ruling should be viewed as a victory for proponents of free speech or for bad guys looking for loopholes to wreak havoc is best left to the beholder. Read more...